Battle Relic # 10             

Item Description: British Made US Army M1936 First Aid Pouch personalized to member of the "Filthy 13".

Introduction: At a regular antiques and flea market in 's-Hertogenbosch, the capital of the Province of North-Brabant in The Netherlands, one of our Battle Detectives, BD Tony, bought a World War Two vintage US Army first aid pouch.
The Story: Three features of this item are significant:
1) the pouch has been personalized by means of a handwritten name and Army Service Number (ASN). This piece of US Government property was evidently used by James L. Davidson, ASN 15116593 of "HQ"-Co./506th PIR.


2) the pistol belt hook on the back side of the pouch has been damaged. The strong wire metal hook is twisted out of its original shape and in one of its curves, a deep scratch is visible. The damage appears to have been caused by blunt force with a metal object; possibly shrapnel (high velocity metal shards from an exploding projectile).


3) the pouch has several reddish-brown stains on both the front and the back. These stains resemble those caused by corroding metal iron; "rust stains". Remarkable is that these stains are not near the metal parts of the pouch itself; such as the pistol belt hook or the "male" and "female" parts of the typical British made closure. It may be blood.

 

This is the pouch:

(Click on the images to enlarge)

Investigation:

James L. Davidson

The combination of the name and the ASN lead Battle Detective Tony to conclude that this pouch belonged to James L. Davidson. He was a member of the demolition section of "HQ.-"Co./506th of the 101st Airborne Division; a colorful group of soldiers with their own perception of military discipline. These men were known as the "Filthy 13". Below is a photograph of some of the "Filthy 13" in their base camp in England:

 

(Click on the image to enlarge)

 

It is also known that Davidson died in the night of the 19th of September 1944. That night, the city of Eindhoven - just liberated a day earlier by elements of the 101st Airborne Division- was strafed and bombed by the German Luftwaffe. Members of "HQ-"Co./506th were billeted in the downtown area of Eindhoven and it was on Stratums Eind that Davidson met his death.

 

Battle Detective Tony has done research to the circumstances of Davidson's death and he has found out that this must have happened during a strafing run of one the Luftwaffe's fighter bombers on Stratums Eind. In 1944 the Dommel River's course was different than it is today. Then it meandered in such a way that Stratums Eind crossed it twice. There is information that Davidson died in between the two bridges across the Dommel River on Stratums Eind.

 

Chain of Custody

Battle Detective Tony wrote down the name of the seller of the pouch and in a subsequent phone call she told him that the pouch was from the estate of a cousin of hers. In a garage or shed that she is clearing, she found the pouch. Also from that estate is a World War Two era magazine pouch for the .45-calibre Thompson Sub Machine Gun. We purchased that item also. This piece of equipment, however, was not personalized. We are currently investigating for more details of this cousin.

 

Davidson's death

Below are two photographs of Stratums Eind taken in September 1944. The first picture is taken on the 18th and shows tanks of the British XXXth Corps entering Eindhoven from the South. The second photograph is taken two days later; on the 20th. This picture is in stark contrast with the one taken two days before. It shows an almost empty street and the damage done by the German Luftwaffe.

 

(Click on the image to enlarge)

A closer analysis of both pictures reveals an American paratrooper in the first picture and three M1936 musette bags - typically used by US Paratroopers - suspended from a gate.

The location is an air raid shelter North of both Dommel River Bridges. The photographer stood in a second floor window almost on top of the Northern Dommel River bridge. In the second picture a pole is visible in front of the gate with the musette bags. Until the day before, it held up the sign with "Schuilplaats" or "Air Raid Shelter" which can be seen in the picture taken on the 18th.

Troopers of "HQ-"Co./506th may have been billeted here. It is our theory that during the bombing raid Davidson was South of this location when he got killed.

 

The staff of "Playerz, Dinner & Dance" on Stratums Eind, showed Battledetective.com all the courtesies for taking a comparison photograph from the same window as from which the September 1944 photo's were taken. This is the same location today:


 

 

Jake McNiece's account

101st airborne Division veteran Jake McNiece was a member of the "Filthy Thirteen".

In his book with that name are several references to Sgt. Davidson's death:

On page 124: "[Lieutenant Eugene Dance] said, We've got orders to hold these bridges. That's what we are going to do."

I again hollered back at the boys, "You better get out of here, if you want out! They are going to bomb us here in a minute."

He said: "I'll court-martial any man in the morning who leaves his position."

I kind of grinned, "You won't be there in the morning if you stay on these bridges."So I yelled, "All you guys who want out of there come on out now! I'm leaving. We'll get out of here about a block from this place and find cover." So we did.

The lieutenant went on down to the second bridge where Myers's section was. Davidson also came over. Bill Myers and Jim Davidson were trying to get him to quit and withdraw to some shelter. Dance was sticking to his ground. Those bombs that came in blew up Myers's bridge and killed both of those sergeants."

 

On page 265: "There is some confusion as to how Davidson and Myers actually died.

[...]

Herb Piece was on outpost duty in Davidson's section. Davidson yelled at him, "Let's get out of here!" They started out of the building for an air raid shelter with Myers in the lead. When Herb saw the bombs falling, he turned back into the building but the blast killed Davidson.

CPL Tom Young said there was a shelter near each bridge. When the Messerschmitts came, he could see what they were going to do. He told his squad -Armando, Marquez, Steve Kovacs and Frank Kough- to get into the shelter. He told Bill Myers and Jim Davidson to get in there too but they just stood out in the open. The planes dropped three bombs. A piece of shrapnel about the size of an egg hit Myers in the kidney and another piece hit him on the back of the leg slicing the muscle in two. Myers fell on Tom who carried him into the shelter. The planes returned on a strafing run and set the convoy of trucks ablaze.

