George Andrew Davis, Jr.
Engagements: • World War II (1941 - 1945)• Korean War (1950 - 1953)
George Andrew Davis, Jr.
George Andrew Davis, Jr. was born on 1 December 1920 in Dublin, TX, and attended high school in Morton, TX, where he graduated. After high school he graduated from Harding College in Searcy, AR.
Davis enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Lubbock, TX, in March 1942 and was commissioned as an Aviation Cadet. He received his wings in February 1943 and in August was ordered to New Guinea to join the 338th Fighter Group. During World War II, he piloted a P-47 Thunderbolt with the 342nd Fighter Squadron, 348th Fighter Group. He established an enviable combat record with the 5th Air Force by shooting down seven Japanese fighter planes in the Southwest Pacific between December 1943 and December 1944. Davis completed 266 missions for a total of 705 combat hours, and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Silver Star Medal.
He was promoted to First Lieutenant in February 1944 and to Captain in November 1944. Davis returned home for peacetime duties as flight commander, air inspector, and jet fighter pilot at bases in Texas, Tennessee, California, New York and Pennsylvania. He was promoted to the rank of Major in February 1951, and in October 1951 went to Korea.
In the Korean War, Major Davis flew the F-86 Sabrejet and Commanded the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions on 10 February 1952, in MiG Alley, near the Yalu River. At the time of his death, he had scored 14 victories in Korea and was the fourth-ranked ace in that war. All of his Korean War victories were over Soviet MiG-15s. He was one of only seven pilots in the U.S. military to achieve ace status in two wars, with 21 total credited victories. His death had also generated controversy between China and Russia, in which both MiG pilot Zhang Jihui and Mikhail A. Averin had claimed to be his assailant.
George Andrew Davis, Jr. was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He was also posthumously promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 15 April 1953.
Military Medals and Awards
During his military career Davis earned five decorations for his actions including the Medal of Honor; Distinguished Service Cross; three Silver Star Medals; and the Purple Heart.
Medal of Honor
Davis' official Medal of Honor Citation reads:
Maj. Davis distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. While leading a flight of 4 F-86 Sabrejets on a combat aerial patrol mission near the Manchurian border, Maj. Davis' element leader ran out of oxygen and was forced to retire from the flight with his wingman accompanying him. Maj. Davis and the remaining F-86's continued the mission and sighted a formation of approximately 12 enemy MIG-15 aircraft speeding southward toward an area where friendly fighter-bombers were conducting low level operations against the Communist lines of communications. With selfless disregard for the numerical superiority of the enemy, Maj. Davis positioned his 2 aircraft, then dove at the MIG formation. While speeding through the formation from the rear he singled out a MIG-15 and destroyed it with a concentrated burst of fire. Although he was now under continuous fire from the enemy fighters to his rear, Maj. Davis sustained his attack. He fired at another MIG-15 which, bursting into smoke and flames, went into a vertical dive. Rather than maintain his superior speed and evade the enemy fire being concentrated on him, he elected to reduce his speed and sought out still a third MIG-15. During this latest attack his aircraft sustained a direct hit, went out of control, then crashed into a mountain 30 miles south of the Yalu River. Maj. Davis' bold attack completely disrupted the enemy formation, permitting the friendly fighter-bombers to successfully complete their interdiction mission. Maj. Davis, by his indomitable fighting spirit, heroic aggressiveness, and superb courage in engaging the enemy against formidable odds exemplified valor at its highest.
