First Lt. Ellsworth J. Jones was among the first Americans to land in France on D-Day, parachuting in behind German lines during the night to take out artillery in the hours before the great invasion.
After intense combat, the 26-year-old paratrooper took a piece of shrapnel near his heart on the fifth day after D-Day, and it stayed there until his death 62 years later in Saratoga Springs.
In between getting wounded on June 11, 1944, and his death in late December 2006, Ellsworth Jones commanded a prisoner of war camp, ran a successful Saratoga tobacco business, raised four children with his wife, and served a decade as the mayor of Saratoga Springs.
“Although the Army somehow thought that the piece of shrapnel rendered him 30 percent disabled, no one could ever see the effects of it,” his son Matthew Jones recalled last month.
Ellsworth Jones, who lived to within one week of his 89th birthday, was honored as Saratoga County’s Deceased Veteran of the Month in May. Several dozen people attended the ceremony in the county board meeting rooms.
“This afternoon’s honoree is the perfect illustration of those we admiringly refer to as America’s greatest generation,” said Eugene Corsale, co-chairman of the county’s Honor Our Deceased Veterans Committee.
The ceremony honors a different deceased veteran every month.
During World War II, Jones was a platoon commander in the 101st Airborne Division, trained to parachute into France in the dark hours before the dawn invasion. His unit took out an artillery position that targeted Utah Beach, Matthew Jones said.
The shrapnel wound was sustained when a German airplane dropped an anti-personnel bomb during intense close-quarters fighting in hedgerows during the Battle of Carentan, Matthew Jones said.
Jones received a Bronze Star for heroism as well as a Purple Heart for the wound.
Jones was evacuated to England and didn’t see combat again, but recovered sufficiently to be placed in charge of a prisoner of war camp in England, where his son said he had to restrain men who wanted revenge on the German soldiers.
A younger Jones brother, John, also served in World War II, and was declared lost when an airplane he was on disappeared over China.
After the war, Ellsworth Jones owned and operated the Hayes Tobacco Co. in Saratoga Springs. He was called up again by the Army during the Korean War, though not sent overseas.
Jones sold his business in 1979, the year he ran for mayor.
Jones was elected to five two-year terms, the longest tenure of any mayor in recent history. Under his watch, the Saratoga Springs City Center was built and the downtown area was economically revitalized.
“He was a fine man, and a great Saratogian,” said the current mayor, Scott Johnson.
Matthew Jones said he often told funny stories about service life to his children, though not the grim stories of the combat he had seen.
Matthew Jones said it was his father’s core belief that “although he had a profound love for the military, his comrades and his country, he hated war, all war. He thought that it was man’s greatest failure.”
In concluding his remarks, Matthew Jones asked his teenage daughter, Logan, to come forward. He asked her to think about the 100th anniversary of D-Day, which will be June 6, 2044.
He gave Logan a copy of the orders that named her grandfather a platoon commander, and asked her to consider “your answer to Papa’s prayer — that your generation — unlike mine or Papa’s or all that came before him — that your generation mustered the wisdom, the courage and the resolve to figure out how to live in a world without war.”