July 08, 2002

Another One Gone

Profile in Black, Profile in Courage

Benjamin Davis dies; he led the Tuskegee Airmen

Benjamin O. Davis Jr., a pioneering military officer who led the fabled Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and became the first African-American general in the Air Force, died July 4. He was 89 and had Alzheimer's disease.

Davis' career began in the days of segregation in the military. His combat record and that of the unit he led have been credited with playing a major role in prompting the integration of the armed services after World War II.

In 1970, after retiring from the Air Force, he supervised the federal sky marshal program that was designed to quell a rash of airliner hijackings. In 1971, he was named an assistant secretary of transportation.

When he left the Air Force as a lieutenant general, he was the senior black officer in the armed forces. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Davis his fourth star, advancing him to full general.

As the World War II commander of the 332nd Fighter Group, Davis and his pilots escorted bombers on 200 air combat missions over Europe, flying into the teeth of some of the Nazi Luftwaffe's most tenacious defenses. Davis himself flew 60 missions.

Posted by ronn at July 8, 2002 02:02 AM

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