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James W. Davis Papers, 1928-1979

Manuscript Collection #394

Descriptive Summary Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Title: James W. Davis Papers
Creator: Davis, James W. (James White), 1906-1995
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Papers (1928-1979) including correspondence, memorandums, classified and unclassified documents, military records, reports, poems, photographs, yearbooks, news articles, maps, regulations, and miscellaneous.
Extent: 3.04 Cubic feet, 3050, consisting of correspondence, memorandums, classified and unclassified documents, military records, reports, poems, photographs, yearbooks, news articles, maps, regulations, and miscellaneous.

Administrative Information Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Accessions Information

November 7, 1979, 600 items; Personal files (1960-1978) of rear admiral, including material on command of Guantanamo Naval Base (1963), interest in Cape Lookout National Seashore, and coastal problems in North Carolina

March 4, 1980, 250 items; Papers (1931-1978), including correspondence, reports, photographs, orders, clippings, citations and miscellaneous material. Gift of Rear Admiral Davis, Smyrna, N.C.

June 25, 1991 (Unprocessed addition 1), 1 cubic foot; correspondence, photographs, clippings, and miscellaneous materials on a variety of topics, including gun control and conservation. Donor: Rear Admiral James W. Davis, USN (ret)

Access Restrictions

No restrictions

Copyright Notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Preferred Citation

James W. Davis Papers (#394), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

Acquisition Information

  • Gift of Rear Admiral James W. Davis, USN (ret)

Processing Information

  • Processed by H. Warren, May 1982

  • Encoded by Apex Data Services


Biographical / Historical Note Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Rear Admiral James W. Davis, the son of Dr. and Mrs. J. J. Davis, was born at Buxton, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks, on October 12, 1906. He attended public school in North Carolina and Washington, D.C., before entering the United States Naval Academy in 1926. Commissioned ensign upon his graduation in 1930, Davis began his long military career aboard the USS WYOMING and USS PENNSYLVANIA before attending submarine school. After additional training in mechanical engineering, Davis was assigned to submarine duty and subsequently commanded two submarines in the Pacific during World War II. As commanding officer of the USS S-47 and later the USS RATON, Davis led his crew in a number of dangerous but successful war patrols. The Navy recognized his leadership and daring with a number of decorations, including the Silver Star.

Davis was made commanding officer of the USS POLANA at the close of World War II. This was the first of seven command positions he held during the next twenty years. He also held administrative positions, including deputy director, joint staff for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and naval deputy for the NATO Defense College.

Davis was separated from the Navy in 1965 after thirty-five years of service. He retired to his small farm near Williston in Carteret County, North Carolina, that same year. After living near Williston for almost 30 years, he moved to Hereford, Arizona, where he died on June 9, 1995.

Description Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Personal histories and newspaper clippings provide a more detailed account of Davis's career.

The organization of the Davis collection follow this brief outline:

Military Career Subgroup

Military Administrative Records

Administrative records include military correspondence and the Navy's personnel records kept on Davis throughout his career.

Military Correspondence

Memorandums and letters comprise Davis's correspondence from 1936 to 1964. Correspondence contains comments about military personnel problems (June 7, 1956), the quality of submarines built by the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company (Sept. 8, 1945; Aug. 15, 1947), the testing of new naval weapons (Nov. 26, 1951), and the feasibility of a small submarine base at Camp Lookout, N.C. (April, 1962).

Some correspondence is directly related to Davis's assignments. He discusses the problems of the NATO Defense College in Paris, including the quality of students and an over-zealous commandant (Mar. 7, 1959) during his tour there as naval deputy. During his command of the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba, just four months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Davis mentions the need for the strategic installation to have its own water supply, particularly a saline water plant (Aug.-Sept., 1963); Castro's treatment of Cuban nationals working on the base (May 22, 1964); plans for training Jamaican personnel on the base (Nov. 10, 1963); CIA operations at Guantanamo (Oct. 10, 1963); and the Navy's plan to restrict non-military personnel from living on the base (Oct. 24, 1963). He also expresses dissatisfaction with the communication systems serving the base and the procedure followed after President Kennedy was assassinated (Dec., 1963?). Davis also reports on the role of the Navy Installations Survey Group (Jan., 1964) and criticism of this group (Mar. 9, 1965).

