I am borrowing heavily from Dad’s obituary to fill in the pieces here and added some additional material. It is also a good idea to read both his resume and the biography of Byron by Lee Kerry that appeared in AdWeek magazine in 1996. Both documents are available elsewhere on this site.
In the Spring of 1942, Byron joined the Navy and tried out for the tough Navy Pilot Training School. He made the grade and spent the next 2 years in training at locations ranging from bases in California to Texas to Florida to aircraft carrier landings off the stormy waters of Illinois. In Florida he flew training missions on the same route, in the same aircraft type over the Bermuda Triangle as the infamous Flight 19 that disappeared without a trace in December 1945. With his Navy training done, Byron swapped services to get advanced training as a US Marine Pilot. Ultimately he and 21 other advanced Marine Pilots formed a new Marine Torpedo Squadron and finally shipped out in February1944 as Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 242 (VMTB-242).
The service record of VMTB-242 is well documented on the internet. Byron flew the Grumman Avenger TBF Torpedo Bomber in aggressive action in the skies over Bougainville and Rabaul, through the Marianas and the Iwo Jima campaigns. He was awarded the U.S. Navy Distinguished Flying Cross for “Extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight from 20 March 1945 to 27 March 1945”. His service also awarded him three Air Medals during those campaigns.
After the war, Byron returned to the University of Oregon and finished his degree in Journalism with a new emphasis on marketing. His resume shows many positions and achievements, but Foote, Cone& Belding, and Sea and Ski were the two jobs that consumed most of his career in advertising and marketing.
Along the way, Byron met Mary Bovee, also from Portland. She was a beautiful and equally charming soloist performer in the Ice Capades. She had been training for the Olympics, but the advent of WWII dashed her hopes for The Gold. It was a perfect match, a romance that lasted a lifetime. Byron and Mary were wed in Las Vegas and received special treatment at Bugsy Segal’s new Flamingo Hotel.
Mary and Byron had a lot in common, especially their appreciation of creative arts of all kinds. Together through the years they both spent time sculpting, painting, doing pottery and always had some project going. They loved visiting Mexico and brought back many pieces of native Mexican art. In the 80’s Mary did weaving and had many art showings as well as finding there was a market for her talents doing custom tile creations for several houses. Mary’s true forte though was gardening. Her father was a horticulturist who owned and lived in a nursery of Rhododendrons and Azaleas in the Portland hills. Mary’s green thumb became legendary and wherever Mary and Byron moved, which they did many times, Mary would create a new garden and spend part of each day working in it.
I was assigned to Tinian in VMTB-242 where the B-29″s were stationed also. We shared the runway. I was there when the B-29 Enola Gay took off with the atomic bomb to bomb Hiroshima, Japan and later on (3 days later) another B-29 flew to Nagasaki, Japan to drop another atomic bomb. I was also sent up to Iwo Jima with VMTB-242 to fly around the island.
My phone number is (919) 384-2325. Call me to talk about the experience.
My father John Riley Jones was an enlisted man in VTMB 242. He died at a young age and I was unable to share his WWII experiences. He went on to serve in the AF in the Korean era and later as an in flight refueling specialist in Viet Nam. Through these memories I am able to reconstruct for the first time my fathers WWI experience. Thank you and your family.