- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Army had two black infantry officers in 1936 when Benjamin O. Davis Jr. graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was one of them and his father was the other.

Now the Air Force — where he later became a legend as commander of the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II — is honoring the late Gen. Davis by naming their airfield at the U.S. Air Force Academy after him.

Davis was “instrumental in driving this institution towards a much more diverse and a much more inclusive population, reducing attrition rates of minorities and crucial in developing the plan to integrate women at the United States Air Force Academy,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Jay B. Silveria said in a statement Friday after the ceremony.

His father, Benjamin O. Davis Sr., was the first black general in the Army. The younger Davis also faced racism throughout much of his career. He was ostracized at West Point and wasn’t allowed to command white troops. He wanted to join the Army Air Corps after he graduated but was initially rejected because he was black.

He was finally allowed to take pilot training in 1941 and a year later, as a lieutenant colonel, took command of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the first all-black aviation unit in the Army Air Forces.

Airmen under his command flew more than 15,000 missions, destroying hundreds of enemy fighters both in the air and on the ground. All the while Gen. Davis had to continue defending the combat skill of his fliers from others back home who didn’t believe they had what it takes.

He personally led dozens of missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Silver Star, Air Force officials said.

He later transferred to the newly-created U.S. Air Force and became their first black general. He helped the service draft its first desegregation plan.

During the ceremony on Friday, Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force Chief of Staff, said Gen. Davis — who died at 89 in 2002 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. — was an example of courage and perseverance.

“Some have had to bear a heavier burden that others to teach us all what right looks like. Today, we celebrate one of these men,” he said.

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