Military Personnel Records

The personnel records concerning Davis constitute a study of military administration over the span of an individual's career. These records include military orders (1930-1965); officer's qualification reports (1947-1961); officer's fitness reports (1930-1948); security clearances (1950-1960); promotions (1930-1964); awards, decorations, commendations, and citations (1935-1965); and qualifications and certifications (1928-1979).

Also among the military-related papers are a number of poems and lampoons (1936-1955). A folder of miscellany (1937-1969) includes a pamphlet concerning the history of U.S. submarines and a variety of personal papers, including passport applications, a power of attorney, Davis's last will and testament, and his birth certificate.

Military Duty Stations

Davis's career took him to the South Pacific, North America, and Europe. Memorabilia, yearbooks, numerous photographs, and miscellaneous material provide some insight into the nature of his varied duty stations.

Davis was a submarine commander during World War II. Confidential war reports describe activity and actions of the USS RATON (1943-1944). Succinct histories describe the role of the RATON in the Pacific war. Photographic records pertaining to the RATON depict the sinking of enemy shipping, battle decorations for the submarine, and the crew.

Davis served in several capacities after the war. He commanded the USS POLANA (1945-1946), served as personnel officer at the United States Naval Center at San Diego, California (1946-1947), commanded the submarine tender SPERRY (1947-1948), and in the early 1950's commanded Submarine Squadron 4 at Key West, Florida. Many photographs of personnel, vessels, and visitors, such as President Harry S. Truman at Key West, are interwoven into this photographic record. Davis's notes in the file pertaining to the U.S. Naval Center at San Diego enumerate how the basic training centers could be made more prestigious.

There is a substantial amount of material on the USS ST. PAUL. Photographs, yearbooks, a brochure, and personnel roster provide insight into the operation of this cruiser. Photographs show the changing of command, a Christmas in Taiwan, and a tour of the ship by Secretary of the Navy Charles S. Thomas in 1956.

Following duty on the ST. PAUL, Davis was made Chief of Staff for the 7th Fleet (1957-1958). Most noteworthy during this tour of duty was a visit by Cardinal Francis Spellman, many photographs of whom are included. Other memorabilia of the 7th Fleet include a yearbook from one of its ships, the USS ROCHESTER, and a roster of officers assigned to the 7th Fleet.

Davis undertook shore duty at Paris, France, in 1958 as Naval Deputy for the NATO Defense College. Photographs are mostly of Davis's colleagues at the college and members of their staff. Four catalogues (1958-1960) describe the curriculum, lecturers, personnel, and other aspects of the college.

Davis had a number of ships under his stewardship as commander of Cruiser Division 4 (1960-1961). The photographic record of this command includes pictures of the USS MARION, USS SPRINGFIELD, USS MITSCHER, USS LITTLE ROCK, and USS ORION; members of their crews; and visitors. Photographs, a scrapbook, and a book pertain to cities and countries visited on this tour of duty including Berlin and Keil, Germany, and Istanbul, Turkey.

The experience Davis received in international circles led, in 1961, to assignment as deputy chief of staff of the Supreme Allied Commander at Norfolk, Virginia. Hordu Helgason, chairman of the Icelandic Defense Council, was extensively photographed during his visit to Norfolk in 1962. Other photographs include fellow officers, personnel, and socializing during a party given in behalf of Davis.

In 1962 Davis was transferred from Norfolk to the Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The missile crisis was only a few months old when Davis took the helm as commander, and information was still sensitive. A brief history of United States involvement at Guantanamo and explaining the Platt Amendment is labeled top secret. Also included in the memorabilia are photographs, mostly of visitors to the base and of base personnel. The backdrop for these pictures gives one a good idea of the base's topography. A visitor's map is also included among this material.

