SL Davis Jr was drafted into the US Army in 1942, at Camp Blanding Florida.
Initially he was to be a truck driver, but then after showing a certain aptitude, he went to Artillery school. Soon after
completion, he was realigned again, partially because of his experience in the Pre-War CCC as a bulldozer driver, this time
as a crewmember on a Tank Destroyer. The Tank Destroyer Corps was new to the Army but would not survive as a Branch past WWII.
Initially the TD Corps was outfitted with halftracks sporting a 105mm Howitzer. This ungainly contraption was to be used with
"Lightning Speed" to destroy German tanks at range. Obviously this was inadequate and soon the TD Battalions were being equipped
with the more appropriate M-10, and M-18 Tank Destroyers. These were Fast, Up-gunned versions of contemporary US Tanks such
as the M4 Sherman. By the end of
the war the mighty M-36 would arrive on the battlefield, its 90mm High Velocity Gun devastating Her Hitler's Panzer Formations.
By June 6, 1944 SL had been
across the United States for training. He had been to Texas
for desert warfare training and to North Carolina for gunnery training. At Ft.
Bragg he and his young bride, Lorene Thomas Davis lived a Spartan existence. They
survived on the grit that was southern ingenuity, such as layering the two blankets they had with newspaper to keep out the
wintry chill while sleeping. But on that day, when the second wave of troops hit the beachhead, SL was in his M-10, on a landing
craft, watching in horror as his fellow TD crews drove off the ramp into water that was too deep. Whereas the TDs were fitted
with wading gear for the invasion, the landing craft pilots were a bit gun-shy after the first wave and many didnt wait until
the were near enough to the shore before dropping their ramp, and off went the
Tank, into the English channel.But SLs landing craft made it close enough and onshore he went.
5 Major campaigns later SL was on occupation duty waiting for orders that would
either send him home to Florida, or on to Japan.
But this respite was not without a cost. From the original 600+ troops in the 629th TD BTN that landed on the beach
in Normandy, only 50 lived to see Berlin.
Through Normandy, Northern France, the Ardennes,
the Rhineland, Central Europe, to Berlin SL had a TD shot out from under him,
lost another down a mountainside during a storm, and narrowly escaped a snipers bullet when he leaned over to grab a tool.
He helped liberate a concentration camp, and captured German Super-Guns. He was pushed earth over German emplacements on the
Siegfried Line under fire, and got frostbite during the BugleHe was indeed lucky to be alive.
He made it home in 1945 to his young wife, who had suffered through the toils
of wartime shortages and rationing, but made herself a better person for it. He and Lorene are truly of the Greatest Generation.