Local spent time as captive of Germans in WWI

By Don McAlavy: Curry historian

Fred M. Davis received a notice from the Curry County draft board on Oct. 17, 1917. He was to go to Camp Funston, Kan., for induction. One of his orders, in handwriting on the notice, was to “bring an easy pair of shoes.”

The data herein was researched by Juanita Fox, a daughter, from his military records:

The notice was signed by Sheriff D. L. Moye, the chairman of the local draft board.

At this time, Davis was getting his mail at Havener (by 1920 it was called Grier). The 1911 Davis homestead was on the west end of what is now Cannon Air Force Base.

He was born in Erath, Texas. At 21, he was a farmer. He was 6-feet, 2-inches in height.

From Camp Funston he was stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for about six weeks, finally sailing on the USS Mount Vernon to France and into World War I.

Davis was with Company A, 38th Infantry of the American Expeditionary Force. Gen. John J. Pershing was the commander of the U.S. forces.

Davis was captured by Germans on July 15, 1918, about 6 a.m. on the Marne River. Some later called it the “Rock of the Marne” incident where the 3rd Division, of which the 38th Infantry was a component, helped stop the last German offensive of World War I.

Davis was one of 20 men of a company of 250 who survived. He was taken to the German Rastatt Prison Camp in northern Germany. In one letter from the prison camp to his Aunt, Mrs. Fred Winn at Havener, he told her:

“I was lucky as all of my company was killed but 20 men and I was one of the lucky ones. I think I will live to see New Mexico again. I think I will see you and Gran and Darry soon. I think the good Lord was on my side when I was in battle.”

He was in prison for nearly six months. When he finally returned to Vichy, France, on Dec. 27, 1918, he weighed only 87 pounds.

A piece in the Clovis newspaper reported that his mother, Annie Ross of Havener, had received word that her son was released from prison and returned to France.

“It’s God’s truth that one company of American soldiers beat and routed a full regiment of … troops of the German Army,” said Capt. Jesse Woolridge. “At 10 o’clock the Germans were carrying back wounded and dead from the river bank and we in our exhaustion let them do it. They carried back all but 600 hundred, which we counted later, and 52 machine guns. We had started with 251 men and five lieutenants. I had left 51 men and two second lieutenants.”

On Nov. 11, 1918, an armistice ended fighting in Europe.
When President Woodrow Wilson came to Geneva, Switzerland, on March 29-30, 1919, Davis was an honor guard for the president. The Treaty of Versailles of 1919 was the peace treaty created as a result of the six-month-long Paris Peace Conference of 1919, which put an official end to World War I.

Private Fred M. Davis was promoted to corporal on June 3, 1919.

He was honorably discharged on Nov. 15, 1919. He came home to his mother Annie and step-father Jack Ross. His father died Jan. 18, 1911.

During the July 4 celebration in 1919, Davis met Sallie Waide Hileman and married her on Sept. 1, 1926. They had 11 children.

Frederick Monroe Davis was born April 14, 1896. He died on Nov. 30, 1965, and is buried in the Portales Cemetery. He was among the heroes of World War I.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: dmcalavy@telescopelab.com