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Louis Poisson Davis, Jr., oral history interview, February 7, 1988

Date: Feb. 07 1988 | Identifier: OH0098
Mr. Davis, a member of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1941, discusses his early chaildhood as a Navy junior, his education, and his experiences at the U.S. Naval Academy. Emphasized in the interview is duty on the USS REID , attack on Pearl Harbor, training on submarines at New London, Conn., and assignment to the USS SALMON . The five war patrols of the SALMON are described in detail as is duty as commanding officer of the S-18. Also discussed is the background of Davis' resignation of his Navy commission in 1946 and his civilian career subsequent to his resignation. Interviewer: Donald R. Lennon. more...



East Carolina Manuscript Collection
ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW
Louis P. Davis, Jr.
USNA CLASS OF 1941
February 7, 1988
Interview #1

Donald R. Lennon:

I would like you to begin, if you will, by talking a little bit about your background. You are a Navy junior; your father was an Academy graduate who went all over the world with the Navy. I would like to hear about your background, recollections of your youth, and your education prior to going to the Naval Academy.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

It was just as varied as you described it. Mother tells me I was born in Washington, D.C., and I have no reason to doubt her. My earliest recollections come from Coronado, California, where I got into a neighbor's icebox one day and, with my younger brother George, destroyed the blancmange. From Coronado we went north and then down to Panama. We were in Panama, living on SoSo Hill, the signal hill looking out over the harbor, for about two years. It was there that I first started to go to school.

We left Panama and came back to the States and ended up in the Charleston Navy Yard where I was sent to school--in earnest--in the public school system. The Navy yard ran a bus for children going to the public school in Charleston. Dad's brother George, who worked with the railroad, was also in Charleston at that time. And, for the first time, I saw a lot of the family in Wilmington. From Charleston, we went north to Newport, Rhode Island, for a year. After a year at the Naval War College, Dad was transferred to the West Coast to take command of a division of destroyers. Mother decided that we needed some



broadening of our education, so rather than go to the West Coast, she took us all to Switzerland. She put us into an English school where we were instructed in the British system. Also, we were exposed to the French language as a matter of necessity. The English instruction system pushes you through your education a little more rapidly than the American system and I picked up a couple of grades while there. When we came back from Switzerland, we went to Washington, D.C., with a stop off in Boston of a month or so. There I entered high school as a sophomore at the age of thirteen, which meant I finished up in three years, in 1936. Then I went with the family to Long Beach where I studied at the Rutherford Preparatory School to prepare for the entrance examinations to the Naval Academy. I took those and entered the Academy in June of 1937. That is how I got there.



Donald R. Lennon:

In entering the Academy, I know that there were a number of you in that class who were Navy juniors. I'm sure that your paths had crossed previously as children growing up when your fathers were stationed at the same locations. You went into the Academy probably knowing some of your classmates before you ever arrived, did you not?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

A half dozen or so of us knew each other from years and years of association at different duty posts. There were Jack Beardall, Rusty Crenshaw, Joe Taussig, and Tully Shelley, just to name some of them. We still see each other. We see Tully and Maggie Shelley with frequency, as we do Jack and Jean Beardall. We see the Crenshaws and the Taussigs at class affairs. When I get back to Sarasoto after this reunion, one of the first things I have to do is arrange a luncheon in Orlando with Jack Beardall's mother and my mother. My mother is still alive at ninety-eight, and Mrs. Beardall is ninety-two or so. They want to get together and Jack and I will have to put the show together so they can.

Donald R. Lennon:

Where is your mother living now?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Mother is in the Winter Park Tower Retirement Home. She is doing very well



there.

Donald R. Lennon:

That's wonderful.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

The answer to your question is "Yes, it was an advantage to have friends in the class at the Naval Academy."

Donald R. Lennon:

Tell me something about your experience at the Naval Academy, both the extracurricular activities and the course work. Are there any particular recollections?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Well, it was a game of catch-up. The more you enjoyed the extracurricular activities, the more difficult the course work was. I enjoyed being on the gym team, working on the parallel bars and rope climbing. That took quite a bit of time but was a lot of fun. The reason I selected the gym team was that it got more trips away from the Academy than most of the other athletic squads enjoyed. But that same advantage took more time away from my studies so that I had to play catch-up. I remember youngster year when I flunked a mathematics exam and I really had to work hard for the re-exam to make sure I passed and didn't get booted out. From then on, I guess I applied myself to the studies a little more diligently than I would have if that had not happened.

Donald R. Lennon:

What about the quality of instruction?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Since graduation, I have done a lot of instructing for the American Management Association, thus my perspective is that it was darn good. They did an excellent job. They worked on the premise that they were there to confirm what we had learned rather than be teachers and preachers. It's the idea of "getting through your understanding" that makes education useful. If you just have it, if it comes by as a gloss and you don't know how to apply it, what good is your education? I give them high marks for getting through practical, usable education. Part of the confirmation of that comes when, as an ensign, you first set



foot aboard ship and discover that you understand how the engines work, you understand what the navigator is doing on the bridge, and you understand what you should be doing when you're qualifying as a junior watch officer: You have a complete and full understanding of what makes the ship work and what job you are doing on the ship. That's the mission of the Naval Academy--to turn out combat-ready junior officers.

Donald R. Lennon:

You hear from time to time about the harassment that you undergo your plebe year. Are there any comments on that?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

It's an introduction to discipline primarily. In my instance, I didn't get any vicious hazing, if you want to call it that. "Sitting on infinity," doing a few push-ups and things like that. They weren't particularly obnoxious, devilish, or mean.

Donald R. Lennon:

That would vary though from plebe to plebe, depending on who they were assigned to as their . . . .

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

The first classmen, Andy Prout and Frank Rile (Class of 1938), to whom Ev "Hop" Hopkins and I were assigned, were quite protective. They wanted to make sure that we learned as quickly and as completely as we could. They did their best to help us rather than harrass us. Oh sure, they beat our butts with a broom and a few things like that from time to time, but it was more in jest rather than in meanness. I think much of the idea of hazing is ceremonial. You go through it and both parties know that they're putting on a show, an act, and if you go with the tide, you're going to come out with a smile. They'll come out with a smile, and you'll come out having learned a point of discipline.

Donald R. Lennon:

If you go into it with a chip on your shoulder, it compounds it.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

That's right.

Donald R. Lennon:

Are there any recollections of any particular events or activities that stand out in



your mind that were outside of the ordinary flow of things while you were at the Academy?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Yes, a couple of items were fun. I had a reputation around the class of being something of an innovator or troublemaker or stirrer-upper of new things. During second class summer, we had destroyer cruises. When we came back from the cruise, we just had a few days before our September leave. I knew that the destroyers were leaving the Academy to go up to Newport, Rhode Island, two or three days before leave actually started. My roommates, Ev Hopkins and Al Curran, and I would be going home to New England, so I persuaded them to apply with me for permission to leave and go up on the ships. The Academy thought that was great. Here were these three midshipmen who wanted additional sea-going experience. Well, the only thing we really wanted were those three extra days of leave! They granted us permission, and then justice set in upon us. We were going down the Chesapeake Bay in those four-piper destroyers when a storm set in. You never saw three more seasick midshipmen for three full days in your life. We were so happy to get off the ship in Newport. Al Curran and Hop said, "We're never going to listen to you again." But we did get the extra three days of leave.

