George Davis, Robert Doty – part of ‘The Greatest Generation’ – reunitePublished 10:08am Saturday, March 22, 2014
FRANKLIN—Earlier this week, George Davis and Robert Doty, both 87, strengthened the bonds of their friendship, which go back 69 years. That’s when they were in Okinawa in the final months of World War II.
Davis, a resident of The Village at Woods Edge in Franklin, got to see his Army buddy when he came from Pecatonica, Ill., by way of a family visit to Washington, D.C.
Doty, who was drafted into the Army in January 1945, said he first met Davis when they did basic training at Ft. Sill, Okla. The latter had been called to duty on Dec. 28, 1944.
Asking Davis if that was correct, his friend replied, “If you say so,” and then he was mostly content to leave the talking to Doty.
Afterward, they were sent to Ft. Mead, Md., and onto Vancouver, Wash.
“Ironically,” said Doty, “one stop during the troop train ride stopped five miles from my home [in Pecatonica].”
Their voyage across the Pacific Ocean to the Marshall Islands took 42 days.
“I remember it well,” said Doty, noting the contrast of the sea with the calmness of the Columbia River.
The soldiers’ purpose was to prepare for an invasion of Japan, starting with Okinawa. Their work included mapping out the island, all the while looking out for Japanese, which was part of Davis’ patrol duty. They recalled one member in their troop was shot and killed while on lookout.
The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki swiftly brought the country’s surrender.
“We were all relieved,” said Doty about not having to pursue to Japan. “The invasion would have been like Normandy.”
Though the war had ended, the friends’ tour of duty didn’t stop there. The men were then sent to South Korea after several weeks of field artillery preparation. Their time lasted about 1-1/2 years.
Both were members of the 31st Field Artillery, 7th Infantry Division.
“I was fortunate,” said Doty, “and did clerical work.”
Their discharge came in October 1946, and they then went back to their homes to start new lives.
Steve Doty, the son, said he sees the two families having lived “parallel lives.”
Davis went on to Virginia Tech, married and taught at Boykins High School. He later became involved with Meherrin Chemical from 1972 to 1992. Community service included the Southampton County Board of Supervisors; 15 years of which he was chairman, according to son, Jim.
Doty, who has carpentry skills, went on to become involved in retail lumber, married and started his own family.
Their respective wives, Mary Jim Davis (who died in 2011) and Mary Jo Doty, are credited with helping keep the friendship intact.
“Our wives corresponded back and forth, back and forth, back and forth,” said Doty, adding that the two women finally met in 1963; reunions took place about every four years.
“I feel so fortunate to be here today,” said Doty, speaking again for the both of them. “Very fortunate.”