Louis Poisson Davis, Jr., Papers

Manuscript Collection #452
Davis, Louis Poisson, Jr., 1919-
Physical description
1.5 Cubic Feet, 2 archival boxes and 2 oversize folders , consisting of correspondence, telegrams, a press release, newspaper clippings, military papers, photographs, videocassettes, a diary, log books, manuscripts, and prints.
Preferred Citation
Louis Poisson Davis, Jr., Papers (#452), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1937-2002) including correspondence, diary, log books, newspaper clippings, military papers, photographs, identification cards and miscellaneous items related to the life of Louis Poisson Davis, Jr., a U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander during World War II serving aboard submarines USS Salmon and the USS S-18.

Biographical/historical information

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr., was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, on July 17, 1919, to Captain Louis P. Davis, Sr. and his wife Edna Shethar. His uncle, Thomas W. Davis was the general solicitor for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Following in his father's footsteps, Davis, Jr. enrolled at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, in 1937. He was an intercollegiate champion of the Gym Squad where he climbed a 20-foot rope in 4 seconds. He achieved expert marksmanship and graduated with honors in February of 1941. He was serving on the USS Reid while it was in port at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. After Pearl Harbor, Davis transferred to the submarine division. It was while serving on the USS Salmon that he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for repairing a damaged ballast tank at great personal risk. After his resignation from the Navy in 1945 he attended Princeton and Rutgers Universities for post-graduate work. He joined the New York Bar Association in 1954. His post-military career was focused in the oil industry working for several international companies such as Esso Standard Oil, International Petroleum Company, and AMF International, which took him from Lima, Peru, to Madrid, Spain, and Hong Kong. He married Emily Elizabeth Carr (1922-2013) and had a daughter Cynthia Davis Gersony. Louis Poisson Davis, Jr., passed away, just shy of his 90th birthday, on July 8, 2008, in Sarasota, Florida.

(For more biographical information see Davis's entry in Who's Who in American Law, included in his collection.)

Scope and arrangement

Early correspondence is from Davis to his parents, written aboard the USS Henderson (1941) and the USS Reid (1941) after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Subsequent correspondence, both personal and official, includes a citation (1944) for bravery given while aboard the submarine USS Salmon. The majority of the official correspondence pertains to Davis's loss of command of the submarine S-18 due to a disagreement with his squadron commander over its seaworthiness, and his attempts to have an inquiry made into the incident. Drawing on personal connections, Davis was able to get his father, Admirals Louis E. Denfeld and Randall Jacobs, and Rear Admiral Gilbert J. Rowcliff involved in the situation. Failure to receive a hearing resulted in Davis's resignation on November 29, 1945. Filed with official correspondence are letters acknowledging transcripts sent to Rutgers and Princeton from the U.S. Naval Academy, a fitness report, a Board of Inspection and Survey Report on the S-18, orders, a service record, and resignation papers.

Other correspondence includes letters from a French historian (1982) and other historical researchers, fellow veterans, and from Bob Sneed, chairman of the USS Reid reunion committee (1982).

In addition to personal and official correspondence, the collection contains a diary written aboard the USS Reid (Dec. 7, 1941 - Feb. 21, 1942), describing the attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent anti-submarine patrols off the Hawaiian Islands; an ammunition log for the USS Salmon (undated); three torpedo logs for the USS Salmon (Aug. 1942 - Dec. 1942; Nov. 1942 - May, 1944; Mar. 1944); and a classified after-action report of the Salmon (1944-1946). Several newspaper clippings concern Davis's citation (1944) and business career (1950) after the war.

Photographs document Davis's U.S. Naval Academy career (1937-1941), his participation in the war (1941-1945), and his family life (1945-1989).

Other material consists of identification cards, a galley proof for Who's Who in American Law, a graduation invitation, a menu from the TSMV Duntroon, manuscript from fellow U.S. Naval Academy graduate, John W. Palm, title "My Plebe Year at Annapolis: July 1, 1937 to June 2, 1938" (2002), and a published memoir autographed by John M. Wright, Jr. Captured at Corregidor: Diary of an American P.O.W. in World War II (2002).

