General Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr., leader of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and the first African American general in the Air Force, died July 4, 2002 at Walter reed Army Medical Center. Hew was 89 and had Alzheimer's disease.
At the time he entered West Point, Davis was the son of one of only two black combat officers in the Army. The younger Davis persevered through four years at the US Military Academy, where no cadet spoke to him other than on official business, and graduated 35th in his class in 1936. He wanted to fly, but segregation was a barrier. There were no black flying units in the air service.
He commanded a black service company at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and then taught military science at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. During this time, as a re-election initiative, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Army to create a black flying unit.
Davis, as the only living black West Point graduate, was selected to lead the unit. In May 1941 he entered advanced flying training at nearby Tuskegee Army Air Base, receiving his pilots wings in March 1942.
He led the 99th Pursuit Squadron from Tuskegee to North Africa in April 1943 and later to Sicily. After three months in combat, Davis was called to Washington to defend the 99th against charges that black pilots did not have the proper reflexes to be fighter pilots. Davis's testimony saved the 99th and the other black flying units being formed.
He took charge of the 332nd Fighter Group, leading it to Italy in January 1944. Throughout the war, the Tuskegee Airmen established a dazzling record of victories against superior german aircraft. When they flew escort duty, not one bomber they escorted on some 200 missions was lost to and enemy fighter.
In December 1998, Davis was awarded a fourth star in an exceedingly rare post-retirement promotion. He was only the third Air Force pioneer to receive such an honor. The other two were Ira C. Eaker and Jimmy Doolittle.
--Air Force Magazine, August 2002
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After schooling in his home town of Superior, Wisconsin, Dick Bong enlisted as a flying cadet at nearby Wausau on May 29, 1941. He took flying training at Tulare and Gardner Fields, California and Luke Field, Arizona, receiving his wings and commission on January 9, 1942. He instructed other pilots at Luke until May when he went to Hamilton Field, California for combat training in P-38s.
Bong then went to the Pacific as a fighter pilot with the 9th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group in Australia. In November 1942 he was reassigned to the 39th Squadron of the 35th Group and he destroyed five Japanese fighter planes before returning to the 9th Squadron in January 1943. He flew with the 9th until November being promoted to first lieutenant in April and to captain in August. On November 11, 1943 he was given a 60 day leave and reassigned to HQ V Fighter Command, New Guinea, as assistant operations officer in charge of replacement airplanes. In this assignment Bong continued to fly combat missions in P-38s and increased his enemy aircraft kills to 28.
In April 1944 Bong was promoted to major and sent home to instruct others in the art of aerial superiority, with assignment to Foster Field, Texas. In September 19944 he returned to the Pacific with the Fifth Fighter Command as gunnery training officer. Though not required to perform further combat flying, he voluntarily put in 30 more combat missions over Borneo and the Philippine Islands., destroying 12 more planes to bring his total to 40.
General George C. Kenney, his overall Commanding Officer who late wrote Major Bong's biography in a very readable book, decided over 200 missions for a total of over 500 combat hours were enough for any individual and ordered him returned to the U.S. in December 1944, with recommendation for the Medal of Honor for his second overseas tour.
Bong then became a test pilot at Wright Field, Ohio. In June 1945 he went to Burbank, California as Chief of Flight Operations and AF Plant Representative to Lockheed Aircraft Company, then engaged in developing and manufacturing P-80 jet aircraft. Bong received a full training course for P-80s at Muroc Lake Flight Test Base, California but died that August when his plane's engine failed during a flight over Burbank.
In combat, Major Bong had earned the Distinguished Service Cross, 2 Silver Stars, 7 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 15 Air Medals, in addition to the Medal of Honor. This citation reads:
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty in the Southwest Pacific area from 10 October to 15 November 1944. Though assigned to duty as gunnery instructor and neither required nor expected to perform combat duty, Major Bong voluntarily and at his own urgent request engaged in repeated combat missions, including unusually hazardous sorties over Balikpapan, Borneo, and in the Leyte area of the Philippines. His aggressiveness and daring resulted in his shooting down 8 enemy airplanes during this period."
The Medal of Honor was personally awarded to him by General MacArthur in the Pacific, who praised him as the greatest fighter ace of all Americans.
Victor Hugo Moore, born February 14, 1922, Fornfelt, Missouri, Scott County and died April 26, 1998 in Olney, Illinois, Richland County. Moore had a Military Funeral as he had wanted.
Priscilla L. (Moore) Robertson writes:
"I have his Honorable Discharge from the Marine Corps in April 1946, Number at the top is A215784, he served in WW II. He was a corporal and served in the Pacific, Okanawa, Saipan etc. He was a Military Policeman according to his U.S. Marine Corps. Report of Separation, also a light truck driver. He did his training in San Diego, California at Camp Pendelton I believe. He entered the service on September 03, 1943 and began his service time on September 20, 1943 and was a Corporal at the time of discharge.
"I am a proud daughter, wife and Mother to several Military men and I know what they sacrificed for all of. I would also like to thank you and the other military men who have served their country and made it Free for all of us to enjoy. Also the men serving against those who committed that terrible act against our country on September 11th.
"I am so glad Pat told me about your pages and I saw it. I sent it to another relative who served in WW II and gives talks on that War to the school children still as he figures the children now need to understand what those men in that war did for our country so I thought he might be interested too.
"I am sending a Picture of my Father Taken in San Diego California, I believe on his way home after his service. Also a piece I put in my notes on The family Tree on this. You might check the spelling on it as I am not as familiar with the Ranks in the Marines or in the spellings of the places he served as I should be. You may use whatever you want of this. I would love to hear from any of his buddies that knew him in the War. I know some that still keep in contact with me at Christmas, because I went to a Reunion with him and a dad another time with them. But my dad always hoped more of them would find out about their Reunions and come."
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