Davis, Raymond W., Jr. (776th)

William B. Davis Jr. 1Raymond W. Davis, Jr.

Biography:  Raymond Warren Davis, Jr. was born on December 10, 1919, in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was the oldest of eight children born to Raymond Warren Davis and Lillian Alvida Johnson. He attended White Bear Lake,  MN, schools until 1926, when the family moved. Raymond graduated in 1938, from Dawson County High School in Glendive, Montana. 

He was then employed by the Northern Pacific Railroad, following in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather who had worked for the company. Raymond also continued his education at Bemidji State Teacher’s College in Bemidji, MN, completing a year before the war.

Service Time: Raymond entered the service on April 22, 1942, at Fort Snelling, MN. After his initial training, he was assigned to Company A of the 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion and functioned as a radio operator for the unit. Various components of the 776th had begun assignments as coastal and installation guards in various locations in the Northwest. The unit trained at Camp Hood, Texas and on January 14, 1943, they shipped out from the New York Port of Embarkation.

The unit had been issued M10 tank destroyers while still in the U.S. They arrived in Casablanca, Morocco, on January 25, 1943, and fought in the area of Maknassy and Ferryville, Tunisia. Eighteen enlisted men participated in the Sicily campaign as radio operators and military police, debarking in the vicinity of Cappaci, Italy, beginning on September 19th. The main body was committed near Rotondi on October 10th, where it supported the Volturno River crossing and later the Rapido River crossing, fighting near Cassino from January through March, 1944.

William B. Davis Jr. 4They joined the breakthrough of the Hitler Line in May, 1944, entering Rome on June 4th and joining the drive to the Arno River. The 776th transferred to southern France in September and October, 1944, during which time they drew M36 tank destroyers. They moved into the line near Luneville on October 30th and supported the French 2nd Armored Division’s advance to Strasbourg in November. Battling the German Nordwind offensive around Rimling, France, in January, 1945, they claimed the first Jagdtiger destroyed on the Western front. Attacking the Siegfried Line near Omersheim, Germany, and crossing the Rhine River near Worms in March, 1945, they aided in the capture of Mannheim, Heidelberg, and Ulm, Germany, and crossed the Danube River in April, 1945.

On April 22nd, Raymond and Roy L. Nelson were traveling in a captured German car with the Command Post group toward the town of Bottingen, Germany. German infantry was waiting in the woods and began to fire upon them with small arms and Bazookas. Raymond’s vehicle was hit, which destroyed their car and Raymond received shrapnel wounds in his arms, back and legs. Nelson wasn’t injured but Raymond’s injuries required him to be hospitalized. He returned to the unit on May 25th.

The unit had entered Austria on April 30th and continued into the towns of Pilach, Reutte, Bichlbach. They finally came to a halt on May 8th, at Ehrwald, Austria, when the war ended and the unit was housed in a hotel in Ehrwald,until July. Their initial orders were to man a border checkpoint and guard the area between Erhwald and Garmish, Germany, on the border between the Russian and American sectors. The 776th was then reorganized with those having enough points being sent home, while others were assigned to different units as needed. Raymond was sent to the Battery C of the 928th Field Artillery Battalion, where he did 24 hour guard duty along the Danube River, in France.

In an interview Raymond did concerning his time in the war, he related an interesting story about a group of nuns and some SS troops. Raymond’s Field Artillery unit unit was stationed near a monastery, being used as a hospital and staffed by nuns. Many of the patients were former German SS soldiers. These soldiers had taken over the hospital and were terrorizing the nuns so Raymond’s unit was asked to come and take care of the problem. They did, so for a while, they were stationed at the monastery.

Raymond shipped home on September 13th, arriving on the 22nd. He left the service on October 3, 1945, at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. He received credit for each of the 776th’s campaigns including Tunisia, Naples-Foggia, Rome Arno, Rhineland and Central Europe. He also received the Purple Heart in recognition of his wounds, along with the EAME, American Campaign, WWII Victory, Army of Occupation and the Good Conduct Medals. He also shared in Company A’s Distinguished Unit Citation. At the time of his discharge, he held the rank of Technician 5th Grade.

Honorable Discharge

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The photo above left is Raymond and Irene in 1947, just before their marriage. The photo at right is Raymond in 1954.

Now back in the U.S., Raymond continued his education, going back to school between 1946 and 1948 at North Dakota State Agricultural College, which would later become North Dakota State University. He returned to the Northern Pacific Railroad and on April 25, 1947, he married the former Irene Margaret Schroeder who was born in Fargo, ND, and was the daughter of Albert Emil Schroeder and Amanda Sophia Brustad. The new family would make their home in Fargo but later they lived in St. Paul, Minnesota. Raymond and Irene had two children, Lawrence, born in 1948 and Carol in 1952.

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The photo above left is Raymond and Irene at Christmas in 1991, while living in Tucson. The photo at right was taken in 1995.

In his spare time, Raymond enjoyed photography, reading, camping and travel. He was also an Explorer Scout Senior Leader, a Junior Achievement advisor, an active member of the Democratic party, the VFW, Disabled American Veterans and was an involved member of the Christ Presbyterian Church. In 1980, Raymond retired from the Northern Pacific Railroad, which had since merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad. He had worked for the company for 35 years and held the position of Architectural Evaluation Engineer when he retired. The family moved to Solon Springs, Wisconsin, and finally to Tucson, Arizona, in 1986.

William B. Davis Jr.7Raymond was also active with the 776th reunions and helped organize the one held in St. Paul, MN in 1974. He attended his last one in 1998. Raymond passed away on August 17, 2000, and was buried in the Dayton National Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio. I want to thank Raymond’s daughter, Carol, for providing the information and photos for this tribute.