Distinguished Service Cross Citation (Korea)
The President of the United States of America, under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Major George Andrew Davis, Jr. (AFSN: 0-671514/13035A), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Squadron Commander, 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, FIFTH Air Force, on 27 November 1951, during an engagement with enemy aircraft near Sinanju, Korea. While leading a group formation of thirty-two F-86 aircraft on a counter air mission, Major Davis observed six MIG-15 aircraft headed southward above the group. With exemplary leadership and superior airmanship, he maneuvered his forces into position for attack. Leading with great tactical skill and courage, Major Davis closed to 800 feet on a MIG-15 over Namsi. He fired on the enemy aircraft, which immediately began burning. A few seconds later, the enemy pilot bailed out of his aircraft. Continuing the attack on the enemy forces, Major Davis fired on the wingman of the enemy flight, which resulted in numerous strikes on the wing roots and the fuselage. As Major Davis broke off his relentless attack on this MIG-l5, another MIG-15 came down on him. He immediately brought his aircraft into firing position upon the enemy and after a sustained barrage of fire, the enemy pilot bailed out. Although low on fuel, he rejoined his group and reorganized his forces to engage the approximate 80 enemy aircraft making the attack. Against overwhelming odds, Major Davis' group destroyed two other MIG-15 aircraft, probably destroyed one and damaged one other. Major Davis' aggressive leadership, his flying skill and devotion to duty contributed invaluable to the United Nations' cause and reflect great credit on himself, the Far East Air forces and the United States Air Force.
First Silver Star Medal Citation (World War II)
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Captain (Air Corps) George Andrew Davis, Jr. (ASN: 0-671514/13035A), United States Army Air Forces, for gallantry in action while serving as Pilot of a P-47 Aircraft of the 342d Fighter Squadron, 348th Fighter Group, FIFTH Air Force, in action over Clark Field, Manila, Philippine Islands, on 24 December 1944. Captain Davis was leading a flight of three P-47 type aircraft in a formation escorting B-24 bombers on a mission when he saw two enemy fighters making a pass at the bombers from approximately 1,000 feet above. He immediately turned in pursuit of one, chasing it to within firing distance, where his wingman shot it down, causing the pilot to bail out. He then took his flight back to maintain cover for the bombers. Soon afterwards he observed a formation of eight to ten enemy planes attacking our P-47s. Captain Davis thereupon went after one of them and fired three bursts which resulted in the airplane's breaking into flames and crashing into the mountain. Returning again to his position he saw another enemy fighter heading for the bomber formation. Acting quickly, he climbed after it, firing from 200 yards range. Pieces flew off the Japanese plane, and it burst into flames and crashed. The superb protection afforded the bombers by Captain Davis enabled them to carry out their runs with telling effect. Captain Davis' gallantry and leadership are in keeping with the highest tradition of the United States Army Air Forces.
Second Silver Star Medal Citation (Korea)
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Major George Andrew Davis, Jr. (AFSN: 671514/13035A), United States Air Force, for gallantry in action against an enemy on 30 November 1951 while leading a formation of eight F-86 aircraft on a combat aerial patrol in the Sinuiju-Yalu River area in Korea. Shortly after arriving in the target area, Major Davis sighted a formation of approximately 12 enemy TU-2 type bomber aircraft escorted by large numbers of enemy MIG-15 and LA-9 type fighter aircraft. In spite of the overwhelming odds against him, Major Davis immediately maneuvered his Squadron into position to press home his attack. With outstanding airmanship, he led his formation on the initial pass on the bombers, scoring numerous strikes on the first box of three. While maneuvering for an immediate second attack on the bombers, his wingman became separated and was unable to rejoin him. Major Davis, disregarding his own safety, returned to the attack, although alone and without knowledge of friendly forces in the area. Despite the intense fire from the enemy bomber formation, he pressed home four more attacks with such effectiveness that he personally destroyed three enemy bombers. Major Davis was forced to withdraw after expending nearly all his ammunition and running critically low on fuel. While proceeding southward toward friendly territory, Major Davis heard a distress call from the element leader of his Flight. Although fully aware that he had less than the minimum amount of fuel remaining to insure safe return to a friendly base, Major Davis altered course 180 degrees and proceeded at full power to the location of the pilot. When he arrived he found his pilot's aircraft disabled by enemy fire and in imminent danger of being destroyed by MIG-15s, which were forming for a final attack on the damaged F-86. Major Davis immediately brought accurate fire on the enemy, destroyed one MIG-15, dispersed the remaining, forcing them to break off their attack. He escorted the disabled aircraft out of the danger zone, into friendly territory. When he finally landed, he had less than five gallons of fuel remaining. Through his skill, Major Davis saved the life of a fellow pilot and caused the destruction of four enemy aircraft, bringing his total score to six destroyed and two probably destroyed. Major Davis' outstanding airmanship and gallantry reflected great credit upon himself, the Far East Air Forces, and the United States Air Force.
