THOMAS E. DAVIS« Back to Honorees
Growing up in the era of the draft, Thomas Davis always knew it was a possibility that he could be drafted into the infantry. That was not enough to fill his thrill-seeking nature though, so Davis decided to speak to a recruiter about joining the Army Airborne. However, before Davis could sign his papers, another recruiter talked him into taking a test for the Coast Guard. Davis scored extremely well on it, and soon after he was signing papers to join the Coast Guard.
Davis graduated from basic training in Cape May, New Jersey in April 1967 and was then assigned to the Coast Guard Training Center in Groton, Connecticut. After being selected for duty in Vietnam, he was sent to California where he received survival, escape, and resistance to interrogation (SEER) training from former POWs, and received advanced weapons training at Camp Pendleton. After only three days of jungle survival training in the Philippines, Davis was sent to Vietnam.
Davis was assigned to his first vessel, an 82-foot boat named The Point Comfort, on December 2, 1968. He and 11 other men would patrol the rivers and coast for 12 to 13 days at a time. According to Davis, they could sometimes go weeks without contact with anyone; however, some patrols were much more intense.
During one patrol, Davis and his crew encountered a very nervous mother, father, and three kids on board a boat with two Buddhist monks. Davis’ crew became suspicious of the group and decided to search them and the vessel. They determined that one of the Buddhist monks was a Vietcong soldier posing as a monk who had taken the family hostage in hopes of extorting the parents for money and putting the son into the Vietcong army.
On another patrol on August 29, 1969, Davis noticed a cable drawn across the river where his boat was traveling. He watched as the boat in front of them was ambushed. Despite the attack, the two boats were able to suppress the fire and move further up the river. However, on the way back the cable was again across the river and Davis’ boat was ambushed. Davis, who was on top of the boat, returned fire. Eventually one bullet made contact and blew up the gun that Davis was holding, knocking him flat on his back and injuring him. For this, Davis was awarded the Purple Heart.
Near the end of his tour in Vietnam, Davis became the American advisor on the Point Partridge when the U.S. transferred vessels to the Vietnamese Navy. Davis, the only American on the boat, served with 14 Vietnamese from March to July 1970.
After seeing the many atrocities of the war in Vietnam, Davis was discharged from active duty with the Coast Guard and began taking classes at Weber State University. However, it was not long before he was back serving—this time with the reserves. “I missed it—the guys, the camaraderie, the closeness,” he said. Davis served in this capacity—both the active reserves and the inactive ready-reserves—until April 2008. In total, he served for over 40 years.
While Davis did not originally plan on going into the Coast Guard, it is not a decision he regrets. “As far as the Airborne, I’m very proud of them,” Davis said. “But as far as my Coast Guard duties, I would not change it.”