TSgt Calvin Clark Davis, WW2-RIP 11/30/12
Excerpt from Davis Family book, written by Dr. Shelley Viola Murphy
(Photo from Murphy family album)
The Davis family arrived in Benzie County, Michigan early 1863, arriving two weeks after the Joy family. To our knowledge they were the first African-American family homesteading in Benzie County, Michigan. William Davis (born abt. 1814, PA) homesteaded 160 acres and so did his son Joseph B. and Joseph’s brother in law David Imes. The township of Joyfield did not have a cemetery. William and Mildred (Brand) Davis sold 5 aces for $35 to Joyfield township for the cemetery and it was named Joyfield Cemetery. Oral history handed down for over 60 years reveals that William Davis is believed to be one of the three children of the Scotch-Irish plantation owner and African slave.
William’s oldest son, Joseph Brand Davis born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania 22 March 1839, died on February of 1915, at the ripe age of 76. Joseph’s first wife was Mary Bell Imes; they had one son named Horace Burr Davis. He was born abt. 1864. Horace was the first baby to be born in Joyfield Township after the township got its name. Horace Davis died in 1914, when his son Calvin was only two years old. Hattie, Calvin mother’s was left with a house, land and a few dollars, which was more than enough for her to live on and support the family. If that wasn’t enough for the Davis’s siblings, their mother Hattie, died on April 30,1919, just five years after their father. Bessie, one of Calvin’s older sisters, was working as a live-in housekeeper when their mother died. Upon her mother’s death, she quit her job and returned home to take care of her three young brothers, Ferman, Floyd and Calvin. Bessie didn’t have much to live on, and they were very poor. Bessie used to me about the hard times she had with raising her three young brothers (personal interview, 1975, Acardia, MI, Marsh Homestead). She said that they were literally starving and being poor was an understatement. To give us an idea of how hungry and poor they were, she commented that she would buy one apple and cut it up for all four of them to eat. (Calvin’s parents-Horacem age 15 & Hattie (Lee) Davis age 8, Murphy family album)
Calvin Clark Davis attended the Malcolm School, Manistee County. According to information submitted by John W. Martin, who provided a history on the Malcolm School, the 1922-23-school term started late in August with 26 pupils making up eight grades. The Davis, Marsh, Reed, and other children used a well-worn path through the fields, woods, and across the railroad track, being a direct half-mile to walk to school. If the round about roads had been used, the distance would have more than doubled. Calvin attended Bear Lake High School, class of 1932. While in high school he sang in the Glee Club and set a new regional record in the half mile run. Calvin always dreamed of becoming being a pilot. But knew it was out of his reach, they wouldn’t allow him to attend pilot school being a colored man, even though he didn’t look colored. He was very light skinned and settled as a radio gunner. He entered the military May 14, 1941, I believe just prior to the approval of the Tuskegee Airman; there is no indication that anyone ever asks him what race he was. (Davis boys, Calvin and his brothers, Photos from my family album).
According to the newspaper article, he graduated from army radio school and after running a radio station at Rapid City, South Dakota, for some time he finally was picked for combat duty in a heavy bombardment group. He arrived in New Guinea June 30, 1943, and started combat flying three weeks after his arrival. From there he flew on many missions, some very long and some shorter. Although he completed combat flying well into July of 1943, Calvin had completed his 300 hours of flying, or 50+ missions in a few months, According to the newspaper reports, Calvin was wounded on both the first and last missions, for which he received the Purple Heart. (He flew on Captain Showalter’s, Pride of the Yanks)
News again November 26, 1943, reported that Calvin, as a Tech Sergeant was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism in flight and exceptional and outstanding accomplishment in the face of great danger above and beyond the call of duty over Wewak. New Guinea on August 29, 1943.
News again, April 11, 1944 reported that Calvin was cited for Heroism at Rabaul, and visited his sister Bessie Marsh for a well-earned rest. According to this article it is quoted that Calvin started combat flying in July of 1943, he had completed his 300 hours of flying, or 50 missions, which included two-week rest periods and being grounded for one month. In addition, he was awarded for heroic service, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and two oak leaf clusters, and was been recommended for the Silver Star. According to this article, it stated that with Calvin winning two more medals, he would be eligible for the Congressional Medal of Honor. During this time he was in the 5th Air Force, 90th Bomb Group, 400th Squadron.
June 2, 1944 news reported that Calvin Davis was one of four Michigan fliers of the 5th Air Force awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster. How did Calvin survive hiding his race, you asked? Well for one thing, he never spoke of his family, so no one ever suspected that he was African-American, due to being very light-skinned. The mood of the US regarding African-Americans serving was vicious. During WW2, blacks were allowed to do certain type of jobs, such as cooks and maintenance workers. Separate facilities were set up for the black soldiers and white soldiers. Calvin was not among them, he was with the white soldiers, but didn’t associate that much. He kept to him self, but word has it, that he was somewhat of a ladies man. He had several girl friends, but never married or had any children. (personal interview Bill Pace, 2002).
