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Gen. Davis, Marine Hero at Chosin Reservoir, Dies at 88

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2003 – The U.S. Marine Corps, indeed the entire country, lost an honest-to-goodness American hero Sept. 3. Retired Gen. Raymond Davis, who earned the Medal of Honor in the Korean War, died in Conyers, Ga., at the age of 88.

Davis was a hero by anybody's definition. He was the 28-year-old commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, when Chinese forces attacked at the Chosin Reservoir on Nov. 27, 1950, Thanksgiving Day. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for personally leading his men over treacherous frozen terrain to rescue a rifle company under intense enemy fire.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, Davis "spearheaded his unit in a fierce attack up the steep, ice- covered slopes in the face of withering fire and, personally leading the assault groups in a hand-to-hand encounter, drove the hostile troops from their positions."

Surrounded by the Chinese and heavily outnumbered, 10,000 Marines battled their way to safety down 40 miles of winding mountain road in sub-arctic weather. Veterans of the campaign have called themselves the "Chosin Few" ever since.

Davis had also fought in the Pacific in Word War II with the 1st Marine Division. He went on to serve as commander of the 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam and retired as assistant commandant of the Marine Corps in 1972.

The retired general had a close, personal relationship with Marine Gen. James L. Jones, current commander of U.S. European Command. Davis was close to Jones' father when their families lived in France in the mid-1950s. Jones served as first-base coach on the Little League baseball team Davis managed, and their careers kept them close.

In Vietnam, Jones -- then a young lieutenant -- served a stint as then-Maj. Gen. Davis's aide. In an interview with American Forces Press Service that took place during the 2000 reunion of Chosin Reservoir veterans, Davis relayed a humorous story from the period.

When Davis called Jones to work at the division headquarters, he recalled, he received a letter from the lieutenant's uncle, then-Lt. Gen. William Jones, that read: "Ray, when you got Jim out of that rifle company back to be your aide, there were a lot of 'Hallelujahs' in the Jones family."

Jones later said he believed he was actually in more danger traveling with Davis, because the general always felt he needed to be where the action was.

"Gen. Ray Davis' passing represents the end of one of the defining eras of the United States Marine Corps," Jones said. "As a Marine, as a man, and as a husband and father, his legendary exploits during World War II, Korea and Vietnam significantly enhanced the reputation and ideals which will continue to define the Marine Corps in the 21st century."

After Davis retired from the Marines, he became a tireless advocate for Marine issues. He stayed active in the association of Chosin Reservoir veterans and often enlisted Jones' help on Marine issues while Jones was Marine commandant before being named EUCOM commander.

"His contributions to veterans and families since he retired from active duty were no less inspirational than were his contributions on the battlefields of our nation's wars," Jones said.

Davis is survived by his wife, Willa; two sons, Raymond Davis Jr. of Covington, Ga., and Gordon Miles Davis, who lives in Alabama; a daughter, Willa Kerr of Stockbridge, N.Y.; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Davis' full biography is available in Who's Who in Marine Corps History.

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