Ron Davidson in the pool at College Village Apartments


Ron Davidson, Bill Jones, Wendy Wansgard, and I get our picture taken at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas. I think it was 1967 . Ron, Bill and I were neighbors at College Village Apartments, at the head of Rolando. Wendy taught PE at Horace Mann with Ron. We took Ron's '65 Mustang and Bill, at 6' 6", got shotgun. I don't know how Wendy's doing, but my legs still ache from sitting in the back seat all the way to Vegas. The good news was -- we made it in 4 1/2 hours -- John Fry


Thanks for the fond memory of Coach Davidson. I was one of the few and the proud that had him as our coach in the 8th grade. I believe it was the only year he taught. When we started the 9th grade in 66 many of us hoped he would be our coach again, but it was not to be. We were told he chose to return to Nam during the summer, and the rest is sad history. Damned land mines anyway. That is what we heard his jeep hit. He was a phenomenal coach and a MARINE all the way! We loved him.
Semper Fi Coach, and rest in peace. --
Mark Greenstone '70

Hi John,
I have vivid memories of Coach Davidson. Our first day in PF gym class (PF means not very good in gym class), he got the group in an area on the asphalt by the gym building. He was very imposing, incredibly muscular, serious-looking guy (I am pretty sure you will never see a jr high gym coach who looks like he did). He told us all to line up in rows, than said something like “ten-hut”. Most of us were pretty apprehensive and tried to not to make eye contact with our new coach. Tom Ball, Doug Dannevik, Ralph Insunza were in the class. Doug started mouthing off “oh yes, ten hut sir…” Coach went over and stared him down, then went over to Tommy Ball, who was snickering and saying some off-color comments. Coach said “If I ever hear you saying that again, I’ll punch you so hard . . . etc, etc” The rest of us swallowed hard.
He worked us intensely. We ran laps every day, a lot, like 10 laps a day—5 days a week. He even had us do an exercise where we had to run back and forth across the gravel field on our hands and toes. Needless to say, we all became very fit that year. I don’t think I’ve seen my chest ribs in the mirror before or after the year with Coach Davidson.
Once in a while when we were doing pull-ups, he would join in and we would see his enormous ‘monster-wings’ in action. He used to urge Ralph, one of our hefty classmates, on with a ‘water buffalo’ analogy.
Anyway, he earned respect from all of us and became a role model for us. At the end of the year, the members of our PF class chipped in and bought him a going-away gift of a portable radio. Needless to say, buying a gift for your gym coach was totally unheard of for a boy’s gym class, but he really had an impact on all of us.
Over the years I’ve thought about how he earned the respect of the teenage boys, and how his demeanor impressed so many of us.
I’m very pleased he is being remembered, 40 years after he touched all of our lives.
RIP --
Lou Galper '71

Hi John,
I have good memories of "Coach" Davidson. He was a great guy. I still have the obit about him from the Tribune. He was the only one I ever knew that was killed in 'Nam. --
Bob Butler '72

What a great article on Coach Davidson! It was my 7th grade year at Horace Mann and I was relegated to the "PF" gym class due to my lack of -- well, being physically fit. Coach Davidson was my teacher, and from the beginning he really helped in removing that stigma of being one of the "PF" misfits. His voice echoing over the Mann gym field of "Move your butt, Stone" is one of my favorite memories. Throughout the year he pushed us hard, almost like a drill instructor, but in a supportive way. By encouraging me to join the after school Athletics Club, for which he was the advisor, he helped me break out of my shell. With Coach Davidson's help, I was finally able to transfer to a regular gym class. He not only helped me to improve physically but raised my self esteem, for which I will always remember him. --
Steve Stone '72

Remembering Ron Davidson

by Tom Smith

(written in 2006)

Ron Davidson was a man’s man and a Marine’s Marine, an incredible physical specimen. Throughout Officer Candidate School (OCS) and The Basic School (TBS) he always seemed to me like a man among boys. He was so strong and powerful that the rifle in his hands often looked like a toy, his helmet looked undersized. He exuded boundless self-confidence and a total lack of fear. These traits were exceeded only by his sense of humor. His humorous comments and playful attitude helped me and a lot of other people get through difficult times during that rigorous training. His mere presence was often an inspiration to me and, I suspect, others. Ron Davidson exemplified leadership.

