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Frieda Davison credits USC Upstate for her latest research adventure. Davison, the dean of the USC Upstate Library, is researching the life stories of more than 600 soldiers from Spartanburg County who died in military service to the United States since World War I.

It all started when she was asked to chair USC Upstate’s 40th anniversary committee in 2007. The yearlong celebration would focus, in part, on the events that shaped the world in the late 1960s when USC Upstate was founded. Among those events was the ongoing Vietnam War. This eventually led Davison to the Veteran’s Memorial at Duncan Park in Spartanburg, where a monument lists the names of more than 600 active duty soldiers from Spartanburg County who died in service during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Davison was surprised to learn that there was no information about the individual soldiers, beyond the names listed on the monument. Davison’s research interests include local and family history, and she wanted to know who the soldiers were, how they lived and how they died. She decided to perform the work.

Initially, she and her husband, David, started the research. It was 2008 and their search for local information led them to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Mo. They were allowed to view information that was recorded at least 62 years prior to the current date, which would place that information in the public domain. She and David began with World War I, alphabetically locating the files of Spartanburg’s soldiers.

“When you open an envelope and dog tags fall out, it just makes it all real,” Davison said.

And, they uncovered some amazing stories, like that of Lt. Frank Gibbes Montgomery. Montgomery, who was born in December 1893, died in an aviation accident in England in March of 1918. According to military records, Montgomery was the passenger on a training flight in which the pilot was thrown from the plane during an acrobatic maneuver that turned the plane upside down. Montgomery, in an attempt to climb into the pilot’s seat of the overturned aircraft, also perished when the plane dived to the ground in a fiery crash.

“There are these amazing stories that nobody knows,” Davison said. “My research is a way to make sure that these local heroes are remembered.”

Today, Davison has completed the histories for each local soldier who died during World War I and she’s making her way through the stories from World War II. About one year into the research, her husband David died. Davison said she was unable to return to this project for more than a year following his death. Now that the project is again underway, she fully expects that it may be a 10 year effort to complete.

To learn more about this research,  contact Frieda Davison at fdavison@uscupstate.edu.

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