David W. Ariail
Biography: David William Ariail was born on December 29, 1910, in Birmingham, Alabama. He was the son of David Blassingame Ariail and Lula Cole and attended Phillips High School and Castle Heights Military Academy. He continued his education at Auburn University and pursued a General Studies Degree. He excelled at sports, participating in both football and basketball all four years. When he graduated in 1934, he received the Rodgers Cup, which was given to the “Best All-around Athlete”.
The two photos shown below were taken during David’s time at Auburn. His nickname was “Gump” and in his sophomore year, he already led the school’s varsity football squad as an End and was considered one of the best in the conference. The other photo is of Cadet Captain Ariail who functioned as Executive Officer for the school’s Second Battalion of the First F.A.
After graduation in 1934, he played for both the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds, but ended up in the NFL playing football. He married the former Ina Estella Mauldin who was born in Elberton, Georgia and was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson Mauldin.
Service Time: David entered the Army sometime in the mid 30’s and after serving in various units, was assigned to the 846th Tank Destroyer Bn. The unit was made up of black servicemen with most officers being white. He held the rank of 1st Lieutenant and served as Company C Commander. On December 9, 1942, documents identify that he was now a Captain and became the unit’s Adjutant.
When the 656th Tank Destroyer Battalion was activated on April 3, 1943, Cpt. Ariail was assigned to Headquarters Company, functioning as the unit’s S-4 or Logistics Officer. By February of 1944, he had been promoted to the rank of Major and served as the Executive Officer of the unit, occasionally leading the unit when the Commander was absent. Also in 1944, David and Ina welcomed a daughter, Adrienne.
The 656th shipped out from the New York port on December 16, 1944, and arrived in England on the 28th. After a month of additional training and preparations they boarded ships and sailed for Le Havre, France, disembarking on February 6, 1945. They were equipped with M18 tank destroyers and entered the line near Friesenrath, Germany, on the 28th.
Pushing toward the Rhine River at Remagen, Germany, they crossed into the bridgehead beginning on March 7th. The unit converted to the M36 tank destroyer late that month and supported the 9th Armored Division’s sweep to help encircle the Ruhr River in early April. They then dashed eastward to the Mulde River and turned south, entering Czechoslovakia near St. Sedlo on May 6th.
David was awarded the Bronze Star and also received the EAME ribbon with two campaign stars signifying the unit’s two campaigns of Rhineland and Central Europe. He also received the American Defense, the American Campaign, and WWII Victory Medal.
David stayed in the military for 30 years before his retirement. He and Ina had another daughter, Anita, born in 1947 and a son, David Jr., in 1949. David Sr. served during the Korean War and at a number of posts including Frankfurt, Germany, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In addition to his WWII decorations, he also received the National Defence Service Medal and receive three awards of the Army Commendation Medal.
Once back in civilian life, he worked as a manager of the Union Bus Terminal in Fayetteville, NC. David Sr. passed away on February 10, 2001, and was buried in the Lafayette Memorial Park in Fayetteville. North Carolina. I want to thank David’s son, David Jr., for providing photos and information for this tribute. I want to thank E-Yearbook.com for the photos of David at Auburn University and Donna Kester for the use of the grave marker photo.