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Robert Davis
War: World War II (June 1943-March 1946)
Branch: United States Army
Unit: 78th Infantry Division
Highest Rank: P.F.C.
Birth Year: July 20, 1924
Citations: Purple Heart Place of Birth: Torrington, CT


Robert had just finished his second semester at U of M when he was drafted. He was living in Ann Arbor but he was drafted from Vermont because his parents lived there.

On June 22, 1943, he got on the train in VT and traveled to Fort Devons, he was very nervous. He entered a completely new environment and wondered what was in store for him. He was sent to infantry basic training in South Carolina in July of 1943 and was there for 13 weeks of training.

After completing training, he was selected for the Army Specialized Training Program, which gave more technical training to soldiers. He was sent to the University of Connecticut and enrolled in the basic engineering curriculum. He thought it was a poor choice because he was a liberal arts person, and he wasn’t sure he’d succeed. After six months the program was scrapped anyway, and he was sent to the 78th Infantry Division in Virginia in the spring of 1944. While in Virginia, he was being prepared to be sent to Germany. He was assigned to a heavy weapons company and was asked by the Motor Sergeant to drive a jeep for the squad. He said yes (it would get him out of all the marching!) and he was very glad he was selected for this position.

In September of 1944 he was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey where he boarded a troop ship. He landed in England about 10 days later. (just a few months after D-Day). He was in England for a few months getting equipment together and by late November he crossed the channel and landed in France. From France they headed to Belgium and Germany. On Dec 13, 1944 he experienced his 1st day of combat. The 78th division was replacing another infantry division that had been in combat since D-Day and they were just over the German border in Zimmerath, a small farming community when they experienced very fierce fighting. His job was to carry a trailer (behind his jeep) with a machine gun mounted on it. He was not on the front lines. On the first day he was ordered to carry ammunition up to a front line post. As he was carrying them, a mortar landed nearby and he caught a small bit of shrapnel in his arm and leg. When he arrived at the post, the aid man noticed that he had blood on his arm. He was told to go to the aid station to record the wound, receive treatment and a purple heart. The doctors could not find the shrapnel in his arm, so he was sent to Paris for more treatment. He was away from the front for about 45 days. By the time he got back to his company in Germany, a lot of his comrades had been killed, captured and wounded. Most of the company was now new people, strangers to him.

His company had held the northern flank of the Battle of the Bulge, and he resumed his job as a jeep driver. In early March his company moved south; they were the second infantry division to cross the Rhine river. This was within a few weeks of victory in Europe. They entered the Roer Valley in early April, near the time of the war ending in Europe. Robert never fired a weapon in combat, since he was a driver. He thinks he was very fortunate to have fared so well since he did not have to be on the front combat lines.

Just after Victory in Europe day, his division came across a Prison camp (not concentration camp, but a prison labor camp) and they liberated it. After the war ended, they were in central Germany in a holding area. They thought they would be sent to the Pacific Theatre. Instead, his division was picked for occupation duty in Berlin. From October 1945 until March 1946 he was on occupation duty in Berlin with his division. He got to be a clerk for a few months and he liked that better than driving a jeep. In March 1946 he was discharged and sent home. He returned to VT, but his father had died while he was away. He worked that summer in Vermont and then went back to Ann Arbor in September of 1946 to finish school and his degree in Psychology.