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Trading war stories in Tualatin


Juanita Pohl Center honors veterans with upcoming breakfast

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Les Jones, a former World War II prisoner of war, salutes in a mirror at his Tualatin home. He plans to attend the Veterans Recognition Breakfast, which will take place Friday, Nov. 9, in Tualatin. Albert “Monty” Montague had been at the Pearl Harbor submarine base less than a week when it was attacked by Japanese fighter pilots.

He recalls climbing the base’s water tower and, from his vantage point of 100 feet, looking down the barrel of his rifle at the Japanese torpedo bombers skimming the water below.

“I knew immediately we were at war,” Montague said.

The Veterans Recognition Breakfast will take place on Friday, Nov. 9, from 8 to 10 a.m., at the Juanita Pohl Center, 8513 S.W. Tualatin Road, Tualatin.

The event is free for veterans, $6 for non-veterans.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Albert 'Monty' Montague, a Pearl Harbor survivor, holds the American flag outside his home in Tualatin.Les Jones was a pilot for Britain’s Royal Air Force in 1943, when he was forced to bail out of a faltering four-engine Lancaster bomber to land in enemy territory. As a prisoner of war, he was shuttled between camps in Germany, Lithuania and Poland. There was little safety during his next two years in captivity, even when members of the RAF were near: Jones and his comrades were once fired on by their own country’s military.

“Every time we stopped anywhere, we had to spell out ‘POW’ in whatever we could — cloth or straw — to let the people know we were POWs,” Jones said.

Montague, 91, and Jones, 101, witnessed World War II from dramatically different angles. After the war, they returned to their own respective phases of civilian life. But life has led both to Tualatin.

‘I knew we’d had a real walloping’

As Jones recounts his time as a prisoner of war, his narrative repeatedly returns to Sgt. James “Dixie” Deans, a fellow Royal Air Force bomber pilot who, like Jones, was shot down behind enemy lines and captured by German forces. Deans quickly became something of an elected leader for other POWs, and his fluency in German endeared him and his peers to their German captors.

“We got a lot of privileges from the Germans that we wouldn’t have,” Jones said. “(Deans) was one man in a thousand.”

Deans could recite by heart the articles of the Geneva Convention as they related to the treatment of prisoners of war, Jones said.

“He would tell (the Germans) what they could do to us and what they daren’t do to us. So that kept them in line.”

In speaking so highly of his camp leader, Jones seems to deflect the heroism of his own two-year imprisonment. He downplays his own story of survival: the paranoid isolation of his first week on the lam, starving, in what he could only assume was Germany. His first night after landing, he cut himself a bed in a field of rye and woke up to the strains of “Ferryboat Serenade” played on a piano accordion. For a moment, he was convinced he was in England.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Albert 'Monty' Montague, a Pearl Harbor survivor, talks about his time in the service. He plans to attend the Veterans Recognition Breakfast, Friday, Nov. 9, in Tualatin.After eight days in hiding, Jones surrendered to an off-duty German soldier who had spotted him. He was taken to a prison camp in Heydekrug, Lithuania, where he was reunited with his fellow crew members, and where he first met Deans.

Deans kept an accurate roster of prisoner names and their families’ addresses, and ensured proper burial for those who didn’t make it to the end of what has become known as the Long March. Outside of the camp in Heydekrug, Deans led Jones and about 2,000 other POWs on a long march through Poland, then Germany and ultimately to the safety of British soil, where Jones was reunited with his wife.

‘Dec. 7 is just another day’

by: THIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Les Hones, who served as a pilot for Briatain's Royal Air Force in 1943, shares photos, including this one of him in his first uniform in Blackpool, England, and another showing his sergeant stripes, which he earned before his four-engine Lancaster bomber was shot down in Germany.“To tell you the truth, I never thought about being in danger,” said Montague about the fateful day in December 1941. Adrenaline and training got him through the surprise attack. Then shock set in.

“When it was all done, when the attacking planes were all gone, I sat down, and then I couldn’t get up,” he recalled.

Montague remained in the Navy another year and a half after the war ended. His career on a sub included a close call with a Russian bomber while positioned near Alaska’s Diomede Islands at the beginning of the Cold War. Two years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he was onboard the USS Stingray for a Philippines Campaign mission, working with Filipino guerilla resistance to oust occupying Japanese forces.

What saw him through the close calls and unprecedented attacks was, in part, what he refers to as the submarine sailor’s philosophy.

“If you get killed, you have all your buddies with you, and you have a $5 million coffin,” he said. “So that’s pretty good, you know?”

That sense of solidarity continued long after his honorable discharge from the Navy. Even now, he has a standing appointment on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to join three other veterans on a Ham radio network specifically for Pearl Harbor survivors.

“Sometimes we have visitors into the net that are not Pearl Harbor survivors — they want to know what happened,” Montague said. “So we respond to that.”

Montague belongs to the United States Submarine Veterans organization, and can’t help but notice he is now the only submarine veteran of World War II in the Portland chapter.

He thinks about his fallen friends more lately, although he’s not sure why. Prominent in his mind are R.C. Keffer and J.J. Bergman, fellow submariners who were by his side during the attack on Pearl Harbor but who both died in subsequent patrol missions within the next two years.

Pearl Harbor is never far from his mind, partly because he is frequently invited to schools to speak about the event. He’s often impressed by the questions students put to him; prior to 1990, he had to decline to answer anything related to his more classified missions.

Celebrating their service

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Les Jones, 91, holds a certificate which recognizes his actions when he was shot down over Germany and became a prisoner of war.It’s fitting that the very spot where Montague and Jones have rubbed elbows and swapped war stories will honor them and other veterans during the upcoming Veterans Recognition Breakfast.

The Juanita Pohl Center is especially significant for Montague: It’s where he met Opal, his wife of 14 years.

The Veterans Recognition Breakfast will take place on Friday, Nov. 9, from 8 to 10 a.m., at the Juanita Pohl Center, 8513 S.W. Tualatin Road, Tualatin.

The event is free for veterans, $6 for non-veterans.