Cal State San Bernardino Air Force cadets raise the American and the POW/ MIA flagss outside the campus Administration building courtyard on Friday during
Cal State San Bernardino Air Force cadets raise the American and the POW/ MIA flagss outside the campus Administration building courtyard on Friday during the POW/MIA Remembrance Day. (LaFonzo Carter/Staff Photographer)
SAN BERNARDINO - It was a Day of Remembrance on Friday at Cal State San Bernardino, and for retired Master Sgt. Cecil Davis it was about his 70-year-old memories as a prisoner of war in World War II.

Davis gave a presentation to a roomful of CSUSB Air Force ROTC cadets as the culmination of weeklong veterans' events at the university.

Earlier, the cadets had raised the black POW-MIA flag in a solemn campus ceremony.

Jim Ruester, spokesman for the Riverside National Cemetery and a retired Air Force lieutenant, told the cadets, "Cecil has 10 million stories to tell you and they're all true."

Davis recounted his days as an Army Air Corps B-17 pilot and his 25 missions before being shot down in France before D-Day in June 1944.

The San Jacinto resident was a prison laborer in the Dachau prison camp until he was freed by Allied Forces.

A Purple Heart recipient, Davis was a member of the elite crew of a B-17 that was blown up over the English Channel.

"I was blown out of the plane over the channel and parachuted out, ending up in a tree on a beach in France," he recalled.

He recounted several horrific experiences with shiny-booted Nazi officers after he was discovered in the tree.

He said he was blessed with good luck that saved his life several times.

He was imprisoned in a cage in the cellar of a church and sodomized for three days, then shipped by train with other captives to Belgium, where they escaped into the Belgian underground before being captured again.

Davis talked about the German concentration camp where prisoners were digging escape tunnels and using slats from the beds to shore up the tunnels.

"We ended up sleeping on the floor," he said. "They had given us burlap sacks as body bags and we filled them with straw and slept on them for a year. They were so full of lice, you could see them crawl."

Davis also showed slides of the letter his mother received telling her that her son was a prisoner of war.

Guest speaker Cecil Davis, a former prisoner of war in World War II, tells the Cal State San Bernardino Air Force cadets about his story on Friday.
Guest speaker Cecil Davis, a former prisoner of war in World War II, tells the Cal State San Bernardino Air Force cadets about his story on Friday. (LaFonzo Carter/Staff Photographer)

Friday's Day of Remembrance ended with a screening of the film, "Return with Honor," and a brief written reflection by the cadets on what it means to serve as a military officer.

michel.nolan@inlandnewspapers.com, 909-386-3859, @MichelNolan