The other occasion I remember was the June week of our second class year when we were wondering what to do when the girls were there. I said, "Why don't we apply and request the use of a Y.P. boat? The Y.P. boats are here to train midshipmen in ship handling, so why can't they just let two or three of us have a Y.P. boat for an afternoon. We'll take ourselves out in the bay and the girls can go with us." I applied and permission was granted. This was a first, but the news traveled through the class so fast that before the weekend had come, there were six others who had requested and been granted permission.



So, instead of one-upping the class, there I was with six others.

Donald R. Lennon:

There was a whole flotilla out there!

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

It was fun! Those were two somewhat singular events. There were the usual athletic events such as success in climbing the rope and matters like that, but those two events stand out.

Donald R. Lennon:

I noticed in the copy of the yearbook that you gave us that there were six members of your class who died while at the Academy. Four or five of them died in 1939.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

They died in an automobile accident while on leave. I'm not sure whether they were returning from leave or going out on leave, but three or four of them died in one automobile crash.

Donald R. Lennon:

I noticed it and thought that it was most unusual to have that large of a loss in one year.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

I don't recall where they were going, but they were going as a group, traveling together, which wasn't unusual. I'm not sure whether they were going out to the Midwest or not, but I think it was something in that order.

Donald R. Lennon:

Are there any other thoughts about your stay at the Academy?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

I enjoyed it. It was hard work. The cruises were fun as well as educational, and we got a lot of them.

Donald R. Lennon:

You mentioned getting seasick on the trip down the Chesapeake on the destroyer. As a child, had you ever gone to sea with your father?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Not until 1936. I was right out of high school. My brother George had a year of high school to finish, and I was going into the Rutherford Preparatory School in Long Beach to take the exams. But that summer the Fleet was going to Honolulu. Dad was the



commanding officer of the battleship MARYLAND, and I went on board and out to Honolulu with him. Joe Taussig went in the MISSISSIPPI where his father, Admiral Taussig, was the division commander. Charlie Kemp went with Admiral Kemp, but I'm not sure which ship they were on. There were about four of us that went to Honolulu that summer. That was the first time I had gone to sea in a warship. Of course, the battleships were pretty stable platforms so there wasn't much getting seasick on them.

Donald R. Lennon:

It's different on destroyers.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

The Pacific, generally, except for some occasional violent storms, is a rather placid ocean compared to the Atlantic.

Donald R. Lennon:

Upon graduation in February 1941, I believe for your first assignment that you, like so many of your classmates, enjoyed the accommodations of the HENDERSON for your trip across. Are there any observations about that?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

My first recollection about the HENDERSON is that going from midshipman to ensign was a big step forward. You were finally looked upon as a officer in the wardroom rather than a midshipman in the mess hall. The other recollection is that they introduced you to the idea that you were going to have to stand watches. That was part of the job.

Donald R. Lennon:

There were about two hundred or so of you on the HENDERSON making that trip, were there not?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

There were quite a few on it. But I don't know the actual count.

Donald R. Lennon:

When you arrived at Pearl, you joined the REID?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

When I arrived at Pearl, the REID was in Australia on a cruise; so I was posted for temporary duty to the LAMSON, where I stayed for two months or so until the REID and the other ships on the cruise came back.



Donald R. Lennon:

What did you do on the LAMSON?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

I did the junior officer thing: Watch, and watch, and watch! I didn't have any specific assignment. I think I was the assistant first lieutenant or something like that. It was temporary duty only and everybody knew that. The captain had me stand watch. Then when the REID did return, I was posted to her and went aboard promptly. Shortly thereafter, the engineering officer was detached. There was no replacement in sight for awhile, so I ended up as chief engineer of the destroyer just six months out of the Naval Academy. That was sort of a thrilling episode because I hardly knew which way to turn. Fortunately, we had some excellent chief petty officers in the engineering department. They kept me out of trouble. It was very interesting. Then when Nels Johnson (Class of 1934) came aboard, I was made first lieutenant. That was my basic assignment: first lieutenant of the REID. Then I was given a General Quarters station up on the main battery gun director.

Donald R. Lennon:

You were primarily involved in maneuvers in the area off of Hawaii during this period in the summer and fall of 1941?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

That's correct. We didn't take any long cruises. We got down to Johnston Island once I believe. We saw Midway Island from the sea several times. It was after Pearl Harbor that we made the trip to San Francisco in convoy escort. We basically did maneuvers with battleship forces and carrier forces.

Donald R. Lennon:

Could you feel the tension begin to accelerate during the fall of 1941?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

There probably was tension, but I don't think it filtered down to the junior officers much. They knew too little to understand what was building up. At least it didn't filter down to me, particularly that there was this element of danger. There was a build-up, yes; you knew that because you had been graduated a whole half semester early to get you to the



Fleet. They were building up the number of reserve officers on active duty in the Fleet. But there was still some basic disbelief that anything much was going to happen. At the senior ranks, I suppose, there was a lot more tension. It would seem normal that there would be, because they would have had a greater knowledge of world affairs. The idea that there were ambassadors from Japan negotiating in Washington didn't mean much to a twenty-three-year-old ensign.

Donald R. Lennon:

Where were you on December 7?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Sound asleep on board ship. I had been out the evening before to Hickam Field with the sister of another Navy junior--Roger Paine's sister, Margaret. She had gone home and I had gone back to the ship and said, "I'm going to sleep in tomorrow and get some rest. I'm tired of staying up so late." When the general alarm went off on Sunday morning at eight o'clock or so, the chief petty officer of the watch came shrieking down to me, and I was right there trying to sleep and rest peacefully. I went up to the main gun director in my skivvy shorts and started off shooting. There were two officers on board, Ensign Kittredge, a reserve ensign who was the duty officer, and yours truly, who was just on board. I left him with the job of getting the engines back together. (We had stuff over on the tender that we were alongside of out in the center of East Loch, in Pearl Harbor.) I took the gun director. Within three or four minutes, we had our five-inch guns firing, with, I think, considerable effect because we didn't get many strafing runs or any attacks on us or the nest that we were in. The CASSIN and REID were able to start firing rather quickly. We continued firing intermittently all morning. Around ten o'clock or so, the captain, the exec, and the other officers came aboard. They finally had been able to get the ship's boat and get out to the ship. We got underway shortly thereafter.



Donald R. Lennon:

The REID was in the situation where it could put out to sea without too much preparation?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Kitteredge had done an excellent job of getting all the engine parts back from the tender. By the time our officers got back on board, he just about had the ship ready to go. During that period, we were drawing power from the tender so I was able to operate the guns and keep them going. The tender was not hit by any of the planes; therefore, when the captain, and the engineering officer got back on board, we were just about ready to go. I think we were underway by 10:20 or 10:30 or something along that order.

