For a West Virginia guy, Rear Adm. Claud A. Jones sure spent a lot of time on ships named Tennessee or for a city in the Volunteer state.
Jones served as the engineer officer for the battleship Tennessee, and before that, spent a year onboard the armored cruiser Tennessee before she was renamed Memphis.
It was that ship that would make a lasting impression on Jones, and earn him a Medal of Honor 98 years ago today.
Born in Fire Creek, W. Va., on Dec. 7, 1884, Jones was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1903 and graduated in 1906 at the age of 21.
After graduation from the Naval Academy, Jones served aboard the battleships Indiana and New Jersey for the next two years and received his commission in 1908.
As a newly minted ensign, Jones reported for duty aboard USS Severn and the armored cruiser USS North Carolina and from there, received post-graduate engineering education at the Naval Academy and Harvard University. After his education was complete, he served onboard the battleships Ohio, New York, and ended with the North Dakota in 1915 and the rank of lieutenant.
Lt. Jones reported for duty as the Engineer Officer aboard the armored cruiser Tennessee late in 1915, which was renamed Memphis in May of 1916.
Almost a year after Jones reported for duty aboard the Memphis, the fickle winds of fate would have devastating effects for Jones and some of his shipmates.
Memphis was anchored off Santo Domingo City, located on the island of Hispaniola’s south coast to the Caribbean Sea. On Aug. 29, 1916, a hurricane was approaching and Lt. Jones was tasked with getting the engines and boilers ready for the ship to head out of the hurricane’s path.
Time being of the essence, Jones did all he could to get Memphis out of the way but the storm was much faster than he could work. The storm forced the boilers and steam pipes to burst, and as a direct result, clouds of scalding steam burned Jones and some of his fellow crewmembers. When the boilers exploded, Lt. Jones, accompanied by two of his shipmates, rushed into the steam-filled engineering spaces and drove the remaining men out, dragging some and carrying others to areas where there was air to breathe instead of scalding steam.
After recovering from his severe injuries, Jones served ashore in industrial positions until after the end of World War I.
By 1920-1921, now Cmdr. Jones was the Engineer Officer of the new battleship Tennessee. For almost 11 years he served two Navy Department tours with the Bureau of Engineering and in Europe as an Assistant Naval Attache and the senior engineering officer with the Battle Fleet.
During this time, the heroism that Cmdr. Jones had displayed 16 years ago aboard the cruiser Tennessee had earned him a trip to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony at the White House to receive the Medal of Honor from President Herbert Hoover on Aug. 1, 1932. Why it took so long for Jones to receive this honor and how it reached the president’s attention is unknown.
He was promoted to captain a year later in 1933, and now was the assistant chief of the Engineering Bureau and served for almost a decade.
Promoted to rear admiral in 1941, Jones served in the Bureau of Ships throughout World War II, working in the shipbuilding program, and as an assistant chief of the bureau. For his exceptionally meritorious service he was awarded the Legion of Merit.
From September 1944 until the end of 1945, Rear Adm. Jones was the Director of the Naval Experiment Station at Annapolis, Md.
He retired in June of 1946, and died in his home state of West Virginia two years later in August of 1948 leaving behind his wife Margaret, and their only son.
The destroyer escort ship Claud Jones (DE 1033) was commissioned in 1959 and named in honor of Rear Adm. Jones. She was struck in 1974.