Shipmate Ted Davis shares his memories

Ted Davis, 89, at his home in Erie, PA.

Ted Davis, 89, at his home in Erie, PA.

Hadley shipmate Ted Davis S1/c (Signalman) still has vivid memories of 11 May 1945. He was on the bridge of the Hadley that morning. When GQ was sounded Davis was told to go down and help pass 40mm ammo clips. When he reached the main deck he saw a Jap float plane heading straight for the base of the bridge. Ted thought, holy smoke a Jap sea plane! “My brain said run, but my feet said whoa,” Ted remembered. “I didn’t know which way to go and my legs wouldn’t move. I saw a big bomb, puffs from our 5-inch guns, tracers from the forties and heard pings from strafing hitting the ship.”

The plane kept getting bigger. He could see the kamikaze pilot. And then a direct hit from a 5-inch shell turned the plane into a huge fireball. When he stopped shaking and the legs would move again, Ted headed down below. Davis passed a man in a passageway with a bullet in his chest. This was not going to be a good morning for the men of USS Hugh W. Hadley.

Ted Davis grew up on a 155 acre farm in Sugartown, Pennsylvania. His family milked 28 cows and raised wheat, corn and potatoes. He had five sisters and no brothers. At age eleven he went to work at a neighbor’s farm. He drove a pair of mules and milked cows for ten cents a day. When he turned 17 Ted asked his parents if could enlist in the Navy. His mom said no, he had to finish school. His dad said, “you’ve been on your own since age eleven – you can make your own decision.” Ted enlisted in January of 1944. He trained as a signalman and learned Morse Code, Semi-fore, and the Navy Code. He could send 20 words a minute with flags or the signal light.

Davis was below the 40 mm (43 mount) when a bomb exploded directly on the gun. The entire gun crew was killed and Ted remembers being tossed all around the ammo handling room. “Everything broke loose, I hit the overhead,” he recalled. Ted abandoned ship with most of the crew. He was picked up several hours later and sent back to the states for reassignment. But the war ended during his trip back from 30 days survivor leave.

tedclareweb Ted married Clare on New Year’s Day 1952. They raised children of their own and adopted two more boys. Ted built their family home in Erie, Pennsylvania. Jeff and Joy Veesenmeyer visited their home in September 2015. They have a close knit, loving family that now includes grandchildren. When asked what he thought of Navy food, Ted smiled. “I went into the Navy at 157 pounds and came out two years later at 205. I loved fresh hot bread and homemade ice cream. My best friends were the bakers and the guys who made ice cream.”

The Davis’ were on their way to the 12th Hadley Reunion at Mobile Bay in 1997 when a medical emergency forced them to cancel. They regret never having attended any of the reunions. Ted has fond memories and pride of the Hadley and her crew.

Comments 2

  1. Paul Davis

    This is Ted’s son, Paul Davis. My father grew up near a small rural borough called Saegertown, in Crawford County PA. He is the strongest willed man I have ever known, and my siblings and I attribute this “never give up” attitude to his experiences in the Navy. He left home for bootcamp at 17, a young redheaded boy fresh off the farm, and came home only a few years later, a man of determination, grit and zeal for life. He has only spoken of this day once. My son completed an elementary school class project designed to display each child’s hero, which Grandpa is to him. He asked Ted to tell him about what happened that day, and he refused. A few days later, he called our son, and told him to get a pencil. He explained he would tell him this story once, and would appreciate never talking about it again. They stayed on the phone for quite a while, and when they were done, our son quietly put his project board together. Dad has never spoken in any detail to anyone about what he personally experienced, only what happened to the ship and crew. We know he stepped over dead and injured men on his way from the bridge to the 40mm guns, and sustained a severe concussion from being thrown against the bulkhead when the plane struck the gun mount. Between then and abandoning ship isn’t clear, but knowing my father, he stayed on task until he was forced off the Hadley. He has decorations and awards from his time in the Navy, but they were stolen during a burglary before I was born. The only piece of memorabilia we have from his assignment on the Hadley is his Presidential Unit Citation ribbon, and an old drawing of the ship which is framed and proudly hanging in my home. I must assume many of the USS Hugh W, Hadley survivors became men of honor in their lives. I assume this because know our father has. He was a factory worker, a foreman, an automotive repair manager, and finally bought his own business, a sewing machine sale and repair shop he successfully ran until his retirement. The business remains successful, but not with our family any longer. Dad has had set backs here and there, mostly age related, but let me tell you… he finished building his own home the year before I was born. Taught us all how to hunt, fish, and grow our own vegetables. Coached my brothers and my baseball and football teams, all of them, until we played in high school. Raised four successful children, including one special needs child who lives with him today, and two additional adopted sons, Tommy and Sean. He played street hockey with his grandsons in his mid 70s, helped build my brother’s house, my tool shed, and reroof, rewire, refloor, etc. each of our homes. He rehabbed shoulder surgery by renovating his entire basement – including the ceiling. He rehabbed his dual knee replacement by adding an addition to the back of his house – including family room, dining room, and a master bath with an upstairs laundry. At 85, when his knees were replaced, he told the doctor he needed them done after deer season so he would be finished with rehab by the time the snow melted because he needed to play golf with his friends, and did! Even today, at nearly 91, he continues to live his mantra he instilled in each of his boys, “You are first, last, and always a gentleman.” Every day he drives my special needs sister to the Senior Living home where my mother has been since her stroke several weeks ago. The staff there have stopped providing rehab because my mother is not responding. Although she remains sharp as a tack, her right arm and leg are affected by the stroke, and she cannot move them. But, undeterred, my father, ever the optimist and go-getter, does her therapy for her himself, every day, twice a day. Yes, this is what became of the young Signalman 1st Class from the Hugh W. Hadley. He became a hero in many more ways than in war. He has inspired so many to become their very best, just like the young men onboard that day. He lives each day as it is his last, and plans for the future as if he will live forever. and we love him for it. Today, Dad is shoveling his driveway to get his car out to go see his wife.

    1. JEFF VEESENMEYER

      Paul – What a wonderful post about your dad. I spoke to Ted and Clare on January 4th. They were both delighted to hear from me. Clare was sharp and vibrant as the day we visited them in 2015. I’m saddened to hear she had a stroke. I remember asking him if he was still playing golf. He just smiled and said “no, I have Clare to care for now.” What a devoted man. Thanks for the wonderful post.
      Jeff Veesenmeyer

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