Book inspires son of WWII vet to find dad’s ‘battle buddy’

When Mark Davis wrote “Mount of Congregation,” a book about his grandfather’s World War II experiences, he spent a lot of time trying to track down any soldiers who served with his grandfather and who might still be alive.

Now, more than a year after the book’s publication, a key figure in the wartime story of Davis’ grandfather, Blace Davis, has been found. He is alive and living in Florida, and he is 100 years old.

His name is Wallace Kelley, and he was Davis’s “battle buddy” when both served in the U.S. Army’s 42nd Infantry “Rainbow” division as combat engineers. Kelley was the first to arrive on the scene when Davis was injured by shrapnel from a German artillery shell on March 15, 1945, as U.S. forces began their attack on Hitler’s Siegfried Line.

After the war, Davis lost contact with Kelley, but he continued to search for him in telephone directories when he was on vacation in Florida in the late 1950s and 1960s. Blace Davis died in 1991 without finding his buddy.

Blace’s son, Gary Davis, continued searching for Kelley after the book’s publication. In December 2018, Gary found Kelley, who lives in Florida in an assisted-living facility.

Gary spoke with Kelley on several occasions by phone. Richard, the oldest son, was only 9 years old during the war and was mentioned in the book. Gary told Kelley that Richard was now well into his 80s, to which Kelley responded, “Well, he’s still just a baby.”

In January, Gary and Richard, along with their wives, traveled to Florida to meet Wallace Kelley. They carried with them a signed copy of “Mount of Congregation.” He has since read the book and says it is “99 percent accurate.” “I know, because I was there,” he added.

“Mount of Congregation: Honoring the Heroes of WWII’s 42nd Infantry ‘Rainbow’ Division” (Courier Publishing, 2017) is available at major online booksellers.