Remembering Yesteryear: In October 1940 Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., became America’s first African American general in the United States Army

Remembering Yesteryear: In October 1940 Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., became America’s first African American general 
On October 25, 1940 Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., became the first African American to become a general in the United States Army

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., was born in Washington, D.C., on July 1, 1877. He entered the military service on July 13, 1898, during the War with Spain as a temporary first lieutenant of the 8th United States Volunteer Infantry. He was mustered out on March 6, 1899, and on June 18, 1899, he enlisted as a private in Troop I, 9th Cavalry, of the Regular Army. He then served as corporal and squadron sergeant major, and on February 2, 1901, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of Cavalry in the Regular Army.

His first service as a commissioned officer of the Regular Army was in the Philippine Islands with the 9th Cavalry on the Island of Samar. In August 1901 he was assigned to duty with the 2d Squadron, 10th Cavalry, and returned from the Philippines with that organization for service as Adjutant at Fort Washakie, Wyoming.

In September 1905 he was made Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Wilberforce University, Ohio, remaining there until September 1909, when, after a brief tour of duty at Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont, he was detailed as Military Attache to Monrovia, Liberia, until January 1912.

He then was assigned to duty with the 9th Cavalry at Fort D.A. Russell (predecessor of Fort Francis E. Warren), Wyoming, and at Douglas, Arizona. He remained with his regiment on border patrol duty until February 1915, when he again was assigned to duty as Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Wilberforce University, Ohio. He remained there until the summer of 1917, when he went to the Philippines for duty as Supply Officer of the 9th Cavalry at Camp Stotsenburg.

He returned to the United States in July 1920, and was assigned to duty as Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama, where he served until July 1924, when he became Instructor of the 372d Infantry, Ohio National Guard, stationed at Cleveland, Ohio.

In July 1929 he returned to Wilberforce University as Professor Military Science and Tactics serving until late 1930 when he was detailed on special duty with the Department of State in connection with affairs relating to the Republic of Liberia.

In late 1931 he was assigned again to serve as Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University), where he remained until August 1937 when he was transferred to Wilberforce University.

During the summers of 1930 to 1933, he was placed on detached service for duty with the Pilgrimage of War Mothers and Widows, making frequent trips to Europe on behalf of that organization. For his work on this assignment he received letters of commendation from The Secretary of War and from The Quartermaster General.

In August 1937 he was transferred from Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University) to Wilberforce University. After a year at that institution, he was assigned as instructor and Commanding Officer of the 369th Infantry, New York National Guard. This organization was later changed to the 369th Coast Artillery (Antiaircraft) Regiment.

In January 1941 he was ordered to Fort Riley, Kansas, for duty as a brigade commander with the 2d Cavalry Division. The following June, he was assigned to Washington, D.C., for duty as Assistant to The Inspector General.

He was assigned to the European Theater of Operations in September 1942 on special duty as Advisor on Negro problems and upon completion of this special duty he returned to the United States and resumed his duties in the Inspector General’s Department.

In November 1944 he became Special Assistant to the Commanding General, Communications Zone, European Theater of Operations, stationed in Paris, France, and in November 1945 was granted a period of detached service for the purposes of recuperation and rehabilitation.

In January 1946 he again became Assistant, The Inspector General, Washington, D.C. He retired on 14 July 1948, after having served fifty years. General Davis died on November 26, 1970. His remains are interred in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

His son, Lieutenant General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., (U.S. Air Force, Retired), is the fourth African American graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and the nation’s second African American general officer.

Source: U.S. Army Center of Military History


General Benjamin O,. Davis Sr’s effective dates of promotion:
First Lieutenant, USV – July 13, 1898
Private – June 18, 1899
Corporal –
Sergeant Major – 1900
Second Lieutenant, USA – August 1901 (date of rank February 2)
First Lieutenant, USA – March 30, 1905
Captain, USA – December 24, 1915
Major, National Army – August 5, 1917
Lieutenant Colonel, National Army – May 1, 1918
Captain, USA (reverted to peacetime rank) – December 24, 1915
Lieutenant Colonel, USA – July 1, 1920
Colonel, USA – February 18, 1930
Brigadier General, USA – October 25, 1940

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.

Video: World War II- Red Tail Ceremony with Benjamin O. Davis Senior
General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. led the 99th Pursuit Squadron. He was the first black officer to solo an Army Air Corp aircraft. He and other airmen are decorated by his father, the Army’s first black General, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.

Video: General Benjamin O. Davis Jr. speaks about his father General Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.

Video: President Bill Clinton’s remarks honoring General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. of the Tuskegee Airmen


General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.
Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.
General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps when he became the first African American general in the United States Air Force, 14 years almost to the day after his father Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. was promoted to general.

General Davis Jr., was the first African American cadet to graduate from West Point in the 20th century and one of the first African American pilots in the military.