Third Silver Star Medal Citation (Korea)
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting a Second Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Third Award of the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Major George Andrew Davis, Jr. (ASN: 0-671514/13035A), United States Air Force, for gallantry in action against an enemy as Squadron Commander, 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, FIFTH Air Force, in the Sinanju-Anju area of North Korea on 13 December 1951. On that date, Major Davis was leader of a squadron of eight F-86 aircraft on a counter-air mission, when he observed a flight of ten MIG-15 enemy aircraft. He immediately initiated a coordinated attack and led his forces into the engagement. The vicious assault was relentlessly pressed and resulted in five MIG-15s destroyed and a sixth probably destroyed by the members of Major Davis' squadron. Major Davis was personally responsible for the destruction of two MIG-15 aircraft. None of his squadron sustained damage in achieving this victory over the enemy. The personal courage and outstanding qualities of leadership exhibited by major Davis contributed immeasurably to the greatest defeat inflicted upon the enemy in a single jet-to-jet engagement. As a result of his gallantry, leadership and brilliant tactical skill, Major Davis reflected great credit upon himself, the Far East Air Forces, and the United States Air Force.
Death and Memorial
After his death on 10 February 1952, a cenotaph for Major George Andrew Davis, Jr. was located in the City of Lubbock Cemetery in Lubbock, TX. His memorial site can be found in section 45 on the corner of Dogwood & Azalia, GPS (latitude/longitude): 33.33846 -101.48868).
The Story of Major George Andrew Davis, Jr. in Korea
These were hard times for the Far East Air Force (FEAF). Most of the Communist pilots weren't the inexperienced North Korean and Chinese fliers, as it was asserted at that time; instead they were the élite of the VVS (Voyenno Vozdushnye Sily = Soviet Air Force). About the time of Davis' arrival in Korea, during one 5-day period (22-27 October 1951) the Soviet MiG force had beaten up the B-29s, regardless of how many escort fighters were sent to protect them. This forced FEAF Commander-in-Chief General Otto Weyland to suspend the daylight raids of the Superfortresses, in what was the greatest American defeat in the air during the Korean War. That was the kind of opposition George Davis would meet in the skies of North Korea.
First Victories in Korea
The beginning of his career was meek; he damaged a MiG on 4 November. Still, he began to create an impression on the men under his command. Anthony Kulengosky was Davis' wingman that day, and he recalled the combat this way (MiG Alley - Sabres vs MiGs Over Korea, by Warren Thompson & David McLaren, page #61):
"I never had a chance to fire my machine guns at an enemy aircraft until one day I was assigned to a new major who had just come over from the States. His look did not impress me; he looked like a schoolteacher. But, once airborne, did he turn out to be a 'tiger'.
On one mission, I called out a MiG at three o'clock low heading north, and this tiger was on that MiG like a fly on fly paper. He closed to about 2,000 feet and I cleared his tail and told him he was OK to shoot. He did, but used too long a burst and ran out of ammo fast, but he did score some hits. My leader told me to move up and shoot, that he would make sure my tail was clear. I fired a few rounds and hit the MiG several times, but by this time, we were getting too close to the Yalu and we had to cut the chase short. The major got credit for his first 'damaged', and he went on to become a triple ace later in the war. [...] His name was Maj. George A. Davis Jr. He was a great pilot and a real gentlemen."
