Harlan G. Davis
|Harlan G. Davis was born on October 14, 1915 in Weston, Lewis County. Harlan's parents were both Methodists. They were Elsie Barton Davis and Bennie Davis. He was the first of three children who would be born of their union. Shortly after Sergeant Davis' birth, he and his parents moved to the smaller Lewis County community of Jane Lew. It was the home of one of his father's four sisters (Delia), her husband (Worthy Carson), and their two sons (Frank and Paul). The last named (Paul) has fond memories of his cousin. He stated in a telephone interview that he was so glad that I had phoned, for he had been, given that it was Memorial Day Weekend, thinking of Harlan. He said that Harlan, whose birth was five years before Paul's, had graduated from Jane Lew High School in 1933, was a good student, and an outstanding athlete. Paul also noted that Harlan loved to play the guitar, and that the two played together so often that the music that was produced was in perfect harmony. Lastly, he said that Harlan loved to read, and that he especially liked to read books and stories about America's wild western region.||
Harlan G. Davis
Upon graduation Harlan lived with his parents, who moved to Kincheloe, Harrison County, ca. 1936. By the time of the family's move, the nation was in the middle of the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis to ever hit it. He worked for the Works Progress Administration, which was created in 1935 by the federal government, for 50 cents per day for a period of time. About the time that he went to work for the WPA tragedy befell him. He was nearly killed when hit by a hit and run driver. He was on his way to or from his grandparents Barton in Vandalia when he stopped to assist someone with a flat tire. As he was rendering assistance along U.S. 19 in the Bendale section of Weston, a driver, whose name was never identified, hit him, knocking him to the ground and inflicting a near fatal blow to his head. Although he recovered, he had for the rest of his life a scar on his forehead in the shape of the capital letter A.
42nd Bomber Squadron. Sergeant Davis is in the front row, second from the right.
|Harlan was working in the C. A. Borchert Glass Company factory in Weston when he was drafted into the U.S. Army by the Harrison County Draft Board in Clarksburg in March 1942. His unit was the 498th Bombardment Group. It was a part of a reconstituted 11th Bomber Group, Heavy, of the 42nd Bomber Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Force's Seventh Air Force. Harlan was the tail gunner on one of the planes in the squadron that attacked Wake Island on July 24, 1943, and put the Japanese on the defensive. Richard Streitmatter was in the first wave of the attack. Now almost eighty-three years of age, he stated in telephone interviews and in a letter that he was the pilot in the lead plane in the first wave and that Harlan's plane was to his right. From Richard's vantage point he could see Harlan's plane and saw a kamikaze come up from the water and hit Sergeant Davis' plane at a wing causing Davis' plane to spin out of control towards the ocean, descend quickly, and explode into bits upon impact.|
He and Sergeant Davis were very close friends. Unlike the other members of their unit, neither man was a drinker of alcohol beverages, and both took their religion very seriously. Thus, when they received weekend passes, they would take them together. It was because they shared a common value system that Richard informed Harlan about a first cousin, Helen Adams. Harlan wrote her, thus initiating a regular exchange of letters that would last until Harlan's death. They became quite fond of one another, and Harlan said that when the war was over he was going to go to Illinois and marry her.
It was in the Davis farmhouse in Roanoke, Lewis County, that the biography's author saw his uncle for the last time. Harlan had come home on a leave before shipping out for combat. Some time before he had entered the service he had one early morning introduced his then only nephew to a real treat -- peanut butter and jelly on toast. I also vividly remember the sadness that gripped the family on receipt of the news of his death and the tears of disappointment that flowed from my mother's eyes on August 18, 1945 (V-J Day) when she heard over the radio that the war that had taken her brother's life was finally over, and it had dawned upon her that he wouldn't be one of the GIs coming home.
|The family had retained its membership in the Pleasant Hill Methodist Church, a few miles from Kincheloe, and a memorial service was held at the church upon his mother's notification via telegram of the news of his death on July 24, 1943. The Purple Heart and the Silver Star were awarded posthumously to my uncle Staff Sergeant Harlan G. Davis.||
Medals awarded posthumously
to Harlan G. Davis
West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history. For more information contact Constance Baston at (304) 558-0230.
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