Also included within the collection are five VHS videocassettes copied from aired broadcasts regarding World War II submarine history. An ABC News broadcast includes an interview with Davis and Dick Wright.

Oversize material includes a 1957 official transcript from the U.S. Naval Academy, an article from Sarasota Downtown Magazine on Louis P. Davis, Jr. from 2001, and a collection of autographed prints by the artist Dean Ellis of five submarines: USS Cheyenne, USS Gato, USS Holland, USS S-44, and USS Wyoming issued to veterans in 2000 as part of the U.S. Submarine Centennial celebration.

For related material, see Collection #309.

Administrative information
Custodial History

October 18, 1982, 50 items; Papers of a Naval officer, including a diary (Dec. 7, 1941 - Feb. 21, 1942), service record (1941-1949), trial data records (1942-1944), correspondence (1980, 1982), and photographs.

August 29, 1983, (addition 1), 28 items; Papers (1944-1945), including correspondence, reports, clippings, citations, and photographs.

October 4, 1983, (addition 2),50 items; Papers (1941-1945), including correspondence and photographs. Gift of Louis Poisson Davis, Jr., Sarasota, Florida.

November 10, 1993, (addition 3), 7 items; Copy of "SUBVETS: SALMON/STICKLEBACK CREW BIOS," reprints of USS SALMON newsletters, and other materials having to do with the SALMON. Donor: Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.

October 29, 2001, (addition 4), 1 item; Confidential report of (undated) of submarine USS Salmon's (SS 182) depth charge damage suffered southeast of Kyushu, Japan, 30 October 1944, during her eleventh war patrol, 4 Sept. 1944 through 17 February 1945, until her decommissioning, 4 April 1946, and subsequent scrapping. Donor: Davis, Louis Poisson, Jr.

February 11, 2003, (addition 5), 10 items; Papers (1988-2002) including videocassettes (VHS), periodicals and published materials, and a photocopy of a photographic print, compiled by U.S. Naval officer, member of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1941, pertaining to submarine warfare during and after World War II, autobiographical accounts by Louis P. Davis, Jr., John M. Wright, Jr. and John W. Palm concerning their naval careers. Donor: Davis, Louis Poisson, Jr.

May 23, 2003, (addition 6), 6 items; U.S. Navy Submarine Centennial Prints (2000) autographed by the artist, Dean Ellis, including prints of the submarines U.S.S. CHEYENNE, U.S.S. GATO, U.S.S. HOLLAND, U.S.S. S-44, and U.S.S. WYOMING . 5 prints and one enclosure. Donor: Davis, Louis Poisson, Jr.

August 25, 2003, (addition 7), 3 items; Collection (1998-2002) of published materials relating to the U.S. Navy's submarine war against Japan during World War II, 1941-1945, including: Under Pressure: The Final Voyage of Submarine S-5, by A.J. (Alvin Joseph) Hill (New York, NY: The Free Press, copyright 2002 A.J. Hill), ISBN 0-7432-3677-7. 239 pp.; Subs Against the Rising Sun, by Keith M. Milton (Las Cruces, NM: Yucca Tree Press, copyright 2000) 1ST printing November 2000. ISBN 1-881325-45-8. 369pp.; Kangaroo Express: The Epic Story of the Submarine Growler, with recollections by "Skipper" Arnold Schade, by Richard J. Lanigan. Donor: Davis, Louis Poisson, Jr.

August 25, 2003, (addition 8), 1 item; Collection (2002) of published materials relating to the submarine U.S.S. WAHOO (SS-238) and the U.S. Navy's submarine war against Japan during World War II, 1941-1945, including: Unrestricted Warfare: How a new breed of officers led the submarine force to victory in World War II, by James DeRose. Foreward by Roger W. Paine Jr. (New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., copyright 2000) Includes bibliographical references and index. Donor: Davis, Louis Poisson, Jr.

