WASHINGTON (NWSA) -- "This award ceremony should have taken place 50 years ago," said Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton, "we are gathered here to set the record straight."
To set the record straight, Dalton presented Steward Third class Robert Jones, USNR, Retired, with the Navy Cross for his extraordinary heroism under fire. In the presence of Jones' wife Minnie and nearly 40 other family members, an act of exceptional courage was finally and fully rewarded.
At age 19, Robert Jones was a young petty officer on USS Intrepid (CV 11) in the Leyte Gulf. Trained and assigned to a gun tub on the port side, he was in position on October 29, 1944, when a Japanese dive bomber attacked the ship from starboard, aiming directly for Jones' position.
Grabbing his 20mm anti-aircraft gun and pointing it across the flight deck, Jones began firing. He remained at his post and continued to shoot until the plane finally crashed - its wings shot off - into the gun tub and severely burning the young Sailor, injuring others and killing ten of his fellow gun crew.
Jones and several other members of that crew, composed entirely of African-American Sailors, were promised the Navy Cross - the highest Navy award after the Medal of Honor - but it never came. Busy working to support his family, Jones didn't pursue the unfulfilled promise until earlier this year when he viewed a videotape produced by the USS Intrepid Museum in New York City and recognized another shipmate - Alonzo Swann - on the tape. Swann had received his Navy Cross in 1988. Jones' daughter asked Congressman Robert C. Scott of Virginia to request a review of the former Sailor's record. Within two months, an upgrade was approved and the ceremony scheduled.
Holding the citation over his head, the 71-year old Jones beamed with pride. "I thank God I'm here to get this. I'm filled with joy!"
Navy Wire Service "A" story NWSA2702, dated May 1, 1997.
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