We shot up a lot of ammunition that morning. One of my vivid recollections is that in order to get at the ammunition, we had to open the ready boxes. I didn't know who had the keys to the padlocks on the ready boxes, so we cut them open. One of the first things that Lieutenant McGinnis did when he got back on board was to chew my tail out, up, and down for not having had permission to open the ready boxes. I've never forgotten that either. There I was, a young ensign who had been shooting all morning long, the place was under attack, and the first thing the executive officer did was chew my ass out for not getting permission to cut the locks off! Maybe I should have gone over to the tender and found a captain or something to ask permission to open the ready boxes!!

Donald R. Lennon:

Oh, my goodness. That is incredible. I hope he didn't make admiral later on.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

No, McGinnis didn't. The skipper, Harold Pullen, did. Nels Johnson, the engineering officer, did. It's the reaction of people under stress. This was a bureaucratic reaction.

Donald R. Lennon:

Once you had put out to sea, the Japanese were gone. What was your mission, searching for the Japanese fleet or just preparing for another wave of Japanese attacks?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

That's an interesting question. My perspective is that when we got out of the harbor-



-cleared the harbor mouth--nobody really knew what they were doing. Admiral Milo Draemel was trying to collect the destroyers together--and he succeeded--so that as they emerged from Pearl Harbor they would at least be in a flotilla with some discipline to it. But I'm not sure he knew where the Japanese fleet was, and I'm not sure that he knew where to go or where to look. My recollection is that we went south and west, when in actuality, it turned out later that the Japanese were north and west. That first day, I don't think we really knew what the heck we were doing.

Donald R. Lennon:

I would think that everyone was in a bit of a dazed condition. Would they not be, after the type of total surprise they had faced that morning?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

There's little doubt about that. I guess that what I'm saying is that what intelligence there was available to the admirals and senior officers apparently did not get down to the unit commanders like Milo Draemel, who was at sea with his destroyers. So they would not have known where to go and what to look for.

Donald R. Lennon:

Had the Japanese knocked out any of the communication capabilities at Pearl?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

I don't believe the communication facilities were hindered at all. It was just that nobody knew quite what to do or who to tell what. I guess they were all dazed. Admiral Pye was dazed, as I understand it, and Admiral Kimmel was flabbergasted. They didn't know where to look. They didn't have any long-range reconnaissance flights out. The Japanese had thoroughly destroyed the PBY reconnaissance planes on Ford Island so they couldn't put any out. The carriers were all off to the south, out of range. There was general confusion at sea. None of the big ships got out. There were really just destroyers running around out there.

Donald R. Lennon:

Once the shock of the attack was over and we went on a wartime footing, tell us



what took place in the REID in the coming months.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

We had several missions over the next two or three months. One, we did a convoy escort to San Francisco and back. Two, we had a special assignment to the north side of the island, operating singly, to search for an enemy submarine which we never found. Three, we had a task mission that took us out to Midway Island and back. Those are the three that I remember that took place from December to March. At that time I was detached for submarine duty.

Donald R. Lennon:

Is there anything specific that you remember about any of those three?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

No, they were fairly routine.

Donald R. Lennon:

Was there any contact with the enemy on any of the three?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

No.

Donald R. Lennon:

The REID, later on after you had left it, I believe, was sunk, was it not?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

In 1944, in the battle of the Philippines. She was one of the last destroyers sunk. She didn't quite finish the war.

Donald R. Lennon:

You were detached because you had decided that you were interested in submarines. What led you to apply for submarine duty?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

There were several factors there. One, Roger Paine (Class of 1939), a Navy junior I had known for years and years, had decided that submarines were very nice. He was in the POMPANO at Pearl and I visited him on board and talked to him about it. Secondly, there was an ALLNAV out asking for volunteers from the classes of 1939, 1940, and 1941; they needed more to man the submarine force. Thirdly, it paid more. I decided that I ought to think about volunteering and Captain Pullen encouraged me to do so. He said he thought I would "do very well as a submarine officer," and he gave me a high recommendation for the



assignment. That's what happened.

Donald R. Lennon:

So you were detached in the spring of 1942?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

It was March of 1942. I was then ordered to the Submarine School in New London. In fact, I think it was in February, because the class started in March and ended in June. They had curtailed it from the normal six months to about three months.

Donald R. Lennon:

What happened at school? Was there anything that stands out in your mind? Was it three months of intensive training in which you crammed six months of work into?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

That's essentially it. It was just highly intensive work. We went out to sea on the little O-Boats which were remnants from World War I but which still could be used for training. Plus, there was classroom work. We had to learn how the electrical insides of a submarine worked. We had to learn the differences in the propulsion systems compared to what we had known on a destroyer--going from steam turbines and boilers to diesel-electric power plants. A lot of the seamanship and the ship- handling characteristics of submarines were considerably different from destroyers, so we had to learn about them. We didn't have the reserve of power that we had on a destroyer, so we had to be more deft and delicate in the way we handled them or we could bang them up. Of course we didn't want to bang them up because it could make it difficult to survive if the ship sprang a leak by such goings on.

Donald R. Lennon:

All the time that you were training at New London, the shipyards at New London and Groton were frantically building submarines right across the way, weren't they?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Yes, right down the road. The Coast Guard Academy was across the river, too, trying to turn out people. We didn't see too much of the new boats because our work was so intensive and time consuming. We didn't get that much free time away from it.



Donald R. Lennon:

What was your first assignment after New London?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

I was ordered to the SALMON, which was operating out of Perth in western Australia. I believe, however, that the orders first sent me out to the Commander Submarines in the Southwest Pacific (Charlie Lockwood in Fremantle, Australia), where I was to wait for a further assignment. I didn't know what I was going to be assigned to when I arrived out there. There was a contingent of us, five or six. We went out on the UNITED STATES, and the first thing they did was to put us on watch as submarine search officers on the bridge. Our course took us from San Francisco south to Fiji, where we loaded sugar. The Fijians loaded the sugar, and you could hear them singing in the night, getting it on board for the Queen. We took the load of sugar to Auckland, New Zealand, where it was off-loaded.

From Auckland we went on to Sidney where we (the same five or six of us) were put on another ship, an Australian freighter, to go around the bottom of Australia in the "roaring forties." Boy, we were up and down in the seas there. It took around ten days to get from Sidney to Fremantle. When we reached Fremantle, I received my assignment to the SALMON.

Donald R. Lennon:

Aboard the SALMON, you were operating out of Australia on each of those war patrols that you took part in. Was that your home port?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

My assignment to the SALMON was a little fortuitous. When we put out on my first patrol, our orders required us to go north through Lombok Strait and into the South China Sea for war patrol, and then to return to San Francisco for overhaul. I had only that one patrol operating out of Australia. Those boats had been out in the Pacific for some time and most of the squadron had not had an overhaul for two or three years and were in need of



it. As new boats came out of New London, they were put into the forward bases so that the older ones could be pulled back in and overhauled and then put out again.

