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John Michael Davis
Courtesy Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


John Michael Davis

"Courage doesn't mean you don't get afraid. Courage means you don't let fear stop you."

Bethany Hamilton

John Michael Davis was born on August 21, 1950, in Charleston, West Virginia. John's parents were Buford Earl Davis (1901-1950) and Frances Lena Bearfield Davis Martin (1910-2001). His two older brothers were Buford Davis Jr. (1946-2019) and Edward Lee Davis (1949-2007). Soon after John was born the family moved to Saxon, West Virginia, 12 miles west of Beckley, Raleigh County. Shortly after moving, John's father passed away of an apparent heart attack on October 11, 1950. Later on, John's mother, Frances, would remarry Woodrow Martin. John graduated from Trap Hill High School in 1968, where he was a member of the Future Farmers of America.

After high school, John looked to enlist in the U.S. Army to serve and protect his country. He was denied entry because he didn't meet the weight requirements. But his desire to join the military was so strong that he went home and ate 10 pounds of bananas to meet the weight requirement. The very next day John went back to try and enlist and was successful. He enlisted as an 11B Infantryman.

In December 1965, while the people of Honolulu were commemorating Pearl Harbor Day, the 25th Infantry Division was making plans to deploy to Asia. In Operation Blue Light, the largest single troop movement in history, the 25th Infantry Division, nicknamed "Tropic Lightning," moved 4,000 men and 9,000 tons of equipment in 25 days to the northwest sector of South Vietnam. This was an effort to assist the Vietnamese people in their struggle against Communist aggressors.

The 25th Infantry Division's mission was to establish a secure base of operations in Pleiku in the Vietnamese highlands and establish another base at Cu Chi northwest of Saigon. This mission involved clearing the area of Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese guerrilla troops and gain control over the terrain. This was not an easy task as both areas lie against the Cambodian border and were being used as assembly, resupply, and recreation areas by the enemy. The division had to search the land, ferret out the tunnels, comb the rivers and river banks, spread out, and find the enemy in the rice paddies or in the mountains. The goal was not just to find him but stop him. This involved working with the people in the village, helping them to build, and encouraging them to care again about their government, to pull themselves back up after years of terrorism.

The base camp designated for the 2nd Brigade lay just outside the village of Cu Chi, an agricultural hamlet 20 miles northwest of Saigon and 18 miles from the Cambodian border. The land was flat and dry, used primarily for cattle and vegetable farming. Its strategic importance lay in the fact that it stood between the Viet Cong stronghold in the north and Saigon, the seat of the South Vietnamese government and a prime object of attacks. Directly northeast of the base camp was the infamous Ho Bo Woods and the Boi Loi Woods, a patch of heavy forest used as an enemy hiding place. To the north lay War Zone C, a triple canopy jungle reported to be the Viet Cong command center for the whole country, and to the south of the base camp the Oriental River flowed quietly, carrying infiltrated men, supplies, and equipment between the Viet Cong bases.

After completing his basic and advanced individual training, Private First Class Davis was sent to Vietnam in June of 1969. He was assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion (Mechanized), 22nd Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. The 2/22, also known as the "Triple Deuce," had been operating in the Boi Loi Woods trying to locate trails, bunker locations, and cache sites that the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) were utilizing.
2d Battalion 22d Infantry track photo by SP5 Jack Anderson, used with permission from Dave Bush

A track from the 2d Battalion (Mechanized) 22d Infantry takes a dip while on an operation near the Michelin Rubber Plantation. The Triple Deuce APC got through unscathed except for a little water around the "grilles." Just one of the memories of the Flexible Brigade from their late home at Dau Tieng, July 1969. Photo by SP5 Jack Anderson, used with permission from Dave Bush

The following account indicates the difficulties encountered by Davis's unit:

The Crescent area, 13 miles east of Tay Ninh City, became Charlie's paradise. Double-and triple-canopied jungles in the area had long hampered allied air observations and mechanized sweeps. Enemy forces used the Crescent to pass heavy loads of arms and munitions to their soldiers operating from Tay Ninh to Saigon. The jungle also doubled as a staging area and as a refuge from combat. Thanks in large part to a group of Tropic Lightning soldiers, however, the Crescent was gradually losing its appeal to Charles. Over 9,000 acres of thick jungle were cleared in an effort to end their usefulness for the enemy. Elements involved in the clearing operation included the 2d Battalion, 34th Armor, Charlie Company of the 2d Battalion (Mechanized), 22d Infantry, and 28 Rome plows from II Field Force's 60th Land Clearing Company. The joint force was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel T.G. Smith of El Paso, Texas, commanding officer of the 2d Battalion, 34th Armor.

"This is the end of the Crescent story for the enemy," said Smith. "Charlie is losing his staging areas, supply routes, and a place to lick his wounds. The morass of fallen jungle will make his passing extremely difficult. When we are finished, air observation of enemy movement in the area will be easy."

Using a leap frog method, the land clearing operation moved into an area of dense growth, cleared out a night defensive position, then mowed down all the surrounding area. Tanks and personnel carriers from the Dreadnaught Armor and tracks from Charlie Triple Deuce provided security for the daylight cutting operations and the night defensive positions. The joint operation met little resistance from the enemy. The force found numerous fighting positions and hastily abandoned equipment, indicating that Charlie still lived nearby. Armored sweeps of the area made contact with scattered enemy forces. (Doug Elliott and Carl Detrick, "Rome Plow Everything!" Tropic Lightning News, 28 July 1969, accessed 1 April 2020,

On August 9, 1969, Pfc. John Michael Davis and his unit, the Triple Deuce, were set up in a defensive perimeter when they came under attack from small arms fire. Pfc. Davis sustained fatal injuries and passed away on August 16, 1969, five days before his nineteenth birthday. His remains were returned to the U.S. with a final resting place in the Milam Cemetery at Saxon, Raleigh County, West Virginia. It is interesting to note that at the time of his death his two brothers were serving in the military and in Vietnam. Buford was a lance corporal in the U.S. Marines, and Edward was a private first class in the U.S. Army.

Grave marker for Pfc. John M. Davis in Milam Cemetery, Saxon, Raleigh County. Find A Grave photo courtesy Treva Brown Simpson

Grave marker for Pfc. John M. Davis in Milam Cemetery, Saxon, Raleigh County. Find A Grave photo courtesy Treva Brown Simpson

Pfc. John Michael Davis is honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., on Panel 19W, Line 49. He is also remembered on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial in Charleston, West Virginia. On January 28, 2004, the West Virginia legislature introduced House Concurrent Resolution No. 12, wherein they renamed the bridge on Country Road 13 in Saxon, Raleigh County, the "PFC John Michael Davis Memorial Bridge." John Michael Davis's courage, fortitude, and selflessness should be remembered as he made the ultimate sacrifice while serving his beloved country. The renaming of this bridge is a fitting memorial to him as he was raised a mile beyond the old wooden bridge that was replaced with a new concrete one in the fall of 2003. His final resting place is a mile and a half past the new bridge.
Sign designating the bridge named for Pfc. John Michael Davis. Find A Grave photo courtesy Treva Brown 

Sign designating the bridge named for Pfc. John Michael Davis. Find A Grave photo courtesy Treva Brown Simpson

In his brief military career, John Michael Davis received numerous commendations, including the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, Marksmanship Badge, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Gallantry Cross, and Army Good Conduct Medal. His unit also received the Army Presidential Unit Citation.

Article prepared by MAJ (Ret) T. Brad McGee, George Washington High School JROTC
March 2020


John Michael Davis

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