General Davis: Overcoming Adversity

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Casey Overton
  • 355th Wing Equal Opportunity Office

On October 27th, 1954, Benjamin O. Davis Jr. became the first African American to receive the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Air Force. This was not the only barrier that General Davis broke through his military career.

General Davis entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1932, ultimately graduating in 1936. He was the first black man to graduate from West Point since 1889, and just the fourth in the school’s history. While attending the academy, he experienced fierce discrimination from his classmates who hoped that it would encourage him to leave. This treatment only strengthened his resolve to continue and graduate, proving that he belonged there.

In 1941, Captain Davis was selected to attend the first pilot training class held at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. After his graduation from the course, he became commander of the first African American fighter pilots to serve in the United States armed forces. Soon after, Captain Davis and the 99th Pursuit Squadron, whom he commanded, were sent to North Africa in 1943. While there, Davis’ squadron supported the Allied invasion of Sicily, proving that they were a formidable fighting force. They eventually became known as the “Tuskegee Airman,” making history.

Over his 34-year career, General Davis faced discrimination, racism, and unfair treatment based on the color of his skin. Despite all the adversity he faced, General Davis inspired change within the United States and our military, paving the way for many more African Americans to follow in his footsteps.

For more information on these and other information about Black History Month, please contact the 355th Wing Equal Opportunity office at 228-5509, or visit: