Waco resident William O. Davis is a father. He’s a grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather. A retired teacher. A former soldier. A devoted husband. And he managed to accomplish all of this in less than a century.
Born in Beckville and raised near Carthage in East Texas, he grew up on a farm like many children during the Great Depression. He was attending Prairie View A&M University when he was drafted in 1942.
Davis, soon to be 98, went on to serve three years and six months in the U.S. Army during World War II.
He completed basic training near Fort Worth, followed by several stateside postings. He was in Seattle when he was transferred to Alaska where he worked in supply and cargo at Excursion Inlet (also the site of a German prisoner of war camp). In the summer it rained, Davis said, but he didn’t waste time thinking about the cold weather. He just concentrated on doing his job.
“In the Army, it doesn’t make much difference wherever you are,” he said.
After seven months in Alaska, Davis returned to the Lower 48 briefly before shipping out for England on what he recalls was a “converted British liner.” It was likely the RMS Queen Mary, which like many passenger ships of the era, was outfitted to transport large numbers of troops. The Queen Mary could carry over 15,000.
Keeping Company C rolling
Davis was stationed for several months in England before moving on to Rouen, France. He served with the Transportation Corps in Company C, which at the time was under the command of Gen. Omar Bradley, and briefly, Gen. George S. Patton. Davis coordinated and handled all transportation needs, doing everything from vehicle inventory to record-keeping.
Sometimes conditions were harsh in England as well as France, Davis said. Sleeping on the ground in two-man pup tents, he and the company of more than 250 soldiers were sometimes targeted by German bombers. Each man had his own foxhole for safety.
“I could see the fires at night,” Davis said. “Sometimes they (Germans) dropped bombs and sometimes the Americans shot planes down. Our guards were shooting field artillery at night.”
For a time, Davis had the additional duty of guarding imprisoned American soldiers who had committed minor offenses. After the war ended, he decided he didn’t care too much for the military, even though “everybody got along” and people were, for the most part “OK,” he said. “It’s pretty tough.”
He was unhappy that he never received a promotion. After returning stateside, he was honorably discharged while stationed in New Jersey in 1945.
Back in Texas, back to school
Davis returned home and back to school at Prairie View A&M, where he earned his master’s degree in industrial arts. He started what would become a 32-year career, teaching throughout Texas, including at Wharton Junior College, Cotulla Junior High, Groesbeck High School, A.J. Moore High School and Richfield High School in Waco. In addition, he also taught at Paul Quinn College before retiring for good in 1981.
In 1952, he married Minnie (Kizzie) Davis, who passed away just over a year ago. They were together over 61 years and had four children, approximately a dozen grandchildren, a few great-grandchildren and “one or two great-great grandchildren,” Davis said.
The last remaining sibling in his family, Davis continues to firmly maintain an upbeat outlook on life and recommends that philosophy.
“You’ve got to have a positive attitude and deal with people fair and squarely,” he said. “Be a good neighbor and a good friend.
“World War II was a terrible thing,” he said. “but WWII changed everything in America.
“The war changed people in Carthage. Race relations were better. People were more respectful,” he said. The world itself was overall a better place to live in afterward, he added.
Over the years he’s been through both good times and bad. “It’s better today than it was then,” he said.
And with almost a century of experience to draw upon, he’s seen a lot more than most to reach that conclusion.
“Voices of Valor,” featuring stories about Central Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday in the Waco Trib. To suggest a story about a Central Texas veteran, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Voices of Valor is proudly sponsored by Johnson Roofing.