American WWII Veteran Tearfully Remembers War
As 91 year-old, retired Major Ralph Davis unfurls the American flag and displays it on his front porch in memory of his fellow servicemen, he proudly states, “Veteran's Day is still a wonderful day. I think that anybody that loves their country, or is willing to serve, Veteran's Day is just an observance of what we did in trying to keep our country free.”
Every Veteran’s Day, 91 year-old Retired Major Ralph Davis, proudly displays the stars and stripes on his front porch in memory of his fellow servicemen. Finding himself becoming emotional, Ralph says, “But that flag means a lot to me. A lot. Very much…"
David Kithcart, 700 Club Senior Producer: “You know what it took to be able to have the freedom to even put it up.”
Ralph continues, “And I lost a lot of friends too.”
In the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, many young men of Ralph’s generation enlisted. Ralph was just 17 when he and his older brother convinced their parents to sign Ralph’s enlistment papers to join the U.S. Army Air Corps. “I volunteered before my mother and daddy even knew it,” said Ralph. “In those days it was a matter of taking care of our country.”
Ralph served in the Ready Reserves until he was called up to active duty. He went to war with the newly formed 15th Air Force based in Leece, Italy, as a ball turret gunner on a B-24 bomber. “Most of the time I didn't see anything except the ground below me. I could tell if our mission had been successful by the flames or the smoke where we'd dropped our bombs.”
The U.S. long range bomber groups flew deep into Nazi-occupied Europe, dropping their 1,000 ton payloads on key military targets to cripple Hitler’s war machine. They were constantly under enemy ground fire. One airman said, “The flack was so heavy you could walk across it.”
According to Ralph, they (the German’s) had 80 millimeter weapons that provided an accurate shot. “That was six guns usually in one place; they were called a battery. And a battery, when they opened up on you, you knew you was going to get hit five more times. And every time it did, the plane did this (gesturing with his hand). You could hear it hit; knocking holes in it. And the engineer told us that day, I believe it was 42 or 43 holes.”
Another area of concern was the relative slowness of the B-24 bomber. The bombers were slow and had blind spots – easy targets for the German Luftwaffe. Because of that, the losses mounted. “They (Luftwaffe fighter planes) came in, if this is the tail of our airplane, they came in in this direction and they come in and they'd circle like this, in other words. None of them ever came down this way.” (gesturing to describe the direction)
To fend off the attacks, American fighter pilots escorted the missions. Ralph’s 343rd squadron of the 98th bomber group was often defended by a then, little known fighter squadron of all black pilots, known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
Creating the plane formation with his hands, Ralph recalled, “That’s where those Tuskegee Airmen came in, and I mean they were GOOD. We flew time and again, and they never let anything bother us.”
Preparing for a mission was critical to success. The crew members reviewed flight plans, inspected the plane, checked ordnance, and… they prayed. Davis pointed out that “We made it a habit when we got in possible danger, or anything, we talked to the Lord before we went.”
Ralph carried a new Bible and he memorized scriptures for strength and comfort. The main one (scripture) that that Ralph says is important to this day is, “The 91st Psalm, the 11th verse. And that's the one that's in my pocket here right now.” Taking that scripture from his pocket, Ralph began to read, “‘He will put His angels in charge of you and they will watch over you wherever you go.’ I believe it. I know it’s true.”
Ralph began to cry a bit as he recalled those moments. When asked if he was aware that the Lord was really with them when that was happening, he tearfully stated, “Yes, I knew it. Every time I took off I prayed to the Lord. Every time I got back I gave Him thanks.”
Ralph and his comrades were well aware of the stakes. If accurate, their bombing raids could hasten the end of the war. They flew for love of country, and out of tremendous respect for the men fighting and dying on the ground. “I've had friends that landed on D-day and walked all the way across France and Germany and the people that was on the ground was digging foxholes in the snow and everything else. I was amazed at least when I got home or out of the field at night I had a place to sleep.”
After the Allies’ victory in the Battle of the Bulge, the war’s end seemed inevitable. But in President Roosevelt’s fireside chat to the nation on January 6th 1945, he reminded the troops that “Everything we are, everything we have is at stake…. Our losses will be heavy, but we and our allies will go on fighting together to ultimate total victory.”
121 days later, Germany surrendered. The 15th Air Force, alone, dropped over 300,000 tons of bombs on enemy targets. They also lost over 3,300 planes during where more than 21,000 airmen made the ultimate sacrifice.
(Plane crashes to the ground)
“We would either live or die together. That’s what it amounted to; and a lot of them did. I was up there to protect our people; to protect our country. Yes, sir.”
Ralph’s crew flew 22 successful missions, “I am still, this day, amazed that the Lord took care of us without a scratch. Not a one of us on that 10-man crew got hurt.” After WWII, the Air Force sent Ralph to college and he became an officer. Then after 20 years of service he retired a Major.
This Veteran’s Day his advice to serviceman in war or peace is timeless. “If they're going to be a soldier or an airman, they need the protection of the Lord. And that is the main thing that you can do. There’s nothing else you can do. You’re called. Our country means all to me. And the Lord means more than that.”