BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. Born in Dublin, Texas, on December 1, 1920, George Andrew Davis, Jr. was the seventh of nine children and named after his father George Davis, Sr. George, Sr. and his wife Pearl Love were farmers near Morton, Texas. Davis attended Morton High School in Morton, Texas. After graduating from High School, Davis attended Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas. After completing a degree, he returned to Texas. For a time, he took up farming with his family before eventually deciding to join the military.
After his initial training with the US Army Air Corps in 1942, Davis was sent to the Pacific Theatre during the war. During his time there, Davis flew in the New Guinea Campaign and the Philippines Campaign, scoring seven victories over Japanese aircraft. He soon gained a reputation as a skilled pilot and accurate gunner whose “daredevil” flying style contrasted with his reserved personality. Davis did not see action in Korea until late 1951. In spite of this, he achieved considerable success flying the F-86 Sabre, quickly rising to become the war’s ace of aces and downing 14 Chinese, North Korean and Soviet aircraft before his death in 1952. During his final combat mission, Davis surprised and attacked 12 Chinese MiG-15 fighters, downing two before being shot down and killed. For the controversial action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
With a total of 21 victories, Davis is one of only seven US military pilots to become an ace in two wars, and one of only 31 to be credited more than 20 victories. He was the fourth highest scoring ace of the Korean War.
Upon the outbreak of the Korean War, Davis was serving in the 71st Squadron and did not see combat in the initial phase of the war. As it progressed, however, Davis began training on the F-86 Sabre, the latest jet engine-powered fighter. On February 15, 1951, he was promoted to major and in October 1951 he was assigned to the headquarters of the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, which was based in Japan and operating aircraft throughout Korea. As such, Davis was sent to the conflict as a fighter pilot.
On February 10, 1952, Davis was flying his 59th combat mission of the war in an F-86E, tail number 51-2752. That day, he led a flight of four F-86s on a patrol near the Yalu River, near the Manchurian border. Davis’ group was part of a larger UN force of 18 F-86s operating in the area. As the patrol reached the border, one of the other pilots reported he was out of oxygen, and Davis ordered him to return to base with his wingman. As Davis continued the patrol with one wingman, Second Lieutenant William W. Littlefield, they were cruising at an altitude of 38,000 feet (12,000 m) when they spotted a flight of 12 MiG-15s of the Chinese 4th Fighter Division. The MiG-15s were headed in the direction of a group of US F-84 Thunder jets conducting a low-level bombing mission.
The MiGs were 8,000 feet (2,400 m) below the two American pilots and had not noticed them. Without hesitating, Davis immediately sped behind the MiG-15 formation and attacked it from the rear. His surprise attack destroyed one of the MiG-15s, and he quickly turned on the next closest fighter, destroying it before it could outmaneuver him. By this time, Davis and Littlefield passed many of the MiGs and several were behind them. Davis then moved to target a third MiG at the front of the formation, but as he was lining up his shot another of the aircraft scored a direct hit on Davis’ fuselage, causing his aircraft to spin out of control. Littlefield said he spotted Davis’ landing gear open, indicating hydraulic failure. He attempted to defend Davis’ aircraft as it lost altitude but could not help Davis. Littlefield reported he did not see Davis bail out of his aircraft before it crashed. Davis was declared missing in action and presumed killed. Intense aerial searches of the area later revealed no evidence that Davis had survived the crash. In fact, a week after the incident, the Chinese military searched the region and recovered Davis’ body, still in the crashed aircraft. Despite the Chinese discovery of Davis’ remains, his body was never returned to the US.
Medal of Honor Citation
Major George Andrew Davis, Jr., United States Air Force, 334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, 5th Air Force, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 10 February 1952, near Sinuiju-Yalu River area, Korea. While leading a flight of four F-86 Saber jets on a combat aerial patrol mission near the Manchurian border, Major Davis’ element leader ran out of oxygen and was forced to retire from the flight with his wingman accompanying him. Major 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, Major Davis positioned his two 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, Major 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. Major Davis’ bold attack completely disrupted the enemy formation, permitting the friendly fighter-bombers to successfully complete their interdiction mission. Major Davis, by his indomitable fighting spirit, heroic aggressiveness, and superb courage in engaging the enemy against formidable odds exemplified valor at its highest.
This is the second time we have written about George Andrew Davis. It’s not that we are running out of heroes, America will never have that problem. Why two articles? Recently I spoke with another Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean conflict who shared with me the fact that Major Davis’ (posthumously promoted to Lt Colonel) body had been recovered but never returned to his family. When writing the first article in June of this year I had missed that significant bit of information. The Chinese 4th Fighter Division sent two search teams on February 16 and 18, to confirm that Davis had been shot down. They recovered the wreckage of an F-86E, along with Davis’ body and his belongings. Davis’ dog tag is currently on display at the Dandong Korean War Museum at Zhen Xing District, Dandong China.
The reason for the second article, I am asking you to contact the Korean War Memorial, No.7 Shanshang Street, Zhen Xing District, Dandong 118000, China and ask them to return the property and the remains of George Andrew Davis. Secondly write, call or e-mail Ambassador Zhang Yesui, Chinese Embassy in Washington DC Address: 2201 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20007 Tel: (202) 338-6688, (202)5889760 Fax: (202) 588-9760. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell him that Davis’ three children, Mary Margaret Davis (born 1944) and George Davis III (born 1952). His wife was six months pregnant with their third child, Charles Lynn Davis, at the time of his death in 1952. Tell the Ambassador these children would like their father’s property and remains returned to them.
Currently Lt. Col. George Andrew Davis is listed in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. It would be great to have a “R” (Recovered) beside his name on Veterans Day.