The WWII Biker


At 87 years old, Philip Davison said hes figured out the secrets to both his longevity and to solving many of the worlds vexing problems. The secrets, he said, come to him in brain spurts while criss-crossing the country on his Suzuki Intruder.

I ride it every day, sometimes hundreds of miles, said the World War II vet and retired private eye, who lived and worked in Alexandria for 35 years before decamping to the more open roads of the Shenandoah Valley. My car just sits and rots, he chuckled.

Ive got answers to all the countrys problems, but the White House wont call me back, he said.


Well, I was alive and well when Roosevelt put the Social Security program in place, so you tell me why someone with $3 million in retirement funds needs Social Security? he said. All I need to live is my Harley, a hamburger and a soda.

Davison claims he has a better solution. If you go flat broke, then the government should give you the money, he said. The system was made back in the 30s for people who were down and out. You tell me why someone with millions is still collecting Social Security. Its just more money his children will stand to inherit.

Hes got us thinking. More, please.

As for the vexing issue of illegal aliens, Davison ponders why 130 million taxpayers support 300 million people in the United States. The way you fix that is you eliminate the income tax as we know it, he offered. In its place you put a 4 percent sales tax and it all goes to the Feds, not the state. Thats how you fix the problem of providing all those services to illegal aliens. I claim the government would have more money than they would know what to do with.

Davison was born the son of a government lawyer in Chevy Chase, Md. on Dec. 7, 1920. It later became Pearl Harbor Day, but I sure got back at them, he said, a bright twinkle in his eye.

That he did. After graduating from Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, Davison enlisted as Marine Corps reservist, serving as a machine gunner on VMS-3R biplanes. He was discharged in 1940, but then came the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Davison vividly recalled the day that will live in infamy.

On Dec. 7, 1941, his 21st birthday, he was munching popcorn and taking in an afternoon matinee at the old Keiths Theater in the District. Emerging from the theater, he saw frantic bystanders yelling on the sidewalks and National Guardsmen placing sandbags on the curb. My immediate reaction is that I have to get back into the service, he recalled. I marched right down to the Anacostia Naval Air Station and re-enlisted.

Davison was sent to Parris Island, where he said he signed up for magnum training which he recalled as a tortuous regiment of long marches. After his training, he volunteered for everything available, including the vaunted Marine Corps Raiders.

He was shipped out to a top secret ammunition dump at Pin Cairn Glen, Northern Ireland, where he spent two years on demolition duty, handling such things as 600-pound depth chargers and 105-MM Howitzer shells. I was boom happy, he chuckles.

At nights, he listened to Glenn Miller records on his small transistor radio, spun by enemy dee jays of infamous legend, Tokyo Rose and Lord Haw Haw. Hello, Pit Cairn Glen, well be over to blow you up shortly, theyd promise.

Davison recalled seeing the two-place German junkers, the dive bombers who would come in 200 feet off the ground, the pilots so close he could pick out the color of their goggles. We had lots of guns but we werent allowed to shoot, he recalled. Anti-aircraft guns didnt mean anything to the Germans. Plus, it would have given away our location.

Every morning the honey wagons would arrive on the base with sanitation workers sent to empty the latrines. When Davison discovered that two of them were in fact German spies making detailed drawings of the base, the British military executed them the next day. In 1945, he was sent with the Marines 4th Division to the Pacific Theater, where at Maui Island he learned cave fighting for the assault on Iwo Jima. He carried a 30-pound satchel charge as people were shooting over my shoulder.

Davison was then a two-pack-a-day smoker. But when I figured that all of the demolitions people in front of me had died, and that I was going to live, I quit smoking cold turkey, he said. That was Nov. 1, 1945, the day he was discharged.

Davison bumped around the country for a while, working as a dee jay and private investigator, tracking down deadbeat dads and unfaithful husbands. His wife Billie Ruth Berkeley died of cancer in 1970, and a year later Davison moved his three young children to Alexandria to raise them on the West End, first in an apartment off Van Dorn, then a house in the Camelot section. His daughter Billie and sons Jeffrey and Phillip all live in the area.

I spent 59 years as a private investigator. I made many friends and also many enemies. said Davison, who to this day carries a 25-calibre pistol. With my gray hair Im a target for a mugger. The presence of a gun gives me freedom.

While Davison represents the greatest generation of World War II vets who are now dying at the estimated rate of 1,000 per day, he said he prefers the open road to a nursing home, and hes criss-crossed the country six times on his beloved Suzuki. Its the macho image of freedom and rebellion, he claims.
Davison has few regrets. Its been an excellent life, he said. My philosophy is that whats most valuable is your health, your integrity, and a willingness to conform from that which is enforceable.