Recognize the Tuskegee Airmen and
General Davis's Exceptional Leadership
The Big Idea - Rename Fort Rucker
Don’t be put off by the Air Force uniform!
General Davis was commissioned in the Infantry, and later transferred to the Army Air Corps.
Rename Fort Rucker to “Fort Davis” to honor General Benjamin O. Davis Jr. This recognizes his career of exceptional leadership and the extraordinary hardships of institutional racism he overcame to serve the Nation. Through his character, integrity, and mission focus, General Davis set an example of achievement that drove the Nation to an integrated service structure. From breaking the color barrier as the first African American military pilot with the Army Air Corps Tuskegee Airmen to ultimately achieving Air Force four-star rank, General Davis’ life continues to inspire and motivate all Americans.
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Fort Davis would simultaneously recognize General Davis’ achievements across his 34 years of commissioned service as well as the groundbreaking, ceiling shattering contributions of the 99th Pursuit Squadron and 332nd Fighter Group, the Tuskegee airmen/” Red Tails.” The Tuskegee Airmen were among the first to train at Fort Rucker, an Army Air Corps post established in 1942.
General Davis, the son of the first African American Brigadier General in the Army, was appointed to USMA from Illinois and entered the class of 1936. At this time, the military was segregated, with racial prejudice common throughout the officer corps. Davis was only the fourth African American to enter West Point.
Instead of celebrating his entry as a critical step towards integrating the Academy, his classmates immediately gave him the silent treatment. He was forced to room by himself throughout his four years, and his classmates rarely spoke to him outside of official duty requirements. But, as he would throughout his career, he ignored this treatment and pushed himself to prove the prejudice was unfounded and graduated in the top third of his class.
Upon graduation, his first assignment was with the 24th Infantry, where he continued to experience extreme prejudice and further ostracism. When he accepted the opportunity to join the Army Air Corps, his future and the possibility of African American integration into the armed services became real.
General Davis was the senior officer amongst the African Americans going to flight training, and the Army gave him command of the 99th Pursuit Squadron. This unit would make history and be known as the Tuskegee airmen. He took the unit to North Africa in 1943, where it saw combat for the first time. Unfortunately, prejudice continued, and some officers recommended the Air Force disband the unit, alleging poor performance. General Davis defended the record, and the unit was vindicated once and for all by its aggressive aerial victories over the Anzio beachhead – 12 enemy planes downed. He led approximately sixty combat missions himself, earning the Silver Star for a mission into Austria and the Distinguished Flying Cross on an escort mission to Munich.
General Davis advanced in rank during World War II, commanding more prominent formations to include the 332nd Fighter Group, the legendary “Red Tails.” His fighter squadron had the unequaled record of never losing a bomber on over 200 escort missions. No other unit could claim that success.
After World War II, General Davis continued to serve in positions of increasing responsibility. One of the most significant assignments between World War II and Korea was to help draft the Air Force plan for implementing Executive Order 9981 ordering racial integration of the Armed Forces. His work ensured the smooth and effective integration of previously all-white units. Of note is that the Air Force was the first service to integrate. The lessons learned were vital to implementing the change in the other Services. General Davis retired from active duty as a Lt General and was promoted to a full general by President Clinton in 1998 to recognize his groundbreaking achievements and the innovations he introduced to improve the combat effectiveness of the Air Force.
After retirement, he would serve in the Department of Transportation, where he established the Air Marshal program and effectively ended hijacking. He also served as the Assistant Secretary of Transportation with responsibility for overseeing airport security.
Summary: Fort Davis will uniquely honor not only General Davis but, through him, recognize the challenge all African Americans faced as the Nation struggled with civil rights and integration.