September 12, 2003, (addition 9), 4 items; Confidential Report Section 7: U.S.S. SALMON (SS 182) Depth charge damage Southeast of Kyushu, Japan (10/30/1944), pp 61-81. (Photocopies); Letter from Farrell Stearns to Lou Davis (copyright 2003), regarding the Report and plans for the SALMON veterans reunion. 1 p. (Photocopy); Letter from Jack M. Chrisman to Lou Davis (4/14/1993), regarding plans to write a history of the SALMON, 2 p. (Holograph); and "Stained Glass Artistry Reflects WWII Submariners [re: Capt. Nick Nicholas of U.S.S. SPIKEFISH (SS 404)]," The Lone Sailor: Range and Bearings from your U.S. Navy Memorial (Summer 2003), 12pp. Donor: Davis, Louis Poisson, Jr.

October 7, 2003, (addition 10), 7 items, 0.01 cubic feet; Collection (1943-1944, 1972) of 5 World War II photographs of the submarine USS SALMON (SS-182) and its crew on patrol, in Hawaii, and Midway Island; and 2 items pertaining to the USS NIMITZ (CVAN-68), including a Hampton Roads Times-Herald clipping, 5/13/1972, entitled Carrier Nimitz Christened; and a pamphlet, entitled Launching of the Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier Nimitz, May 3, 1972, Newport News Shipbuilding, A Tenneco Company. Rec'd. 9/191/2003. See preliminiary inventory attached. Donor: Davis, Louis Poisson, Jr.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.

Processing information

Processed by J.W. Morris III, March 1985

Additions processed by Samantha Sheffield, April 2016

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

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

Key terms
Personal Names
Davis, Louis Poisson, Jr., 1919-
Corporate Names
Reid (Ship : DD-369)
S-18 (Submarine)
Salmon (Submarine)
United States. Navy--Officers--Correspondence
United States. Navy--Officers--Diaries
Courts-martial and courts of inquiry--United States
Naval discipline--United States
Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941
World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations--Submarine forces
World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, American

Container list
Box 1 Folder b Official U.S. Navy Correspondence, 1944-1949
Box 1 Folder c Newspaper Clippings, 1944, 1950, 1972
Box 1 Folder d Diary (firsthand documentation of the attack on Pearl Harbor) kept while serving on the USS Reid (Dec. 7, 1941-Feb. 21, 1942) and ammunition and torpedo log books (1942-1944) from the USS Salmon
Box 1 Folder e Photographs - family and Naval portraits, 1937-1972, 1989
Box 1 Folder f Photographs - Navy life at sea, 1941-1944, 1990. Many are of the USS Salmon
Box 1 Folder g Documents on submarine service, commemorations, veteran societies, and classified after-action report of USS Salmon, 1943-2003
Box 1 Folder h Documents regarding L.P. Davis, Jr. service from veterans and researchers, 1970-1993
Box 1 Folder i Manuscript by John W. Palm, "My Plebe Year at Annapolis: July 1, 1937 to June 2, 1938," 2002
Box 1 Folder j Published memoir by John M. Wright Jr. Captured on Corregidor: Diary of an American P.O.W. in World War II, published and autographed 2002
Box 2 Folder a ABC News - TV Sept 21 Anniversary [Broadcast including interview with Louis P. Davis, Jr. and Dick Wright][Delano] VHS videocassette Maxwell T-120 6X
Box 2 Folder b Blind Man''s Bluff: Tracking Russian Submarines. VHS videocassette FUJI T-120 copy from WEDW Broadcast, 11/10/2002
Box 2 Folder c Hitler''s Lost Submarine: U869. VHS videocassette SONY T120 copy from PBS Broadcast 10/5/2002
Box 2 Folder d Kursk HTP. VHS videocassette SONY T120 copy from TLC Broadcast 10/9/2002
Box 2 Folder e Shipwreck: Deep Sea Rescue [U.S.S. Squalus]. VHS videocassette TDK T120 RV, undated Oversize
Folder os1 U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis official transcript dated 1957, article on Louis P. Davis, Jr. from Sarasota Downtown Magazine, 2001
Folder os2 U.S. Submarine Centennial commemorative prints signed by the artist, Dean Ellis, 2000