Robert Harold Davidson
|Robert Harold Davidson|
January 15, 1919|
|Died||October 10, 1982
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1940–1946 (Active Duty)
Robert Harold “Bob” Davidson (January 15, 1919 – October 10, 1982) was an officer in the United States Marine Corps who was decorated with the Silver Star for his actions as the commanding Officer of a battalion in the Battle of Iwo Jima. At age 24, Davidson was one of the youngest officers in Marine Corps history to be assigned command of a Combat Infantry Battalion. After World War II he was a successful businessman.
- 1 Early years
- 2 Marine Corps service
- 3 Business career
- 4 Personal
- 5 References
Davidson was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, to Ellis W. Davidson and Mildred F. (née Burgess) Davidson. Ellis Davidson was a newspaperman before World War II. He was the editor of the Springfield, Massachusetts, “Republican.” During the war he was a Colonel in the Army of the United States (A.U.S.) and served as Deputy Chief, Review Branch, Bureau of Public Relations in the War Department and subsequently was Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff in the Tenth Army on Okinawa. After the war he was an editor of “Sales Management Magazine.”
Davidson was a graduate of the Milton School, Rye, New York, (1932) and Rye High School (1936). He was the winner of the Lord Jeffery Amherst Scholarship for New York which paid for four years tuition at Amherst College. Davidson was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree (cum laude) from Amherst (1940) with majors in biology, chemistry and political science. He was president of the Amherst Chapter of Delta Upsilon Fraternity.
Marine Corps service
On November 12, 1940, Davidson enlisted in the U.S Marine Corps Reserve as a Private. He graduated from Officer Candidates Class, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on February 20, 1941. On May 29, 1941, he graduated from the Reserve Officer’s Class, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. In April 1944, Davidson attended Transport Quartermaster School in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii where he received training in commercial and combat ship loading and dock management.
Military training assignments
Immediately following graduation from the Reserve Officer’s Class, Davidson was assigned as a staff officer and instructor at the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. He instructed and supervised instruction in basic military training and tactics at Officer Candidates Class for approximately 2½ years. He commanded training companies of 150 officer candidates during his last year of duty at Marine Corps Schools. During his assignment Davidson taught basic military tactics and techniques to classes of 50 to 200 officer candidates.
Staff and command assignments in the field
In July 1943, Davidson was detached as a Captain from Marine Corps Schools and assigned to the 4th Marine Division, commanded by Major General (later General) Harry Schmidt, being formed at Camp Pendleton, California. Davidson performed several staff and command roles in 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines, and served with this unit throughout combat operations against Roi-Namur in the Battle of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands (January 31 – February 3, 1944).
Davidson was promoted to Major and assigned as Plans and Training Officer of the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines, and participated in the training phase prior to and during initial combat operations at the Battle of Saipan in the Marianas Islands (June 15 – July, 1944). On the fifth day of Saipan operations, Davidson was appointed battalion executive officer for the remainder of the Saipan battle and served in this capacity during the Battle of Tinian (July 24 – August 1, 1944).
In October 1944, at the age of 25 and as a Major, Davidson assumed permanent command of 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines. He continued in this capacity until the end of the war. As the Battalion commander, Davidson was responsible for training, supply, discipline and welfare of a unit of approximately 1,000 men in garrison. As a Landing Force commander, Davidson was responsible for embarking his command abroad 6 naval attack transports. On February 19, 1945, Davidson commanded one of seven Battalion Landing Teams in the initial assault at the Battle of Iwo Jima. Davidson’s command was composed of an Infantry Battalion plus attachments totaling approximately 1,800 men. He continued as Battalion Commander throughout the Iwo Jima operation.
In October and November, 1945, Davidson returned with and deactivated the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines, at Camp Pendleton. On November 10, 1945, after 60 months of active military services, Davidson was assigned to terminal leave and returned to his home of record in Washington D.C..
Marine Corps career appraisal
According to July 30, 1944, edition of The Sunday Star, “Candidate for “ironman” of the outfit is Maj. Robert H. Davidson of 1825 Nineteenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.
In charge of troop deployment during the first days on Saipan when furious Jap resistance was met, the 25-year-old major went 84 hours without sleep, eating only cans [sic] of C rations, spooned out to him while he telephoned.
Nerve center of a specialized landing team, he kept its scattered parts united into one hard-hitting, ever-advancing fighting force. If any one man was indispensable in those days when victory hung in the balance, Maj. Davidson was.” 
In a letter to the Commandant of the Marine Corps dated August 26, 1945, Colonel L.B. Cresswell CO of the 23rd Marine Regiment notes:
1. “Forwarded. It is regretted that this officer does not desire to transfer to the regular Marine Corps since he is considered preeminently qualified by experience, mentality and temperament for a career in the military service. I consider him to be one of the outstanding officers in the Marine Corps and believe him to be capable at present, of performing the duties of any rank up to and including Lieutenant Colonel.