Davis ended his naval career in Washington, D.C., as the deputy director, Joint Staff, for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Photographs of officers on the Joint Chiefs of Staff include General David Arthur Burchinal and General Earle Gilmore Wheeler.

Dozens of unidentified photographs show Davis at various stages of his career and include views in which Davis does not appear.

The oversize folder contains diplomas, citations, and proclamations that reflect Davis's early naval training and his career in the Navy. Also included is a photograph of the graduating class of the National War College (1952-1953).

Retirement Subgroup

Personal Correspondence

Davis's personal correspondence spans from 1966 to 1974, covering a variety of topics. Some letters relate to his transition from military to civilian life and his business affairs. Additional correspondence concerns the poor condition of the Williston, North Carolina, post office (Sept., 1966-Jan., 1967) and alleged political bias of the Carteret County Board of Elections (Oct.-Nov., 1966). Davis also expressed indignation over the honeymoon of President Lyndon B. Johnson's daughter while Americans died in Vietnam (Dec., 1969). Two letters discuss the effects of a new cancer drug, laetrile (Dec., 1969; Nov., 1970). These letters discuss the progress of a man's cancer, his attempts to find a cure, a treatment offered by a Dr. Krebs in San Francisco, and how laetrile could be obtained in the United States.

Subject Files

Davis spent much time acquiring information, writing letters to editors, and collecting news articles on a variety of topics. These topics are arranged alphabetically and include Bald Head Island, 1966-1974; Busing, 1970-1978; Cape Hatteras, 1970-1978; Cape Lookout, 1966-1979; CIA, 1966-1967; Coastal Area Management Act, 1968-1977; Conservation and Development, 1966-1973; Cornelia Nixon Davis Nursing Home, 1968; Corps of Engineers, 1970-1972; Cruise Lines, 1971; the Dismal Swamp, 1973; Duke Marine Lab, 1967-1972; Erosion, 1966-1979; Estuaries, 1968-1977; Ferries, 1969-1971; Fire Ants, 1972-1974; Fishing in North Carolina, 1967-1960; Billy Graham, 1969; Industry in North Carolina, 1966-1978; Integration, 1971-1978; Liquor-by-the-Drink and Beer Permits in Carteret Co., 1971-1977; Marine Resources Center in North Carolina, 1971; Ron Mason, 1972-1977; George McGovern, 1972; Mosquitos, 1959-1971; Nassau Road Right of Way, 1965-1967; New Hope Dam, 1970-1971; Newport River, 1970-1972; Richard Nixon, 1971-1974; Parks, 1966-1974; Pollution, 1967-1978; PUEBLO, 1968-1969; Salter Path Road, 1971-1975; Seafood Festival, 1966; Shellfish, 1966-1974; Taxes, 1967-1976; Wiley Taylor, Jr., 1969; Texas Gulf, 1966-1976; Tourism in North Carolina, 1967-1969; Trailer Parks, 1967-1979; Trash Fishing, 1966-1970; Vietnam, 1966-1973; Wages in North Carolina, 1967-1970; Water and Air Resources, 1966-1972; Watergate, 1973-1974; Wildlife, 1966-1971; and Zoning, 1967-1975. Many of these topical headings are simply collections of newspaper and magazine clippings, while others contain letters to editors, correspondence from concerned citizens and from state agencies, booklets, reports, and any data Davis could collect.

Davis collected an impressive collection of material on Cape Lookout. Articles and correspondence discuss acquisition of Cape Lookout for a national seashore (1970-1978), effects a boat channel would have on sport and commercial fishing (Mar.-July, 1968), the hurricane protection project (Oct.-Dec., 1969), and development plans of the United States Department of the Interior (Mar. 12, 1968). Davis's correspondence expresses criticism of the state's handling of the land question (Aug. 25, 1975), including the cost of acquisition (Oct. 20, 1970), the purchase of a gun club (May 27, 1974), and the exclusion of 250 acres from the seashore (Nov. 23, 1973). Davis's interest in Cape Lookout led him to collect numerous materials on the area including reports, lists of property owners, legislation, maps, slides, and various miscellaneous items. The oversize folder contains a large boundary map of the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Davis was also concerned about North Carolina's industrial development. In numerous letters he states that the North Carolina Department of Conservation and Development has been more interested in the development of North Carolina than in conservation (1969-1972). Davis also comments on a "lack of realistic planning" (Nov. 18, 1969), the continuing flow of money for estuarine studies (May 19, 1969) and the reorganization of the department (Sept. 8, 1970).

