D-Day plus 54 years
D-Day plus 54 years
Photo and article submitted by
Bill A. Davison
Washington County Observer Reporter
Saturday, June 6, 1998
George Davison sits in a wheelchair now. But 54 years ago today, he was a strapping, healthy young fellow on a small boat a quarter-mile off the coast of France.
His had a front-row seat for- the D-Day invasion, the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany and World War II.
"It was an experience that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world," said Davison, 73, a retired postal worker from Waynesburg, now living in Washington. "Sure I was scared, we all were, but it was something that we had to do."
He was one of 882 black soldiers to take part in D-Day. His unit, the 320th Anti-Aircraft Low Altitude Balloon Battalion, played a small but crucial role in the success of the Allied invasion. The helium-filled balloons his unit flew over Omaha and Utah beaches, tethered as they were by steel cables, kept Nazi fighter planes from strafing the thousands of troops that streamed onto the enemy-held soil.
"You won't read much about what black soldiers did on D-Day, but we were there," said former Tech/Sgt. Davison, who escaped D-Day and seven months in France without injury, only to lose a leg to circulatory problems 25 years ago. "That was the first combat action in World War II by a unit of black soldiers."
Davison, a 1941 graduate of Waynesburg High School, was a, member of the headquarters staff of the 320th. He reached Omaha beach at 8 a.m., in the third hour of the invasion.
"We were supposed to be there 72 hours, but we didn't get, out of France until November," he said. "The Navy shot down our balloons on D-Day plus 2, just to see them explode, I think, but, while they were up there, they did the job. No soldiers were killed on the beach by Nazi fighter planes that day. And, by the next day, of course, the skies belonged to the Allies, so there was no more need for the balloons anyway."
Among the soldiers in the all-black 320th Balloon Battalion was Tech/Sgt. Howard Wasler of Washington. Wasler, who was to own and operate a floral business in Washington, went on to serve three terms on city council and and was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor in the 1975 Democratic primary.
Davison, a widower since 1963, trained race horses and supplied feed and grain for other horsemen following his 1972 retirement from the Waynesburg post office. He has two sons.