Donald R. Lennon:

This is what, fall of 1942?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

It seems to me that we put to sea in September or October. We topped off at Exmouth Gulf on the way north up the coast of Australia and ended up in San Francisco a little before Christmas.

Donald R. Lennon:

You were sailing alone, were you not? You were not in the company of other submarines?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Our submarine operations were characterized primarily by single-duty operations only. It wasn't until late 1944 or 1945 that they tried some of the wolfpack tactics that the Germans had developed so successfully.

Donald R. Lennon:

Early in the war, with the sonar and other tracking devices as primitive as they were, it could have been hazardous operating in too close with other submarines, could it not?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Yes, but I'm not sure that was the concern, because at that time, we didn't have that many submarines. It wasn't until they had built up the total number of operating boats that they considered it wise to utilize two or three in a group. Early in the war they assigned us to individual operating areas to maximize the coverage of enemy passages.

Donald R. Lennon:

You were given a zone to work in early in the war?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

We were assigned patrol areas and were given a pathway area to and from the patrol area. We had a pathway from Perth to Exmouth Gulf, where we would top off and fuel, then up through Lombok Strait in the Indonesian Islands (between Bali and Lombok), and on up to the Manila area. Our patrol area was off Manila Harbor.



Donald R. Lennon:

It sounds like a prime location.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

It was. We took a fishing boat--shot it up--to see what we could get in the way of charts and things. We were quite successful, I think. Gene McKinney was given an award for the patrol; it was successful.

This was my first patrol, but not his first nor the SALMON'S first. It was Gene McKinney's last patrol in the SALMON, as a matter of fact. We had one other encounter when we fired some torpedoes, but we were not depth-charged. I never quite understood that and still don't.

Donald R. Lennon:

What were you firing at?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

I don't know. They said it was some type of warship. I don't think they made any hits although they may have. I was so new and such a greenhorn on that first patrol that I was doing my best just to learn how to surface the boat. To show what a greenhorn I was, I was told to surface the boat one evening and I got the angle of the boat backwards so that it came up stern first instead of bow first. When they opened the conning tower hatch, Captain McKinney was thoroughly doused. He came down and gave me hell! Gene McKinney was an unusual commanding officer in that he could be a stern disciplinarian on things of that type, but he always left you laughing about it. You knew you had done something wrong, but at the same time he was chewing your butt out for being so darn dumb, he had a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. You knew he wasn't being that serious, but you weren't going to do it again.

Donald R. Lennon:

If you repeated it, then he would be serious.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

That's correct.

Donald R. Lennon:

After that patrol you went to San Francisco for repairs.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Yes, we went to San Francisco for an overhaul and general refitting of the boat. Gene McKinney took the boat back to Pearl Harbor before he was relieved.

Donald R. Lennon:

Who replaced him?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Nick Nicholas replaced him and Kent Nauman came after him.

Donald R. Lennon:

Your second patrol was out of Pearl?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

We got into the pattern then. We would leave from Pearl, top off fuel at Midway, go on out to the patrol area, come back to Midway, refit there, go on out to the area again, and then go on back to Pearl.

Donald R. Lennon:

Your patrol area on the second patrol, was that still in the area off of Manila or had that changed?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

We changed to the central Pacific. We were no longer under Admiral Lockwood in the Southwest Pacific Submarines. We were under the Pearl Harbor jurisdiction then. We covered the Japanese Empire itself--the east coast of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk. I'm not quite sure of the sequence, but as I recall, our first war patrol was off Tokyo. Then we made two patrols in the Sea of Okhotsk, one of which was distinguished by the fact that we could see that our torpedoes didn't function. In that set of pictures that I gave you, you can see that the torpedoes didn't function. There's one frame that shows the torpedo jumping vertically up the side of the ship. You can see it suspended in mid-air.

We also received about that time, a bathythermograph. The bathythermograph read the temperature gradients of the outside sea water. If you had a sharp temperature change, it formed a layer and all the sonar beams would deflect against it just like a stone skipping across a pond. The submarines doted on those because if you could get below one, the



searching destroyers up above couldn't find you. This was a great improvement and benefit. In fact, in some ways, the bathythermograph was a technical invention of greater significance to the survival of submarines than radar was.

Bordering the Sea of Okhotsk on the east are the Kuril Islands, a chain of active volcanic islands. Those volcanoes produced underwater strata of different temperatures. These caused some hazardous experiences for us. We would be cruising along at periscope depth, in all innocence, when suddenly, we would run into a gradient and drop two hundred feet in no time at all! We'd blow ballast and speed up to keep the boat from going down too far too fast. The reverse, which was more dangerous, was equally true. We would be going from hot to cold, when the next thing we knew we'd be on the surface trying to get underneath. If there had been anybody around there during those times, they would have seen us in a hurry.

Donald R. Lennon:

The problem of dud torpedoes was one that caused great frustration to submariners early in the war. Are there any comments on that? I know that all of you faced uncertainty whenever you fired a torpedo as to whether it was going to fire or not.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

There were two technical problems with the torpedoes. Then there was a third problem: Nobody knew what the hell was causing those problems! That was very frustrating. They knew, at the outset, that the older Mark-10 torpedoes used on the S-boats worked beautifully. There were no problems with them. But no one could explain why the Mark-14's wouldn't do the same thing, because they were something of a copy. They were just bigger and better fish. The Mark-14 exploder, however, had two features that created havoc until they were found and corrected. One feature was the magnetic detonator. If you ran the torpedo deep underneath the keel of the ship, the magnetic field of the ship was



supposed to react with the detonator, causing it to explode the warhead. But this was a "sometime" thing. It worked sometimes and sometimes it didn't work. The second feature involved going back to the more standard practice of hitting the ship with the torpedo so that it would explode. To explode the warhead, we had a spring-loaded cap with two pins on it that upon contact, was released to hit and detonate two primers. But it had to travel maybe an inch and a half or two inches in a tube, between its release point and its impact point. What was happening in the Mark-14 was that when it hit at a right angle, or ten or fifteen degrees on either side of a right angle, the warhead was crushing the tube around the cap faster than the two firing pins could reach the detonators, thus producing duds.

ComSubPac didn't know what was causing the duds. They knew that the magnetic field part was unpredictable and ordered it deactivated. They thought if they hit at right angles on direct impact that that would cause the Mark-14's to explode, but they didn't. Then they found from boats that had used a 120-degree track, which made the torpedo hit at an oblique angle, that there was a fairly reliable performance in detonation. But to use that kind of a track angle was a relatively high-risk shot in terms of the hit probability. This gave ComSubPac something of a clue; if they could shoot from an angle other than a direct impact of ninety degrees, the probability of an explosion was greater.

