Wilbur D. Jones, Jr., is a nationally known, award-winning author and military historian in Wilmington, N. C. A Wilmington native, he holds a University of North Carolina history degree, is a retired Navy captain and a former assistant and advance representative to President Gerald Ford. He served the Department of Defense for almost 41 years, the last 12 as a professor and associate dean at the Defense Acquisition University.
Doing business as Wilbur Jones Compositions, LLC, he writes, lectures, and consults on World War II, military, and defense issues, spearheads North Carolina WWII history preservation accomplishments, and leads WWII battlefield tours to Europe and the Mediterranean, and in Southeastern N. C.
For the 2014-15 year, Governor Pat McCrory appointed him chairman of the USS North Carolina Battleship Commission, on which he has served since 2013. Recognition includes the Wilmington StarNews Media Lifetime Achievement Award (2012), American Association for State and Local History Award of Merit for Leadership (2006), and North Carolina Historian of the Year (East) (2005).
His 18th book, “She Shot Her Way to Success”: How China’s Empress Dowager Ci Xi Launched a Photographer’s Trail-Blazing Career, was released in 2016. Of his seven WWII books, A Sentimental Journey and its sequel The Journey Continues, both about wartime Southeastern N. C., received statewide awards. The Spielberg 2010 HBO series “The Pacific” used his book Gyrene: The World War II United States Marine, as an actor training manual.
In 2000 he founded the 501c3 all-volunteer WWII Wilmington Home Front Heritage Coalition, whose mission is to identify, preserve, and interpret Southeastern N. C.’s rich WWII legacy. It received two 2005 statewide awards. The hub of area WWII activities is the restored WWII Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center, a public-private partnership which Jones has led. For nine years, Jones has sought national recognition for Wilmington as the first “American World War II City,” working with the state’s congressional delegation on legislation so designating. The legislation’s criteria are what Wilmington did for the war effort, and what it has done since to preserve the history. Prospects for passage in the 2017-18 session of Congress appear encouraging.
Civic service includes the Wilmington Rotary Club (director), Friends of the Battleship North Carolina (chairman), Museum of the Marine (Jacksonville, director), and Advisory Boards for the Salvation Army, New Hanover County Public Library, and HBHUSO/CAC.
A retired professional baseball and basketball umpire and referee, he officiated games at the NCAA Division I and III levels, high school state championships, and two Senior League (15-year old Little League) World Series. His passions are physical fitness, reading, history, and learning.
His wife of 54 years, Carroll Robbins Jones, died in September 2013. Their children are Patricia Jacobson, in Florida; David, a marketer in Raleigh; Andrew, a sports journalist in Raleigh; and granddaughter Carrie, whom they raised, a third-grade teacher in Wake County. His best friend and constant companion is fellow Rotarian Ann LaReau, Alzheimer’s administrator for Home Instead Senior Care.
For awards and recognition, please visit the Awards and Recognition page.
Political Staff Career
In a 16-year political professional staff and volunteer career, he progressed from precinct captain in Los Angeles to assistant and advance representative to President Gerald Ford in The White House (1975-77). His interest in Republican politics began in 1964 as a volunteer in San Diego for Sen. Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign.
He was an organizer for the Los Angeles County Republican Party, was an assistant to California Congressmen Ed Reinecke (27th District office) and Barry Goldwater, Jr. (Washington office), directed President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign in New Hampshire, and advanced President Ford’s 1976 campaign and Bicentennial events. In Washington he was an assistant in the General Services Administration, an assistant to two Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, directed federal logistic support for Nixon’s second inauguration, and served as public affairs director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce before being recalled to active duty in 1980 in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
Navy Officer Career
Jones served the U.S. Navy for 28 years: 14 on active duty as both a regular Navy and reserve officer, and 14 drilling in the Ready Reserve. In 1956 he was commissioned as an ensign on graduation from the Officer Candidate School, Newport, R. I.
