Kirk's Remarks at Charles W Davis Induction into Hall of Fame

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After an exhaustive 6-month vetting process involving multiple nominations, my father was inducted into the Command & General Staff College Hall of Fame at Fort Leavenworth, KS, in May, 2010. Thus, he joins the prestigious ranks of great military leaders such as MacArthur, Eisenhower, and Bradley who were deemed exceptional contributors to the College and to the United States Army as a whole. This document is the speech that I made at the induction ceremony in honor of my father.

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Kirk's Remarks at Charles W Davis Induction into Hall of Fame

  1. 1. Induction Speech Outline by J Kirk Davis, Son General and Mrs Caslen, Honorable Boswell, distinguished guests, friends and members of the Army family and last but never least students of the Command and General Staff College, it is my distinct honor and privilege to serve along with my sister, Carol Denier, as our father’s emissary. On behalf of my father and members of the Charles W. Davis family gathered here as well as those who are here only in spirit, I extend our gratitude to you, General Caslen, for hosting this great and most special occasion. Of course, we would not be celebrating this particular induction were it not for the Hall of Fame Board of Governors’ decision to select my father for this much-deserved tribute. Also, I wish to acknowledge the crucial first step in the nomination process which was taken unhesitatingly by Dr. James H. Willbanks, Director, Department of Military History and, now, George C. Marshall Chair for Military History. Thank you, Jim. For several years, Carol and I debated what to do with our father’s original Medal of Honor and its replacement. I remained reluctant to give it up to a public display... that is until a year ago when I walked in to this Hall of Fame. Simple yet elegant... majestic yet inviting... it is a handsome tribute to Americans whose sacrifices, including on occasion life itself, helped make and keep our great country safe. Now our father’s story can be kept alive, not by chance or by occasional publicity but rather by its power to touch, move and inspire so many soldiers and leaders, present and future, of the United States Army that he loved so much. I also wish to express my deep gratitude to Richard B Frank, who has graced us with his presence. Award-winning author and preeminent WWII historian, Rich has given me encouragement to give shape to and share what he has called “the tremendous story” of my father and mother in their finest moment. In his book, ‘Guadalcanal; The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle” he wrote one sentence that vividly brought to life my father’s heroic encounter with the enemy: “This sequence of gestures took place in full view of the Japanese and his battalion, for the sky perfectly silhouetted Davis on the ridge top. “ ***
  2. 2. Page 2 Hero: “A person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.” One of my father’s “noble qualities” that surely kept him alive that fateful morning is reflected in the following adage: "Wisdom is knowing what to do next: virtue is doing it." - - David Starr Jordan Hero: COL Charles W. Davis... aka “The Hero of Galloping Horse” His actions have been and continue to be the subject of many a thorough accounting; but what about the man? What about his humanity? This is the side I would come to know well but would learn about the hero solely from books. Humanity. The dictionary defines it as: - the quality or condition of being human; human nature, itself. - the quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence. This is the father I knew... a humane, kind and benevolent man, in many ways, the personification of human nature itself because of his great capacity for enjoying life... A man who wore his uniform comfortably... who left his rank at the office when he got home... who rarely spoke ill of anyone... who treated the common man and the dignitary with exceptional and equal civility... who throughout his lifetime took far less from others than he gave them. But what I cannot tell you what he was like 67 years ago. But help is on the way. It is my good fortune and historians that Mother archived over ninety letters Dad sent her from Hawaii and Guadalcanal in 1942 and 1943. They reveal many of the ordinary struggles in life that most newly married couples confronted in WWII especially those living worlds apart. They also expose the powerful, intimate bond of love Dad recreated over and over in the written word I suspect to mentally erase the vast physical distance that separated them. Above all, they provide
  3. 3. us with a rare glimpse into one man’s heart full of virtue, honor and valor. Page 3 Then, there are the voices of men from the South Pacific who served with him in the 27 th Infantry three of whom recently shed light on the character of the 26 year-old Charles W Davis. Clarence Irvin – Hawaii ‘42 Dad’s Executive Officer in G Company ?? BN 27th Inf General J. Lawton Collins “We were going on exercises in the mountains, we had a problem one day, and General Collins —brand new—was coming to see us operate. And so Davis had the guys put cork-things on their faces and straw in their helmets, which nobody had done before, and we did this thing and the General was absolutely, completely happy. .... the General liked it so much he came back and made him the battalion executive officer. Moved the battalion executive officer out and made him the battalion executive officer and he was the youngest [captain] in the entire regiment!” 2. Keith Hook / Dad’s Intelligence Officer on New Georgia in the 3d BN 27th Inf “Your father was very modest despite the fact that everybody knew Charlie. “... He was a [fine?] soldier and officer—he inspired confidence and we knew what we were doing. He never put on airs and was modest and treated his men with respect. My father lived and taught me to never ask anyone to do anything you would not do yourself—and Charlie lived by that too.” In his memoirs, Keith writes of a particular incident involving maneuvering in order to strengthen their strangle hold on Japanese forces on Arundel and surrounding islands. “We established our Battalion Headquarters so we could face and look out through the brush to Vila, on the other side of Brackett Straits. ... there were only three of us in it at the time: the Battalion Commander, the Chaplain and myself. That was “the” Headquarters. The Japanese got to the top of the ridge, placed their machine guns and were firing at us. I don’t know whether they saw us there or just figured there were people down there or what. But anyway, there was a tree trunk, which was about 3 feet off the ground at the top level. And it was