When we got back with our pictures to Pearl Harbor, Admiral Lockwood, who had been detached from the southwest Pacific and was now ComSubPac, rigged up an experimental track at the submarine base in the Navy yard at Pearl Harbor. The seventy-five-foot track had runners, so dummy warheads with regular exploders in them could be released at different angles onto cement at the bottom, thus replicating what was happening at sea. This is how they finally found out what was happening: the exploder mechanism



was crushing before the pins could reach the percussion cap to set it off.

Donald R. Lennon:

That's interesting. I'd never heard of that before.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

This was in Pearl Harbor itself. I believe that it was during the mid part of 1943 because the problem was not solved in 1942. We made one patrol and came back and then made another. It had to be close to 1944 because our first war patrol out of Pearl was, as I recall, to Sofu Gan, off Tokyo Bay. Then we came back and I think it was the first one out of Pearl that went out to the Sea of Okhotsk. So our first patrol in the Sea of Okhotsk in mid 1943 was when we got those pictures, and they led to finding out about the torpedo problem. I distinctly remember coming back and the division commander having me in for a considerable interrogation. Those were the first real pictures they'd had and they were trying everything possible to replicate what happened.

Donald R. Lennon:

How did you rig cameras in order to get the pictures?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

They were taken right through the periscope. It was nothing. Later on, in 1944, when we did a couple of reconnaissance patrols, we had specially trained photographers from the intelligence service come aboard to take pictures. In those first ones, however, we just took our own. We had a camera on board and we would just put it to the periscope and go "click." They weren't the best quality.

Donald R. Lennon:

They served the purpose though.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

They certainly did.

Donald R. Lennon:

Let's talk a little about the war patrols. What happened on your patrols out of Pearl?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

The first one out of Pearl was not particularly adventuresome at all. As I recall, it was rather routine and dull. I don't think we saw anything much. We had a fuss between



the exec and the captain about chasing a Japanese task force. Lyle Strickler, the exec, wanted to get in and start shooting, but the captain, Nick Nicholas, just wanted to report the presence of the task force, making sure we got the radio contact messages off first. The result of that was that we didn't get into any shooting position at all. Lyle was out of sorts about it.

On our second patrol, our first in the Sea of Okhotsk, we had a new exec. Lyle Strickler had been detached and sent to new construction. (Gene McKinney had been detached when we went to Mare Island for overhaul. He also went to new construction. He was replaced by Nick Nicholas.) Bob Fletcher (Class of 1938) was our new executive officer. Bob and the captain didn't enjoy the greatest of ease in each other's presence. "Gub-Gub" Fletcher did not have good vision at times and this really upset the captain, because one of the principle assignments of a watch officer was to be chief lookout on the bridge and be able to see anything. Fletcher made the unfortunate mistake one night of making an attack run on an island. That sort of settled his hash as the exec because Nick wasn't going to have him on board. He had Bob Fletcher relieved after one patrol as I remember.

Donald R. Lennon:

How did he mistake an island for a ship?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Off the east coast of Japan, there are a number of rocky pinnacles. They're just barren rocks protruding above the ocean surface but not too high. Shape wise, it was quite easy to visualize one of them as a ship with one part that could be seen while the other part was painted with camouflage. If your eyesight was not keen, you could do that. There was a way to be certain that what you were looking at was a ship. By using the periscope, you could plot his bearing to calculate his speed and course. If you came out with a speed of



zero and a course of zero, you knew darn well it was not a ship, because a ship is not going to be out there drifting around on the ocean. This was "Gub-Gub's" fatal mistake on that occasion. He just didn't check the course and speed or anything of that nature. I guess he was relieved and assigned to another submarine. I don't know. He is still alive. He's retired in St. Petersburg. That was the same patrol where we fired all those torpedoes into the hapless ship--the one we have the pictures of.

We also did some in-shore exploring off the northern coast of Hokkaido. We could see the trains go by. It remained, after we reported it, for a later boat to put a landing party ashore and blow up the tracks and the train. We didn't do that particular adventure, but I believe we probably set the stage for it by reporting the proximity of the tracks to the shore and the fact that the shore wasn't too difficult to make a landing on and off of.

Donald R. Lennon:

You would have had to have carried a special contingent of SeaBees along to have pulled off that, would you not? Or did you have personnel aboard to do that type of an adventure?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

I believe that when they decided they were going to try it, they went through some special training routines. They provided some special inflatable landing craft that they could paddle around on and trained a crew to do it. We did not attempt it because we did not have any of those on board. I guess we were just reporting the facts of what was going on. The trains had a periodic schedule. We knew when they were coming and they were obviously carrying a lot of war goods. We thought that if they could blow up a train and put the track out of commission for a number of months, it would just slow up the Japanese effort that much more.

Donald R. Lennon:

I was thinking that you wouldn't normally be carrying personnel on board that



would have those qualifications.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Our second patrol in the Sea of Okhotsk was uneventful, really. I don't recall anything of great significance. I guess the singular thing we noted in the second patrol was the passage of Russian ships with their lights on and the captain's concern that he didn't want to blow up a Russian ship. We had to be very careful in identifying what went by. We saw a half dozen ships, lots of them, but none we could shoot at.

Donald R. Lennon:

Was it normal for the Russian ships to be running with their lights on?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

They did it on purpose there.

Donald R. Lennon:

It was safer?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

It was safer for them. Anything with their lights off was fair game. I don't recall that any Russian ships were sunk. One hapless sub commander sank a Japanese hospital ship. He got himself in trouble that way.

It seems to me that the second patrol in the Sea of Okhotsk was a winding down of our combat patrol activity, shifting us over more to semi-combat and reconnaissance. The SALMON was one of the oldest in the Fleet. It's engines were unreliable and the stuffing boxes at the bottom were always blowing out. We had the HOR double-acting engines; they were the least reliable main engines in the Fleet submarines. There were three engines basically: the General Motors V-16 Winton engine; the Fairbanks Morse nine-cylinder opposed-piston engine; and the Hoover-Owens-Rentschler engine, the double-acting engine, which is what the SALMON had. The SALMON was one of the few boats that had two direct-drive engines coupled to the propellers when on-line and two engine-driven generators that either provided electricity for propulsion motors or charged the battery. (The latter day boats all had four engines with diesel-electric going into motors on the shaft.)



That meant that we had two engines working through a reduction gear. It made a hell of a lot of noise. It just wasn't that flexible. She was an older boat, and they were withdrawing some of them to do the reconnaissance work for the Fleet landings. One of our assignments was Ulithi. We did a whole series of pictures all around the beaches of Ulithi to establish where the best beachheads were and what the frogmen would have to do in order to clean the beaches for landings.

Donald R. Lennon:

That's when you brought the professional photographers on board to handle the photography work?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Exactly. I think we got into a fight on that patrol with a Japanese supply convoy. As I remember, there were two or three ships that came into the harbor, and we tried to get in and fire at night. I wanted the captain to put the stern to them, not the bow, and fire about four or five electric torpedoes at the patrol craft. I said, "Captain, if you can knock him out, you don't have an enemy. Then you can fire the big torpedoes across the reef. If one of them blows up on the reef, that's okay, because without their escort vessel they can't get out as long as we stay on here."