At sea, he served on the ammunition ship USS Paricutin (AE-18) (communications officer, Pacific), advance base ship USS Alameda County (AVB-1) (operations officer, Mediterranean), amphibious attack transport USS Lenawee (APA-195) (navigator and first lieutenant, Pacific), and on the fleet oilers USS Mississinewa (AO-144) and USS Truckee (AO-147) (both Mediterranean) as communications officer and flag lieutenant on the staff of Commander Service Force, Sixth Fleet.
Ashore, he served as APA-type desk officer on the staff of Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (Coronado, Calif.); and branch manager for integrated logistic support in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (The Pentagon) on being recalled to active duty in 1980.
In the Ready Reserve, he commanded two units: an ordnance logistics support unit in Washington, D. C.; and Naval Beach Group Staff 106, an amphibious assault support unit (Washington and Little Creek, Va.), and served on a NATO-Atlantic Fleet support unit (Alexandria, Va.)
Promoted to captain in 1977, he retired from the Pentagon in 1984.
As an Author
Jones has authored 18 books on military history and national defense issues. Since 1997 they are (reviews and endorsements are noted under this website’s Book Titles):
– “She Shot Her Way to Success”: How China’s Empress Dowager Ci Xi Launched a Photographer’s Trail-Blazing Career, with Carroll Robbins Jones
– Football! Navy! War!: How Military “Lend-Lease” Players Saved the College Game and Helped Win World War II
– The Journey Continues: The World War II Home Front*, the natural sequel to
– A Sentimental Journey: Memoirs of a Wartime Boomtown*;
– Forget That You Have Been Hitler Soldiers: A Youth’s Service to the Reich, with Hermann O. Pfrengle;
– Hawaii Goes to War: The Aftermath of Pearl Harbor, with Carroll Robbins Jones;
– Condemned to Live: A Panzer Artilleryman’s Five-Front War, with Franz A. P. Frisch;
– Arming the Eagle: A History of U.S. Weapons Acquisition Since 1775;
– Gyrene: The World War II United States Marine**; and
– Giants in the Cornfield: The 27th Indiana Infantry.
* Winners (2005 and 2003) of statewide history book awards from the North Carolina Society of Historians. The Journey Continues won the 2006 Clarendon Award of the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society as the best N. C. Regional history book.
** Gyrene was used as a “technical reference manual” in 2007 to train actors in Australia for filming “The Pacific,” the Steven Spielberg-Tom Hanks HBO mini-series production (2010), about WWII Marines. Please visit the Wilmington Star-News website for more information.
See the Awards and Recognition page for Jones’ recent awards for preserving history and community service.
Preserving North Carolina World War II History
As co-founder in 2000 and chairman of the all-volunteer Coalition, a 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to identify, preserve, and interpret the rich North Carolina WWII legacy, he has been at the forefront of state historical preservation efforts. Since 2008, he has spearheaded projects to seek national recognition for Wilmington to be designated as the first “American World War II City, working closely with the State’s congressional delegations. He also spearheaded successful efforts to have the WWII Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center, a building on the National Register of Historic Places, renovated and restored as a home front museum, a superb example of a public-private partnership with the City of Wilmington.
Military History Lectures and Media Source
Jones has given more than 800 lectures and presentations on military history since 1999. They range from on board the Queen Mary 2 on her maiden eastbound voyage to Southampton (2004), and the Clipper Adventurer cruise ship in the Mediterranean, to the National Archives, C-SPAN Book-TV, University of North Carolina Wilmington, UNC-TV (PBS), and National Iwo Jima Symposium and Reunion.
He is a frequent expert and informational interviewee and source for national and regional TV and AM-FM radio, and a frequent correspondent and reference source for regional print media including the Wilmington StarNews Media, for whom he began writing as a student in 1950 and still does (more than 300 pieces since late 1990’s).
WWII Battlefield Tours
As tour leader or historian, he leads tours and cruises of WWII battlefields and sites in the Pacific, Europe, Mediterranean, and North Carolina. They include the Italian Campaign (Malta, Sicily, Italy); Peleliu (the Palaus); Normandy D-Day; London and area; Tarawa and Butaritari (Kiribati, former Gilbert Islands); Battle of the Bulge to Hitler’s Eagles Nest (Paris to Munich; France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany); Iwo Jima; Okinawa; Invasion of Southern France (Nice to Frankfurt – Riviera to the Rhine); and Crossing the Rhine: Operation Market Garden to Remagen Bridge (Frankfurt to Amsterdam; Germany, Belgium, Netherlands).