A few weeks later, at noon on 27 November 1951, Davis led his 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS) towards "MiG Alley" together with Major Richard Creighton who led his own unit, the 336th FIS. Early that morning, the Russian MiG-15 units had been pretty aggressive and broke havoc among the Thunderjets and Shooting Stars strafing ground targets, shooting down one F-80C (Rafael Du Briel, KIA) and one F-84E (Bernard K. Seitzinger, MIA), the latter by the Top Soviet scorer, Colonel Yevgeny Pepelyayev. Davis and Creighton were tasked "to cool the enthusiasm" of the Russians and allow the US fighter-bombers to do their job; and indeed Davis left the Russians "frozen." In only two minutes, between 13:49 and 13:51 hours, he blasted two MiGs out of the sky: the ones flown by Aleksandr P. Verdysh and A. Yesipko (both fliers perished - Verdysh had two victories to his credit, one F-86A and one F-51D). Creighton and 1st Lt. William Dawson claimed one MiG kill each in that same combat (although the Soviets suffered no losses in that combat except for Davis' "kills.") These 2 MiG kills were only the beginning of the legend of George Davis.
Massacre over Cho-Do Island
The PLAAF (People's Liberation Army Air Force = Chinese Air Force) became a real and dangerous threat on 6 November 1951, when nine Tu-2s of the 24th Regiment / 8th Division (escorted by 16 La-11s of the 2nd Division and 24 MiG-15s of the 3rd Division) destroyed the South Korean command post, food & ammo storage installations in Cho-Do island (Taehwa-Do in the Chinese cartography). That was a direct challenge to the American air superiority that would not go unanswered.
The US Army intelligence had learned that the PLAAF planned to repeat its raid against Cho-Do on 30 November and warned the FEAF, which ordered the 334th, 335th and 336th FIS to scramble 31 F-86A/E Sabres at 15:32 hours to intercept the expected intruders and their escorting MiGs. Without knowing it, the Americans were helped by a Chinese timing mistake; the nine Tu-2s of the 24th Regiment (led by Gao Yueming) took off one minute prior to schedule at 14:19 hours (Beijing time, 15:19 in Seoul), and an unexpected 180 degree turn to the SE caused that formation to add 4 more minutes ahead. As a result, only 16 Lavochkins were escorting the Chinese Tupolevs. The MiGs would arrive 5 minutes later (and only 16 out of 24), when most of the damage would be done. At 16:07 hours the 31 American Sabres met the nine Tu-2s and the 16 La-11s, and the carnage began.
That day George Davis was flying an old F-86A Sabre BuNo 49-1184, (which had a fixed Mk 18 gunsight, instead of the range calculating radar usual in the newest F-86Es) and his wingman was 2nd Lt. Merlyn Hroch. At 10,000 feet Davis flew above the whole formation of Tu-2s and La-11s, sharply turned 180 degrees and dove towards the Tupolevs. When he was within range, he opened up and sprayed one Tu-2 with .50-caliber bullets from wingtip to wingtip, forcing it to break formation in very bad shape (this bomber would be credited to Davis by the USAF as a "confirmed" kill, but as a matter of fact the Tupolev managed to make it back to Antung and was repaired later). Davis and Hroch turned around and jumped another Tu-2, and this time the Chinese aircraft just blew up: Davis' tracers had hit it in the fuel tanks.
Davis broke off again to perform another pass against the Tupolevs, but he did it so violently that Hroch lost track of him. Separated from his wingman, he should have returned to Kimpo, but Davis had a different opinion. Instead, he came back behind a third Tu-2 and squeezed the trigger; the bomber burst into flames and the crew bailed out. At that time Davis was at Bingo fuel status and started to return home. Then he heard the desperate call of 1st. Lt. Raymond Barton who was under the attack of a MiG-15. Davis turned northwards and spotted the two aircraft, but he couldn't figure out which was Barton and which was the MiG. He asked Barton to turn first to the left and then to the right. When one of the two swept-wing airplanes made no turn at all, George Davis knew it was the MiG. So, he pulled in behind the Chinese jet, and opened fire with his six .50-caliber machineguns. The MiG was shaken by shell strikes all over the fuselage, the wings and the cockpit (killing the pilot) and crashed into the sea. Davis arrived just in time: Barton's F-86 had received a hit which caused a huge hole in its right wing. One more hit of the lethal 37-mm cannon of that MiG, and Barton would not have survived.
