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My cousin Bill was actually named Willis Henry Jones but he went by Bill ever since he was born I think.  He was born in 1921, the first grandchild for my grandparents May and Henry and I believe he is the reason they moved to California from Massachusetts.  Somehow my aunt Gertrude (Bill’s mother) ended up in California and married Calvin

Bill Jones 1944

Bill Jones 1944

Willis Jones and then came Bill (and later his brother Albert Richard Jones).  Anyway, I am writing about Bill today because he is one of the main reasons that I got started in my genealogy search.  I always knew Bill existed, but since I was born in 1953 and he died during WWII in 1944 we obviously never met.  My family never talked about him and the only thing I remember my dad saying about his nephew is that he was a “swell guy”.  I found out much later that Bill and my dad were very close growing up, they were only 7 years apart and my dad idolized his sister, Bill’s mother, Gertrude.  My dad would  babysit Gertrude’s 2 boys quite often and I could tell he was crazy about them in the pictures we have of them all together.  Bill was one of those kind of guys that was very outgoing and sure of himself and when WWII broke out he volunteered right away.  He wanted to be a pilot in the Army Air Corp and although his eyes weren’t the best he finally was accepted and did his training and was assigned to a B-24 crew.  He was not happy – he wanted to be a fighter pilot – but you have to take what you are given and so he did.  He was placed with the 376th bomb group in San Pancrazio, Italy and on his first mission there was a landing accident after they turned back due to bad weather and the plane went off the runway and exploded.  All men on board were killed.  When I think about this time in my family I realize how very painful it was for everyone.  Bill seemed to be the shining star and he attended USC for 1  year before the war.  He was going places and his passing left a big void in the Halldin family.  His brother Dick (he had dropped Al or Albert as a teen) was in the pacific theatre and he was able to come home and I believe that he lived under Bill’s shadow and expectations for his whole life.  I was lucky to get close to cousin Dick in his later years and I inherited his pictures and albums of letters home during the war from himself and Bill.  That war took it’s toll on so many families and it affected my whole generation who grew up in the shadow of it’s aftermath.  So when I planned a family reunion shortly after my dad died in 1995 (I should have done it before but I did it in my dad’s honor) I got the pictures of Bill out and found out what really happened to him (family lore was that he died in France during a bombing raid) and I started researching the men he flew with and looking for family members – and I found some and they were all glad to know their family member was remembered.  And then that spurred me to call some of my extended family and do interviews and find out more and to become aware of who we were, are and will be.  I ache for the loss of Bill Jones but I also am so happy for the relationships I developed because of him.

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