FOSTER & ETTA JONES




Additional information about Foster and Etta Jones has been found in a great book titled "The Aleutian Invasion" published in 1981. It was prepared by Ray Hudson and his students at the Unalaska High School. A letter introducing this book follows:

                                  November 4, 1981

DEAR FRIENDS OF THE CUTTLEFISH CLASS!

Here, at last, is our little production on World War II in the Aleutians. We hope you will be pleased with what we have accomplished.

To all of you who were so generous with your memories and photographs we want to give a very special thanks. Without your help and support we could not have produced what we did.

We have had paperback copies of this book for about two months, but the hardback copies arrived only this week. (The printer in California was going to drive them here in a truck!) If you know people who might like a copy the school has them for sale at $6.00 for paperbacks and $8.00 for hard-covers. We had 500 of each printed.

Once again, many thanks! We hope you will enjoy reading the book.

                       With best wishes,

              (signed) The Cuttlefish Class

 

For some of the best first-hand accounts
of WWII in the Aleutians, procure a copy
of this book! Note: the prices quoted in the
above reproduced letter are more than likely
NOT valid today! And...as of yet the
availability of this book is questionable.

Here's an extract relating to the fate of Charles Foster and Etta Jones, residents of Attu when the Japanese attacked on June 7th, 1942:

13. Etta Jones, Prisoner from Attu

At age sixty-two, Mrs. Etta Jones was taken prisoner by the Japanese on June 7, 1942, at Attu. Mrs. Jones and her husband had arrived on Attu eight months before [October 1941]. She was a school teacher for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Her husband was a radio technician and operated a government radio and weather-reporting station.

The Joneses were not really expecting the Japanese when some men debarked from a huge transport off Chichagoff Harbor. Word had come that an American ship was due to evacuate all the people on Attu. A few soldiers or sailors would maintain the radio station and continue to send weather reports. The Joneses mistook the Japanese ship for this vessel.

A short time later Mrs. Jones heard a series of rifle shots echo through the valley. Almost at once a woman rushed into her cabin and cried, "The Japs are here!" Mrs. Jones quickly looked out the window. Japanese were pouring all over the hills surrounding the valley, shooting as they came and yelling wildly. Some of the Aleut people were wounded by the haphazard fire but none seriously.

While bullets hit the cabin windows and walls, Mr. Jones continued transmitting messages to Dutch Harbor. When the Japanese were almost in the house, he walked out and gave himself up.

Right after Mr. Jones gave himself up an officer thrust himself into the cabin and confronted Mrs. Jones with a bayonet. He poked the bayonet against her body and asked in English, "How many are here?"

"Two," Etta replied. "how many have you?"

"Two thousand" was the answer.

Early the next morning the Japanese came for Mr. Jones. He was taken to the commander for further questioning. That was the last time Mrs. Jones saw him alive. How he was killed she never learned.

After her husband was taken away, Mrs. Jones believed she lost her mind. She said she remembered little of what happened in the next few days until she was placed on a transport and taken to Yokohama.

"I have one vivid recollection," she said. "After climbing the long stairway of the ship and getting on deck, I noticed myself in a mirror. I was laughing like an hysterical fool. Perched on the back of my head was a blue knit cap. The reflection was enough to shock me back to normalcy, and from then on I remember everything clearly."

She arrived at Yokohama around June 21st. She was surprised to see a picture of herself and some Attu people in one of the daily newspapers.

The Japanese took Etta to the Bund Hotel. She was interrogated, but they were finally conviced that she had no military knowledge. She was soon joined by eighteen Australian nurses who had been captured in New Guinea. The whole group was transferred in August 1942 to the Yokohama Athletic and Rowing Club. There were no bedrooms so everyone slept on the floor. Later they were moved to a different prison camp, at Totsuka, about twenty miles outside of Yokohama. She didn't have to do any work if she didn't want to.

The Japanese were actually nice to her and called her "Oba San," which meant the aged one and was considered a title of respect.

To pass the time of day they knitted little silk bags for the Japanese soldiers to put their religious pictures in. With the little money this gave them they were able to buy certain personal things that they needed.

Christmas was especially disheartening for the prisoners. However, their spirits were given some uplift when Red Cross packages arrived. At Easter 1944 they received some American Red Cross boxes. However, the fate of Mrs. Jones was still not known in the United States.

The Japanese would not let the Red Cross representative visit the prisoners until July 3, 1945 by which time they realized the end of the war was near. As American planes swept over the Yokohama and Tokyo areas the prisoners came to realize that the end of the war could not be far off.

A police official notified Mrs. Jones and her companions on August 17th that they were free, but they were told they should stay inside or close to the camp because the people could not be trusted with their safety.

Four or five days later Americans dropped food and relief supplies at the camp. A little of it landed outside the camp.

"We all disregarded the police warnings and ran right out to get the packages," she recalled. "Some of the Australian girls were along the road and picking up the packages when they saw several American staff cars going by. They tried to stop them but couldn't.

On September 1, 1945, Mrs. Jones was put on an airplane outside Tokyo. She was finally headed for home. Once in the United States she was given a check for $7,371.00 for back pay as the B.I.A. teacher on Attu.

                      - Cheri Ensley

 

Additional Information from other sources:

Until the advent of Mary Breu's book "Last Letters from Attu" published in 2009 not much information was available regarding the final days of Charles and Etta Jones' life on Attu as WWII reached the Aleutian Islands. Charles Foster Jones was a sixty year old ham radio operator and weather observer, his 62 year old wife Etta Jones, was a teacher and trained nurse working for the U.S. Government. They lived in the little village of Attu which consisted of frame houses located around Chichagof Harbor. The Aleuts maintained a precarious existence as they had for centuries by fishing, trapping the foxes, and weaving baskets. Missionaries, as well as government patrol boats and small fishing craft, provided the inhabitants with their only direct link with the outside world...except for the small radio operated by Mr. Jones who was in frequent contact with Kodiak, AK.

For a short time after their invasion of Attu, the Japanese occupational forces maintained the services of the Aleut fishermen to supply them with food. As the Japanese forces became more entrenched, Mrs. Jones and the entire Aleut population (approx. 48) of the little village at Chichagof Harbor was transported in the hold of a freighter to Hokkaido, Japan for internment. Foster Jones had been killed by the Japanese during interrogation in the opening days of the invasion. Mrs. Jones was separated from the native Aleuts and interred at Yokohama (along with U.S. Navy personnel captured by the Japanese on Kiska), while the Aleuts were held prisoners at Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan. The Japanese garrison now had the island of Attu entirely to themselves, and began setting up defensive positions in preparation for the anticipated invasion by Allied forces.

[Note: There are several variations of the story relating to the Jones' fate after the Japanese invasion of Attu. One story has it that the roles were reversed with Foster Jones being the schoolteacher. Another story has it that Foster was shot by the Japanese. Additionally, other stories indicate that Foster had a cache of guns in the mountains of Attu and that he was shot as he headed for his weapons. These were largely uninformed speculations. However, I do believe Foster was "point man" for the U.S. Government, keeping an eye out for and reporting to Kodiak, AK by radio on suspicious Japanese activity from his viewpoint at this westernmost advantage. For the whole story, do read "Last Letters from Attu by Mary Breu!]