2. Major Davidson’s experience has been unusually extensive for an officer of his rank and age, including the command of a battalion for a period of ten (10) months and a battalion landing team through all phases of the IWO JIMA campaign. His performance of duty both in combat and in training has been exemplary.
3. Should this officer ever in the future apply for transfer to the regular Marine Corps or for active duty as a reserve officer, it is strongly recommended that such application be approved.”
Colonel T. A. Holdahl USMC, CO Marine Garrison Forces in a letter to Colonel E. W. Davidson, A.U.S. dated September 20, 1945 wrote:
“I am sorry that your son is not staying in the service. His is considered to be the outstanding battalion commander in his division. His late regimental commander, Colonel L.B. Cresswell, spoke of him to me in the highest terms on his way through here. As you probably know, his division is coming home as a unit.”
Davidson was not recalled to active duty during the Korean War. However, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on January 1, 1951, in the Marine Corps Reserve. Subsequently, he was promoted to Colonel on March 1, 1958, and transferred to the Retired List.
Summary of Marine Corps career
Dates of rank
||Second Lieutenant||February 20, 1941 |
||First Lieutenant||February 28, 1942 |
||Captain||August 7, 1942 |
||Major||May 12, 1943 |
||Lieutenant Colonel||January 1, 1951 |
||Colonel||March 1, 1958 |
Decorations, medals and awards
Davidson was awarded the following:
|1st Row||Silver Star||Bronze Star|
|2nd Row||Purple Heart||Navy Presidential Unit Citation w/ 1 star||American Defense Service Medal|
|3rd Row||American Campaign Medal||Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 3 stars||World War II Victory Medal|
In 1976, Davidson retired as President and Chief Operating Officer of PVO International of Boonton, New Jersey, and San Francisco, California; soybean processors and marketers. He was previously an executive of the General Foods Corporation, Administrative Vice President of the Economics Laboratory and was President of Fanny Farmer Candy Shops and Anderson-Clayton Foods Inc.
On August 30, 1947, in New York, New York, Davidson married Anne Breeding Davidson (July 22, 1918 – September 30, 2010), a native of Boston, Massachusetts, and daughter of Edward Charles Breeding and Flora (née MacLean) Breeding. Robert and Anne Davidson have one daughter, Anne Stowell “Missy” Davidson (February 24, 1949 – ) of Florham Park, New Jersey.
Robert Davidson died suddenly on October 10, 1982, of a coronary occlusion in Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington, Connecticut. He was interred in East Cemetery in Litchfield, Connecticut. On September 30, 2010, Anne Davidson died at home in Litchfield and following a funeral service in the First Congregational Church; United Church of Christ was also interred in East Cemetery.
- Robert Harold Davidson, Birth Certificate, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, January 15, 1919, USMC Personnel Record, Military Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO (Davidson, USMC Personnel Record).
- Robert Harold Davidson, Death Certificate, Connecticut State Department of Health, October 10, 1982, Personal Papers.
- C.B. Cates, C.B. USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Subject: Award of the Silver Star Medal with permanent citation, SERIAL 07430-2 / DGP-298-al / MC-1059646. 16 November 1948, Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Robert Harold Davidson, Experience Profile 1946. (Civilian Resume), Personnel Papers, op. cit.
- Robert Harold Davidson, General Foods Inc. Biographical File, February 5, 1953, Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Davidson, Experience Profile, Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Robert Harold Davidson, Amherst College Transcript dated October 24, 1940 documenting graduation with a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, June 16, 1940, USMC Personnel Record, op. cit.
- File: Robert Harold Davidson, MAJ USCR, Camp Maui, Maui, Territory of Hawaii, January 1945, USMC Photograph, Personal Papers.
- Marine Corps Schools, Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia “Closing Exercises: First Candidates Class.” Thursday, 20 February 1941 (Graduation Program), Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Marine Corps Schools, Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia. Orders, Subject: Assignment to Active Duty. 20 February 1941, with date of rank of 28 February 1942, Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Robert Harold Davidson, USMC Personnel Record, op. cit.
- Davidson, op. cit., USMC Personnel Record, Attended Quartermaster School. April 1944, USMC Personnel Record, op. cit.
- Marine Corps Schools, Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia. “Graduation Exercises: Tenth Candidates’ Class”. Saturday, 17 October 1942 (Graduation Program), Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Chapin, John C. (1976). The Fourth Marine Division in World War II. pp. 1–3.
- Davidson, USMC Personnel Record, op. cit.
- Carl W. Hoffman, MAJ USMC. Marines in World War II: Historical Monograph, Saipan: The Beginning of the End. Historical Branch, G-3 Division, 1950, p. 272.
