More than 73 years after World War II veteran James Davis, Jr. was killed during the largest military invasion in history, his family was presented with the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals.
The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to service members for heroism in a combat zone. The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the armed forces who were wounded or killed in action.
U.S. Senator Tom Carper, D-Del., presented the medals to the Army private’s son, James Davis, III on Monday in his Wilmington office. He was only 2-years-old when his father died during the invasion of Normandy in 1944.
“It was really rough the other day, it was rough for all of us,” said Davis, who was understandably emotional during Monday’s ceremony. “In my words, I think it’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It’s a long, long time, many years, but it was a wonderful feeling.”
For years, Davis searched for his father’s military records which he later learned burned up in the 1973 National Archives fire in Missouri. Approximately 18 million official military personnel files were destroyed.
Shortly thereafter, he enlisted help from his granddaughter Tina Ford, who contacted Carper’s office asking for help obtaining copies of her grandfather’s military records.
“And the secretary took over from there,” Davis said.
The senator’s office was able to locate the records which showed Davis died while saving the lives of his fellow soldiers.
“He was a hero in the Army. He saved some lives. He give his life to save somebody else. He died at 26 years old in Normandy,” Davis said proudly. “I got my father out there, people knowing what he’s done, what he gave his life up for and they finally got his medals, and I got them hanging on my wall.”
“It is the honor of my lifetime to be able to present the families of our fallen soldiers with information about their loved ones and the medals that they earned serving our country,” said Sen. Carper, a U.S. Navy veteran. “Our office works hard to give back to our veterans and their families, whether it’s connecting them with employment and benefits, or in this case, helping family members piece together the history of their father’s life and death. It is truly the greatest honor to serve my fellow veterans and their families.”
The records show that PFC Davis served with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 358th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division in support of the Allied Forces’ drive through Normandy, France. He died on July 5, 1944.
It’s unclear why the medals were not awarded sooner.
Also in attendance at the medal ceremony was Delaware National Guard State Command Sergeant Major Donald Catalon, PFC Davis’ grandson, James Davis, IV, granddaughter-in-law Julie Davis, as well as great granddaughter Shana Davis.
The family was also presented with the Gold Star Lapel Pin, which since World War I has been a symbol for family members who have lost loved ones in combat.