Private Herman Davis, United States Army, deceased. Born in Manila he was initially rejected for military service because he was only 5’3”. He was eventually drafted on 4 March 1918 and set sail to France. He served as a scout and encountered poison gas on numerous occasions. During this time he earned the Distinguished Service Cross and was listed fourth on General John J. (Black Jack) Pershing’s list of greatest heroes of World War I.
Davis was a scout and was required to go out in advance of his company. Many times, he encountered poison gas. On patrol in a valley near Verdun, his platoon came under fire from a German machine gun situated on a hill on Molleville Farm. Davis crawled within fifty yards of the gun and killed four enemy gunners. In other engagements, Davis was credited for killing fifteen enemy gunners in a machine gun nest and eleven enemy soldiers climbing out of a dugout. Another time, a group of enemy soldiers were trying to set up a machine gun in an area they thought was out of range of American troops. Davis shot and killed five of the enemy soldiers. He reportedly stated that 1,000 yards was “just good shootin’ distance.” Davis was honorably discharged from the Army on May 29, 1919.
The United States awarded Davis the Distinguished Service Cross. The narrative reads as follows: The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Private Herman Davis, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with Company I, 113th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, A.E.F., at Molleville Farm, France, 10 October 1918. On duty as a company runner, Private Davis was accompanying the left assault platoon of his company during the advance through the woods, when it was fired on by an enemy machine gun. As soon as the gun opened fire the members of the platoon scattered and attempted to flank the gun, but Private Davis pushed on ahead, being the first to reach the nest, attacked it single handed, and killed the four enemy gunners. His gallant act enabled his platoon to continue the advance.
Davis returned to Manila and began work at the Big Lake Hunting Club. He told no one about his war record or his exposure to poison gas. His friends and family learned of his heroism only after Pershing’s list was published. At their insistence, he took the medals from a tackle box and reluctantly showed them.
By mid-1922, Davis’s health began to fail. His exposure to poison gas during the war caused him to develop tuberculosis, and he eventually became too weak to work. Members of the Dud Cason American Legion Post in Blytheville transported him to the Veteran’s Hospital in Memphis for surgery, where he died during an operation on January 5, 1923.
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