CAMP SHELBY, MS (WLOX) - Private First Class James Jones of Laurel was recognized Saturday by Congressman Steven Palazzo for service as a member of the First African-American tank unit in WWII.
Jones is a WWII veteran and was a member of the 761st Tank Battalion, which was the first African-American tank unit to fight combat, according to a statement issued by Palazzo.
"Today, PFC Jones stands as a survivor of World War II, and one of only 10 known members of the 761st Battalion," Palazzo stated. "When you look at Mr. Jones' service, you can't help but notice the critical battles in which he fought and the way he directly contributed to the Allied victory. I feel fortunate to be able to award him these long overdue medals today and to thank him personally for his service."
At the age of 21 Jones was drafted into the Army, training at Camp Lee in Virginia. He was sent to a Replacement Detachment near Paris, France. That's where he was hand-selected for the 761st Tank Battalion as a gunner.
Jones' battalion stands out after taking part in numerous critical battles including The Battle of the Rhine. President Jimmy Carter went on to award the 761st Battalion with a Presidential Unit Citation for Extraordinary Heroism. Jones went on to work for the American Battle Monuments Commission, where he worked on recovering, cataloging, and properly burying the remains of American war casualties in Europe. According to Palazzo, despite these contributions, Jones never received the medals he was due from his service. Saturday marks the first time Palazzo awarded Jones with the following medals:
• Marksman Badge and Rifle Bar
• WWII Honorable Service lapel button
• Presidential Unit Citation ribbon
• American Campaign Medal
• European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze stars
• Army of Occupation Medal with Germany clasp
• World War II Victory Medal.