Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

Benjamin 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.
Lieutenant General

Benjamin O. Davis Jr.

Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
Colonel (Autographed)

Col. Davis with his P47
Commander, 332nd Fighter GP Italy

Capt's Davis, Carter, Ross and Moore