I didn’t know much about his background. We were kind of focused on what we were going through and where we were headed (Vietnam) back in ’67-’68 rather than where we came from. I thought he had been a Biology teacher or Phys Ed teacher. His nickname was “plant life” which generated from one of his humorous dissertations on the state of our plight as Officer Candidates living a sub-human (i.e., plant level) existence. He could make misery seem like fun that way. I naturally gravitated to Ron’s circle during our many liberty trips to Washington, D.C., and will always be grateful for those memories.

So many memories fade over 30+ years, but here are two that will never go away. I see them often. We had a young Sergeant Drill Instructor who seemed to harass without much reason. I suspect he had an inferiority and/or Napoleonic complex since he was short and of slight build. He was not respected by us the way the other sergeants were. A popular form of harassment/punishment in OCS basic training is to have the candidate do push ups (“drop and give me 20, maggot”). The incident that I remember vividly occurred on a Friday afternoon during the inspection we went through before we would be released for weekend liberty. This sergeant was on Davidson and had made him do over 100 push ups by repeatedly asking for more, looking for failure (“give me 25 more, candidate”). I remember watching this as we were all at the position of attention in front of our bunks, and this unfolded in front of the entire platoon. Finally, Ron seemed to be straining and barely able to finish as he completed a set of 25. The sergeant now with evil glee pronounced, “Davidson, you give me 25 more or nobody is getting liberty this weekend.” My heart sank. Ron promptly blew off 25 push ups as fast and easy as you’d get up from a chair. He really sucked that sergeant in….. a work of art! A fantastic weekend followed.

The other enduring image is of Davidson during our hikes. Ron was always designated as “stretcher bearer” for the hikes. That meant in addition to all his gear Ron would carry a stretcher (over 6 feet long, weighing about 40 lbs.) and bring up the rear. I can still see him… with the stretcher over his shoulder like an umbrella… pushing and dragging people who were falling back… shouting encouragement. What a sight! These hikes were brutal; they were more like running through the forest with full pack and combat gear. On one particular brutal hike, bodies were dropping left and right. I started having a very difficult time physically, and had dropped back to where Ron was “policing up the rear” with his stretcher. I didn’t think I could make it. Ron looked at me and shouted “Smitty, you can do this. Get the fuck back up there where you belong.” It may be hard for others to comprehend how that caused such a surge of adrenalin and determination that sent me galloping back to my place, but I’ll never forget it. At that moment Ron did for me what I couldn’t do for myself.

My first assignment in ‘Nam was with “Kilo” Company, 3rd Battalion, 27th Marines. Ron joined the same battalion. He was assigned to “India” Company. We only saw each other a few times when we both were in the rear at the same time, and at a briefing before a big battalion operation. I do know that both his platoon members and his Company superiors and staff loved him. Staff NCOs don’t care much for new 2nd Lieutenants, but they loved him. As I said, he was a Marine’s Marine…pure and simple. His death really rocked his Platoon and Company. In combat (as a defense mechanism, I believe) reaction to death is often minimal. It’s an everyday occurrence that sometimes generates as much emotion (outwardly) as someone dropping out of school or quitting a job. After Ron’s death his Company looked like death! They were shook!…but not as much as me! It really hit me hard. I didn’t think anything could harm him let alone kill him. He was such a stud. It didn’t seem possible to me. It also generated intense fear for me…”if they could kill Davidson, what chance do I have?”.

His jeep was blown up by a command-detonated mine. He was acting as pay officer and traveling from Battalion headquarters to his Platoon’s outpost with their pay. A command-detonated mine is one in which an individual explodes the device by hand when a vehicle/individual is near (versus a mine that goes off when you drive over or step on it). This road was swept by the engineers every morning, and was a relatively busy thoroughfare. Hence, it had to be a command-detonated device for this ambush. Although fatally wounded by the blast, Ron did not die immediately. He was able to prevent the ambush unit from capturing the payroll and other supplies on the jeep by keeping them at bay with his small arms fire until others arrived on the scene. He succumbed to his wounds, as you know. What a loss.

It’s been over 38 years since his death. I think of him often. It was my privilege to have served with him, and to call him my friend. I will never forget him.

All gave some but
Some gave all.

“But they shall not grow old
As we who are left grow old.
Age will not weary them nor the years condemn,
But at the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
- Lawence Binyon excerpt from “The Fallen”

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