"No," he didn't want to do that; he wanted to fire head on. He did and the torpedoes blew up on the reef. We couldn't do anything because their escort ship then kept us down, so the convoy ship got away. That to me was unfortunate.

By this time, in terms of time on that ship, I was a senior officer. Our new exec after Fletcher was Dick Laning, of the Class of 1940. When Dick came aboard, even though he was the executive officer, he was a junior officer on watch with me on the first patrol. I knew its characteristics more than the others did by then because I had been there the longest.



On one of our patrols we were off of Ulithi on a reconnaissance mission. We were trying to get close to shore. I'm not sure what happened because I was asleep when it happened, but the ship became trapped in a coral canyon, with the bow pointed at an island. The walls of coral were on either side and they didn't know quite how to get out. I guess Ken Nauman was our captain at that time. He sent for me and said, "Lou, can you get this thing out of here?" That attests to the fact that I was the best ship handler on the boat.

I said, "I think I can, Captain." I had to juggle the ballast in the boat. I knew I had to have enough to float but not to surface, because they had airplanes above us. Then the trick was to back out of the coral canyon while submerged. That was a pretty tricky operation. A submerged submarine is not designed for backing up. We had to back out about two or three miles to get out of that canyon without blowing the ballasts enough to make us surface so the planes could get us. We succeeded. We backed out, and as the water got deeper, I went deeper with the boat to make the job of finding us more difficult. When you back it out that way, you have to be careful with the propellers, too, because at sixty feet, you can kick up a swirl that will get to the surface. Or if you get bottom debris and swirl it up to the surface, the planes can catch you, too.

Donald R. Lennon:

Did they know you were out there?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

They knew we were around because of the convoy. They knew there was a submarine in the area, yes. But they didn't find us. We resolved that one to our credit, thank goodness. That was quite an adventure, backing out of there.

Donald R. Lennon:

I can imagine! Was that the last of the war patrols on the SALMON?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Yes. After the reconnaissance patrols, the SALMON was sent to Mare Island for new engines. The Navy had had nothing but disappointments and failures with the HOR



engines. They reached the conclusion that the only way to handle that was to junk them in all the submarines fitted with them. So they sent the SALMON back to Mare Island for new engines.

Donald R. Lennon:

Was this in 1944?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

This was mid 1944. I think we got there in June of 1944. She went to Mare Island to get new engines and I was detached and sent to San Diego to be the commanding officer of the USS S-18, which was at the West Coast Sound School, training the anti-submarine forces of the Fleet. That's where I got my tail in a crack with the Navy.

Donald R. Lennon:

I want you to give us all the details of that. Once you were aboard the S-18, did you take her out to the Pacific or to Pearl?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

No, the S-18 was assigned to the West Coast Sound School in San Diego as a training submarine for anti-submarine surface forces. It was a training assignment; it was used also by ComSubPac to give junior officers like me, a year in command of a submarine before sending us out on war assignment.

Donald R. Lennon:

You had just taken over as C.O. of the S-18.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

The SS 123 was a gallant ship, but ancient. We had Gordon Campbell of the Class of 1926 as the squadron commander and Bud Gruner was the operations officer. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It was a lot of fun being the commanding officer. I knew some things that I think the squadron commander didn't know. Gordon Campbell was a very pleasant, competent officer who had never made a war patrol. He had never been out to Pearl to see what it was like at the front. He adhered, basically, to the rules and regulations of a peacetime Navy. One of the activities receiving priority in the Fleet at the time I took command was the development of wolf-pack tactics. The submarines at the time had



nothing but four-inch breech-loaded-by-hand guns. They had no automatic weapons that they could use against small surface craft like fishing boats and things of that type. They could bring up a light thirty-caliber machine gun but that wasn't very helpful, particularly with some of the trawler boats that could field heavier artillery than a thirty-caliber machine gun.

My first problem with Gordon Campbell was when I inquired around and found a forty-millimeter gun for our submarine. I knew if I asked permission, it would take two or three years before we could do anything, so one Saturday--I guess he was off for the weekend--I had them lift off the four-inch gun and put down the forty-millimeter gun. We were alongside the base in San Diego. I didn't ask anybody's permission.

Donald R. Lennon:

It sounds like your father.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

We had a forty-millimeter gun when the squadron commander came back, but he didn't know it. He didn't go aboard the boats that often. We started requisitioning forty-millimeter ammunition, and I told ComPacSub what I had done. ComPacSub wrote the squadron commander a letter of encouragement for my doing this. At Pearl, the staff was as pleased as punch that they could get some experimental work done on this weapon.

Well, this didn't set too well with Captain Campbell. I can see why he would possibly have been a little unhappy. For one thing, I don't think he understood the value of a forty-millimeter gun over a breech-loading four-inch gun. The four-inch gun was bigger with a lot more caliber; therefore, he liked the big gun. However, what was needed was an automatic weapon that could really pump out the stuff at both surface ships and at aircraft, if you were unfortunate enough to be caught on the surface and needed protection like that.

My next run-in with Gordon Campbell came when we were doing some training



exercises. Peacetime operating procedure was that you fired one exercise torpedo, period. But for Fleet training in patrol situations, you fired spreads. If you are training officers to go out for combat duty, you want them to see how it really is; so I fired a spread. The result of my firing the spread was that the recovery vessel missed one of the torpedoes. Then they had to do the usual paperwork to explain the loss of the torpedo. He didn't like that at all.

He said, "You shouldn't be firing spreads. You're supposed to fire one, and the recovery vessel gets that one unless there's something wrong."

I said, "Captain, how can you train officers to fire spreads out there, if you can't train them here?"

He said, "Well, you don't have to know that."

Donald R. Lennon:

How did he become a squadron commander, never having been in a battle situation?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Primarily because at the outset of the war, he was a trained qualified submarine officer, a senior one, doing duty in Washington. When they needed someone at the West Coast Sound School to run a training squadron, they didn't want to take their good operating commanders and put them in a post without any exposure. He fitted that slot, from their perspective, ideally, because he didn't pull from the outward forces.

Donald R. Lennon:

He still couldn't train in a combat situation when he had never been in one.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Precisely. He did not perceive what submarine combat needs were. But, you also have to give his side of it. Some of the submarine training was secondary to the mission that he had at the West Coast Sound School, which was to provide submarines for anti-submarine warfare training. The submarine training was subordinate to the needs of the



surface fleet, which was to be trained in anti-submarine warfare. I had no problem with that priority. It was there and its purpose was to train the surface forces in anti-submarine warfare. But it also had with it a priority objective of training prospective commanding officers and prospective executive officers for the Fleet boats, and that's why we were sent there. It was something of an honor to be selected (I was only twenty-five years old) to be a commanding officer of a submarine and to know that they were ready to have you in the Fleet when your year was up. It was a one-year assignment and you knew then that you had been marked to get a command fairly quickly, which is what everyone was looking for.

