Like Father, Like Son

Benjamin Davis, Jr. was born in Washington DC in 1912. At the time, his father was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. His father would later become the first African American to reach the rank of Brigadier General.

At the age of 13, Benjamin had the opportunity to fly with a brainstorming pilot. This was the moment that his career direction was set since he decided he wanted to be a pilot. After a brief time at the University of Chicago, he was admitted to West Point. When he graduated in 1936, he was the first African American to do so in nearly 50 years. West Point was a struggle. His classmates shunned him, and no one would room with him. This just fueled his determination.

His early introduction into military life was no better. His application to the Army Air Corps was refused because of his race. He was not allowed in the officer’s club where he was based. His assignments were deliberately chosen so that white soldiers would not be under his command.

In 1941 President Roosevelt created a flying unit for African Americans. Benjamin (now Captain) Davis was assigned to the first class. They were based in Tuskegee, Alabama, and became known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Captain Davis was the first African American to fly solo in a military plane.

In 1943 Benjamin (now Lieutenant Colonel) Davis led a squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen into its first battle. In spite of its successful performance in battle, the Tuskegee Airmen were still being rejected by senior officers in the military. General George Marshall allowed them to continue to serve combat duties in spite of the opposition of others in his command.

As the war progressed, the Tuskegee Airmen had an exemplary record of flying missions over Italy, Germany, and Austria. At the end of the war, President Truman ordered the integration of the military. This was largely due to the influence of General Benjamin Davis, Sr.

Benjamin Davis, Jr. was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in 1954 becoming the first African American to achieve that rank in the U.S. Air Force. He would eventually achieve the rank of General (4 stars). He retired after 34 years serving in battle in 3 wars (World War II, Korean, and Vietnam). He passed away at the age of 89.

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            “Remain alert about your blindness, about your fear, about your ignorance, and just your alertness will dispel the whole darkness of blindness, of fear, of ignorance.” – Rajneesh

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