Lem C. Jones
Lt Col
U. S. A. F.
Pilot, 34 TFS, 388 TFW

He was born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, to Cecil and Callie Cagle Jones. When he was two, the family moved to Kilgore, Texas. He recalls the natural gas explosion that destroyed much of nearby New London High School. "I was sick that day, and when the school blew, it knocked the washtub off of the side of our house," he recalls. He says more than 400 were killed. His father called it "the worst thing he ever saw in his life." During World War II the family moved to Bossier City where Cecil worked at Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant. Lem recalls rationing and victory gardens when the family lived in Doyline in government housing for plant employees. After the war the Joneses returned to Kilgore where Lem attended nearby schools of Leverett's Chapel. While his father worked for Magnolia Oil Company, the family lived on an oil lease in a single-wall house of four rooms. Graduating high school in 1948, he entered Tulane University where he played football. He later transferred to East Texas State University in Commerce, graduating in 1953. Meanwhile, he had met Margaret Hill on a blind date in New Orleans. They married on December 7, 1951. They would have four children, 11 grandchildren and "a bunch of great-grandchildren." Lem coached for a year in Henderson, Texas. He had taken ROTC in college, and had already enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He went into Ground Control Intercept, finishing radar school at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. He took flight school at Moore Air Force Base in Mission, Texas, then was posted to Greenville Air Force Base in Mississippi to learn single engine jets. He next flew F-86 bent wing jets at Williams Air Force Base in Mesa, Arizona. At McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, he was trained as a B-47 co-pilot. He flew B-47s with nuclear weapons for Strategic Air Command. Sent to France Lem built up a Disbursed Operating Base, a facility to use in case of war. Eighteen months later in England he helped set up a command post. He was then sent to F-4 training at George Air Force Base in California. At Eglin Air Force Base in Florida he served under Colonel Daniel "Chappie" James, who later became the first four-star black general in the Air Force. During the Vietnam War Lem was sent to Korat Air Force Base in Thailand in the spring of1969, where he served as flight commander in the 34th FAC Fighters Squadron, 388th TAC Fighter Wing. Most of his missions were three hours in length, which he characterizes as "hours and hours of sheer boredom interrupted by moments of stark terror." Typical targets for F-4s were storage areas, interdiction points on roads, and troops. Lem named his F-4 "Sweetie Pie," Margaret's nickname. Of his 159 missions, he believes he flew into North Vietnam three times. He says his ability to destroy enemy facilities was greatly compromised. When a target was located, its description was sent back to the States. "Usually it would take about three days to validate it," he recalls. Vietnam was "the unkind war," he says. "Nobody met us with parades and stuff. As a matter of fact we had several guys who got cussed at," he recalls. Back in America in the spring of 1970, Lem was posted at the 12th Air Force inspector-general office at Virginia's Langley Air Force Base, a tour of duty he says he enjoyed. After a tour in Japan, he finished his career at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, and retired in 1977. After moving to Louisiana, he and Margaret, a painter and sculptor, opened an art store. Four of their sons entered the military. One, Tom, is a brigadier general.