Marine Commandant Has Special "Chosin One"
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2000 Gen. James Jones, Marine Corps commandant, has a special tie to the veterans of the Chosin Reservoir campaign of the Korean War. A Medal of Honor recipient from that frozen "trip through hell" has been the now-towering general's mentor since Jones was a boy.
Retired Gen. Raymond Davis is a hero by anybody's definition. He was the 28-year-old commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, when Chinese forces attacked 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.
At the time, Jones was six.
Not too many years later, Jones' family was living in France, where his father, a former Marine himself, was a businessman.
"My father, being a former Marine, was active in the Marine community and always sought out Marine families in the area," Jones told the Chosin Few association formed after the Korean War. The group was in San Diego for the 50th anniversary reunion of the campaign.
Young Jim Jones and his younger brother and sister were roughly the same age as Davis' children, and the two families became close friends. The relationship was even closer because Jones' uncle, William K. Jones, had also been a lieutenant colonel in Korea with Davis.
"I was the first-base coach on the Little League team (Davis) managed," Jones said. "My kid brother and his younger son were pitchers on that team, and his oldest son was the third-base coach."
Jones says now he knew "without a doubt" that he wanted to be a Marine, "what with my father's influence and my uncle's wonderful career, and the shining example of this wonderful family (the Davises)."
Fast-forward a couple of years. Davis was a brigadier general in 1967 when Jones was commissioned and sent to Vietnam. "It was like a Monopoly game," Jones described it. "Do not pass go; go directly to Vietnam."
The following year the young lieutenant was in a firefight on a hill in Khe Sanh when a helicopter flew in low and landed. "I saw this familiar gait walking toward me," he said. It was his division commander, Maj. Gen. Ray Davis.
"I went there to see him," Davis said about that day. "Any time someone had a good firefight going, and Jim was having one that day, I'd hop out there to make sure they won."
Before the two left Vietnam, Jones would be called to the division headquarters to serve as Davis' aide.
"We had kind of an informal rotation going on in Vietnam at that time," Davis said in an American Forces Press Service interview. "After they'd been in combat for a while we'd try to find them a job back in the rear area. So when I needed an aide, I brought Jim back."
A week later, Davis said, he received a letter from Jones' 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 said he believes he was in more danger flying around those firefights with Davis than being back in his rifle platoon. He said Davis liked to see all the action, which meant getting shot at on a number of occasions.
After Vietnam, both went on to storied careers. Jones' is evident by his current position. Davis went on to become assistant commandant of the Marine Corps before retiring, but his affiliation didn't end there. Today, Davis is a champion for Marine issues, and he and Jones are still close.
Davis said he's proud of Jones' success and takes no credit for any of it. "He did it not by who he knew or by connections, but by his performance," Davis said. "That's the thing I admire most about him."
Davis also said it's nice to have a friend in high places to deal with issues that concern him.
"He likes to call me up with helpful advice," Jones said with a chuckle to media representatives after the commemorative events. Davis' latest crusade was voting awareness, Jones said.
"He called me up and said, 'Jim, you've got to get those kids out to vote, make them understand how important it is,'" Jones said.