I took a couple of risks. I got the forty-millimeter gun. That was fine, and because ComSubPac was delighted, that sort of blunted my run-in problem with Gordon Campbell. As for firing the spreads, he was perplexed as to why you wouldn't just fire one torpedo. I said, "How do you know if it's going to hit? You get one, but if you're bracketing the ship and you get two torpedoes in it, you know she's going to go down." He said, "Well, we can't afford to do that." I said, "Why can't you? I thought this was a time of war and that the cost of a torpedo now and again was minimal compared to the increased accuracy and the probability of hits from good training."

Donald R. Lennon:

Losing a ten-thousand-dollar torpedo as opposed to a ten-million-dollar ship!

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

He wasn't very happy with me for that one. I guess I decided that I would have to abide by the orders and fire only one torpedo from time to time. I guess he limited the amount of training we could do with the torpedoes because of it. He wanted to concentrate primarily on his objective of training the surface ships in anti-submarine warfare.

My next run-in with Gordon Campbell came with the target practice. I was having trouble getting that forty-millimeter gun to fire continuously without jamming. The gun



that came aboard was not designed for submerged operations. It had steel parts and springs, which meant that we had to keep it coated with heavy grease to make sure it would be operable. We would go out and fire a hundred rounds and he couldn't understand why you had to fire that much. He said, "You just fire one or two shots, that's all you need to do!" I tried to explain to the commodore that this was an automatic weapon and its reliability as an automatic weapon was what was at stake here. We were trying to establish it.

About that time, I met Ned Corbett(?), who was a friend of Emily's family. He lived in Palo Alto and was a mining engineer. He was in his sixties, I believe. I'm not sure how the conversation originated, but I was talking to him one evening about the problem with these springs and how they would stick and how the gun would jam. He said, "Why don't you recommend to the bureau that they replace the springs and the exposed parts with beryllium copper?" I did. I don't know how I got it through, but it was routed through to the Bureau of Ordnance. They came back with another letter of commendation but said that they would prefer phosphor bronze to beryllium copper because of the costs. The Navy was much more familiar with phosphor bronze than beryllium copper. Beryllium copper is the better metal, yes, but it's the more costly one. I got the ideal technical solution from Ned Corbett(?) and the substitute phosphor bronze was fine.

This upset Gordon Campbell, because again, here was this junior lieutenant commanding one of his ships and getting all this attention and being an upstart. He wasn't quite sure how to handle it. He didn't know what to say because he was beginning to hear from ComSubPac that they were quite pleased with the S-18's report on getting the forty-millimeter to work and not jam.

There were two problems with the gun. If the gun jammed, it couldn't shoot. The



second thing was if it had been shooting a lot, you could have a cook-off in the barrel, and then you wouldn't have a gun. We had those two problems that we were looking at. We were worried about the cook-off problem quite a bit. We were starting to make some progress.

It was about this time that I was supposed to receive the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. Nick Nicholas had recommended me for it for one of our patrols out into Central Pacific. It was when Jim Woodling and I went down into the negative tank, which had broken its actuating arm, and retrieved the arm while at sea. We had to go down into the tank and pull it back up into the boat to get it fixed. We put a sleeve around it for certainty and went back down and put it on. The whole time we were doing this we were in the war zone and in danger of attack; and if they had needed to submerge, we'd have been submerged right down into the bottom of the boat. For that, I was to receive the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. There were two others in the squadron who were going to be decorated also. This got Gordon a little unhappy, because here was his upstart being decorated, and to do the decorating, they got Admiral Wilhelm Lee Freidell, Commandant of the Naval District. He had been a submarine officer in his day and was a classmate of my father. I think the commodore was a little uncomfortable about this. (I believe you have a picture of the ceremony that I sent you. It came off and worked out fine.)

I think the next unhappy event was that we had a problem with one of the tanks in the S-18. It flooded unexpectedly and uncontrollably. I wasn't sure that the boat was going to be continually sea-worthy and neither was the executive officer. We were concerned about it. The S-18 (SS 123) was obviously an old ship. There was some concern about it, so the commodore reluctantly requested a Board of Inspection and Survey. We had the



Board of Inspection and Survey come aboard. (I believe you have the papers on that, so that's easily established.) In retrospect, the captain of the Board made the unfortunate comment, in the presence of Gordon Campbell, whereby he said, "Well, what the hell is going on around here? The only person who seems to know what he's doing is Lieutenant Davis." And o-o-oh, that didn't go over worth a darn! Out of the Board of Inspection and Survey, I was given a pretty good report as to what had happened. The Board suggested that probably the ship should be withdrawn from service as soon as it could be released from these duties. The commodore didn't like that at all. He said that I didn't know how to distinguish fact from fantasy, and he gave me an unsatisfactory fitness report. I think he asked ComSubPac to relieve me and send me back out to Pearl. I could see that that fitness report wasn't going to help me in the Navy.

I was sent back out to Guam as a prospective commanding officer but this thing was still rattling around in Washington and drew an investigation in Washington. They decided that it wasn't the problem that I had with the gun or the Board of Inspection and Survey, it was just a disagreement over discipline between a captain and a lieutenant. On the basis of maintaining discipline, the captain had to be right and the lieutenant didn't get a hearing.

Donald R. Lennon:

What was Campbell's basis for the unfavorable fitness report? What did he claim were your deficiencies?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

The words that were indelibly engraved were, "If Lieutenant Davis were able to distinguish fact from fantasy, he would make a highly competent Naval officer."

Donald R. Lennon:

He didn't specify what the "fantasy" was supposed to be?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

He didn't specify what the "fantasy" was supposed to be, but that went in as an unsatisfactory fitness report when I was in command. And that's it! I was out in Guam for



something like a month, to be a prospective executive officer, I guess. I almost got on the boat with Guy O'Neil, but Guy, who had been on the SALMON with me earlier under Gene McKinney, filled it with someone from his own crew. He had someone already there who was qualified, so he did it that way.

Because of this thing in Washington with Gordon Campbell saying that I was not qualified to lead, BuPers sent me back to the West Coast Sound School for anti-submarine warfare training and to go into the surface forces. About the time I got there, the war ended. There was no reason for me to stay on then, so I went down to the Naval District to see Captain Lassing, who was another friend of my father's. He was a classmate of my Dad's. Squire Lassing called my Dad and talked to him a bit and them Squire drafted a letter of resignation for me. That sort of drifted around Washington for six months or so while he tried to change things for me. Randall Jacobs, chief of BuPers, got in it. He wanted to get the fitness report withdrawn if possible, as I understand the story. I gather that Gordon Campbell must have been adament about having none of it. The captain in BuPers who was directly responsible for reviewing the matter told me it was just a question of discipline between a captain and a lieutenant. All the rest was peripheral. James Forrestal signed the letter accepting my resignation. But it took quite a bit of correspondence back and forth with the department before it was accepted.

