LONG ISLAND – Her behind-the-scenes investigative work in naval intelligence during World War II was instrumental in helping the United States defeat Japan.

She also proved to be an independent, strong-willed mother, raising six children, buying homes around the country and managing multiple household moves to accommodate her husband’s job.

Jacqueline Imogene Davis, a Portland native and longtime summer resident of Long Island, died in her sleep Friday. She was 86.

During World War II, Mrs. Davis enlisted and served in the Navy WAVES — Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.

She became a member of a military code-breaking unit in Washington, D.C., which was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation by President Roosevelt for outstanding contributions.

“She broke codes that enabled the military to win the battle of Midway,” said her oldest son, Arthur Davis of Portland.

The battle of Midway took place six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, providing the United States with a decisive victory over the Japanese Imperial Navy.

Davis said his mother’s unit also broke an encrypted message revealing Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto’s plans for inspecting Japanese military operations in the Solomon Islands.

Mrs. Davis’ unit pinpointed his route, allowing U.S. fighter pilots to destroy Yamamoto’s transport bomber craft. Yamamoto’s death on April 18, 1943 was said to have struck a blow to Japanese morale.

Mrs. Davis grew up in Portland, attended Portland schools and graduated from Portland High School in 1941.

In 1946, she married her high school sweetheart, Arthur Edwin Davis Jr. They were married for 51 years. Mr. Davis died in 1997.

The couple moved across the country as Arthur Davis’ job as an insurance company executive required him to be mobile.

“We lived all over the country,” her son said. “I spent all of my high school life in California.”

Even more impressive, Davis said, was that his mother raised six children while living in Alabama, Connecticut, California, Florida and Maine.

A daughter, Anne Davis Kelly of Amelia Island, Fla., said her mother was a very active volunteer, although the family rarely stayed in a community for very long.

When they were living in California, Mrs. Davis organized a citywide Girl Scout cookie drive in Pasadena.

“It was an enormous undertaking, particularly when you consider we didn’t have computers back then,” Kelly said.

She remembers when a tractor trailer truck loaded with cookies would pull up to their house and unload the orders for Girl Scouts to come pick up.

In Alabama, when her son Arthur was serving in Vietnam, she did a lot of volunteer work for the American Red Cross.

Mrs. Davis appeared in several television commercials for the Red Cross, promoting volunteerism.

“We moved around a lot, but no matter where we lived, we always came back to Long Island for the summer,” Kelly said. “Long Island became our hometown.”

The family’s four-bedroom cottage on Long Island, which overlooks Hussey Sound, provided the children with many wonderful memories.

“Long Island has some of the greatest beaches on (Casco) Bay,” her son said.

“It came to represent a place that in our minds became our home. I still meet people on the island that I knew from my childhood.”

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]