Pittsburg veteran recalls World War II
PITTSBURG, Kan. — P.E. Davis stills remembers the yellowish-brown “tweed” coat and suit he had just bought when a military truck came down the road blasting over a loudspeaker for all personnel to get back to base.
It was early in the morning on Dec. 7, 1941 and Pearl Harbor had just been bombed. Davis never got to wear the suit, according to The Pittsburg Morning Sun (http://bit.ly/2fPxGwE ).
“We were in uniform forever,” he said.
The Pittsburg native just celebrated his 97th birthday. He was in his 20s when he enlisted back in 1940.
“You could see it coming in the headlines each day,” he said.
At the time, Davis was cooking at a restaurant in Pittsburg and decided to enlist before being drafted. Davis felt American involvement was inevitable and wanted to avoid being drafted and placed in the infantry.
After Pearl Harbor, the radio operator/gunner trained at various places in the U.S. before being sent to New Guinea in 1943 and island hopping in the Pacific for the rest of the war.
Davis said his unit would relocate from island to island as the U.S. Army made advances, but that didn’t mean he was out of harm’s way.
He couldn’t count how many times a Japanese plane would drop bombs during the middle of the night.
“We called them ‘Piss Call Charlie,’” he said.
There was no sign it was coming, but he vividly remembers soldiers jumping out of their tents half-dressed, with a helmet and rifle, and jumping into a fox hole they had dug earlier in the day.
“That had to be some kind of sight,” he laughed.
Only once, he said, was his unit attacked by paratroopers. It happened while he was in the Philippines.
He lost men during different attacks and even lost his younger brother, Clarence, who was drafted in 1942 and died in a plane crash in India the next year. Davis said it’s unknown if mechanical problems led to the crash or if the plane was shot down.
War continued and Davis recalls “hours or days of boredom then 15 to 20 minutes of sheer terror.”
The 1937 Pittsburg High School graduate said he knew the war ended after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs in 1945 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki three days apart.
Soon after the bombings, Davis said surrendered enemy soldiers began arriving at the island on which he was stationed near Okinawa.
He said the worst part of the war was the number of lives lost and best part was coming back and landing in San Pedro, California.
After being discharged in 1945, Davis got married and had a daughter, whom he recently visited in Wichita.
In 1991, after his house in Andover was destroyed by a tornado, he moved back to Pittsburg.
He likes to stay busy by taking on various projects, including building a dollhouse for his great granddaughter.