Home : Media : News : News Article View

The Last Firefighter

By Spc. Matthew Foster | July 11, 2019

PEARL CITY, Hawaii -- "I am 95 years old," said James Davis. "I am a World War II veteran, and I'm the last of my unit."

Davis sat stoically in the chair, his head cocked to one side due to his poor hearing. His hands folded over the grip of his walking stick and his experienced eyes were surveying the room of Soldiers and the distinguished guests in attendance who had come to hear him speak.

Davis spoke confidently, not fazed by Maj. Gen. Arthur "Joe" Logan, Hawaii State, Adjutant General and Brigadier General Kenneth Hara, Hawaii State, Deputy Adjutant General, and along with the Senior Enlisted Leader Command Sgt. Maj. Dana Wingad who attended to hear Davis speak.

"I was in one of the first ten firefighting units created," Davis said. "We were one of four units to deploy overseas to Africa. I made the landing on D-Day plus one on the southern French coast, but not Normandy."

Davis, a Firefighter Historian, and last surviving member of the 1204th Army Engineer Firefighting Platoon, had come to the Hawaii Army National Guard's 103rd Troop Command Armory in Pearl City, Hawaii to provide a professional development seminar to the 297th Engineer Fire Fighting Team. Davis became the Historian of his unit 30 years ago.

"I was born blind in one eye," Davis said. "So, I figured the Army wouldn't want me. But I registered with the selective service as was required by law. A few months later, the Army said, 'We want you!'" The room laughed, as Davis chuckled.

Davis entered the United States Army as a selective service limited service inductee early of 1943. Due to his limitations, Davis was not permitted to deploy into combat.
Davis would not initially serve as a firefighter for the Army.

"I started in another Corps," Davis said. "The Army came looking for people like me that had had experience in wild land fires. Which I had had from the National Park Service. There weren't many with firefighting experience. We had some training and some the job training. That was typically how we learned how to fight fires, 'OJT.' Between the end of World War I and December 7, 1941 there was no class of Army firefighter, they didn't exist."

Six months later, he was deployed to Noran, Algeria.

"One year later, I'm hitting the beach on D-Day plus one," Davis said. "We are very proud of what we did, in many respects. We were by in large, selective service inductees with no fire experience."

Davis would go on to tell the role of the Army firefighter during World War II.

"When we went to shore in France, we had 37 men and five fire trucks," Davis said. "We had engineer firefighting platoons that fought anything that burned, military or civilian."

The 1204th Army Engineer Firefighting Platoon served a number of roles from supporting engineering missions as well as supporting combat operations. They were able to utilize their equipment to accomplish missions that normal military equipment could not accomplish.

The Army firefighter was also called upon to directly support combat operations on the front lines of the war.

"When we went into the forward areas, we worked behind the artillery," Davis said. "Because the adversary would be throwing incendiary rounds, trying to burn the guns out, and would set fire in the process."

Davis' history and connected to the lineage and the roots of the 297th FFT Command.

"He loves firefighting," said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Odoardi, 103 Troop Command Sergeant Major. "He loved the job. He's sharing that history with our guys, sharing their roots. In regards to professional development, it was an opportunity for our small firefighter group to learn from somebody who did it in World War II. It was amazing. We have such a diverse set of Military Occupational Specialties, anytime we can capture history from the past, especially from a veteran, it's invaluable"

"We got to learn our history," said Staff Sgt. Julius Fajotina, Readiness Non-Commissioned Officer for the 297th FFT. "I didn't think firefighting went back to the Legions of Rome. Knowing where we came from and knowing what we equipment we have now, it's amazing what firefighter Davis accomplished."

Davis is the last surviving member of his unit and his story will continue on through the Soldiers of the 297th FFT.

"We did what we could, with what we had," Davis said. "It wasn't adequate, but we are proud of what we did."
CONNECT WITH USINDOPACOM
Facebook

Like Us
Twitter
240,843
Follow Us

ENGAGE & CONNECT MORE WITH PACOM

                                                 

IN THE USINDOPACOM NEWS
Sky Warriors Host Air Force Chief of Staff at Hickam Airfield
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein speaks with senior leaders at his reception to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019. Over the course of his visit, Goldfein met with several Sky Warrior team members, during his first visit to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, from Aug. 13-14. This was Goldfein’s first stop as he visits various units in the Indo-Pacific.
Aug. 16, 2019 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and his

Pacific Fleet Band Concert to Honor WWII Sailors, Pearl Harbor Navy Music Heritage
Members of the USS Arizona (BB 39) dance band pause for a photo at Pearl Harbor's Bloch Arena during the Battle of Music semifinal on Nov. 22, 1941. Member of the band include, from left, Musician 2nd Class Curtis Haas, Musician 2nd Class Gerald Cox, Musician 2nd Class Ernest Whitson Jr., Musician 2nd Class Frank Floege, Musician 2nd Class Clyde Williams, Musician 2nd Class Bernard Hughes, Musician 2nd Class Alexander Nadel, Musician 2nd Class Charles White, Musician 2nd Class Robert Shaw, Musician 2nd Class Harry Chermucha, Musician 2nd Class William Moorhouse, Musician 2nd Class Emmett Lynch, Musician 2nd Class Wayne Bandy, Musician 2nd Class Jack Scruggs, Musician 2nd Class James Sanderson, and Musician 1st Class Frederick Kinney.
Aug. 16, 2019 - PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- The U.S. Pacific Fleet Band will honor Sailors who served in the Pacific

Navy Expeditionary Forces Command Pacific Conducts Integrated Training, Reservists Gain Specialized Skills
Reserve Sailors assigned to Navy Expeditionary Forces Command Pacific (NEFCPAC), adjust the legs of a tent in preparation for integrated training during an integrated training evolution. Active duty and reserve components assigned to NEFCPAC, work together to execute operational command and control of assigned and attached Navy Expeditionary Combat Forces in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations and serve as the core Navy battle staff for crisis response and major combat operations.
Aug. 16, 2019 - SANTA RITA, Guam -- Reserve Sailors, assigned to Navy Expeditionary Forces Command Pacific

Putting the "High Mobility" in High Mobility Artillery Rocket System
U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, drive a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System onto a U.S. Navy landing craft, utility assigned to San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) as part of a simulated amphibious raid, at Kin Blue, Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 14, 2019. This simulated amphibious raid marks the first time that HIMARS have been inserted by landing craft, utility, demonstrating the Marine Air-Ground Task Force’s ability to conduct combined-arms maneuver from amphibious shipping.
Aug. 16, 2019 - OKINAWA, Japan -- U.S. Marines with 3rd Marine Division demonstrated the mobility and lethality of

U.S. Military Divers Assist Philippine Partners in Installing Artificial Reefs
U.S. and Philippine divers installed 30 jackstone-type artificial habitat reefs near Barangay Hukay, Calatagan, Batangas on August 15, 2019.
Aug. 16, 2019 - BATANGAS, Philippines -- U.S. and Philippine service members, local government workers, and