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WW2 Vets Tell War Stories for History Film Project

Nov. 19, 2008 — On Wednesday, three World War II veterans living on St. John added their experiences to the 34 already recorded across the Virgin Islands as part of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.
"I was never any braver or any more fearful than anyone else," said long-time St. John resident Bob Davis, 82.
With the number of World War II veterans dwindling, the push is one to record their war stories. Davis, Rene Servant and Willard Wallace told stories of young men — Davis and Servant were still boys — who answered the call of their country when they joined up.
Davis, a rifleman in the U.S. Marine Corps, got wounded in action at Okinawa and received a purple heart.
He joined up from his home in Oklahoma City just after his junior year in high school. One of St. John's more colorful characters, his stories showed that he was just as much a scamp then as he is now.
"The guy in the bunk above me snored and I couldn't sleep," Davis said, laughing as he recounted the story. "I got a pie pan and slammed it against the steel bunk. After three nights of this I didn't hear any more from him."
But war is serious business, and he told tales of sweeping Guam to get rid of the remaining Japanese. He was in an assault wave at Okinawa when a hand grenade exploded at his feet.
"I was wounded at Sugar Loaf," Davis said. "It was a pitched battle. That ended the war for me."
The lack of antibiotics such as penicillin made his departure mandatory — he had to leave before infection could set in.
The Marines did plan to send him back to combat once his wounds were healed, but the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan and the war ended before he was able to return to his unit.
Servant, 83 and a long-time St. John resident, was sitting nearby while Davis was interviewed, and said it was humbling to listen to Davis' stories. Servant, who joined the U.S. Army Air Corps just days before his 18th birthday, spent his military career training to be a fighter pilot. The war was winding down, and Servant said the Air Corps kept 100,000 people in training in case they were needed.
Although he didn't see action, Servant said it was a valuable experience.
"It gave me a lot of confidence," he said
Wallace, 93, recently moved to St. John to live with his son, Mark Wallace, and his family. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 27 and spent most of his military career as a hospital corpsman.
Like the others, he had tales to tell, including one of standing on the flight deck of the carrier USS Hornet when a gunner shot down a Japanese plane. The downed plan skimmed the top of the carrier, landing in the nearby water.
"I could feel the heat of it," he said, noting that if the plane had hit the Hornet instead of the ocean, the carrier would have gone up in flames.
A shortage of suitable filming locations in Coral Bay prompted Keenan and cameraman Jean Picou — both based on St. Croix — to interview Davis and Servant in one of the firetruck bays at the Coral Bay Fire Station.
"This is the most unique place I've interviewed anyone," Keenan said.
Earlier they recorded what Wallace had to say in the conference room at Morris deCastro Clinic.
The Veterans History Project has a second chapter called Proudly We Served. This tells the stories of veterans born in the Virgin Islands who went off to World War II, but their stories are also included in the Library of Congress project.
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Nov. 19, 2008 -- On Wednesday, three World War II veterans living on St. John added their experiences to the 34 already recorded across the Virgin Islands as part of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.
"I was never any braver or any more fearful than anyone else," said long-time St. John resident Bob Davis, 82.
With the number of World War II veterans dwindling, the push is one to record their war stories. Davis, Rene Servant and Willard Wallace told stories of young men -- Davis and Servant were still boys -- who answered the call of their country when they joined up.
Davis, a rifleman in the U.S. Marine Corps, got wounded in action at Okinawa and received a purple heart.
He joined up from his home in Oklahoma City just after his junior year in high school. One of St. John's more colorful characters, his stories showed that he was just as much a scamp then as he is now.
"The guy in the bunk above me snored and I couldn't sleep," Davis said, laughing as he recounted the story. "I got a pie pan and slammed it against the steel bunk. After three nights of this I didn't hear any more from him."
But war is serious business, and he told tales of sweeping Guam to get rid of the remaining Japanese. He was in an assault wave at Okinawa when a hand grenade exploded at his feet.
"I was wounded at Sugar Loaf," Davis said. "It was a pitched battle. That ended the war for me."
The lack of antibiotics such as penicillin made his departure mandatory -- he had to leave before infection could set in.
The Marines did plan to send him back to combat once his wounds were healed, but the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan and the war ended before he was able to return to his unit.
Servant, 83 and a long-time St. John resident, was sitting nearby while Davis was interviewed, and said it was humbling to listen to Davis' stories. Servant, who joined the U.S. Army Air Corps just days before his 18th birthday, spent his military career training to be a fighter pilot. The war was winding down, and Servant said the Air Corps kept 100,000 people in training in case they were needed.
Although he didn't see action, Servant said it was a valuable experience.
"It gave me a lot of confidence," he said
Wallace, 93, recently moved to St. John to live with his son, Mark Wallace, and his family. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 27 and spent most of his military career as a hospital corpsman.
Like the others, he had tales to tell, including one of standing on the flight deck of the carrier USS Hornet when a gunner shot down a Japanese plane. The downed plan skimmed the top of the carrier, landing in the nearby water.
"I could feel the heat of it," he said, noting that if the plane had hit the Hornet instead of the ocean, the carrier would have gone up in flames.
A shortage of suitable filming locations in Coral Bay prompted Keenan and cameraman Jean Picou -- both based on St. Croix -- to interview Davis and Servant in one of the firetruck bays at the Coral Bay Fire Station.
"This is the most unique place I've interviewed anyone," Keenan said.
Earlier they recorded what Wallace had to say in the conference room at Morris deCastro Clinic.
The Veterans History Project has a second chapter called Proudly We Served. This tells the stories of veterans born in the Virgin Islands who went off to World War II, but their stories are also included in the Library of Congress project.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.