Excluding the fact that Barton's airplane was hit by this MiG-15, and "Bones" Marshall's Sabre was severely damaged by the La-11 flier Wang Tianbao, that day was a tremendous American victory. Even Chinese sources admitted that; stating that the actual PLAAF losses were four Tu-2s (and not eight as was initially claimed by USAF), three La-11s and one MiG-15 (Red Wings over the Yalu: China, the Soviet Union, and the Air War in Korea, page #162). Two of the Tupolevs and the MiG were bagged by George A. Davis (he had used only about 1200 rounds, so he had enough ammo left for one more kill), and both Winton Marshall and 1st Lt. Douglas K. Evans shot down one Tu-2 each. Regarding the three Lavochkins, they were destroyed by Ben Preston, Marshall, and John Honaker respectively. George Davis' scoreboard was now 5, so he became the first American "Ace of Two Wars." And this scoreboard would keep on rising.
At 15:55 hours on 5 December, Davis was leading his 334th FIS as top cover of a group of F-84s, when he spotted two Soviet MiG-15s over Sinanju trying to hunt the fighter-bombers. He pulled in behind one of those MiGs, and opened up. The MiG just blew up and the pilot (Anatoly I. Baturov) bailed out. Unfortunately, the Russian flier did so at very low altitude and perished. During his way back to Kimpo, Davis found a lone MiG chasing another F-86, and he claimed that he shot it down (and the pilot also bailed out). However, this claim did not match within VVS and PLAAF loss records.
It was a good day for the American hunters, because a few minutes later Major Winton "Bones" Marshall bagged another Soviet MiG - the one flown by Starshii Leitenant Aleksandr Ryzhkov (196th IAP), who was wounded in the cockpit of his MiG, and crashed to his death. However, even two outstanding pilots like Davis and Marshall could not prevent some MiG-15s from disrupting the fighter-bombers: the CO of the 176th GIAP/324th IAD, Podpolkovnik (Lt.Col.) Sergey Fedoseyevich Vishnyakov, blasted out of the sky the F-84E of Hugh Larkin (MIA), and the MiG-15 ace Vasily Ivanovich Stepanov (18th GIAP of the 303rd IAD) did the same with the Thunderjet of Horace Carman (POW).
However, Davis' most successful day was still to come, and it did on 13 December 1951. About noon the 334th FIS met the Soviet 18th GIAP and, in a hard battle against this crack unit, Davis managed to prevail, claiming two MiG kills to his credit. The Soviet loss records confirm one: the MiG of I. A. Gorsky, who was killed in action (in that combat Al Dymock and Anthony Kulengosky also claimed one victory each, but these overclaims were in good faith; the Soviets suffered no additional losses that day).
At 15:52 hours, the 334th and the 336th FIS were performing their second "MiG Sweep" of the day when they spotted a large flight of MiG-15s belonging to the Chinese 40th Regiment / 14th Division. Most of the pilots in the cockpits of these MiGs were novices, so they simply had no chance against Davis' experienced men. When the fight was over, the American fliers had claimed 10 MiG kills to their credit. That number was not correct, but Chinese records show that their losses in that combat were indeed high: seven MiGs were lost and two more were heavily damaged but could be repaired later (Red Wings over the Yalu: China, the Soviet Union, and the Air War in Korea, page #169). More important, the Chinese sources confirm that George A. Davis actually blasted two MiGs out of the sky in the blink of an eye between 15:52 and 15:53 hours in that combat.
But then arrived two Soviet MiG-15 regiments and turned the battle; in a matter of few seconds the tech officer of the 18th GIAP of the 303rd IAD Aleksey Kaliuzhny shot-up the F-86A of Ken Chandler (who wrongly thought his engine was damaged by debris of the Chinese MiG he was shooting at, and was forced to bail out over Cho-Do island) and the MiG-15 ace Pavel S. Milaushkin (176th GIAP/324th IAD) bagged the F-86A of one of Davis' men, Charles D. Hogue (MIA). After such an unpleasant surprise, and already short of fuel, the Sabres withdrew towards the Gulf of Korea.
