Kenneth Charles Davey
Remembering My Father
D-Day plus 70 years © 6 June 2014
I never really knew my father, a Navy medical officer, who died in 1948 during the early days of the Cold War. When my mother died in 1993, her house in Wilson Boro was sold and my siblings inherited china, silverware and jewelry. Without objection, I took possession of my father’s WWII sea chest, stored in the attic for nearly half a century. His Thompson sub machine gun and live ammo were turned into the Philadelphia armory during the late 1940s. Remaining in the chest included combat gear, medical equipment, military papers and most importantly, overseas V-MAIL written to my mother. The sea chest was opened and as I read those letters, I finally met my father.
My sister Joan was born thirteen days after my father left home for amphibious training in the UK, in preparation for the invasion of France. On 6 June 1944, under the command of a Navy Beachmaster, Lieutenant J. Russell Davey, Jr., MC, USNR led the initial medical attachment ashore the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach. His 6th Naval Beach Battalion provided triage and casualty evacuation for the Army assault troops of the 1st Infantry Division. Over the next 21 days on the beach, the mortality rate of the 41,035 wounded evacuated from Normandy back to the UK was 3/10 of 1 percent.
After the invasion, as a result of blast injuries sustained on D-Day, Lt. Davey was no longer eligible for amphibious duty. He returned from overseas on the USAHS Dogwood Hospital Ship and became a student and protégé of Captain George U. Pillmore, MC (S), USNR, Chief of Radiology at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. Two atomic bombs were dropped in August 1945 ending WWII. My brother Rusty was born a month later and my father then reported to a Naval Special Hospital in Texas to serve as Chief of the X-ray Department in a 1,000-bed-hospital. After returning to Philadelphia in May 1946 and relieved from active duty, Drs. Davey and Pillmore teamed up in a radiology practice in Easton, Pennsylvania. Captain Pillmore established a naval reserve unit that included Lt. Davey and about 30 medical doctors in the Easton area. My parents bought a house “in the Boro” at 18th and Fairview Avenue for $4,000. I was born in 1947.
D-Day books, scrapbooks and V-MAIL describe my father’s life up to 1947. Recently, new Cold War information was uncovered in The Fluoride Deception by investigative journalist Christopher Bryson. Included is the WWII role of Philadelphia and Easton, PA regarding “uranium hexafluoride” and atomic bomb development. Hydrofluoric acid (HF), produced by the Pennsylvania Salt Company as a result of the 1939 acquisition of the Sterling Products Co. in Easton, was the genesis of the separation process, developing nuclear fuel for the Manhattan Project. The author describes Dr. J. Russell Davey making a 1947 X-ray diagnosis indicating “fluoride poisoning” of a patient from Pennsalt. Results were sent immediately to the Easton plant where fluorine was invading the bones of its workers. The significance of the diagnosis was that during WWII and the early anti-communist Cold War hysteria, the public was not informed that American citizens working in the bomb industry were being poisoned, resulting in disease and disability.
During WWII, there was a tremendous demand for Pennsalt’s hydrogen fluoride (HF), especially for refining of high-octane aviation gas. Many of the older HF uses increased in the manufacturing of armaments, but its use to make nuclear fuel and the development of HF as a war gas became highly classified. Diisopropyl fluorophosphates (DEP) was thoroughly studied as a possible chemical warfare agent. One organic phosphate, a highly classified fluoride-containing substance similar to DEP was developed for the US Chemical Warfare Service as a very potent nerve gas. H-bomb activities associated with the Atomic Energy Commission added to an even greater need for HF in 1947.
My father was a 29-year-old Navy physician and consistent with most clinicians of his generation, adhered to the Hippocratic Oath. He was not aware of Dr. Robert A. Kehoe’s mission, to secretly collect medical data regarding poisoned workers in order to protect the US government's bomb-related defense industry from potential lawsuits. Having observed fluoride induced osteosclerosis in the bones of American workers during WWII, Dr. Davey professionally declined to cooperate in Kehoe’s Cold War cover-up. As Medical Director of the Ethyl Corp., Dr. Kehoe was the principal defender of keeping “highly profitable” lead in gasoline, which contributed to the poisoning of millions of American children from 1929 until TEL or tetraethyl lead was outlawed in 1986.
In Europe during WWII, the greatest neutralizing threat on Normandy D-Day was the Nazi use of poison gas. While Dr. Kehoe conducted secret human studies on American workers, providing poison gas data for the US Army's Chemical Warfare Service, Lt. Davey ran gas warfare seminars in the UK in preparation for the invasion of France. He ends a March 1944 V-MAIL to my mother writing, “I have to go and give a lecture now on Medical aspects of Gas warfare and treatments. The Germans would be foolish to use gas, what with our air superiority and fine personal protective measures, but we must be prepared for it. Now, the greatest preparation consists in eliminating the fear in the men’s minds of gas; for there is nothing to fear.”
Unfortunately, Dr. Davey was unable to provide similar assistance for American workers poisoned by fluoride gas in our Pennsylvania factories. He died suddenly at home of undetermined causes 5 June 1948, just two days after my first birthday. Joan was four and Rusty two. Sandy was born seven months later. My mother, Wilson High School, and Good Shepherd Church raised the four Davey children.
The Davey children pose for a photo in 1949 and again, sixty years later. For additional information regarding the military life of their father, please visit 6thbeachbattalion.org.