O. Davis, Jr. was born in Washington, D.C., on December 18, 1912.
His father, Benjamin O. Davis Sr., the first Black General Officer
in the U.S. Armed Forces, taught him to do his best, respect himself
and others, and learn to be self-disciplined. Young Benjamin's parents
believed that learning was very important both at home and at school.
At home, he and his sisters, Olivia and Lenora, were required to spend
time each night reading. When it came to school work, Benjamin's parents
encouraged him to do his best. School was a good experience for him.
He liked his classmates, he liked his teachers, and thanks to his
parents, he was well prepared to handle schoolwork. When young Benjamin
was 14 years old, Charles Lindbergh made his famous flight across
the Atlantic Ocean. Benjamin and his family listened eagerly to the
reports of the flight on the radio. The excitement of this important
event captured young Benjamin's imagination, and gave him a picture
in his mind of what flying might be like. Someday, he would discover
for himself the joy of flying.
In high school, Benjamin was a hardworking student.
His efforts earned him the honor of graduating at the top of his class.
In 1932, he began college at the West Point Military Academy.
Davis believed his classmates would accept him based on the content
of his character and not reject him because of his race. He was wrong.
He was shunned for four years, meaning other cadets would only speak
to him for official reasons. He had no roommate and took his meals
in silence. Those who caused this shunning had hoped to drive Davis
from the Academy, but their actions only made him more determined
to succeed. He graduated thirty-fifth out of 276 in the Class of 1936.
Upon Graduating, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. became one of only two black
line officers in the U.S. Army at the time--the other was his father.
Initially assigned to the infantry, in July 1941 he
joined 12 cadets in the first flying training program for blacks at
Tuskegee, Alabama. In March of 1942, he received his wings after becoming
the first black officer to solo an Army Air Corps aircraft. These
Tuskegee graduates went on to form the 99th Pursuit Squadron, which
entered World War II in June 1943 with Lieutenant Davis in command.
After four months of flying P-40's in the Mediterranean Theater, Davis
returned to the States, took command of the 332d Fighter Group, and
deployed with his unit to Italy in January 1944. By summer the Group
had transitioned to P-47s and began scoring their first kills. On
June 9, 1944, Colonel Davis led 39 Thunderbolts escorting B-24s to
targets at Munich, Germany. Near the target, the 332d took on more
than 100 German fighters, destroying five Me-109s and damaging another.
For his leadership and bravery on this mission, Davis was awarded
theDistinguished Flying Cross. Later, flying the distinctive 332d
"Red Tail" P-51 Mustangs, Davis led the first Italy-based
fighter group to escort bombers to Berlin, a distance of 1,600 miles.
Approaching Berlin, they were attacked by 25 Me-262 jets, but the
332d downed three of the enemy fighters. Under Davis' command, the
Group flew more than 15,000 sorties against the Luftwaffe, shot down
111 enemy aircraft, and destroyed another 150 on the ground, while
losing only 66 of their own aircraft to all causes. Not one friendly
bomber was lost to enemy aircraft during the Group's 200 escort missions.
The unique success of this all-black outfit highlighted Colonel Davis'
leadership, along with the courage and discipline of his airmen.
Following the European War Davis returned to the States to command
the 477th Composite Group and the 332d Fighter Wing. He again saw
combat in 1953 when he assumed command of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor
Wing and flew the F-86 in Korea. With his promotion to brigadier general,
Davis became the first black to earn a star in the US Air Force. He
retired as a Lieutenant General in 1970, and served under President
Nixon as Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Environment, Safety,
and Consumer Affairs.
|While under his command, the 332nd never
lost a bomber on an escort mission. They also received a Distinguished
Unit Citation. After World War II, Davis became the first African-American
Air Force General. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was an American hero.
Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
Col. Davis with his P47
Commander, 332nd Fighter GP Italy
Capt's Davis, Carter, Ross and Moore