November 7, 1944, Elmer Short of Bear Lake reported that he turned on his radio and heard Cal Davis speaking and singing, actually yodeling, yes I said yodeling, from London. A few days later a photo was released with Calvin Davis pictured during the BCC radio broadcast from London England. The event that Calvin was being interviewed was the American Red Cross Rainbow Corner in London, during the BBC program, “The American Eagle in Britain”. Calvin Davis was a decorated WWII solider, had a dream of being a pilot and knew that he could not enter the service to serve his country because of his race. Information received on Calvin Davis’s last mission serving his country should not go untold.
He flew with a crew of the “Asterisk”, a B-17, (8th AF 390 BG, 570 Sq) over Germany. Research showed that Everett Fitchlee was ill and in the hospital, he is alive and doing well at the age of 78. He told me that he (personal telephone interview Everett, 2002) remembered Cal Davis, and didn’t know until several years ago what had happened to his crewmates. He saw William “Bill” Pace at a 390BG reunion and Bill told him. He suggested that we contact Pace, since Pace was on the last mission with Calvin Davis. Mr. Fitchlee said it hit him hard, finding out what had happened. (Photo sent to me by Bill Pace of he and Calvin in 1944, BBC is photo from family album)
Mr. Pace commented that Cal was well liked by everyone and it was a pleasure knowing and flying with him (personal telephone interview 2002). He had no idea that Cal was African-American. He was shocked, said that Calvin never said anything about his family. Said that they met Davis on the airbase in the NCO club they needed a radio gunner, and Cal wanted to fly with them, in which he did. He did say that Calvin was older than the rest of the crew, and they knew that he was with the 5th Air Force. Bill said he asked him why did he sign up for another tour, and Calvin replied, “ I don’t think I‘ve done enough”.
According to the military records the Asterisk was involved in a crash over Merseburg Germany, all of the crew was killed, except three soldiers, which they were taken as POW’s. I contacted Bill Pace for details of the mission. It was exciting to talk to someone that flew with Calvin Davis. Bill stated that they were flying their 13th mission. They were flying right wing to the lead plane. The mission was to bomb the oil refineries in Meresburg. Shots were coming from everywhere, the lead plane was hit and fell right on them and the Asterisk split in half. He said where Cal was at; there was no way out, the pilot, co-pilot and engineer as well as Cal, as the radio gunner went down. They were all killed, with the exception of himself, Raymond Labinski and Custer Green; they became POW’s. Bill said he went to Stalag I. (phone conversation with Bill Pace, 2002)
January 9, 1945, TSgt, Calvin Davis, reported missing in action over Germany. His sister, Bessie Marsh, received an official telegram. He died on November 30, 1944, locals found body parts, with his dog tags still attached. He is buried in Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre (Neuville-En-Condroz), Belgium, Plot D, Row: 10 Grave 29. Calvin’s grave was adopted by and visited by Martjin Van Haren, who has a website called Faces beyond the Graves. View his website: http://www.facesbeyondthegraves.com./faces/Faces-0014.html
Snapshot of Calvin’s WW2 military career:
TSgt. Calvin Clark Davis
Born September 2, 1912, Benzie County, Michigan-
Died November 30, 1944, WWII Solider-Serial number 16014331
Buried at Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Belgium (Plot D, Row 10, Grave 29)
8th Air Force, “390th BG, 570 Squadron, The Flying Fortress
5th Air Force “90th BG, 400 Squadron, The Jolly Rogers
- Attended school: Bear Lake High School, Class of 1932
- Singer in the High School Glee Club and Track Star.
- Military Awards: 50+ completed missions in SW Pacific, over Japanese held territory
- 16 missions in Europe
- Wounded, from missions in the Pacific
- Distinguished Flying Cross, Two Oak Leaf Clusters
- I Air Medal, 2 purple hearts with oak leaf, Air Medal with Star, Defense Medal, European-African Campaign Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, World War 2 Victory Medal, Honorable Service Lapen Button, WW11
- Purple Heart Received for Military Merit and for Wounds Received in actions resulting in his death (6/2/1945)
- Recommended for the Silver Star and Medal of Honor
All referenced materials are in my personal family papers. Military documents were obtained from Calvin Clark Davis military file from NARA and Fold3. All photos from family album-Bessie Marsh gave photos to my mother Verna Murphy. If you take anything from my blog, remember this is all from my book about my relative, please just ask. All the newspaper articles, and write ups on Calvin Clark Davis came from my research and family interviews. For more information on the Calvin Clark Davis contact Shelley @ email@example.com 434-806-7433.
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