George A. Davison
Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
320th AA Barrage Balloon Battalion
My father, George A. Davison, was a member of
the all Black Unit, the 320th AA Barrage Balloon Battalion, VLA
(Very Low Altitude) was onboard the LCT 608 with a group of Army
Rangers. The 320th was a part of the D-Day Operation. The job of
the 320th was to man and keep flying, those smaller barrage balloons,
the ones you see flying above the ships and boast in the Channel
and dotting the skies above Omaha and Utah Beachesl. My father landed
at Omaha Beach.
During the trip from England to France, the 608
picked up a downed British pilot, pilot of a B-24 or Halifax (as
both are mentioned) that had ditched in the Channel. He also mentioned
an altercation... a fight, between two Rangers on the 608, which
quickly ended after a couple punches were thrown. Seems the Ranger's
CO wanted all accounts settled before the 608 hit the beach and
had these two men settle their differences while still in the Channel.
Davison mentions the "facilities" aboard
the 608 and that one had to be very careful else one fall overboard
rather easily! So, with Army Rangers (at least onboard the 608),
members of the 320th were scattered thru the invasion fleet. You
see a barrage balloon...there is a 3 man crew of African Americans
soldiers with that balloon...to prevent German aircraft from strafing
Omaha and Utah Beaches. Also, there was the headquarters unit of
the Battalion and it too was on the beach. They stayed as long as
they were needed. When the beaches were secured, the balloons, some
of them at least, were shot down by the Navy and the soldiers of
the 320th were given new assignments, moving inland. Dad has a photo
of a group of colored soldiers looking for a German soldier at a
farmhouse. On this photo, Dad wrote "Who is this Richie? A
note to Richie, his son, that one of the men in the photo was George,
his father. Dad did not recall the names of the others in the photo
but he did mention that the photographer was "a pain in the
Dad mentions French civilians with some being
part of the Underground. Some time ago, and only once that I recall,
he mentioned coming against the SS. Dad talked very little about
his experience with me but he did speak at length with another World
War 2 veteran. Conversations were always in private and when I got
close, both would keep quiet. Having been in Vietnam, I understood!
As the 608 waited its turn to make it's approach, Dad was witness
to the horrors that those ahead of him were facing. He then experienced
those horrors while coming ashore. And, on the beach, Dad was to
witness more and experience what would haunt him until the 80th
year and 6th month of his life when he died. Dad's recollection
of the Rangers he met professional soldiers who taught Dad and his
men a great deal about survival. You see, the 320th was originally
formed to protect the U.S. cities from enemy aircraft attacks.
Then, someone got the bright idea of protecting
Omaha and Utah beaches with balloons. A grand idea on a grand scale
and so, the 320th went from non-combatant to combatant, from the
States, to Great Britain, to the coast of France. While he and the
others trained well for what was coming, the tips and tricks of
the trade from the Rangers onboard the 608 would turn out to be
additional lifesavers. He said the Rangers had been in the Italy
campaign. Just thought I would share this and hope to find out more
about Boat 608 and the others onboard. Reading thru his notes, Dad
mentions crossing the Atlantic on the RMS Aquitania, a ship which
carried, by his recall, 10,000 troops and civilians, men and women
Dad left the States from Camp Shanks, New York,
and aboard the Aquitania, he docked at Forth of Clyde, Scotland.
From there, he and his unit traveled to Checkinton(sp), 40 miles
from London. With help, I was able to find reference to that ship,
one of the Cunard Line. In England, the English people were told
by white American soldiers that Black American soldiers had tails,
and reading Dad's memories, at least several of the local civilians
checked for themselves to see if this was true.
Just thought I would pass along this part of Dad's
experience in England. Regarding the 608 picking up the downed British
pilot. He was saved but I am not sure if he was transferred from
the 608 to another craft before the 608 landed at Normandy as Dad
makes no other mention of the pilot after he was plucked from the
Channel. This happened at roughly 0200 - 0300, June 6, 1944. And
it was God's will that the pilot ditched his plane in the path of
the 608 and that the pilot's little one cell signal lamp fastened
to the collar of his life jacket gave the light that someone onboard
the 608 was able to see...and rescue the pilot.
Dad's words: "...this day turned out to be
a most interesting day and two things happened to make it that way.
First, the B-24 pilot who we had picked up came out on deck and
expressed his happiness to have the American Navy around. Thank
All of you he said, I wouldn't be here if it were not for you. He
said he was out and didn't remember anything after ditching his
plane. He said the channel should be full of Airmen because they
were really trying to make a big hit on certain targets since the
Big Show was going to happen.
Those targets being shore installations and beach
fortifications. He said he had been hit with flak and was trying
to make it to the British side of the channel before ditching, there
was a lot of English people patrolling shore waters over there for
the purpose of rescuing down pilots. He was very happy and lucky
and showed some appreciation by the way he expressed hiself."
There may have been a great many watercraft in the Channel on that
morning but still, the Channel is a large body of water.
Three DAVISON brothers, from Waynesburg, Pennsylvania,
were serving during World War 2. GEORGE, with the 320th in France,
and FRANK, who was also in France and was able to meet his brother
George one day. Seems Frank noticed a truck with 320th on it and
followed it and was able to spend a little time with George. LAWRENCE,
the third brother, was serving on New Guinea in the Pacific. Their
parents, Frederick and Dorothy Davison, had three stars in their
window. All three came home safely..
As told by Bill A. Davison, George A. Davison's
The balloons over the beach...
S-Sgt. Frank Davison, George's
Pfc Lawrence Davison, George's
George posing in his uniform...
The baseball George used during the war if you look closely you
will see the date on the ball: 1943.
The stone George on which he wrote: 14:00 D-Day, St-Laurent-Sur-Mer,
June 6th 1944