Lowell Davis is one of over 300 veterans with an Honor Banner on display in Downtown Rapid City.
At 93 years old, Davis still remembers fondly his time in the service, beginning with his training in the South Dakota State College ROTC.
“Well, I grew up in a ranch out of Lemmon, South Dakota. I was born on August 19, 1929. I went to South Dakota State College, at that time. People who weren’t veterans yet had to serve in the Reserve Officer Training Corps at a land grant college. This is 1947. The draft was in place, but that had nothing to do with that time for me,” said Davis.
When Davis graduated on June 4 of 1951, he was a second lieutenant. His first post was at Fort Benning, Georgia where he attended an ROTC class.
“When I graduated, I was what they call a distinguished military graduate and I was offered to go into the regular Army if I wanted to do that, and I accepted that,” said Davis.
Once Davis accepted the offer from the Army, he was required to remain in the service for a minimum of three years. He spent the first year in Benning, Georgia, and he was later assigned to the Third Infantry Division in Korea.
“There was one particular course that really prepared me more for combat than any other. There was one class, live ammunition, and I had the advantage of running that particular class for many, many months. And that really, really helped me when I got into combat,” said Davis.
Davis served in Korea from 1952 until November of 1953.
“I was awarded the Bronze Star and the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross and also the Purple Heart, and then Combat Infantry Badge,” said Davis.
Davis served at an especially active outpost in Korea, and he can still recall details of his time as a platoon leader during the war.
“We were on an outpost that was about two miles forward as a main line of resistance. So, we were very, very close to the Chinese lines. It was really the hot spot at that time in Korea, was this particular outpost. It was a mountain and was very, very rocky. You couldn’t even dig a foxhole it was so rocky. People would fill sandbags and they would build their bunkers above the ground. I was a platoon leader in the George company, G company, and as a platoon leader, you had three squads, infantry squads and a weapons squad. It was an area that the people to higher up echelon felt that it was a controlling terrain that between us and the Chinese.”
Davis was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross after a particularly harrowing attack during which he was knocked unconscious.
“That’s kind of a difficult one for me to talk about, but what had happened was that early on in a mortar fire, I was rendered unconscious. They thought at the time that it was from a concussion— we found out later on that it was from overhead shrapnel that hit the top of my steel helmet and had dented my steel helmet and that it had actually knocked me out. But what had happened after the information had come back to pull off the hill, the company commander took one of the platoon leaders and they left. And so, they left me in charge of the outpost. The lieutenant who thought I was with him was killed on the way out, and he got back to the line by himself. And then so we stayed until the second attack from the Chinese until later that night and morning. Well, what happened is, when I regained my consciousness, a machine gun had a direct hit and I had it upside down. And so, part of the crew was wounded, but they were not wounded that they couldn’t fight. And so, I had to turn the machine gun over and got it going again. And
then at that time, I started working with my other squads. I was the last one to leave along with another lieutenant, and he was wounded and so we were the last two that left the hill.”
Davis’s legacy and sacrifice is one example of many hometown heroes celebrated with an Honor Banner in Rapid City. For more information about the Veterans Honor Banner Project, visit their website here.