- Davidson, USMC Personnel File, op. cit.
- Whitman S. Bartley, LTC USMC. Marines in World War II: Historical Monograph, Iwo Jima: Amphibious Epic, Historical Section, Division of Public Information Branch, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1954, pp 60, 170, 224.
- Richard F. Newcomb, Iwo Jima, Holt, Rinehart and Winston. New York, 1965, p. 252.
- File:Preparing to inspect the troops of the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines (From the Left): Colonel L. B. Cresswell, Commanding Officer, 23rd Marines Major General C. B. Cates, Commanding Officer, 4th Marine Division Major R. H. Davidson, Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion 23rd Marines, USMC Photograph, Personal Papers.
- Davidson, USMC Personnel Record, op. cit., Relief from active duty.
- “The Sunday Star”, Washington, D.C. July 30, 1944, “Maj. Davidson an “Iron Man,” p. C-10, Personal Papers, op. cit.
- L.B. Cresswell, COL., USMC, CO 23rd Marine Regiment. Fourth Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, c/o Fleet Post Office, San Francisco, California, Subject: Statement regarding desire for regular commission, case of Major Robert H. Davidson, (07430), U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Serial No: 2987-45, 26 August 1945, Personal Papers, op. cit. (Later Major General Leonard B. Cresswell USMC (Ret.), Deceased April 26, 1966 and interred in Arlington National Cemetery).
- T.A. Holdahl, COL, USMC, CO, Marine Garrison Forces, Letter to Colonel E.W. Davidson, Joint Security Control, The Pentagon, Washington 25, D.C., 20 September 1945, Personal Papers, op. cit. (In 1942, at Montford Point, Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, Lieutenant Colonel Holdahl assumed command of recruit training for the first African-American Marines since the Revolution.)
- Headquarters United States Marine Corps. Commandant of the Marine Corps, Orders, Subject: Promotion to the grade of Lieutenant Colonel. DHD-1630-ga, 19 July 1951, with date of rank of 1 January 1951, Personal Papers, op. cit.
- The President of the United States. Promotion to grade of Colonel on the Retired List, 16 February 1958, with date of rank of 1 March 1958 (Certificate), Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Marine Corps Schools, Subject: Assignment to active duty. 20 February 1941, Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Marine Corps Schools, Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia. Subject Appointment as First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve for temporary service, 13 June1942, with date of rank of 28 February 1942, Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Robert Harold Davidson, USMC Personal Record. Temporarily appointed a Captain in the Marine Corps Reserve with date of rank 7 August 1942, Personal Papers, op. cit.
- President of the United States. Promotion to grade of Major in the Marine Corps Reserves of the United States, 12 August 1946, with date of rank of 12 May 1943 (Certificate), Personal Papers, op. cit.
- The President of the United States, Promotion to grade of Colonel on the Retired List, 16 February 1958, with date of rank of 1 March 1958 (Certificate), Personal Papers, op. cit.
- C.B. Cates, Subject: Award of the Silver Star Medal with permanent citation (Iwo Jima), Personal Papers, op. cit.
- C.B. Cates, USMC. Commandant of the Marine Corps. Subject: Award of the Bronze Star Medal with permanent citation. Serial 07430-2 / DGP-298-cmz / MC-1017921. 23 June 1948 (Saipan and Tinian), Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Headquarters, Fourth Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, C/O Fleet Post Office, San Francisco, California. Division Decoration Order. Subject: Purple Heart. Number 54-45. 24 June 1945 (Iwo Jima), Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Davidson, USMC Personnel Record, op. cit., Navy Presidential Unit Citation w/ 1 Bronze Star (Saipan and Tinian).
- Davidson, USMC Personnel Record, op. cit., American Defense Service Medal.
- Davidson, USMC Personnel Record, op. cit., American Campaign Medal.
- Davidson, USMC Personnel Record, op. cit., Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 3 Bronze Stars (Campaigns: Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima).
- Davidson, USMC Personnel Record, op. cit., World War II Victory Medal.
- Robert H. Davidson, Obituary, The New York Times, October 16, 1982, Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Robert H. Davidson and Anne Breeding, Certificate of Marriage Registration, The City of New York, Office of the City Clerk, Marriage License Bureau-Borough of Manhattan. B 81864, Marriage Register No. 47/27668 rc, were married on August 30, 1947, Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Anne S. Davidson, “White Pages” and various in-person conversations and email exchanges with the author that contributed to the accuracy of this article.
- Davidson, Obituary, Personal Papers, op. cit.
- Anne (née Breeding) Davidson, Obituary, “Republican-American,” Waterbury, Connecticut, October 2, 2010.
- Anne (née Breeding) Davidson, Funeral Program, The First Congregational Church (United Church of Christ), Litchfield, Connecticut, October 5, 2010, Personal Papers, op. cit.