When you walk into the home of James (Jim) and Margery Davis, you instantly notice rows of pictures of their family. There is also a quote painted and framed that says, “Pray and Obey.” The Davis’s are an example of the quintessential American family.
James Davis turned 18 the day before Pearl Harbor was bombed and will turn 100 on Dec. 6 of this year. When the United States started drafting young men to serve in WWII, Davis recalled, “I knew I would probably be drafted, but I figured I might as well go to work.”
He joined a machinist training program for defense work. “I took the course and was offered a job in the navy yard at Bremerton, Washington as a machinist,” said Davis. He was an excellent worker, and a letter was sent to the draft board asking to exempt him from the draft because he was needed where he was. His name was subsequently taken off the draft list.
After working there for two years, Davis felt a little embarrassed to be walking around the streets of Idaho Falls when all of his buddies had been sent to war. He took a Navy Radio Tech Test and was allowed to join the navy as a radio tech. He was sent to school in Chicago, Illinois, Houston, Texas, and Treasure Island, California. After his training, he became a Petty Officer and was assigned to the USS Custer docked in San Diego.
The ship’s mission was to transport marines to different destinations around the Pacific. He was initially sent to the Philippines where his brother was serving in the army. He explained, “We only encountered bombings on one or two occasions. Once I saw a Japanese sub appear on the radar, but it did not attack. We spent most of our time island hopping with our cargo of Marines.
On August 6, 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The Custer was sent to pick up the 5th Marine Division at Iwo Jima and drop them off at Pearl Harbor. While at Pearl Harbor, Jim and the crew received word that the Japanese had surrendered. All the ships in the Harbor began shooting off rockets and fireworks except his ship because his commander didn’t allow it.
After the war, his ship had to sail to Japan to drop off the 6th Army Regiment. As they sailed near Japan’s Coast, the troopswere afraid they were going to be attacked. They wondered if Japan had really surrendered. Davis said it was a frightening experience. The Japanese could have blasted them out of the water, but they didn’t. The war really was over.
Margery Johnson was told it was her patriotic duty to write letters to servicemen, so she did. She wrote so many times her dad told her she needed to get a job to pay for the stamps. She began working at Foggs Drug in Idaho Falls making sodas. She met Jim there when he was on leave. He asked her on a date and then left for Treasure Island. She wrote to him and sent him a picture and sent one to many other servicemen. When Jim saw the picture, he determined he was going to date that girl. After the war, when the soldiers came home there were lots of boys to date, but Jim was Marge’s favorite because he was the best jitterbug dancer.
On November 28th, the Davis’s will have been married 77 years. They have four children, three boys and one girl. They have 28 grandchildren and 111 great grandchildren. Because of Jim’s navy experience as a Petty Officer, he decided to become an electrical engineer. After graduation he continued to work on national defense.
Davis played an important role in the nation’s radar warning system, such as The Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, and other defense projects which would warn North America of a missile attack. This work was during the time of Soviet aggression, He had top security clearance and worked in Alaska, New Jersey, Greenland, and England. He went to Vietnam twice and saw fighting during the TET offensive.
On November 8, 2023, Davis, along with about 14 other veterans will be honored at a dinner and program at Skyridge High School. The Davis’s are excited about attending this event.