Honoring her father: Redwood Falls daughter shares story of World War II veteran

Troy Krause
Bill Davis (left) at Berchtesgaden. The soldiers were allowed to take items from there when they left.

Chris Belkstrom of Redwood Falls is extremely proud of her dad, Bill Davis.

Calling him part of what is known as the Greatest Generation, Belkstrom shared the story of her father, a World War II veteran who was a member of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne.

Earlier this year when this reporter put out a call for information about veterans who served during World War II Belkstrom was quick to respond with several e-mails sharing everything from photos and memories to a letter he wrote to the local paper while he was still in Europe.

Bill Davis was born in 1924 and grew up in St. Paul. He passed away in 2015. 

According to Belkstrom, her dad enlisted in the Army when he was 18.

“He fought with the 101st in the Battle of Bastogne (Battle of the Bulge) and survived living in a foxhole for eight days on nothing but a fruitcake he had found. For the rest of his life, he always loved fruitcake," Belkstrom explained. "The movie, Saving Private Ryan, was about his exact division. When we went to the movie, after he saw the insignia on Tom Hanks’ character’s shoulder, he said, ‘That was my exact division.’"

As part of the 101st Airborne, his troops liberated two concentration camps as the war ended. They parachuted at night into Normandy on D-Day (13,100 troops), and fought the Germans.

Belkstrom added, “When the 101st Airborne captured Hitler’s Eagles Nest, along with a French division, the soldiers were told they could each take two items from the house. My dad got a large Nazi Flag, a large Nazi banner and Hitler’s leather scrapbook with “Berchtesgaden” engraved on the cover."

While watching the History Channel a few years ago, they confirmed the fact that the 101st were allowed to each take two items from the house.

“We visited Berchtesgaden a few years ago, and it’s amazing how the soldiers were able to hike up the mountain dodging bullets all the way," Belkstrom added.

In his April 30, 1945 letter to the Courier, Davis wrote, “About 22 years ago American Occupational Troops marched out of the last German town on their way home. There were many touching aspects to the scene – tearful goodbyes, firm handclasps and solemn declarations of lasting friendships made over glasses of good German beer. But the tears dried and a new generation grew up. In America, a generation taught to be sympathetic with the ‘plight’ of the German people – in Germany a generation schooled in hatred and intolerance. And, so a few years later “the friends of our fathers” and their children were, and are still, killing American men in a second world war.”

Davis was discharged, became a pilot after the war ended and was married as soon as he returned stateside.

“They had been pen pals ever since my mom sought cover from the rain at a circus game booth. It was there that she met my grandmother, who gave her my dad’s address to be a pen pal. His parents owned the circus, and he and my mother then joined his parents and other relatives with the circus,” added Belkstrom.