Davis’ father and son both serve under the same commander

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It’s not often that a father and son serve under the same officer in two separate wars 23 years apart, but that’s exactly what happened to a family in Licking County.

Jesse Davis Sr. was born in Akron, Ohio on January 24, 1918, but by the 1930 census the family had moved to Union Township in Licking County. On April 17, 1942, Davis was drafted into the army and assigned to 34e Field artillery. 34e was under the command of William Westmoreland. Davis was chosen to be Westmoreland’s jeep driver. The 34th was sent to Africa and took part in the Battle of Tunisia where the unit received a Presidential Unit Citation for stopping a breakthrough by German troops after the Battle of Kasserine Pass. Then they went to Sicily and then to England. After the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, the 34e The field artillery took part in the campaigns of Normandy, northern France and the Rhineland. On June 22, 1945, after the war in Europe was over, Davis was discharged and returned to Licking County. William Westmoreland who had reached the rank of colonel remained in the army.

Davis married and started a family in Hebron. On June 2, 1947, they had a son they named Jesse Jr. In 1961, Davis Sr., who worked at Kaiser Aluminum, took his 14-year-old son to a meeting for the 34e Field Artillery at West Point. Davis, who had communicated with Westmoreland after the war, wanted his boy to meet him with his former commanding officer, now a general. Young Davis had heard all of his father’s stories and after meeting Westmoreland he admired the man even more and hoped to see him again one day.

Jesse Davis Jr. graduated from Lakewood High School in 1964. In December 1965, he was inducted into the military. In the summer of 1966 he was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington when he received his orders for Vietnam. He served with Company B, 4e Supply and Transport Battalion with the 4e Infantry Brigade. According to an article of September 28, 1966, in the Newark Lawyer, Davis had not forgotten his hope of meeting Westmoreland. “I missed him at Qui Nhon when we landed and I missed him when he visited our base camp in early September, but I will see him before I leave Vietnam.” In the spring of 1967, Davis was selected as his unit’s outstanding soldier. His award was to serve as an enlisted assistant for a week for Major General WR Peers. According to Newark Lawyer from May 15, 1967, on April 7, his “dream came true” when he came face to face with Westmoreland. The newspaper reported: “Although in his excitement he was unable to remember anything they had talked about, he recalled that the general had said that he (Davis) was ‘just a child when they first met. A few days ago, the Davises received a letter from General Westmoreland, in which he recounted his reunion with Jesse.

Specialist 4, Jesse Davis Jr. returned from Vietnam in July 1967. He married in 1969 and raised a family while working at Rockwell International. Her father, Jesse Sr., died October 14, 1993, and was buried in Kirkersville Cemetery. Jesse Jr. has always had a love for cars and has hosted car shows and cruises across Ohio. He was the editor of a publication for car enthusiasts until a few months before his death from cancer on May 29, 2009, at the age of 62. His body was also interred in Kirkersville Cemetery. Jesse’s fulfillment of his dream meant a lot to him. In his obituary, 42 years after he met, it was noted, “Jesse met General Westmoreland, commander of US troops in Vietnam during his one-year tour of duty.”

Doug Stout is the Veterans Project Coordinator for the Licking County Library. You can contact him at 740-349-5571 or [email protected] His book “Never Forgotten: The Stories of Licking County Veterans” is available for purchase at the library or online at bookbaby.com and Amazon.com.

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