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William E. 'Bill' Jones, 80, Columbia City     Page 4 of 4

of .50-caliber ammunition boxes. When I flew home — I left my appendix in Yokohama, and I flew home (in August 1946) — and I got to Hawaii (a guard) said 'What's this?' And I said, 'Letters to my girlfriend.' ... He said, 'Ugh, such mush!' And he waved me through. I had packed letters on top of (the pictures), and he never got to them. So I cam this close to getting caught, but I lucked out. And I never showed them for 45 years."

What changed your mind?

"You know, the Smithsonian had been very anti-Enola Gay (the plane on the Hiroshima mission) back in the '90s for the 50th anniversary. They were going to do an exhibit and it was all about the terrible things America did to Japan ... and it made me angry. ... There was a big controversy about it. ... I had become an amateur historian, and I began to show the pictures and learn all I could about the bombs, and I ended up with the 56 books I have here and talked to everybody (involved) I could. ... And after reading all sides of the story and learning more, I realized they (the pictures) needed to be in the archives for history... and it (the era) needed to be portrayed in a fuller way."

Well, no question that dropping these bombs was a horrible thing. Did you have feelings about it then?

"You know, I knew so little about it then. ...We didn't know what an atomic bomb was. ... I was a soldier, and when you're a soldier, you do as you're told. ... And at age 20, your mind isn't fully engaged about these things. I had seen bombings before, and destruction, but ... I knew very little about the (human) losses. ... They were awful."

Is it painful to you now because of what we did?

"The way I look at it (now), at the time we thought that we were going to invade Japan, we thought that they had (much less) in Kamikaze planes and other aircraft ... than they actually had ... And they had thousands of Kamikaze subs, and they were going to ram into the side of ships and sink ships, troop ships. We had no knowledge of that. An invasion, it would have been a slaughter. ... This would have been far worse than Normandy; very few would have survived, and it would have been a complete disaster, and it would have prolonged the war. People who say we had no business to drop the atomic bomb on Japan because they were ready to surrender, well, that just wasn't the case."

Do you know what happened to the official copies of your pictures?

"No, I don't. I think out west somewhere we had an Army Air Force depot to store records, and that burned a number of years ago. They may have burned with it. So they might be gone. I don't know. I have no idea. But they never saw the light of day over here."

© 2006 Journal Gazette and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. 9/16/2006
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