(As related by daughter of Marshall and Lillian Davis and niece of Mervin Stein, Jeri Lipov)
In his book The Greatest Generation, author Tom Brokaw chronicled the lives of many WWII veterans and the contributions they made to our country both during and after the war. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimated in 1990 that approximately 1,100 military veteran members of that generation are leaving us each day and with them go their stories. Many were reluctant to discuss their service and sacrifice and some simply refused to talk about it, even with their fellow veterans. As a result, many of that generation of Americans who Franklin Delano Roosevelt described as having “… a rendezvous with destiny” have left subsequent generations to wonder.
The creation of the Worcester County Veterans Memorial at Ocean Pines has inspired curiosity in some about the contributions that family members made in that great struggle as well as a need to make sure that they are not forgotten. Geraldine (Jeri) Lipov is one of them. Jeri’s family genealogy work awakened in her the realization that she had missed the opportunity to ask many questions of both her parents and her uncle about their WWII service.
Her father, Marshall Dale Davis, was born April 4, 1921 in Dolph, Arkansas. He was one of five children and to say that the family was dirt poor would not be an exaggeration. At the age of 10, Marshall and the rest of the family moved, by wagon, to Frisco, Texas, to be near his paternal grandparents. He graduated from Frisco High School.
When the war came, Marshall enlisted in the Army Air Corps and, with his pronounced aptitude for all things mechanical, especially engines, became an airplane mechanic. He was assigned to the Army Air Base in Richmond, Virginia.
Indications are that he was an exemplary soldier. He received a letter of commendation from the commanding general of the First Air Force which reads in part “your quick thinking and immediate use of a small fire extinguisher in the truck in which you were riding prevented serious damage to two (2) airplanes and possible injury to two (2) pilots.”
Minor surgery for a hernia while in the Army proved to be a turning point in his life. A botched epidural during surgery
left him paralyzed from the waist down. He was unable to walk. After a year of rehabilitation at a military hospital in New York, he was sent home to Texas. Another year of personal rehabilitation followed. Each morning his father would drive him to a local lake where he would swim, initially without the use of his legs. His condition began to improve and he regained the use of his legs. However, his spinal cord injuries would cause life-long disabilities. In 1945 he married Lillian Jean Stein, an Army nurse whom he had met while serving in Virginia.
Lillian Jean Stein, whom Jeri describes as “a nice Jewish girl from Pittsburgh”, was born August 12, 1921, the daughter of Jewish immigrant shopkeepers. She attended school in Pittsburgh and graduated from Carrick High School and the Montefiore School of Nursing with an RN degree.
She joined the Army Nurse Corps and was stationed at a hospital in Virginia where she met Marshall Dale Davis. They were separated for a time when Lillian was assigned to nursing duties in London, England, for the duration of the war. After the war ended, they were reunited and married.
The newlyweds moved to Dallas, Texas in 1945. Marshall worked at various mechanic jobs. Three children were born of the marriage; Geraldine, Eileen and Kathleen. Marshall and Lillian divorced in 1955; one year later she and the girls moved to Pittsburgh to be near her parents. She was employed as a public health nurse while in Pittsburgh.
In 1959 Lillian relocated her family to Washington, D.C.; they moved in with her bachelor brother Mervin Stein. She was employed at the National Institutes of Health until her death in 1972.
Jeri’s uncle, Mervin Stein, was born September 29, 1925, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He followed his sister, Lillian, to Carrick High School where he excelled academically and in sports. He was 6’ 3” and played both basketball and football. He graduated first in his class with an A average.
During WWII, he was accepted into the V-12 Navy College Training Program and studied at Cornell University and Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute where he played basketball. He graduated with degrees in both engineering and law.
The V-12 program was initiated in 1943 to meet both the immediate and long-range needs for commissioned officers to man ships, fly planes and command troops called to duty in World War II. V-12 participants were required to carry 17 credit hours and nine and one-half hours of physical training each week. Study was year-round, three terms of four months each. The number of terms for a trainee depended on his previous college background, if any, and their course of study.
Mervin went on to the V-12 Unit at Denison University, Granville, Ohio and was discharged in June 1946. He moved to Washington, D.C. where he attended George Washington University and was employed at the U.S. Patent Office as a Patent Examiner specializing in textiles. He retired from the Navy Reserve in 1985 with 39 years of service and passed away in 2002 at the age of 84.
She is concerned that her immediate family has little or no interest in her family’s history and she doesn’t want to be the only one to remember them. Her parents, especially her father, were from poor backgrounds and military service was a way out for them. In that regard, the Veterans Memorial at Ocean Pines has a special significance to her. It will serve to preserve her remembrance of them.
~ GEORGE REISWIG