He also leads tours of WWII sites in Southeastern North Carolina.
Jones has given more than 750 lectures, media interviews, local government agenda presentations, book signings, and other public appearances providing educational information to in-house audiences of approximately 10,000.
Lifelong Interest in Military History and National Defense
Jones has possessed a lifelong burning interest in military history, national defense issues, and service to country and community. Seven years old when the United States entered World War II on December 7, 1941, he grew up in Wilmington playing war games and supporting the war effort as a child. He writes of his indelible experiences in two award-winning books on wartime Wilmington, A Sentimental Journey and The Journey Continues.
He served nearly 41 consecutive years in the Department of Defense on active duty, in the Ready Reserve, and as a civilian professor and Associate Dean of Information at the Defense Acquisition University (formerly Defense Systems Management College) in Fort Belvoir, Va. His service included more than seven years in the Pentagon as a captain on active duty and as a civilian assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition.
“Remembering how I began, I was born to be a military historian and career armed forces officer in service to my country.”
Other Civic and Community Activities
– Secretary and principal organizer of the Wilmington KITTY HAWK Concept Team which worked from 2006-09 to bring the aircraft carrier USS KITTY HAWK to Wilmington as a museum ship. (The Navy stated the ship would remain in the reserve fleet for several more years.)
– Director, Museum of the Marine, Jacksonville, N. C.
– Member and vice chairman, Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center Advisory Board
– Member, Salvation Army Advisory Board
– Chairman, Friends of the Battleship North Carolina Memorial
– Member, New Hanover County Public Library Advisory Board
– Director, Wilmington (Downtown) Rotary Club
– Member, 150th Anniversary (2008) Committee of St. Andrews-Covenant Presbyterian Church, Wilmington – wrote church history and established a mini-museum History Corner. Charter Member of the church (1944).
– President, Wilmington Executives Club
– Vice president, Olde Camden Homeowners Association
– Member, Wilmington-New Hanover County Military Affairs Committee
– President, Northern Virginia [Professional] Baseball Umpires Association
– Chief Baseball Umpire and Chief Basketball Referee, and Director, Fort Hunt Youth Athletic Association (Little League), Mount Vernon, Va.
A perpetual and eternal learner, he works diligently to preserve North Carolina’s WWII history. He enjoys reading, physical fitness, civic involvement, rooting for his North Carolina Tar Heels, and ACC basketball.
At UNC he lettered in varsity soccer and lacrosse and was president of the Monogram Club of letter winners.
He is a retired professional baseball umpire and basketball referee at the NCAA Division I level through high school and youth leagues in the Northern Virginia-Washington-Baltimore region. In 1983 and 1985 he umpired the Senior League World Series (15-year old division of Little League). A number of players he officiated achieved fame or reached the Major Leagues, including Mia Hamm, Pete Schourek (Cy Young runnerup, ca. 1992), Bill Pulsipher, Derrek Lee, Steve Dunn, and Jim McNamara.
Memberships and Family
He is a member of the Cape Fear Club and City Club at DeRosset.
He and his wife, the late Carroll Robbins of Los Angeles, were married on August 11, 1959, in Naples, Italy, where he was serving on a ship homeported there. Carroll died on September 22, 2013. Their children are Patricia Jacobson (husband Willard) in Pembroke Pines, Fla.; David, a marketer in Raleigh, N. C.; and Andrew (Kimberly), a sports journalist and publisher of TarHeelIllustrated.com in Raleigh. The Joneses raised their granddaughter Carrie Jones Vaughan (Matt), a third-grade teacher in Wake County, N. C.
His best friend and constant companion is fellow Rotarian Ann LaReau, Alzheimer’s administrator for Home Instead Senior Care.