By Mark A. Wallinger
On March 26, 1917, a young man from Red Bank prominent in Monmouth County social circles left the United States and volunteered to join the French in their war against Germany, well before the U.S. entered what became known as World War I. There have been millions of noteworthy lives in Monmouth County history, but C. Maury Jones led a truly remarkable life.
He was born in Red Bank on June 28, 1894, to William Strother Jones III – a stockbroker and farmer – and Mary Grace Russell Jones. He attended the Shrewsbury Academy on Leroy Place in Red Bank where he learned French, which would come in handy later on. He attended dances for debutantes at the Colony Club in New York City, lived a life of privilege where his social affairs were captured by the media, and was planning to enroll at Princeton.
When World War I broke out after the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand – on Jones’ birthday! – June 28, 1914, the 19-year-old felt compelled to be a part of the events in Europe, even though U.S. citizens were not allowed to participate. Jones decided to volunteer and sailed to England to enlist in the Royal Flying Corps, which rejected him because of his 6-foot-3 frame, which could barely fit into the tiny one-man cockpits of the small biplanes of that era.
According to Mike O’Neal, a director at the Golden Age Air Museum in Bethel, Pa.:
Jones presented himself to the French Service Aeronautique listing his occupation as “Student,” but his whole intention for coming to Europe was simply to join the military and fly in the Allied cause.
On March 26, 1917, he enlisted in the French Air Service and a few days later was ordered to Avord for primary flight training. By mid-June, Jones had mastered his first stage of training and earned his brevet (wings) #6996 on the Blériot Type XI monoplanes called “penguins,” on June 16 1917.
When Maury Jones first came to the Blériot Divisi0n of the Ecole Militaire at Avord, French moniteurs looked him over skeptically. All of them, from the Chef de Piste to the penguin moniteurs, gave expression to their despair, one to the other, in those little exclamations which are so eloquent in French. “Ah! Non!” “Mais il est impossible, celuila!” and the like. It was not that Jones was thought poor material. But there was too much of him. There wasn’t a Blériot in the entire school large enough to fit him. How he ever managed to crowd into a penguin no one knows.
Jones carried no personal insignia on his Spad XIII. It wasn’t necessary. He could always be recognized in the air by the height of his head above his windshield.
“After five weeks of waiting to be sent to the front, orders finally arrived in August,” said O’Neal. “On the 13th, Jones departed the training divisions group for Escadrille N.73. The squadron had been formed in April 1916, but by the time Jones arrived on August 15th, the squadron was under the command of Captain Albert Louis Deullin.”
By this time, many rich Americans, who either had their own planes, or knew how to fly these new machines, had joined French pilots to fight for the Allied cause. Jones’ three brothers also joined the U.S. efforts in WWI: “Howland Barton Jones enlisted in the naval reserves…Arthur R. Jones is at the officers’ training camp at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and W. Strother Jones, Jr., the eldest, is a member of the coast artillery reserve company.”
The military wasn’t quite sure what to do with airplanes in those early days of aviation, at first simply using them for reconnaissance, or to take photos. Some generals had the pilots use pistols to shoot at troops below, or drop bombs by hand, and eventually they focused on shooting at German observation balloons. Early in the war, French flyers directly engaged the German aircraft, while using the American planes in an aerial support role. Pilots like Jones accompanied the French fighters, guarding them from surprise attack, but typically did not fight the Germans at that time. The American squadrons also guarded Allied blimps, took recon photos, and helped made the Allied air forces look bigger.
Remember, the Wright Brothers had only proven the viability of manned flight in 1903 – just 11 years before the war. Although French aviation was well-established since that time, most people had never even seen a plane, much less flown one. How to use these newfangled machines in time of war was very much an evolving science.
The Germans had a superior air force in early World War I, so Allied aviation was a rough assignment for anyone, but it had many young men looking for adventure. They became legend. The media helped.
The young American flyers became a great story for the news media to tell back in America. The press told the story of the dashing Yanks, who risked their U.S. citizenship to defend France. The U.S. finally entered the war in April 1917, when Jones was in training.
The American fliers in France, especially in those in the famed Lafayette Escadrille, became legend.
Their planes were made of painted canvas over lightweight wood. One man alone could lift a plane by the tail and reposition it. Two men could walk it to the runway, although runways were mostly grass fields. The designs were evolving, and the engines, aeronautics, levers and weapons were often faulty. When planes didn’t work, fliers often had to land (more likely crash land) and were often stuck for days until replacement parts could be found. Other effects – like the cold at high altitudes, or the stress of facing the superior German fighters – added to the daunting challenges pilots faced, and many suffered from what we now know as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
According to O’Neal:
Jones transferred to the U.S. Air Service and was assigned to the Lafayette Escadrille on 21 January 1918. This squadron would become the 103rd Aero Squadron, the re-incarnation of the famous unit of American volunteers who served under French command in 1916 and 1917. With the transfer came a promotion to Lieutenant.