His leadership of America’s only all-black air units of World War II (Tuskegee Airmen) helped speed the integration of the Air Force, and in 1954 he became its first African American general.

After attending the University of Chicago, he entered the United States Military Academy in 1932, having been sponsored by Representative Oscar De Priest of Chicago, the only black member of Congress. His father had been denied an appointment to West Point.

In his four years at West Point, no one would room with Cadet Benjamin O. Davis Jr, and no one would speak to him outside the line of duty. But he surmounted the bigotry and isolation and graduated 35th in a class of 276, only the fourth black graduate in the military academy’s history.

When he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1936, the Army had a grand total of two African American line officers — Benjamin O. Davis Sr. and Benjamin O. Davis Jr.

He later attended the Army’s Infantry School at Fort Benning, but then was assigned to teach military tactics at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), something his father had done years before. It was the Army’s way to avoid having an African American officer command white soldiers in the days when segregation prevailed and black troops performed menial tasks with little hope of promotion.

Captain Davis was assigned to the first training class at Tuskegee Army Air Field, and in March 1942 he won his wings as one of five black officers to complete the flying course. In July — having been promoted to lieutenant colonel — he was named commander of the first all-black air unit, the 99th Pursuit Squadron.

The fighter squadron went to North Africa in the spring of 1943 and on June 2, operating out of Tunisia, saw combat for the first time, a dive-bombing mission against the German-held island of Pantelleria. During the summer, the 99th squadron flew missions supporting the invasion of Sicily.

Colonel Davis and his 332nd Fighter Group arrived in Italy soon after that. Based at Ramitelli, and called the Red Tails for the distinctive markings on its planes, the four-squadron unit compiled an outstanding record on missions deep into German territory.

In January 1944, the Tuskegee Airmen pilots downed 12 German fighter planes in two successive days over the Anzio beachhead in Italy.

In the summer of 1945, Colonel Davis took over the all-black 477th Bombardment Group, which was stationed at Godman Field, Ky.

In July 1948, President Truman signed an executive order providing for integration of the armed forces. Colonel Davis helped draft an Air Force blueprint on integration that went into effect the next year, the wartime performance of his fliers having already created a climate for ending segregation.

General Davis served at the Pentagon and in overseas posts over the next two decades. He gained the three stars of a lieutenant general in May 1965, when he was the chief of staff for American forces in South Korea. He was later commander of the 13th Air Force, based in the Philippines, and assistant commander of the United States Strike Command, with headquarters in Florida.

General Davis retired from the military in 1970.

In 1998 President Bill Clinton awarded him a fourth star, the military’s highest peacetime rank.

Source: Richard Goldstein-The New York Times


General Benjamin O,. Davis Jr’s effective dates of promotion:
Second Lieutenant: June 12, 1936
First Lieutenant: June 19, 1939
Captain: October 9, 1940 (temporary); June 12, 1946 (permanent)
Major: May 13, 1942 (temporary);
Lieutenant Colonel: May 29, 1942 (temporary); July 2, 1948 (permanent)
Colonel: May 29, 1944 (temporary); July 27, 1950 (permanent)
Brigadier General: October 27, 1954 (temporary); May 16, 1960 (permanent)
Major General: June 30, 1959 (temporary); January 30, 1962 (permanent)
Lieutenant General: April 30, 1965
General December 9, 1998 (retired list)

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October 28, 1935
Fredrick D. Patterson takes office as Tuskegee’s 3rd President
Tuskegee will remain a technical and agricultural institution

April 11, 1941
Tuskegee Board of Trustees appropriates money for the purchase
and development of airfield to train pilots

July 26, 1941
Tuskegee moves aggressively to train pilots and developed airports that
will become military bases for the Tuskegee Airmen

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August 30, 1941
Tuskegee will have African Americans build
Tuskegee Army Airfield (Sharpe Field) for the Tuskegee Airmen

September 5, 1941
Tuskegee Institute will lease land for the construct houses for Tuskegee Airmen families

September 5, 1941
Tuskegee Institute and the Tuskegee Airmen

December 27, 1941
Tuskegee Institute and the Tuskegee Airmen and the British

Tuskegee Army Air Field/Sharpe Field and Moton Field
Click image below to enlarge
Tuskegee Airmen
Tuskegee Army Air Field/Sharpe Field
All primary/advanced/operational flight training of the Tuskegee Airmen was done at Tuskegee Army Air Field/Sharpe Field took place at Sharpe Field. The last advanced pilot training class graduated in 1946 and for a while Sharpe Field remained open as a civilian airport before closing around 1970-71.

Moton Field
Moton Field was where basic flight training was done and is located 5.8 NM Southeast of TAAF/Sharpe Field.
Tuskegee Airmen reunions are held at Moton Field.


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