Living on the coast, and with much of his life spent at sea, Davis felt especially akin to the marine environment. His correspondence reflects his concern that North Carolina's marine resources were diminishing and his desire for more research into the effect of trash fishing on declining fish catches (Oct. 30, 1968). He also expressed fear that the state's draining and dredging program was "Using taxpayers' money to systematically destroy one of our most vital natural resources" (Estuaries file, Mar. 4, 1969). Davis assembled a large number of articles concerning various types of pollution. He spurred a state investigation after complaining of a scallop plant that was polluting Jarrett's Bay (Mar. 6, 1971) and contended that the State Department of Water and Air Resources moved too slowly on matters such as fish kills (Aug. 9, 1971).

National affairs also captured Davis's attention. He was skeptical of the value of American involvement in Vietnam and recalled World War II, when the United States military was the "pride of all mankind" (Nov. 18, 1969). Davis also collected numerous newspaper articles on national figures such as Richard Nixon and George McGovern and on matters of controversy such as the PUEBLO incident and Watergate.

Subject Headings Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Card Catalog Entries Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Reading Room's card catalog. This system is no longer maintained, but it is left in place to help on-site researchers locate particular topics in the collection.

Geographic Entry :

  • North Carolina, Carteret Co.

Autograph Entries :

    • Anderson, George W. 1961
    • Beakley, Wallace M[orris] 1963
    • Boone, W[alter] F[rederick] 1959
    • Broyhill, James T[homas] (2) 1963
    • Bull, H[arold] R[oe] 1952
    • Bustainante, Abe 1963
    • Byrd, Robert T[rebon] 1963
    • Califano, Joseph A[nthony] 1963
    • Carson, Robert T[rebon] 1963
    • Curtin, Willard S[eiver] 1963
    • Denfeld, Louis [Emil] (2) 1948
    • Deutermann, H[arold] T[homas] 1963
    • Devine, Samuel L[eeper] (2) 1963
    • Doolittle, J[ames] H[arold] 1963
    • Edwards, Don 1963
    • Eller, E[rnest] M[cNeill] 1947
    • Elliott, Carl 1963
    • Ferguson, John H. 1959
    • Giaimo, Robert N[icholas] 1963
    • Grenfell, E[lton] W[aters] (3) 1955, 1956, 1964
    • Hemphill, Robert W[itherspoon] 1963
    • Henderson, David N[ewton] (6) 1962, 1963, 1966, 1968, 1970
    • Hoeven, Charles B[ernard] (3) 1963
    • Hogan, B[artholomew] 1959
    • Jennings, W[illiam] Pat 1963
    • Johansen, August E[dgar] 1963
    • Jones, Walter B[eaman] 1976
    • Kendall, H[enry] S[amuel] 1946
    • King, Carlton J[ames] (2) 1963
    • Kinkaid, T[homas] C[assin] 1944
    • Klosson, Boris H[ansen] 1963
    • Lawrence, David 1959
    • Lennon, Alton 1968
    • Marsh, John O[tho] Jr. 1963
    • Moore, Dan (2) 1964, 1966
    • Nitze, Paul H[enry] 1964
    • Norblad, Walter 1962
    • O'Hara, James G[rant] 1963
    • Olsen, Arnold (3) 1963
    • Pepper, Claude 1963
    • Purcell, Graham (2) 1963
    • Reifel, Ben 1963
    • Roberts, Ray 1963
    • Rumsfeld, Donald (2) 1963
    • Schadeberg, Henry C[arl] (2) 1963
    • Semmes, B[enedict] J[oseph] 1964
    • Smedbert, W[illiam] R[enwick] III 1963
    • Snyder, M[arion] G[ene] 1963
    • Stinson, Bill 1963
    • Stratton, Samule S[tuddiford] (3) 1963
    • Swanson, Claude A[ugustus] 1937
    • Talcott, Burt L[acklen] 1963
    • Taylor, Maxwell D[avenport] 1962
    • Thomas, Charles S. 1955
    • Weaver, James D[orman] 1963
    • White, Compton I[gnatius] Jr. (2) 1963
    • Wright, Jerauld 1958

