CUMBERLAND — A few days before the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy invasion, Charles Davidson, stepfather of former city resident Norma Schade Eckard, sat down to reflect on his remembrances, military medals spread on the table before them.
Little discussion occurred about heroic events, just the usual comment from his generation that “We did what was needed.”
Davidson was in the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment that landed at Utah Beach on June 6, 1944. He commented that the landing was not as violent as the landing on Omaha Beach.
Later, as his regiment moved inland, he became involved in “one of the longest, bloodiest and least-publicized battles of World War II, fought in the dense fir trees along the German-Belgian border called Hurtgen Forest. Thirty thousand Americans were killed or wounded in the six months of fighting that began in September 1944 and lasted far into the winter. An estimated 12,000 Germans were killed,” according to the Jan. 1, 1945, edition of Life Magazine.
Ernest Hemingway, who covered the battle for Collier’s magazine, wrote, “Whoever survived the Hurtgen battle must have had a guardian angel on each of his shoulders.”
The enemy shot into the huge trees causing tree bursts that rained down not only steel shrapnel but wood splinters on the U.S. military.
It was in the Hurtgen Forest that Davidson received the wound that sent him first to an English hospital and then home. Doctors referred to his wound as “a milliondollar wound,” meaning the war was over for him and he was going home. He was wounded by shrapnel, rendering his left wrist unusable, but he later regained use of his wrist.
Davidson was awarded a Purple Heart.
Eckard, a resident of Caswell Beach, N.C., is the historian for the Brunswick Town Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.