Donald W. Davis
Captain – Army Infantry
World War II (1941-1945)
Medal of Occupation & Medal for Officer Training
Donald Davis was born in Los Angeles, California, on September 4, 1921. He grew up in San Francisco, California, the son of a bond broker. As a child during the depression, Davis earned money to go to college by working in orchards and vineyards of Hamilton City. In 1939, he began attending University of California, Berkeley, where he focused on his studies and joined the Beta fraternity.
Davis remembers washing his parents car in the backyard of his when he heard the announcing of the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor in 1941. That same year, he was commissioned into the war as a member of the reserve officers training corps (ROTC) at the University of California, Berkley. His family had accepted his drafting into the war, understanding that almost all families had young members serving. Fortunately, Davis was able to finish school and became a cadet colonel in the ROTOC upon graduating.
After graduating from University of California, Berkley, Davis tried to enter the navy but ending up joining the army infantry. Thus, Davis began his bootcamp training at Fort Benning, Georgia from July to August of September 1943. There, Davis experienced a lot of disciple and learned how to use weapons such as riffles, machine guns, and grenades.
Davis was then selected to be a part of the school troops out of the cadet corps, where he took officers training program and finished as a 2nd lieutenant. Davis was very gratified for being one of the two chosen out of a big group to be a part of this training. After finishing his training at the Officers Candidates School, Davis received four months of special training in automotive maintenance and driving training, which became his military occupational specialty.
Throughout Davis’ bootcamp experience and initial training, he was very motivated by his patriotism to his country. Davis was shocked at the destructive actions of the Japanese and believed that Britain couldn’t fight this war alone. He was also impressed at how quickly America was coming together as citizens and creating an army of such well-discipline peoples. Upon completing his training, Davis took leave to marry a woman he had met and gotten close to during his university education.
For Davis’ first assignment, he stayed at Fort Benning for eighteen months. There, Davis was a first lieutenant instructor at the school troops and an information officer, handling the news of war in front of all classes, from enlistees to officers. Davis was living in Columbus, Georgia with his wife at the time, and was very gratified by what he described “an interesting and challenging assignment.”
When he completed his first assignment, Davis was sent back to the University of California, Berkley, to learn concentrated Chinese so he would be able to converse in Mandarin. He was then sent to Camp Roberts, California, for processing things that were to be shipped over to China. He was then preparing for his assignment to China to teach nationalist Chinese about America knowledge and skills, but after receiving a shot, he had a poor reaction. Davis was then diagnosed with hepatitis and became deathly sick.
Upon miraculously surviving the illness, Davis was shipped to Fort Ord,California, and was assigned to take a railroad cart full of young recruits to Germany to replace old troops. Therefore, Davis was now in command of the 3rd army occupation of three hundred men in forty box carts, with a destination in Austria. He ran a taxi cab company for the 3rd army, where 150 drivers were under his command and he would fix broken cars. The 3rd army was to cross all of Europe and have a final thrust into Austria.
Davis remembers the moral of his unit to be exceptional. However, there were many challenges that they had to overcome. Davis remembers things became monotonous at box cart stops in German war zones. He also remembers constantly running out of fuel and having to confiscate German vehicles to steal their fuel.
When Davis helped move the army into Heidenburg, Germany, he earned enough points to go home. However, he was told by a commanding officer that if he were to sign up for an additional six months of service, he would receive one month leave to go anywhere he desired. Davis took the offer and chose to take his leave in Switzerland. Davis enjoyed his time in such a prosperous land and in such a beautiful resort, but he recalled being lonely. But when he went to Rome, he met a Catholic woman taking a leave from the Women’s Army Corps. They formed a friendly relationship, and they managed to meet Pope Pius XII together. Davis remembers his leave in Europe as one of the highlights of his war experience.
After his leave, Davis continued his duties for the 3rd army in Europe for another six months. In October 1945, he took his discharge in Camp Kilmner, New Jersey. Upon his arrival, he was united with his wife, and used the money he received trading his cigarettes to comrades to buy a new car in New York. Davis and wife then drove home in their new car.
Davis remembers being graciously received by his fellow Americans and the army when he came home and was honored with very good benefits. Davis was able to purchase a new flat with only a three percent mortgage and had the option to go back to school. He was very happy to be home with his wife. However, Davis continued to serve in te reserve through the Korean War, becoming a major. When the Korean War ended, he took his final discharge from the war.
Back in civilian life, Davis worked for Cadillac at General Motors as salesman, becoming subbranch car manger in 1958. He then became a stock broker for his Dad’s company, the Davis Skaggs brokerage Company, and eventually started the Davis Skaggs Investment Management company which still operates today.
Now a successful and retired man, Davis looks back the his war experience and recalls both good and bad memories. As for his hardest times durning his war experience, he remembers the fear of failing during combat. It was his biggest fear, more than the fear of being killed. Also, Davis’ scariest moment was suffering from hepatitis after receiving his shot. He was lucky to survive the illness.
On a more cheerful note, Davis recalls playing a practical joke on his sergeant in bootcamp with his comrades. His basic training sergeant wanted the soldiers to make their beds in the most meticulous manner. Being hard to please, the soldiers had a tough time making their beds and became irritated with him. Since most young men smoked at the time, there were butt cans positioned all over the base. Davis and his fellow personnel put the stripes of the sergeant on these butt cans, and ever since that day, they began to call their sergeant by the name of “Sergeant Buttcan”.
Also, Davis made many friends during his war experience, one friend who he stills sees today from the Bay Area. Besides getting sick, Davis luckily received no injuries. He received many awards, including an occupation troop metal, a medal for his time of service, and a medal for officer training school. He recalls meeting the pope with his catholic friend in Rome as his most memorable experience. All in all, Davis believes serving in the war was the best experience of his life.
Looking back, Davis believes his sacrifice in the war wasn’t very big, but it was certainly justified. “I helped in teaching a lot of soldiers how to fix a piece of army equipment, how to drive a vehicle, and how to operate a convoy.” However, Davis is most proud of his ability to have gathered news and informed troops of the current issues of the war. “I stood on the stage and told two hundred people the news of they day,” he recalls.
Davis has learned the power of unison and patriotism after serving in World War II. Davis believes that World War II brought out America’s potential. “We are a country of immigrants-then and still the freest people. And we were the only country standing at the end of the war.”
Davis has one son who is a Vietnam veteran and a grandson who is currently serving in Afghanistan. He is very proud of both of them. Davis believes that during World War II, the “morale of the nation was never higher and never in more unison behind such an effort.” He hopes and encourages such unison of Americans today in times of need. “When we come together, we can do incredible things.”
Interviewed by Gabriella Aversa and Kathryn Khalvati on August 12, 2011.