From the moment that 14 year-old Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. went on an insane barnstorming flight with a crazy-ass stunt pilot who executed more barrel rolls than Donkey Kong, he knew he wanted to be a pilot. Davis’ father was the first African-American General in the United States Army, and he was determined to follow in his dad’s footsteps, enrolling in the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1932 with dreams of becoming a commissioned officer in the United States Air Corps (which at the time was part of the Army because the Air Force didn’t exist yet LOLOLOLOL) .
Unfortunately, being a black man attending the U.S. Military Academy in 1932 sucked more balls than the kids at Willy Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstopper factory. For four years, Davis received the “silent treatment” from his jackass classmates, who refused to speak with him, eat with him, or let him join in any reindeer games, all in an effort to be total dicks, ostracize him and force him out of the academy. In an environment that would have drained the life out of most people quicker than a malnourished vampire, Davis somehow managed to persevere for four long years, and in 1936 he became only the fourth black man to ever graduate from the nation’s top Military Academy. Because the Air Corps only accepted white people for some dumbass reason, Davis was assigned to the US 24th Infantry, an all-black “Buffalo Soldiers” unit. Even though he was a commissioned Lieutenant and an officer of the United States Army, he was barred from the officers club on the base because of his skin color, which was total fucking bullshit. When he proved himself to be a competent leader and commander, US High Command transferred him to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he taught military tactics and Asskicking 101 to a group of young recruits, each of whom would grow to become heroes in their own right.
As you will see, it would take more than blatant racism and an oppressive system dedicated to breaking his will to keep Ben Davis down. He continued to thrive in Tuskegee, commanding the respect of his students and fellow soldiers, and eventually caught a big break in 1942 when President Franklin D. FDR Roosevelt announced that an all-black fighter squadron was being put together to go battle the Nazis overseas. Davis signed up immediately and was one of only five officers to complete the initial training course at Tuskegee. He then became the first black officer to solo in a US Air Corps plane, and was eventually appointed commander of the new all-black US 99th Pursuit Squadron – a unit that would come to be known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
Davis trained his men, recruited new pilots, and in 1943 the 99th Squadron was sent out to North Africa to help the Allies battle Rommel and his buddies in the Afrika Korps. Tuskegee Airman P-40s also served during the invasions of Sicily and mainland Italy, winning a Distinguished Unit Citation for raids on strongholds at Monte Cassino, blowing the shit out of the enemy strongpoints while Voytek and his friends did their work on the ground. The 99th also got a chance to flex its balls by shooting down twelve Nazi fighter planes in two days in the skies above Anzio, achieving air victories at a ten-to-one ratio over the course of seventy-two hours.
Davis was then promoted to command the 332nd Fighter Group, another all-black Tuskegee Airmen unit tasked with providing fighter escort for Allied bombers as they made carpet bombing runs throughout Europe. The 332nd had an impressive service record during the war, and the “Redtails” (so called because they painted the fins of their fighters red) were constantly being requested as fighter escort by Allied bomber crews, few of which even knew that the Redtails were an all-black unit. Davis himself flew 60 combat missions personally, winning the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions blowing the shit out of anything in the sky that didn't have a giant white star painted on its fuselage. Once he led a group of eight P-47s against a squadron of 18 German Bf-109s and emerged victorious, probably by spinning his plane around in circles like the end of The Last Starfighter and blasting the shit out of everything with a Gradius-style super-missile burst. His men won a Distinguished Unit Citation for another mission he led, when P-51s from the 332nd went on a 1,600 mile bombing run against the Daimler-Benz tank factory deep in the heart of the Vaterland, annihilating hundreds of Panzers before they could even get out of the assembly line and giving Hitler the finger in the process. During the run, the P-51s of the 332nd Fighter Group went up against a squadron of super-advanced German Me-262 jet fighters, and despite being incredibly outgunned, Davis’ men managed to shoot down three enemy jets, six other fighters, two F-14 Tomcats and half a dozen TIE Interceptors without losing a single Allied bomber. For a frame of reference, before that battle only two Me-262s had ever been shot down by the Allies.
The Tuskegee Airmen led by Captain Davis flew 5,000 missions during World War II, shooting down 111 Nazi pilots and destroying 273 enemy planes on the ground while only losing 66 of their own planes. The 445 combat pilots under Davis’ command earned 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 14 Bronze Stars, 744 Air Medals, and at one point flew 200 consecutive missions without losing a single bomber. Service records don’t get a whole lot better than that.
An Allied P-47 like the ones Davis flew.
When Benjamin Davis returned home, however, he was once again confronted with a battle that couldn’t be combated with a never-ending stream of machinegun bullets and several hundred tons of high-yield explosives. Despite being a fucking true American war hero, Davis and his wife were still barred from going out to dinner at restaurants in his hometown simply because of bullshit segregation, which, as I just mentioned, is total bullshit. He wasn’t going to just sit there and put up with that garbage though, and after the war he worked closely with the newly-created United States Air Force to help implement racial integration into their ranks. Thanks in a large part to Colonel Davis' actions, the USAF was the first branch of the military to fully integrate. He was the first black man to attend the Air War College in Montgomery, and became the first black General of the Air Force. He served in the Pentagon until serious shit started going down in Korea, when he was once again sent out to kick asses.
General Davis was placed in command of the USAF’s 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing during the Korean War, where he became one of the first black officers in US Military History to ever hold command over white enlisted men. He did it pretty fucking well, too - during the defense of South Korea the F-86s of the 51st flew 45,000 sorties, shooting down 312 Chinese MiGs while only losing 32 pilots. Never content to sit back and not be blasting the shit out of motherfuckers when a perfectly good opportunity to do so presented itself, Benjamin Davis personally led many missions, and his leadership and tactical abilities contributed greatly to the 51st boating a ten-to-one kill ratio over enemy fighters during the war.
After Korea, Davis was the commander of the US 13th Air Force in the Philippines, and then served as Deputy Commander-in-Chief of US Strike Command before retiring in 1970 as a three-star Lieutenant General. During his adventures he was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Air Medal, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Philippine Legion of Honor. His actions, and those of the brave Tuskegee Airmen, proved to the uptight dickwads in charge that black men could kick ass just as much as white men and led to the eventual racial integration of the American Armed Forces. He overcame segregation, bigotry, epic dumbassitude, crazy flying Germans and Chinese MiGs, and proved himself as a true American Hero. Despite all of his battle honors and awards however, perhaps the most telling statistic is this – at the time the United States Air Force was formed, there was only one black officer in its ranks. Today, there are over four thousand.
|"The courage, tenacity, and intelligence with which he conquered a problem incomparably more difficult than plebe year won for him the sincere admiration of his classmates, and his single-minded determination to continue in his chosen career cannot fail to inspire respect wherever fortune may lead him."
- Davis' graduation entry in the West Point yearbook
Benjamin Davis, American
The Tuskegee Airmen