SPRING 2016 : “The screaming eagle” (the official magazine of the 101st Airborne Division Association)
Melvin E.DAVIS – 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion
Mel served with the 811th Tank Destroyer. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and joined the U.S. Army in 1943 after he graduated from High School one month before D-Day. He went into basic training at Ft. Hood, Texas and then was transfered into the tank group and trained at Twenty Nine Palms, CA as both a driver and a gunner. He was sent to Europe after D-Day into France and was assigned to Patton’s Army. He was assigned as a tank driver of a Hellcat and fought in a series of battles in August through October.
When the fighting stopped for the “Winter of 44” he was stationned away from the front lines with Patton waiting for the Spring to begin the march to Germany. Around December 9th or 10th his group of 4 tanks were sent up to Bastogne to relieve another group of 4 tanks who where sent back to where Patton’s Army was stationned. Every 3 weeks tanks were being cycled up to the front line to replace other tanks that were stationned there to give each tank crew some “time to relax” because they did not expect any more fighting until the Spring when the Winter was over.
When the Battle of the Bulge began on December 16th, his group of 4 tanks were told to head East from Bastogne and told to “stop the Germans”. As they headed out, Mel’s tank ran out of gasoline and the other 3 tanks were told to keep going forward. Mel asked for more fuel to be sent up, but there were told no fuel was going to be sent to them and they should get out of their tanks, dig foxholes, grab their rifles and stop the Germans.
Sometime on December 17th the Germans attacked his position, he was seriously wounded with shrapnels from artillery fire and the Nazis charged forward and moved right passed his foxhole thinking he was dead. He was picked up a day later by U.S. medics, brought back into Bastogne and then sent to a hospital in Luxembourg where he had surgery and recovered from his wounds. He was then assigned to the supply division in Paris and drove a supply truck and back to the front lines for the remainder of the war.
In memory to Lt James F.PARKER
Speach of Mrs. Benedikte Gijsbregs
Good morning everybody,
It is a great honor to be here and to speak to you on behalf of the family of James Parker.
Because of my interest in World War II, I became involved in an adoption program for war graves. In 2011 Jean Parker, James’ sister, wrote me a letter after she had read an article about Memorial activities in Belgium.
She wrote: I had a brother who was a pilot. He was killed in Germany on September 16, 1944 and he is laid to rest on the cemetery of Henri-Chapelle. Could you please visit the grave of my brother as well and send me some pictures?
I couldn’t refuse that request, so I did. And we started mailing… exchanged pictures and throughout the years we became friends.
Last year I went to Pennsylvania to visit her. Jean is a very sweet and welcoming lady and she still has a sharp memory. She showed me old family albums and of course she couldn’t stop talking about Jimmy, which was James’ nickname. At that moment I realised the mental and emotional impact of war. Even after 70 years, I could still feel so much pain and sorrow for his passing. It really touched my heart.
So when I came home, I was motivated to find out what really happened, because the family was given little information – they were told that his plane was shot down in Germany – and his personal belongings were never sent back. So I started to search the Internet and after a while I came in touch with Jean-François Noirhomme, director of the Bulge Relics Museum. He knew the story of 2 P-38 Lightnings that had crashed in ‘this’ area, probably after a mid-air collision and he told me that both crash sites were found. And there were documents written by the local police in 1944 that confirmed that James Parker died here, a few hundred meters from this spot. They even mentioned that they took care of his remains… and that the local community of Grandmenil gave him a proper funeral service on September 18, 1944.
In January of this year, I came to Grandmenil to see it for myself. I was welcomed by Jean-Francois and Eddy Montfort – who knows a lot about history and he does a lot research in the area – and I got the opportunity to meet Mr. Choque who was eyewitness of the plane crash of Charles Page. Together we went to the crash site of James Parker and afterwards I was given a guided tour in the museum – which I truly recommend – where they display pieces of wreckage of both planes.
So when I told Jean about the new information, she was completely thrilled! Knowing that her brother didn’t suffer but that he died instantly by impact in a country where people showed respect to him, that meant the whole world to her.
Unfortunately she couldn’t make the trip to be with us today, but I know she is awake and she is with us in spirit.
She sent me a letter about her memories and she asked me to read it for you on this moment of remembrance.
LETTER from Jean Parker ( translation is read by my daughter Jasmien)
I wish I could be with you today to thank you all for honoring my brother… but I do not feel confident to travel alone at my age, 80 years old. These are my memories of my beloved brother: I was 12 years younger than James but he was always patient with me, often carrying me on his shoulders… so I could see more of the world and so we could go faster and faster. He loved speed. And he always was interested in airplanes. He and my father built many models with balsa wood and tissue paper. They flew with a rubber band and propeller. When our father got ill, Jimmy had to baby sit me. We played house. He was the dad and got to sit in the big chair while I took care of my dolls and pretended to cook dinner. After daddy died in 1942, Jimmy wanted to enlist in the air force. He was young but he didn’t want to be drafted in to the Army. His dream was to fly! Our mother didn’t approve it at first, but eventually she signed the papers. After he left for training, mother and I waited for the mail man to bring letters. He did write often … and he just loved to fly. He was home on leave for 3 days before he went overseas. Mother and I were very sad when he left. After he left he would write and tell us he missed us. He always told me to be good and listen to my mother. He sent me a soldier doll that I still have and cherish. He sent my mother a ring with the moon and stars. He said that when we looked up, the same moon and stars were shining on all of us. I did not realize that I would never see my brother again because I was too young to understand the meaning of war. I’ll never forget the day they came to tell us he died. We were completely devastated. We mourned for many, many years. But today I feel blessed to know that some people cared for him in 1944 and that in 2016 another generation is still honoring his short life. So therefore… Thank you all and may God bless you. Jean Parker
Me too, I want to thank you all for being here.
I want to express my special thanks to Jean-Francois Noirhomme, Eddy Montfort, Mr. Choque and all the others who made this ceremony possible.
Thank you for all the efforts, for making the difference and keep the memory alive.
Now we are going to listen to a song, the theme song of Band of Brothers. I believe this is an appropriate song to commemorate James Parker, Charles Page and all the others who didn’t make it back home. You can find the lyrics on the back of the memorial card. Thank you.
INTERVIEW OF ALPHONSE MONFORT. Eddy’s Father