Ron Davies’ heritage is from across the Pond. His father was born in Bradford, a town in the northern part of England. He worked in a coal mine in Wales until his back was injured in a cave-in. After his back healed he worked for the railroad as a fireman on train engines. When World War I began, he joined the English Navy and eventually was captured and spent some time in a prison camp.
After the war, the family moved to America, living first in New York then moving to California. Ron was born in New York and six months later his family moved to Los Angeles. Ron had three brothers, all born in England, and Ron says, “I was the only American in the bunch!”
Ron served in the United States Army during the Korean War and he was pen pals with a girl back in England. In 1955, after the war, he traveled to England to marry Margaret and they would spend the next 30 years in a wonderful marriage.
When the Korean conflict broke out, Ron was a seventeen-year-old youngster in Los Angeles. He was still in high school but had joined the Army National Guard. In June of 1950 his unit was being moved to basic training at Camp Cooke, now Vandenberg Air Force base, and he was faced with a choice: finish high school, then go into the Army or go with his unit and finish high school when he was discharged. He decided to stay with his unit and prepare for active duty.
Following basic training Ron’s unit was transported to San Francisco, where they boarded a troop ship to Tokyo, Japan. From Tokyo, they boarded a train that took them to northern Japan to the city of Sasebo, Japan. It had only been a few years since the end of World War II and Japan was still occupied by American forces. Ron would spend nine months in Sasebo. He greatly enjoyed his time in Japan and became very familiar with the culture.
I asked Ron what the attitude toward the soldiers was in Japan, only five years after the end of World War II. He said that he remembers them to be friendly toward the Americans. One restriction that he remembers is that they were banned from eating in Japanese restaurants because it was learned that the farmers used human waste for fertilizer on vegetable crops.
On Christmas Eve 1951, Ron’s unit received orders to deploy to Korea. They moved to the west side of Japan and from there troop ships carried them to Incheon, South Korea. Then the real fun began. It was -25° F as they boarded the train that began their trek to Seoul, South Korea. The windows in the train were all broken out and the wooden seats were very hard, and they traveled under blackout conditions. From Seoul they boarded open air military trucks for a 2-hour ride through the mountains to the 38th Parallel. This is the dividing line between North and South Korea. Ron remembers, “Finally after 3 weeks we were allowed to take a shower.”
I asked Ron about the cold winter months. He was a convoy truck driver and he said, “There was a lot of ice and snow. Where the trucks were parked, the ice and snow would pile up around them overnight. In the mornings we had to get hammers to break the ice off the tires to get the trucks running. There was no heater and there was no top on the cab, so you had to scrape the ice off both sides of the windshield.”(So, all my Texan friends who complain loudly when it gets to 20°…!)
“We grew beards in the winter,” Ron says, “but in summertime it was all dirt roads and it was very dusty. So, you couldn’t have a beard in the summer because you had mud all over your face.”
Ron says that by the time they arrived the governments were beginning peace talks and hostilities were beginning to slow. The worst action that his company experienced was when two U.S. Navy jets dropped two 500-pound bombs on their unit. Obviously a “friendly fire” mistake, but Ron’s unit suffered their only injuries during their tour because of it.
Ron was a Staff Sergeant assigned to the Quartermaster Division of the 40th Infantry. They were stationed 10 miles behind the front lines. He drove many different vehicles, mostly 2 ½ ton trucks, delivering 55-gallon barrels of gasoline and many other supplies as well as fresh troops to the front-line forces. The return trip would be transporting refugees back to Seoul.
Refugees streamed across the border from the North, afraid and starving. Sergeant Ron Davies and his convoy would load the refugees aboard their trucks, along with a South Korean policeman and transport them to Seoul for vetting and processing. This would be grueling day and night driving.
When Ron returned home to California he finished high school and then graduated from college with a degree in mechanical engineering. He worked for Collins Radio, Hughes Aircraft and North American Rockwell and had top secret clearance because the companies that he worked for were all government contractors. He also worked on the Nasa Saturn project.
The last 20 years of his career were with Thermco (purchased later by Sunbeam) in Orange County, California. They manufactured industrial furnaces for Israel and China. Ron was involved in the manufacturing of the computer chips that powered these furnaces. He retired from this company in 1997, after almost 50 years in the industry.
Upon retirement Ron met and married a blind Japanese lady. He and Ruth were happily married for 10 years. Ron said, “She became blind as a teenager, and she never got to see me.” They met while Ron was a driver for The Foundation for the Blind in Los Angeles and Hollywood. He would pick up his passengers and take them to the activities that were planned.
Ron has two sons that he is very proud of. One lives in California, has four children and works for a company that seals cement surfaces in new building construction. The other lives in North Texas, has six step children and works for American Airlines. As we stated, Ron’s career has placed him behind the wheel of many vehicles and he isn’t finished yet. Once each year he drives solo to visit his son in California. “I drive straight through. It takes me 23 hours. I leave Friday morning and get there Saturday morning.” (I think driving is in his blood!)