Davidson stood there shooting at them with his Thompson submachine gun when he was hit. The rounds had taken his legs off.

[...]

From there [an alley way] Jack ran around trying to find an air raid shelter. He came upon the bodies of Davidson

and Myers. They were not more than three feet apart. He could see from the bullet holes where he believed Davidson had been killed by strafing while standing against a wall. When he picked Jim up, Jack's fingers went right through the back of Davidson's head. A round had blown his brains out. Myers had his legs blown off but was still alive. Jack said he carried Myers down into the air raid shelter where he found Armando Marquez.

Mike Marquez had dug a foxhole over in Jake's sector. His brother, Armando, was on the next bridge. Mike did not want him anywhere near because he would have worried about taking care of him.

[...]

After the bombing, Mike ran over to check on his brother. Armando had brains and blood dripping from under his helmet. After a few words with him, Mike realized that Armando was all right. He had evidently put on Davidson's helmet." 

 

These graphic descriptions of Davidson's wounds are in a bit of a contrast with the remarks in his US Army Disinterment Directive. In 1948 Davidson's remains were disinterred from the temporary US Army Cemetery in Son, Holland and  shipped to his family in Virginia. This agency obtained a copy of the file. Under "Condition of remains" the directive states:

 

R/TIBIA & FIBULA FRACT, BODY COMPLETE,
ADVANCED STAGE OF DECOMPOSITION, R/RADIUS
& ULNA FRACT.

(click to open the 1948

Disinterment Directive)

 

This may mean that Davidson's right arm and leg were shattered by the impact of the Luftwaffe's shrapnel or bullets to a point that these extremities where almost or completely severed from the body. The record does not state that BOTH his legs where separated from the body. Witnesses in the accounts in the "Filthy 13" book, may have seen Davidson's arm and leg severely wounded and in the confusion of the bombing raid concluded they saw both his legs blown off. Whatever the truth is, Davidson must have sustained extensive wounds, loosing a considerable amount of blood.

 

Forensic analysis

The damage to the pistol belt hook and the reddish stains suggest trauma inflicted on the wearer.

On the 5th of March 2008, this lead has been investigated by conducting a tetra base test and by applying a chemical reagent to determine if the stains are in fact blood.

 

Tetra base test
For this test, we used Hemestix(Tm) plastic test tubes. These tubes contain two glass vials with the chemical detection components. To determine if a suspected substance is in fact blood, a sample is to be inserted inside the test tube. The glass vials are then crushed allowing the components to mix. The newly formed substance would color a sample of actual blood blue.

We obtained a sample from one of the reddish stains on the pouch with the use of some distilled water and a Q-tip. We retrieved a sample that colored the Q-tip head in the same color as the stain. From previous experiences with positive results from the Hemestix(Tm) tests, we know that even a sample that is hardly visible will do.

 

(Click on the images to enlarge)

 

The test did not show positive. A second Hemestix(Tm) test confirmed that the stains were not blood stains.

In our collection we have another example of World War Two vintage US Army web equipment with similar stains.

 

 

It is our recent theory that these stains are in fact caused by either the effect of moist to the duck (canvas) material or the presence of corroding metal in the close proximity of the object leaking rusty droplets onto it.

Chemical reagent test
After this test, we applied BlueStar(Tm) Forensic on the pouch. BlueStar(Tm) Forensic is a luminiscent agent which emits a bright blue light when in comes into contact with traces of blood. The chemical showed no positive reaction on the stain. The metal pistol belt hook, however lit up in a bright blue light in the darkened test room.


(Click on the images to enlarge)

Possible false positive validation test

In order to validate this test, we also applied BlueStar Forensic(tm) agent on the cover of the T-handle entrenching tool and on the pistol belt hook of a canteen cover from the same era. Also we put four different first aid pouches, made during World War Two, to the test. The reason for this was to rule out the possibility that most metal pistol belt hooks with a comparable history, would react like the hook on Davidsonís pouch.

After applying the agent on a known blood stain, the agent was fit for use. We applied it to all six items.


(Click on the images to enlarge)

       

None of them gave a reaction of any significance to the BlueStar(tm) Forensic agent.

Combining the written accounts of Davidsonís death and the results of our forensic tests, it is our theory that there is in fact blood on the pistol belt hook of Davidsonís first aid pouch; presumably his.

Jack Womer's account
On September 14th 2012, during a book signing event for the publication "Fighting with the Filthy Thirteen" at the Heeswijk Castle in The Netherlands, "Filthy 13" member Jack Womer explained to us why the members of his unit where on Stratumseind during the Luftwaffe air raid on September 19th 1944.
 


Jack Womer (left) interviewed by Battle Detective

Jack told us that they were assigned to guard the captured Dommel river bridges in that street.
Jack and his squad had guarded the Northern most bridge and Davidson's squad the one to the South, thus explaining the reason for the men of the 506th Regiment's "HQ" Company demolition and pathfinder team to be on Stratumseind during the air raid.


(Click on the images to enlarge)
   
Jack Womer signed our old autograph book

James Davidson's name is honored on the plaque on the corner of Airborne Laan and John F. Kennedy Laan in Eindhoven, listing paratroopers of the 101st Killed in Action for the freedom of the city.

 

David's battered body is laid to rest in the Maple Hill Cemetery in Bluefield, Virginia. This is his grave marker:

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