This 238-item digital collection of World War II-era correspondence, dating between 1943 and 1945, focuses on Captain O.C. McDavid’s tour of duty in the Pacific Theatre of war. These letters consist of his letters to family members and their letters to him. Many of his letters home are illustrated with cartoons and drawings, thus providing visual interest to Captain McDavid’s descriptions of army life.
As with much wartime correspondence, censorship of operations and engagements with Axis forces allow only scant details for those interested in the minutiae of South Pacific strategy. Instead, what emerges in these letters has to do with McDavid’s observations of foreign cultures and how they relate to the struggle for the South Pacific.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, McDavid was sent to the South Pacific. During his Army service he was stationed in New Guinea, the Gilbert Islands, a chain of sixteen atolls and coral islands in the South Pacific, and in the Philippines. In New Guinea, Captain McDavid was placed in charge of establishing village governments with local populations and building infrastructure to support sanitation, security, and healthcare, and his duties were similar in his other postings. The locations where Captain McDavid saw service figured directly in the Allied advance to take territory occupied by the Japanese and to gain staging areas for U.S. forces to move forward.
O.C. McDavid, born in Ruth, Mississippi in 1911, began what would become a newspaper career during his high school years by sweeping floors in the print shop at his hometown’s Enterprise Journal. His responsibilities grew to include running the print shop as well as writing, which resulted in attending high school part-time in order to pursue his newspaper career full time. He became the city editor and political reporter at the Jackson, Mississippi Daily News. McDavid joined the National Guard and received his federal induction prior to America’s entry into the war. Following earlier camp deployments, he was sent, in August 1943, with the 31st “Dixie” Infantry Division, for training at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The 31st was composed of Guard soldiers from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Earlier, McDavid had been tapped by his commanding general to edit a weekly camp newspaper, The Dixie, which bore the name of his infantry division. The 31st left Fort Pickett in March 1944. Sailing out of Newport (now Newport News), Virginia, the division arrived in New Guinea in late April.
Following the war, McDavid returned to the newspaper business, becoming managing editor, then managing editor emeritus of the Jackson Daily News. Upon retirement in 1981, he devoted his time to painting and metal sculpture. McDavid earned the George Ohr Public Service Award, which honors Mississippians who have supported crafts as art. He died on March 12, 1998, in Jackson, Mississippi. The following year, the Mississippi Press Association established an annual student journalism conference in his name.