Despite these two sudden losses, the balance of the day was very favorable for the American fliers; they destroyed 8 MiGs against the loss of 2 F-86s, which means a positive 4:1 kill ratio. Furthermore, with the two MiGs he shot down that day, Davis' official killboard rose to 12 victories (9 MiGs and 3 Tupolevs) - and his actual tally to 9 (seven MiG-15s and two Tu-2s).
1st Lt. Douglas Evans (336th FIS) did not participate in that mission (something he always regretted) but he remembered the impression made on him by Davis when he talked with his buddy Claude Mitson, who was there (Sabre jets over Korea: A firsthand account, by Douglas Evans, page #161):
"I missed a real hot one in the afternoon. I almost blew my top listening to the mission over the squadron radio - and, later, talking to the boys who were on it. They caught MiGs that were fumbling around down low, looking for our fighter-bombers, and really worked them over. Maj. Davis, the C.O. of the 334th Squadron, has gone hog-wild and is shooting down MiGs like mad. He got two more on that hot one. Davis is very mild-appearing guy, but when he straps on a fighter he's all tiger - a hell of a sharp pilot and gunner, and he must have the eyes of an eagle."
Certainly George Davis made an impression on all the people who knew him in person. However, such amazing streak of successes took its toll on him, in an unexpected way: according to the American historian John R. Bruning (Crimson Sky, page #186), Davis became obsessed with increasing his personal tally at all costs, he wanted to become the "Ace of Aces" of the Korean War. Besides, he developed an unhealthy contempt for Communist pilots; he sincerely began to believe that there was no MiG-15 pilot capable of shooting him down. Putting these together with Davis' usual "overzealousness," "brashness" and "highly unorthodox" style of flying (according to Bruning's own words), one got a combination that could lead in only one direction: Disaster.
Final Deed (American Version)
On 10 February 1952, George A. Davis led 18 Sabres to escort a group of F-84s which would strafe the marshalling yards of Kunu-ri. Davis personally led one of these three flights, callsign "John Able." According to "John Able 4" (1st Lt. William Littlefield), "John Able 2" reported a pressurization problem, and "John Able 3" developed oxygen problems. So, "John Able Lead" (Davis) ordered #2 and #3 to return to Kimpo, and Littlefield became his new wingman. The USAF official version of what happened next is very well summarized in Davis' citation when he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor:
"...Major Davis' element leader ran out of oxygen and was forced to retire from the flight with his wingman accompanying him. Davis and the remaining F-86 continued the mission and sighted a formation of approximately 12 MIG-15 aircraft speeding southward toward an area where friendly fighter-bombers were conducting low-level operations against the Communist lines of communications. With selfless disregard for the numerical superiority of the enemy, Davis positioned his two aircraft, then dove at the MIG formation. While speeding through the formation from the rear, he singled out a MIG and destroyed it with a concentrated burst of fire . . . now under continuous fire, he sustained the attack and fired at another MIG which burst into smoke and flames and went into a vertical dive. Rather than maintain his superior speed and evade the enemy, he elected to reduce his speed and sought out still a third MIG-15. During this latest attack his aircraft sustained a direct hit, went out of control, then crashed into a mountain 30 miles south of the Yalu River. Davis' bold attack completely disrupted the enemy formation, permitting the friendly fighter-bombers to successfully complete their interdiction mission . . his superb courage against formidable odds exemplified valor at its highest."
Bruning cannot help to wonder why Davis did not take with him at least another flight (of the three others under his command) to engage these MiGs. Doing so would have reduced the odds from 6:1 to 2:1. But taking into account how much Davis underestimated his Communist adversaries at that time, it was not a surprise that he did what he did. Besides, the Chinese sources admitted the loss of three MiGs of the 12th Regiment / 4th Division that day (Red Wings over the Yalu: China, the Soviet Union, and the Air War in Korea, page #166) which, at first sight, seems to match quite well with both Davis' claims and a 'probable' claimed by Major Donald D. Rodewald (25th FIS).
George Andrew Davis, Jr. was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on 15 April 1953.
|Honoree ID: 87||Created by: MHOH|