Friday, 72 years after being wounded, Oscar Davis Jr. was honored with the presentation of his Purple Heart medal by Lt. Col. Marcus Wright in front of friends, Family and paratroopers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The citation read: “To all who shall see these presents, greeting: This is to certify that The President of the United States of America has awarded the Purple Heart established by Gen. George Washington at Newburgh, New York, August 7, 1782 to Private Oscar L. Davis Jr., United States Army. For wounds received in action 11 February, 1944 in the European theater of operations.”
“For Military Merit.”
Those three words inscribed on the reverse side of the Purple Heart medal alone don’t even begin to tell the story of the men and women who earned it. Many of the service members authorized the award are no longer with us. The Purple Heart is one of the most easily recognizable symbols of wartime sacrifice.
The Purple Heart is a United States Military decoration awarded in the name of the President of the United States to those wounded or killed during any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces.
Davis became the latest recipient of the Purple Heart. He is a paratrooper for life, having served as an infantryman in Co. A, 1st Bn., 505th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division. Today, the battalion is currently assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
Davis was born in Cramerton, North Carolina in 1924. Like many of his countrymen, he volunteered to serve his country during the national buildup for entry into World War II, enlisting in the U.S. Army on March 24, 1943.
After completing his initial recruit training at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri, he volunteered for the 82nd Abn. Div. jump school, which was conducted in Chilton Folait, England.
During the fall of 1944, Davis joined the 505th PIR, then under the command of Maj. Gen. James Gavin, in Liverpool, England and awaited onward movement to Holland shortly after Operation Market Garden.
From Holland, Davis and his unit traveled to France, deploying to the Ardennes Forest on Dec. 14, 1944.
As the unit was conducting patrolling missions, searching for German soldiers, Davis, among others, was wounded by shrapnel from an airburst artillery round during a patrol.
Friday, in front of a crowd of more than 50 people, Lt. Col. Marcus Wright, commander of 1st Bn., 505th PIR, described the situation on the day Davis was wounded.
“On this particular day, he was selected to be the RTO (radio telephone operator.) That was the first and only day he was the RTO.
“During those times, as the enemy was either pushing forward or retreating, American and allied forces were often subjected to massive artillery barrages.
“His unit, on that day, was subjected to that while patrolling. A large piece of shrapnel hit the radio that he normally would not be wearing, knocking him to the ground,” Wright said.
He also noted that in addition to being knocked down from the blast, Davis was also pinned under a large tree which had fallen as a result of the explosion. He was temporarily paralyzed as a result of his injuries, and was evacuated to the 108th Hospital in Paris, where he remained for three weeks.
After recovering, he returned to his unit and continued operations until the occupation of Berlin. He and his company received a change of mission order and redeployed to Fort Bragg on a ship sailing back to the U.S. in December 1945.
Davis was eventually honorably discharged from the Army, and started the next chapter of his life in the textile industry. He earned a degree from North Carolina State University. After spending decades working in a variety of positions with Burlington Industries, Limestone Manufacturing and JP Stevens, he eventually retired, settling down with his wife Rachel.
Award presentations and record keeping processes were inconsistent during the time period Davis served in the U.S. Army. Many service members went years, if not decades, without receiving the appropriate recognition for their service to the United States.
It was not until 70 years later, in November 2015, that Davis was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the fourth-highest medal an American Soldier can receive during combat operations. Then, 72 years after being wounded, Davis was honored with the presentation of his Purple Heart medal.
“I’d just like to say that this has been some day. I couldn’t believe all this was going to happen,” said Davis. “I’d just like to thank the Lord that we’re all together and we continue to work together and keep this country in the right shape from here on out. And God bless us all.”
After receiving congratulations from his Family, friends and paratroopers, Davis, demonstrated one of his favorite hobbies — singing.
As he boldly sang the lyrics to “God Bless America,” teary-eyed observers joined him in the song as he paid homage to the country he loves so much and to which he almost gave his life.
In the 82nd Abn. Div., all paratroopers are considered “Paratroopers for Life.” The division takes great pride in recognizing the accomplishments of the paratroopers past and present, and ensuring that they and their Family are part of the organization throughout their life.