b. 13/01/1915 Fitzgerald, Georgia. d. 03/09/2003 Conyers, Georgia.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 01-04/12/1950 Hagaru-ri, Korea.
General Davis was born on January 13, 1915, in Fitzgerald, Georgia, and graduated in 1933 from Atlanta Technical High School, Atlanta, Georgia. He then entered the Georgia Institute of Technology, graduating in 1938 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. While in college he was a member of the ROTC unit. After graduation, he resigned his commission in the U. S. Army Infantry Reserve to accept appointment as a Marine Corps second lieutenant on June 27, 1938.
In May 1939, Second Lieutenant Davis completed the Marine Officers’ Basic School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and began a year of service with the Marine Detachment on board the USS Portland (CA-33) in the Pacific. He returned to shore duty in July 1940 for weapons and artillery instruction at Quantico, Virginia, and Aberdeen, Maryland. Completing the training in February 1941, he was assigned to the 1st Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battery, 1st Marine Division at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He returned to the United States with the unit in April, and the following month was appointed battery executive officer, serving in that capacity at Parris Island, South Carolina, and Quantico. He was promoted to first lieutenant in August 1941. That September, he moved with the battery to the Marine Barracks, New River (later Camp Lejeune), North Carolina. Upon his promotion to captain in February 1942, he was named battery commander.
During World War II, Captain Davis participated in the Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings, the capture and defense of Guadalcanal, the Eastern New Guinea and Cape Gloucester campaigns, and the Peleliu operation.
Beginning in June 1942, he embarked with his unit for the Pacific area, landing at Guadalcanal two months later. After that campaign, he was appointed Executive Officer of the 1st Special Weapons Battalion, 1st Marine Division. He was promoted to major on February 28, 1943. In October of that year, Major Davis took over command of the battalion and served in that capacity at New Guinea and Cape Gloucester. In April 1944, while on Cape Gloucester, he was named Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
Major Davis’ extraordinary heroism while commanding the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines at Peleliu in September 1944 earned him the Navy Cross and Purple Heart Medal. During the first hour of the Peleliu landing he was wounded. He refused evacuation, and on one occasion, due to heavy Marine casualties and point-blank Japanese cannon fire, the Japanese broke through, he personally rallied and led his men in fighting to re-establish defensive positions. In October 1944, he returned to Pavuvu and was promoted to lieutenant colonel.
In Korea, Lt. Col. Davis commanded the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, from August to December 1950. During this time one of his men described him as, “…from Georgia and soft spoken. No gruff, no bluff. Never talked down to you and made you feel comfortable in his presence.”
During the 1st Marine Division’s fight to break out of the Chosin Reservoir area in North Korea during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir on December 1, 1950, Lt. Col. Davis led his battalion in and through fierce firefights with the Chinese army from Yudam-ni to Hagru-ri. Lt. Col. Davis led in front of his men all the way… marching his battalion at night over mountains in a driving snowstorm, he rescued and saved Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment from annihilation at the Toktong Pass. This action also opened the blocked mountain pass to Hagaru-ri allowing two trapped Marine regiments to escape and link up with the rest of the 1st division at Hagaru-ri. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor. The medal was presented to Lt. Col. Davis by President Harry S. Truman in a White House ceremony on November 24, 1952.
Lt. Col. Davis was also awarded two Silver Star Medals for gallantry in action, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire while leading and encouraging his men in the face of strong enemy opposition. He received the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” for exceptionally meritorious conduct and professional skill in welding the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines into a highly effective combat team. Later, as Executive Officer of the 7th Marines, from December 1950 to June 1951, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for his part in rebuilding the 7th regiment in Korea after the Chosin Reservoir campaign. He returned to the United States in June 1951 and was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.
In March 1968, Major General Davis was sent to the Republic of Vietnam and served until May 1968 as the Deputy Commanding General of the Provisional Corps in South Vietnam. He then became Commanding General, 3rd Marine Division until April 1969. When he took command of the division, he ordered Marine units to move out of their combat bases and engage the enemy. He had noted that the manning of the bases and the defensive posture they had developed was contrary to their normally aggressive style of fighting. As part of this change in tactics he would order Operation Dewey Canyon in early 1969 to engage the NVA in the A Shau Valley. During this battle, his son Miles Davis, a rifle company platoon commander in K Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, was wounded in action. For his service as Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Division from May 22, 1968 until April 14, 1969, he was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. The South Vietnamese Government awarded him several decorations including three Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Crosses.
In May 1969, Davis was assigned duty as deputy for education with additional duty as director, Education Center, Marine Corps Development and Education Command, Quantico, Virginia. After his promotion to Lieutenant general on July 1, 1970, he was reassigned duty as commanding general, Marine Corps Development and Education Command.
On February 23, 1971, President Richard M. Nixon nominated Davis for appointment to the grade of general and assignment to the position of Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. His nomination was confirmed by the Senate and he received his fourth star on March 12, 1971. General Davis served as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps until he retired from active duty on March 31, 1972.
General Davis died of a heart attack at the age of 88 on September 3, 2003, in Conyers, Georgia. Interment was at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in College Park, Georgia. His Funeral Detail and Honor Guard were personally commanded by General Michael W. Hagee, 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, in action against enemy aggressor forces. Although keenly aware that the operation involved breaking through a surrounding enemy and advancing 8 miles along primitive icy trails in the bitter cold with every passage disputed by a savage and determined foe, Lt. Col. Davis boldly led his battalion into the attack in a daring attempt to relieve a beleaguered rifle company and to seize, hold, and defend a vital mountain pass controlling the only route available for 2 marine regiments in danger of being cut off by numerically superior hostile forces during their re-deployment to the port of Hungnam. When the battalion immediately encountered strong opposition from entrenched enemy forces commanding high ground in the path of the advance, he promptly spearheaded his unit in a fierce attack up the steep, ice-covered slopes in the face of withering fire and, personally leading the assault groups in a hand-to-hand encounter, drove the hostile troops from their positions, rested his men, and reconnoitered the area under enemy fire to determine the best route for continuing the mission. Always in the thick of the fighting Lt. Col. Davis led his battalion over 3 successive ridges in the deep snow in continuous attacks against the enemy and, constantly inspiring and encouraging his men throughout the night, brought his unit to a point within 1,500 yards of the surrounded rifle company by daybreak. Although knocked to the ground when a shell fragment struck his helmet and 2 bullets pierced his clothing, he arose and fought his way forward at the head of his men until he reached the isolated marines. On the following morning, he bravely led his battalion in securing the vital mountain pass from a strongly entrenched and numerically superior hostile force, carrying all his wounded with him, including 22 litter cases and numerous ambulatory patients. Despite repeated savage and heavy assaults by the enemy, he stubbornly held the vital terrain until the 2 regiments of the division had deployed through the pass and, on the morning of December 4, led his battalion into Hagaru-ri intact. By his superb leadership, outstanding courage, and brilliant tactical ability, Lt. Col. Davis was directly instrumental in saving the beleaguered rifle company from complete annihilation and enabled the 2 marine regiments to escape possible destruction. His valiant devotion to duty and unyielding fighting spirit in the face of almost insurmountable odds enhance and sustain the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
BURIAL LOCATION; FOREST LAWN MEMORIAL GARDENS, COLLEGE PARK, GEORGIA.
DAVIS ESTATE, LOT 1
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.