Born 18 December 1913, at Marshfield, Oregon, David M. Jones attended the University of Arizona from 1932 to 1936 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Cavalry. A year later, he entered pilot training at Randolph and Kelly Fields, and graduated in June 1938. His first assignment was flying A-17s, and later B-18s, with the 17th Attack Group at March Field, California. The 17th moved to McChord Field, Washington, where Jones flew B-23s before the unit became the first to fly B-25s. From July 1941 to February 1942, he was Deputy Commander of the 95th Bomb Squadron at Pendleton AAB, Oregon.
He volunteered for the Doolittle Project and flew the initial evaluation flights of the B-25s, which were specially modified for the mission. After training for two months at Eglin Field, Florida, the Doolittle "Raiders" set sail from San Francisco on 1 April 1942, aboard the USS Hornet. Jones and his crew of four were fifth in the take-off sequence. After hitting his target along Tokyo Bay, Jones headed the aircraft toward the Chinese-held portion of China. Once over land, Jones and his crew parachuted to safety. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his participation in the mission. In September 1942, he arrived in North Africa as Commander of the 319th Bombardment Group.
On 4 December 1942, while flying a B-26, he was shot down over Bizerte, North Africa, and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner in Stalag Luft III. He was elected to the "escape committee" in recognition of his constant agitation and harassment of his German captors. After the war, he held various positions, including Commander of the 47th Bombardment Wing at Langley AFB, Virginia and RAF Sculthorpe, England, flying B-45s. His experience in bomber aircraft made him a natural to be director of the B-58 Test Force, a position he assumed in February 1958. He participated in speed dashes, low-level penetration, night, weather, formation, and in-flight refueling missions, and accumulated more Mach 2 test time than any other senior Air Force pilot at that time.
After serving as Vice Commander of the Wright Air Development Division and Program Manager of the GAM-87 Skybolt, he became Vice Commander of Aeronautical Systems Division in January 1963. In December 1964, he was assigned as Deputy Associate for Manned Space Flight with NASA, and, from May 1967 until his retirement in June 1973, he was Commander of the Air Force Eastern Test Range and Department of Defense Manager of Manned Space Flight Support, Patrick AFB, Florida. Major General Jones worked in banking for several years after retirement from the Air Force.
On 18 April 1942, Captain David Jones and his B-25 crew headed toward their target in Japan, despite pre-takeoff problems, including a 30-gallon fuel deficit in one wing tank. While flying over water, they encountered a Japanese twin-engine land plane, which had to maneuver to avoid a collision. Approaching the coast, they dropped to an altitude of 50 feet. Overcoming navigation problems, they found Tokyo and scored direct hits on several targets along the bay, including an oil tank and a power plant. Egressing to China, poor weather, darkness, and rough terrain prevented a landing attempt. The crew safely bailed out and was able to regroup within two days.