From Unnamed to Unknown with Full Honors


One of Four: World War One Through the Eyes of an Unknown Soldier 

Travis Davis 

My Random Thoughts, LLC

May 1, 2024

ISBN 979-8990138216;  208 pages 


This new work of historical fiction by Travis Davis is both refreshingly enlightening and surprisingly moving. The well-written story focuses on an unnamed American soldier who has been keeping a daily diary while facing death in World War I’s horrific trench warfare. 


Davis reveals early in the book that an unnamed soldier and several comrades are killed by German artillery. A young French girl who witnessed the attack recovers the diary that holds the unnamed soldier’s experiences, thoughts, dreams, fears, and hopes for the future. Camille speaks little English, but she tries to give the diary to a group of American soldiers who arrive to collect the casualties’ identification tags and mark their bodies for burial. They mostly ignore her as they complete their grim task. One of the dead Americans has no ID tag and no facial features remaining that might help someone recognize him. A weary ID collector finally takes a quick look at the diary, but decides he sees nothing that might identify who it belonged to. The collectors leave without taking the diary. 


Camille carries the diary home. She hopes to learn more English from it and discover who wrote it. Its pages reveal that the unnamed soldier had a wife and young son. And he looked forward to the war’s end so he could return to his family: 


“I miss you. I can’t wait for you to read my diary. I’m thinking about sending it to you, but there is so much more I will write about. Yet, when you read it, we can sit in the park, have a nice bottle of wine and some cheese, and just be together. That is my perfect day.”  


But names and his hometown are never revealed; the unnamed soldier scrupulously followed the rules to not include any information that might be useful to the enemy, even when he described battles he has fought and fellow soldiers who have been killed right beside him during attacks. 


His diary reveals that he is an intelligent young man who advances in rank from private to corporal to sergeant and sometimes leads other soldiers into battle. Yet, despite the necessity of killing enemy troops at close range, his written entries show he has not become too hardened or cynical about why the war was being fought. For example: 


JANUARY 24TH, 1918: “As we marched up to the front, civilians from the towns and villages near the front walked past us on their way from the fighting and front lines. The column of civilians went for miles, most of them walking, some of the young and elderly on carts with their worldly possessions. Most of them didn’t have warm clothes. They all looked malnourished. I handed my rations to the mother and her child. The little girl held what was left of her baby doll as if her life depended on it. Maybe it did. But the looks on their faces said it all. The years of war had taken a toll on every one of them. The effects of war aren’t just reserved for soldiers.  


A few years after recovering the diary, Camille is now grown and serving in the French Resistance. She spies on German soldiers while working in a Paris café. One day, she learns that the Gestapo wants to arrest her, and she realizes she can’t carry the diary and her family Bible when she flees. She hides the diary inside the Bible and places them together on a shelf in a Paris used bookstore. Later in the war, she is killed while helping other Resistance fighters escape German troops.  


Decades pass. The Bible and diary remain unnoticed until an American father, Walter Grover, a World War II veteran, and his son, Alex, visit the bookstore one day in 2023 and discover them. Walter and Alex are on a father-son bonding trip to Europe. Using the diary as a guide, they begin traveling across France to battle sites mentioned by the unnamed soldier, and they read entries to each other as they try to figure out who he might have been. Alex especially begins to believe they have found the diary of the man who is now buried in the World War I Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. 


A key component of this novel is the author’s vivid descriptions of how World War I’s Unknown Soldier was selected at random from a group of four unidentified battle casualties in a solemn ceremony and how he continues to be honored today, 365 days a year, by the Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Sentinels are all members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard.” 


Travis Davis has brought One of Four to life through heartfelt storytelling, a sense of mystery, some unusual facts, and a close focus on World War I history and the experiences of American infantry soldiers in 1917-1918. 

Travis Davis is an Air Force brat and grew up in Arkansas, Spain, New York, and California. He joined the US Army at 17 years old as an Armored Reconnaissance Specialist and was stationed in the various forts in the United States and in Germany, where he met his beautiful wife. During his three tours in Germany, he conducted hundreds of border patrols along the East-West German border and the Czechoslovakia-West German border. Where he saw first-hand communism and its oppression of its citizens, he retired from the US Army, where his last duty assignment was as Assistant Operations Sergeant of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Polk, Louisiana. He is a lifetime member of the Sergeant Morales Club. Travis received multiple awards, including the Meritorious Service Medal and five Army Commendation Medals. 

While not writing or working, Travis enjoys exercising, traveling (loves a good road trip), baking different loaves of bread, and just relaxing in his backyard with friends and family while having a cold beer. He currently lives in Allen, Texas, with his wife for over 35 years. He has three adult children, two daughters living in Arkansas, one son living in Northern Virginia, and five wonderful grandchildren.