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Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr


Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., in full Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr. (born December 18, 1912, Washington, D.C., U.S.—died July 4, 2002, Washington, D.C.) pilot, officer, and administrator who became the first African American general in the U.S. Air Force. His father, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., was the first African American to become a general in any branch of the U.S. military.

Davis studied at the University of Chicago before entering the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1932. After graduating in 1936 he was commissioned in the infantry and in 1941 was among the first group of African Americans admitted to the Army Air Corps and to pilot training. Upon his graduation he was swiftly promoted to lieutenant colonel, and he organized the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the first entirely African American air unit, which flew tactical support missions in the Mediterranean theatre. In 1943 he organized and commanded the 332nd Fighter Group (the Tuskegee Airmen). By the end of the war Davis himself had flown 60 combat missions and had been promoted to colonel.

After the war Davis held other commands, and he helped plan the desegregation of the air force in 1948. He graduated from the Air War College in 1950, commanded a fighter wing in the Korean War, and was promoted to brigadier general (a one-star general) in 1954. In 1959 Davis became the first African American officer to reach the rank of major general (a two-star general) in the air force and was promoted to lieutenant general (a three-star general) in 1965. After retiring in 1970 he was named director of civil aviation security in the U.S. Department of Transportation. In that post he devised and coordinated measures that effectively ended a wave of aircraft hijackings in the United States. Davis became an assistant secretary of transportation in 1971.

Davis received many decorations during his career, including two Distinguished Service Medals and a Silver Star. On December 9, 1998, Davis was awarded his fourth general’s star (making him a general of the highest order within the U.S. military). He was the first African American to be so honoured in retirement. His 1991 autobiography, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., American, recounts his career.


Units served with

  • 15th Air Force

    15th Air Force

    The Fifteenth Air Force was one of two Strategic Air forces in Europe, along with the Eighth Air Force. ...

  • 332nd Fighter Group

    332nd Fighter Group

    The United States entered World War II with a military that was segregated by race and remained segregated until 1948. War Department planners generally placed White and African-American Army personnel in separate units during World War II. ...


Event Location Date
Born Washington, DC, USA 18 December 1912
Graduated West Point, NY, USA May 1936

United States Military Academy
#35 in his class

Graduated Pilot Training Tuskegee, AL, USA 6 March 1942

Class 42-C-SE

Commander Tunisia July 1942

99th Fighter Squadron

Commander Tuskegee, AL, USA September 1942

332nd Fighter Group

Died Washington, DC, USA 4 July 2002
Buried 7 July 2202

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington County
Virginia, USA
Plot: Section 2, Lot E-311 RH


Date Contributor Update
03 December 2016 21:10:03 466thHistorian Changes to service number, highest rank, role and events

Date Contributor Update
01 December 2016 18:14:15 466thHistorian Changes to events

Date Contributor Update
01 December 2016 18:10:24 466thHistorian Changes to events

Date Contributor Update
01 December 2016 18:06:41 466thHistorian Changes to media associations

Date Contributor Update
01 December 2016 18:06:02 466thHistorian Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, suffix, nationality, highest rank, biography, events, unit associations and place associations