The Post &
Mail October 12, 2006:
Snapshots of history
aerial photos of Hiroshima, Nagasaki wind up in Smithsonian
They say a picture is
worth a thousand words.
In the case of local
resident Bill Jones’ photos, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
realized the historical value of his photography work captured during World
Columbia City WWII
aerial photographer and curator of the Hoosier Air Museum, Bill Jones now has
his Hiroshima and Nagasaki low altitude photos in the Smithsonian Institution
National Air & Space Museum Archives.
Jones was in Washington
D.C. in mid-August and met with the Smithsonian’s acquisition archivist and
chief photo archivist.
After evaluating his
photographs, a request was made to borrow and scan the negatives which Jones
had with him.
This is quite an honor
for the 80-year-old WWII veteran, who kept the photos under wraps for 40
Jones never showed the
pictures to anyone, as they were never declassified. However, after a chance
correspondence with the pilot of the legendary Enola Gay, Jones was given
permission to release the photos, coinciding with the 45th anniversary of the
At the time of the photo
release, he was able to meet with the mission’s pilot, bombardier and
navigator, all of whom signed one of the photos.
Talking with Bill Jones
is like taking a wonderfully interesting history class.
A native of Starke
County, Ind., Jones settled in Columbia City with his family when he was in
the second grade. He attended the McClellan School.
He always had a passion
for airplanes, driving his decision to join the Civil Air Patrol in 1943 and
take pilot training at Baer Field in 1944.
Several bouts with
rheumatic fever as a youth kept his weight below the requirement to become a
pilot in the Air Force. However, in 1944 Jones was drafted and entered the
Army Air Corps. His desire to fly never faltered.
He spent six months in
photography school in Colorado and then specialized in aerial photography with
During the occupation of
Japan, Jones was afforded the opportunity to capture the atomic bomb damage of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Upon arriving in Hiroshima, he noticed there was no
crater left from the bomb, however almost everything was gone. Everything,
that is, except for a railroad engine, cab first, in the ground. Jones
explained that the bomb exploded at 1,800 feet and the pressure from the bomb
would cause a two-mile path of destruction.
Heat at 5,400 degrees in
an instant virtually vaporized everything.
Jones highlights the
bomb’s hypocenter on the picture, which is the point under which a nuclear
After the Air Force,
Jones served a four-year General Electric machinist-toolmaker apprenticeship
and took college classes in the evening.
He owned and operated
his studio, Jones Photo, in Columbia City for 43 years. His ingenuity served
him well in the photography business, as Jones’ developed some of his own
equipment, building an electronic flash at a time when no one else had it.
Jones is also active in
the Air Force Association, Hoosier Warbirds, United States Air Force Auxiliary
and Drug Free Indiana. Though retired, Jones has not slowed down through the
years. He enjoys the opportunity to keep busy and share his love of planes and
photography with others.
In addition to the
Smithsonian, Jones’ photos are in most of the atomic museums and many of the
major air museums throughout the country.
The closest location
where the photos and other atomic bomb related materials can be seen is at the
Hoosier Air Museum located on the south side of the DeKalb County Airport.
Jones can also add
“actor” to his list of credentials. His photography and piloting expertise
have landed him roles in several Windsong Pictures films, the most recent to
be released in the spring of 2007.
Jones enjoys sharing his
experiences and is available to speak to a wide variety of groups. He has a
PowerPoint program which he has presented more than 245 times to schools,
service clubs, aviation groups and churches in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.
There is no charge for the program.
On Nov. 8, Jones is
scheduled to present at the Senior Citizens Center in Columbia City at 11 a.m.
In all of his life
experiences, Bill Jones notes that he was proud to be able to preserve for
posterity the number one news event in the 20th Century.
Currently residing in
Columbia City, Jones is planning to relocate to Huntington in November.
He has many good friends
in the area and plans to stay in touch with the local community.
To contact Jones for a
program or more information on the Hoosier Air Museum, write to: Bill Jones,
1570 North Lafontaine, Huntington, IN 46750-1308 or call (260) 414-5648.