Who Says There’s No Humor in War Time
By Tom Morrow
The late Murray Davison of Carlsbad, who passed away in 2005, recalled for me his days back during World War II, when he was a special services musician with the 9th U.S. Army Air Corps in North Africa. His first “gig” was Cairo, Egypt in November 1942, when his band performed for members of the Air Corps and units of the British 8th Army.
But it was when he became a front-line entertainer, following the British army west after Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery won the first major victory against the “Desert Fox,” Germany’s Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps that Davison proved being in the band meant more to the war effort than just playing music and entertaining the troops.
“We took basic training and learned how to fight just like regular soldiers,” he recalled.
After the fall of Tunis in June 1943, Davison’s 17-member orchestra traveled across North Africa in a small convoy consisting of two command cars, a jeep and a 2 1/2-ton truck.
“I was driving the lead vehicle, a command car, down this lonely road surrounded by sand dunes in the middle of the desert when suddenly we came upon a heavily-armed force of 300 Italian soldiers,” Davison said with vivid recollection.
“We all thought we were dead — we were scared to death, but then we spotted a white flag.”
Murray said the Italians were all on foot, except for a small Fiat sports car that a couple of the officers were driving.
“They gave us the Fiat and an Italian major handed over his Beretta automatic pistol to me, which I still have,” said Davison. “Those guys were starving. We fed them all our rations and then we headed for the nearest British Army base.
When the Americans showed up at the front gate of the British Army installation with 300 enemy prisoners, the British colonel in charge couldn’t believe his eyes.
“The Italians had been deserted by the Germans. The eye-ties hated the Germans for having been treated with contempt by their supposed ally,” Davison explained. “They told us they were more than delighted to be ‘captured’ by the Americans.”
Davison said he and the band got a unit citation for the “capture” of the 300 Italians.
“No kidding. We were written up in Yank magazine, as well as Stars & Stripes newspaper,” he laughed.
And, to think, the enemy surrendered to Davison’s band without first hearing them play.
Anyone who has been in the military service knows there are plenty of laughs, and some at times when you least expect them.
Many times watching an old war movies, especially such as “Band of Brothers,” and “The Pacific,” you’ll hear these two throughout both television miniseries.
WHO WAS KILROY? – During the war years and at lease a decade afterwards, you could find the phrase “Kilroy Was Here” everywhere flat enough to hold a scribble. But, who was Kilroy. There were all sorts of conclusions, but the most commonly accepted explanation is as follows.
During World War II, at shipyards there was a goodly amount of sabotage by workers. Most commonly were welding beads improperly or poorly done. After the problem was identified, inspectors would follow up on competed work to see that it was properly done. One such inspector reportedly would leave his mark: “Kilroy Was Here,” letting welders know their work was being watched and inspected. As a result, many were fired. Soon, all of the shipyards had their own ‘Kilroy’ inspector. The sabotage dissipated, but the slogan appeared everywhere into the fifties, particularly public restroom walls. He was all over the place.
WELCOME – During World War II, a Royal Air Force fighter pilot bailed out of his burning Hurricane and landed in an open field in Normandy, France. The pilot was having trouble pulling down his parachute, which was caught by the wind. A German soldier with a rifle came up, helped the Brit get his ‘chute under control, then, greeted him in perfect English: “Welcome to France; don’t drink the water!”