CHATHAM, NJ - More than 60 years after the Battle of Okinawa was waged, Marine Paul Grinn brought back a bottle of sand from the Okinawa beach and gave it to his grandfather, Herb Davis, who fought in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
Today, just looking at that bottle of sand brings back memories for the longtime Chatham Township resident. The 90-year-old Davis is a local World War II Marine Corps veteran who deserves a salute of thanks on Veterans Day.
"I'm proud to be a veteran, but I don't take part in any ceremonies," Davis said. "I just give my wife (Elise) a kiss."
Davis, a member of the Greatest Generation, was one of the 88,000 Marines who fought the Japanese in the Battle of Okinawa. It was the last and biggest island battle waged in the South Pacific. The fighting began April 1, 1945 and continued through June 22.
"We invaded Okinawa and we didn't meet any resistance during the invasion and we went up north and had an easy time," Davis said. "Then we came down to the middle of the island and they had put their whole defense line across the middle. Then the real war started and that lasted two months.
"At the end, they had a routine where a tremendous amount of the enemy jumped off the cliff of the peninsula and committed suicide."
Davis was a freshman at Lafayette College and was a catcher on the baseball team before he was drafted in 1944. He got his training on Parris Island in South Carolina before shipping out to the Battle of Okinawa.
"I stood up on top of Shuri Castle in Okinawa to yawn one night and a flare went up," Davis said. "They taught us not to move, so I stood there and somebody shot over my head. The next day I was in a foxhole and three bullets came walking toward me and I just ducked down in the foxhole."
After Okinawa, he was sent to Tientsin, China, where he helped disarm the Japanese following their surrender.
Davis has lived on Noe Avenue with is wife of 67 years, Elise, for 49 years. Last summer, his granddaughter, Sports illustrated swimsuit model Hannah Davis, married Yankee great Derek Jeter.
Not only did Davis serve his country, but he also served Chatham Township as a member of the volunteer fire department and in the 1960s as president of the Chatham school board.
Other than helping the U.S. win World War II, some Davis' other accomplishments include hitting a hole-in-one at two separate golf courses in the 1990s.
His four children - Conn, Meredith, Glenn and Martha - all were Chatham Township High graduates. Glenn is a sports announcer for Major League Soccer.