Jones remained with the 103rd until June 8, 1918. New squadrons were beginning to flood into France and experienced pilots were culled from operational units to add a measure of experience to the newly formed units. Jones joined the 13th Aero Squadron – the so-called “Grim Reapers” – arriving on June 12 as a flight commander.
Jones’ philosophical roots in aerial combat were nurtured in his experiences under Captain Albert Louis Deullin, who was a highly decorated French aviator. Escadrille 73 was credited with 30 aircraft and one balloon shot down during its existence. Casualties were low and this is attributed largely to Deullin himself ensuring his pilots were at an advantage when attacking. While the 13th Aero Squadron individual pilots were successful, Jones himself knew his mission as patrol leader was to ensure his pilots’ safe return. While the men under his command scored, Jones himself did not.
Up to 1914, according to Bill Bryson, author the book: “One Summer: America 1927,” the total number of people in the world who had been killed in airplanes was about a hundred. “Now,” Bryson wrote: “men died in the thousands. By the spring of 1917, the life expectancy of a British pilot was put at eight days. All together between thirty thousand and forty thousand fliers were killed or injured to the point of incapacity in four years.”
So, when not fighting, they celebrated life with an esprit de corps that became as well-known as their fighting.
And in the coming years, it was estimated that more than 4,000 people – including Nobel Prize-winning writer William Faulkner, no less – would claim to have been in the Lafayette Escadrille or the Lafayette Flying Corps.
Jones survived the war without ever having stopped a bullet.
“On September 2, when the squadron was officially declared operational, Jones was the Command Officer,” said O’Neal. “He served as C.O. of the 28th until the armistice in November, earning a promotion to Captain on October 3, 1918. Having finally returned home after two years overseas, now-Captain Jones was discharged from the national service on February 26, 1919. He was awarded the French medal for valor, the Croix de Guerre, with Star.
After returning home, Jones married Katherine Hoagland, a wealthy heiress and granddaughter of Raymond Hoagland of Rumson, the former president of the Royal Baking Powder company. Her family lived at 817 Fifth Avenue, on the corner of East 63rd St., just two blocks from the tony Pierre hotel, overlooking Central Park. Jones had moved to an apartment on Park Avenue in Murray Hill in Manhattan, and was working as a broker. After their wedding, the couple moved to a new home on River Road in Rumson.
Amazingly, he reenlisted to serve in World War II, as a Colonel in the U.S. Army Air Force (the Air Force wouldn’t become its own branch of the military until September of 1947).
“He commanded the Air Tactical Command base at Ostros, France, was later Deputy Commander of the Air Tactical Command in the Mediterranean Area and Command Officer of the British-American Airport for the Potsdam Conference in 1945,” said O’Neal.
Maury and Katherine Jones remained pillars of Monmouth County society, fixtures at regional equestrian events, lawn tennis tournaments, kennel club shows, the county hunt club, and so on, for many years. In addition to his Rumson home on River Road, Jones lived at times in Morristown, N.J., and Bedminster.
In 1978, having served as a commander of flyers in two world wars, he passed away at age 84. He is buried in Fair View Cemetery in Middletown.
About the Author
Mark A. Wallinger is a former award-winning professional journalist and a senior marketing and sales executive with a passion for history and the New York Yankees. A native of New Jersey, Mr. Wallinger currently resides in Westerville, Ohio.
A Fighting Family. (1917). The Daily Register, Red Bank, N.J., July 18, 1917, P. 1.
Announce Engagement. (1919). Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park, N.J., October 16, 1919, P. 2.
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Charles Maury Jones’ Grave. (2010). FindAGrave.com, December 31, 2010. Available: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/63522542/charles-maury-jones.
Elite of Monmouth County Gather at Horse Show at Rumson Country Club. (1931). Long Branch Daily Record, Long Branch, N.J., August 7, 1931, P. 10.
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Miss Katherine Hoagland of New York to be Bride of C.M. Jones of Red Bank. (1920). Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park, N.J., March 13, 1920, P. 2.
Proceeds from Successful Dog Show at Rumson will Assist Visiting Nurses. (1930). Asbury Park Press, Asbury Park, N.J., June 30, 1930, P. 17.
O’Neal, Michael. (2022). Personal interview with director of the Golden Age Air Museum, Bethel, Pa., July, 2022.
Rumson Society Busy Tennis Week. (1933). The Long Branch Daily Record, Long Branch, N.J., July 28, 1933, P. 14.
Sengupta, Narayan. (2010). Lafayette Escadrille: America’s Most Famous Squadron. Available: https://www.usaww1.com/Lafayette_Escadrille.php5