Subject Entries :

    • BURCHINAL, DAVID ARTHUR
    • BUSINESS AND COMMERCE— Industrial Development
    • BUSINESS AND COMMERCE— Tourism
    • CAPE HATTERAS, N.C.
    • CAPE LOOKOUT, N.C.
    • CONSERVATION— Coasts
    • CONSERVATION— Fishing
    • CONSERVATION— Law and Legislation
    • CONSERVATION— Pollution
    • CONSERVATION— Rivers— Newport River
    • CONSERVATION— Shellfish
    • CONSERVATION— Water Supply— Dams
    • CONSERVATION— Wildlife
    • CUBA— Guantanamo Bay
    • EDUCATION— COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES— NATO Defense College
    • EDUCATION— PUBLIC SCHOOLS— Integration
    • ELECTIONS— Carteret Co., N.C.— 1966
    • GERMANY— BERLIN
    • GERMANY— KEIL
    • GRAHAM, WILLIAM "BILLY" FRANKLIN
    • HEALTH AND MEDICINE— Cures
    • HEALTH AND MEDICINE— Mosquito Control
    • HELGASON, HORDU
    • INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS— North Atlantic Pact, 1949
    • LABOR— Wages
    • NIXON, RICHARD MILHOUS
    • N.C.— STATE DEPARTMENTS— Conservation and Development
    • N.C.— STATE DEPARTMENTS— Water and Air Resources
    • PARKS
    • POLITICS— Watergate Scandal
    • POSTAL SERVICE— Williston, N.C.
    • PROHIBITION— 1970s
    • SMITH ISLAND, N.C.
    • SPELLMAN, FRANCIS JOSEPH
    • THOMAS, CHARLES S.
    • TRANSPORTATION— Ferries
    • TRANSPORTATION— Roads
    • TRANSPORTATION— Ships and Shipping— Morehead City, N.C.
    • TRUMAN, HARRY S.
    • TURKEY— ISTANBUL
    • U.S.— DEPARTMENTS, COMMISSIONS, AGENCIES— Central Intelligence Agency
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Corps of Engineers
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Cruiser Divisions 4
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Naval Bases
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Naval Bases— Cuba
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Personnel
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— 7th Fleet
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Ships
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Ships— USS ST. PAUL
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Ships— USS SPERRY
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Submarines
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Training
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Weapons Systems
    • U.S.— MILITARY— Social Life and Customs
    • WAR— WORLD WAR II-Navy
    • WAR— VIETNAM
    • WHEELER, EARLE GILMORE
    • WILLISTON, N.C.— Postal Service
    • WILMINGTON, N.C.— Roads

Date Entries :

  • 1936-1940
  • 1940-1949
  • 1950-1959
  • 1960-1969

Images below are listed alphabetically by subject. This list reflects only those portions of the collection for which negatives have been prepared.

U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Entertainment
Description: Officers' party, Fort Taylor
Location: Florida— Key West
Date: 1952
Call Number: p-394/311

U.S.— MILITARY— Navy— Ships— USS POMFRET
Location: At sea
Call Number: p-394/312, 313

Container List Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

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Series 1:
Military Career
Series 2:
Retirement
Box 12#0394.12
Miscellaneous
Box 13#0394.13
Miscellaneous
Box 14#0394.14
Miscellaneous

Online access to this finding aid is supported with funds created through the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). These funds come through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. This grant is part of the North Carolina ECHO, Exploring Cultural Heritage Online, Digitization Grant Program.

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