Although she’s 96, Marjory Strout Perkins of Bangor still remembers the handsome young Brewer sailor whose submarine torpedoed itself on Oct. 24, 1944.
Sidney William Jones went down with the USS Tang (SS-306); 68 years later, Marjory feels that his heroic tale should be told.
After marrying in 1910, Maynard and Bertha (Greene) Strout settled in Bangor’s West Side, where Maynard “had the first wrecker in the City of Bangor,” their daughter Marjory recalled. She and a sister knew Sidney Jones and his sister, Marion, because their mothers “were girlfriends together.
“Marion and I were always close,” too, Marjory said.
Marion lived with her mother, Cressida, and family in North Brewer. “Sidney was born on North Main Street [on Oct. 27, 1914] in a house across from the [current] Eagle’s Nest,” Marjory recalled. “He was a year older than me.”
For a while, Marjory’s and Sidney’s mothers worked together at Eastern Manufacturing Co. in South Brewer. “When they lived up in North Brewer, we’d go up on the sleigh with the pony” along State Street in Bangor during the winter “and go across the river [near Mount Hope Cemetery] to visit Cressida and the children,” Marjory recalled.
In time Cressida Jones and her husband separated. “When Cressida left her home in North Brewer, Mother and Father gave her and the children a place to stay at our house” while Cressida completed her nursing education, Marjory said.
The Joneses ultimately moved to South Blue Hill, where Cressida’s parents lived. Sidney later graduated from George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill and then joined the Navy.
“He was a handsome man, but not a very big man,” Marjory recalled. During the Dec, 5, 1988 dedication of Jones Hall at the Naval Submarine Base in San Diego, Jones was described in the official program as a man “of medium size, slim, wiry and sandy haired.”
Well-trained and –experienced in navigation, Chief Quartermaster 1st Class Jones served on surface warships until transferring to submarines. In time he reported aboard the USS Tang, where he was the assistant navigator.
Launched at Vallejo, Calif. in mid-August 1943, the USS Tang made five war patrols in the Pacific Theater of Operations. The submarine left Pearl Harbor on Sept. 24, 1944 and stopped briefly at Midway Island.
With Sidney Jones aboard, the USS Tang sailed west to attack Japanese shipping between China and the northwestern shore of Formosa (today’s Taiwan). After torpedoing a destroyer and a tanker, the USS Tang “zeroed in on a remaining transport which was dead in the water,” according to the Jones Hall dedication program.
The submarine fired a torpedo that “was observed running hot and straight” at the target. Then the sub’s crew fired another torpedo that “broached and curved to the left in a circular run.”
Despite frantic maneuvering to clear the errant torpedo’s curving path, the USS Tang was struck by its own torpedo and immediately sank in 180 feet of water. At least 17 crewmen escaped the sunken sub; nine men would survive Japanese captivity.
Probably stationed in the conning tower when the torpedo struck, Sidney William Jones died aboard the USS Tang. His body was never recovered.
For his bravery on different USS Tang war patrols, Jones received two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star.
On May 1, 1989, Marion Jones wrote Marjory Perkins about attending the Jones Hall dedication in San Diego. Navy brass — two rear admirals and at least five captains — participated in the ceremony that officially opened the $8.1-million, 53,200-square-foot building, which was an eight-story bachelor enlisted quarters.
“If only our mother (Cressida Jones) could have known” about the dedication, “but somehow I think she did,” Marion wrote 23½years ago. “She always thought he (Sidney) was the greatest & sure enough she was right.”
During his last Navy patrol, Sidney William Jones of Brewer helped sink 13 enemy ships with a combined weight of 107,324 tons. Unfortunately he was lost in action at sea — but he was not forgotten by Marjory Strout Perkins.