To me, then and now, there really wasn't much choice. Once you get something like that fitness report on your record, it hurts you in two ways. One, it hurts you in the assignments you get in the future. You never get a particularly responsible assignment. The second way it hurts is that it's there each time you come up before a selection board, and selection boards are basically not in the business of selecting the most able people; they are



more in the business of selecting the least controversial people. The nature of a selection board makes it that way.

Donald R. Lennon:

Before the final issue on the seaworthiness of S-18, were you and Campbell on normal speaking terms, or had the relationship between you two deteriorated to the point that he was not very cordial in your contacts with him?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Gordon Campbell was a competent officer, but his views, to me, were outdated. I don't know that I particularly had any personal problems in talking to him and discussing things with him other than that I was careful. And, I think he was careful. Lots of things that I wanted to communicate to him, I did through Bud Gruner, the squadron operations officer. He and I talked the same language.

Donald R. Lennon:

No camaraderie developed between the two of you at all at any time?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

No. We had a lot of respect for each other but we didn't have any camaraderie, not like I had enjoyed with Gene McKinney and some of the senior division commanders and squadron commanders at Pearl Harbor. No. I think the fact that I perceived submarine training as a highly important task, as much as the surface force training, was the major factor. The submarines were contributing a hell of a lot to the country's success at war. The more they could contribute, the better it was, and the better the tools they had to do it with, so much the better. I think what really upset Gordon Campbell were the comments of the Board of Inspection and Survey: "The only one who seems to know what he's doing around here is Lieutenant Davis." That upset him. I can see why it would. I guess that's the essence of it.

Donald R. Lennon:

After you resigned, you went into a career in the oil business.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

I was with Exxon for fourteen years or so. I spent ten of those fourteen in the



refinery.

Donald R. Lennon:

As an engineer or in what capacity?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

As an engineer in the refinery in Linden, New Jersey. During the time I was there, I went to law school at Rutgers at night. I passed the bar in the state of New York and was admitted to the New York bar. Then I was transferred by Exxon to the International Petroleum Company.

I was sent to Lima, Peru. Each year the Navy would sent a tactical training force down to work with the Peruvian Navy, particularly in anti-submarine warfare. As luck would have it my brother George came down on two of those occasions, so we got to go to sea. When I say "we" I mean that Emily went with me. She served as an example, going across on the highline from a destroyer to one of the submarines, because the Peruvian wives were reluctant to do so. Once Emily did it, it broke the ice and then the Peruvian officers' wives couldn't wait to do it.

The RANGER came in one time with Heber Badger, Leon Grabowsky, and Don Quigley on board. That was a good visit. I took them up the Andes in a little Volkswagon and Heber said, "This is the first time I've been above ten thousand feet without oxygen!" It was a lot of fun being there. It was quite an education to be in Peru. It's a fascinating country. It has contributed a great deal to our civilization that few people realize. Indigenous vegetables from Peru, like potatoes and corn and several others, transformed the eating habits of all Europe. Their origin was Peru. Some of the history of the Incas is extremely interesting.

Donald R. Lennon:

A fascinating civilization.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

That's exactly so. From there I went to the American Machine and Foundry Co. in



New York and that lasted about a year. Then I was senior international counsel for Abbott Laboratories for three years or so. Then I went to Ralston Purina as the General Manager of their Far East Operations and as the president for Ralston Purina Eastern, which was based in Hong Kong. We had import/export operations there. We had manufacturing operations in South Korea and Japan. We had other manufacturing operations in Australia and Thailand. That kept me busy going on the airplane curcuit.

Donald R. Lennon:

I never think of Ralston Purina as being in the Far East like that. Were they manufacturing primarily cereal or animal feed?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Our primary products were animal feeds. There is a desperate need in those populations for protein. They had no modern-day good animal feeds for poultry, swine, or dairy animals. Korea was essentially getting started with chickens and then was to graduate to swine and then up the scale a little more to dairy and beef production. The same holds true for Hong Kong, with the emphasis on chicken and swine, because the Chinese weren't that interested in beef. In Bangkok, the story repeats itself.

In Australia and Japan, however, we were on the consumer product side. Japan was primarily getting dog food into the Japanese market, and we were trying to get fish food in, too. But the Japanese made doggone sure that we never got permission. Fish farming is a big business in Japan. They just weren't going to have any gaijuns (Japanese for foreigners) manufacturing fish food. They were going to keep that for themselves. In Australia, the emphasis was on dog food and breakfast cereals. Our operations were a blend of consumer products and farm products, with the major volume and manufacturing in farm products.

Donald R. Lennon:

You certainly had a varied and fascinating career after you left the Navy.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Oh, it's been a lot of fun! Yes.



Donald R. Lennon:

You've gone from petroleum to pharmaceuticals to farm products.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Now I do computer consulting work for Sarasota County. We're doing a couple of programs right now. The one they have me starting on next week is to computerize the tax rolls of the county. They just need to get it automated properly so they can make sure they have adequate records of all the county taxpayers. D.B.S. Associates, which is a company that we've started (I have two colleagues), is going to be automating the building and zoning department of the county. We have enough to keep us out of mischief. We tell the county that we're not working more than fifteen to twenty hours a week.

Donald R. Lennon:

Do you have any other thoughts in regard to your military career?

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

I'm not sure how I should interpret the question.

Donald R. Lennon:

Are there any other incidents or reminiscences of events that we have overlooked? Are there any anecdotes or sea stories as most of you refer to them as being.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

Yes, there is another one that definitely should be recorded. We were on patrol in the South China Sea, and I think we were close to the island of Yap. Nick Nicholas was still the commanding officer. Nick was a man of short stature. He probably just made the minimum height requirements on the physical to get in the Academy. He was a very small fellow. We had as our chief quartermaster, George Waldo. George was a big man, a good six feet six inches. He was not heavy, but big and strong. I was in the conning tower, and, as I recall, we were getting ready to surface. The conning tower was dark. I think I had on the red glasses to make sure my eyes were adjusted to the light at the time of surfacing to be sure I could see anything and everything around us. We were getting ready to go up and I was about to sound the alarm when a shadow appeared on the ladder coming from the control room below up to the conning tower. Waldo, the chief quartermaster said, "Who the



hell is coming up here?" He reached down with one hand and pulled this guy up to eye level by the scruff of the neck. He took one look and said, "My God, it's the Captain!" He dropped him. Nick went splat down onto the control room deck. If you don't think that didn't travel through the boat in one hell of a hurry! Waldo was cowering in the corner of the conning tower. He said, "Is he going to shoot me, Lieutenant?" He said, "Help me, Mr. Davis!"

George Waldo is still with us. He came through three or four months ago. If you come across him, you can get the story from him, too. That's an outstanding remininscence. Dick Laning, who was the exec, now lives in Orlando and he could tell you more about it, too.

Donald R. Lennon:

Unless you can think of anything else, I'm about out of questions.

Louis Poisson Davis, Jr.:

I don't know of any big things. There are a lot of little things that you can think about here and there along the way, but I think we've covered all the necessary bases.

[End of Interview]

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