  4. 4. maybe 3 feet thick. It was a huge tree and it was lying on its side. We were behind that. And the machine gun bullets were hitting the topside of the trunk. I had a carbine at that time. I was shaking and trying to calm myself and I would say to myself “ Goddammit, Hook, get hold of yourself.’ And then I figured I’d look to Chaplain Mackerel [Nickname: Holy Mackerel], he’ll give me inspiration. So I looked over to the Chaplain, and he didn’t give me inspiration because he was shaking like that too. His position fascinated me, because he had his head down and his butt up in the air. And I thought that was kind of dumb. So I figured, “Well, Colonel Charles Davis, the Battalion commander, he’ll give me inspiration.” He won the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading an attack on the Japanese on Guadalcanal. And so I looked over at him, and he was shaking like that too. And I said to myself, Oh well, hell, forget it and just shake away.” Fortunately, the attack was broken off, so we never got hit.” Willard Dominick, Sergeant HQ company 2nd Battalion “Your father was the most congenial, down-to-earth individual with a very solid personality, possessing none of the superiority assumed by many if not most officers. He had a remarkable calmness, self-assurance and friendliness. I knew no one that did not like him. There was a lot of resentment for officers at the time but not for your father. He was strong, handsome, and a perfect physical specimen in every way. He was a beautiful man and had a beautiful personality and a beautiful soul. He treated the lowest private as an equal; he was gracious and an inspiration to everyone; he was like a buddy who conveyed an intimate feeling of camaraderie.” Revis Burkhalter, L Company 3 Bn “I met your father involuntarily on Guadalcanal. My commanding officer walked up to me one day and told me to report immediately to Major Davis. I did so reporting in with the correct salute. He told me to sit down and asked me: ‘Do you know who I am?’ I replied: ‘Yes, sir.’ Your father proceeded to tell me that he knew where I came from and that my parents were farmers which is not a money-making profession [they were dirt poor.] He then continued explaining the real reason for the visit.... life insurance! telling me [NOT ASKING me] that I WILL take out a $10,000 policy with his parents as beneficiaries. All us soldiers hugging the ground would look up at your glorious father and see his gold oak leaves shining on his collar, walking up and down as the Jap grenades landed all around us showering rocks and dirt, yelling bad names at us asking: ‘are you gonna just lie there and die or are you gonna get up and fight???!!!’ Your father was a soldier. He lived [for] the war. He was not a timid man. He was a Rambo with a gun in his hand.”
  5. 5. Page 4 There is undoubtedly another much softer side to Rambo... as revealed in over 90 emotion- charged letters that Dad sent from the South Pacific to my mother, his “darling Joan”. First, his pride in the Army, its fighting soldier, and his own devotion to duty: January 28, 1943: I am now a Major in the Army of the United States and a grand army it is too- Yes, darling, I am so proud and happy for us all... January 30, 1943: I am perfectly contented in my work and missing you is the only drawback to the whole thing... February 5, 1943: My darling—I would give any material thing I possess to be with you where we could watch our darling together but then again I think of the duty and trust that has been placed in these fine boys overseas, just what it all amounts to and then I know it is my place here and that’s all there is to it, but there still has been no law passed against dreaming. Feb 18, 1943: I have everything I need- a fine, beautiful wife- a lovely daughter so fine and healthy, and a clear conscience that I am serving my country when it counts. April 4th, 1943: I must write you again my darling to give you some wonderful news.. your husband has been made commander of the 3d Battallion of the 27th Infantry and will mean that I will be soon made a Lt. Colonel.... Well we have come along way haven’t we my sweet I say we because none of it would have ever been possible unless you had been constantly with me, which you have ever since the day I bought a tuxedo in Lauterstein’s. ... the promotion isn’t the big thing, although it is nice, it is the fact that I am in a position to shoulder a larger responsibility and probably do more for my country, which I feel I am indebted to. July 28, 1943: ... I can hardly realize I am to receive the country’s highest award and sometimes wonder as to my deserving it... I will probably be wearing the “un slickest” uniform of any man ever to receive this award but that doesn’t matter as long as it is the uniform of my country—that’s all that matters.... There are to remaining elements I need to illuminate to complete the human portrait of Charles W Davis. First, the towering love and devotion for his “darling Joan” that he expressed so passionately in each and every letter. March 13, 1943 [He has sent Mother “the greatest news that any soldier has ever written home to a beautiful girl that is waiting for him... his recommendation for the Congressional Medal of Honor.] The letter closes: “ My sweet, look at me as you closely hold our most dear possession and tell me that you love me and that you are always pulling for me which I know you are. I am yours forever and set my goal to act, be, and do as you and Carol would want me to. To me, you are my complete life and without you there is a very large vacant spot that cannot be filled until I am with you again. All my love to you, Joan, my first and only love, forever and ever... Charles.” And second, the love of a mother for a son serving in the war on his twenty-sixth birthday: In February, 1943 my grandmother, “Mama Davis,” wrote the following poem:
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