Monday, December 03, 2012

TFH 12/3: Lieutenant Colonel Raymond G. Davis, USMC

Raymond Gilbert Davis was born in Fitzgerald, Georgia on January 13, 1915. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1938, and soon afterwards was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. During World War II, he served with the 1st Marine Division and participated in the Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester campaigns.

By April 1944, Davis had been promoted to Major and given command of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. He led the battalion in the attack on Peleliu in September 1944. Davis was wounded in the first hour of the landings, refused evacuation, and led his Marines in the attack for seven days against the heavily fortified Japanese enemy. He was decorated with the second-highest award for valor as a result: the Navy Cross.

After World War II, Davis remained in the Marines and was given command of the 1st Marine Division's 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment when they were committed to combat in the Korean War in August 1950. Now a Lieutenant Colonel, Davis let the battalion in the attack to relieve Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

Davis' leadership of 1/7 through intense winter combat seized the Toktong Pass and allowed both the 7th Marines and their sister 5th Marine Regiment to escape destruction or capture at the hands of the Chinese Communists. For this instance of battalion command above and beyond the normal call of duty in the face of an armed enemy, he was decorated with the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Korean War:


Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein.). Place and date: Vicinity Hagaru-ri, Korea, 1 through 4 December 1950. Entered service at: Atlanta, Ga. Born: 13 January 1915, Fitzgerald, Ga. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, in action against enemy aggressor forces. Although keenly aware that the operation involved breaking through a surrounding enemy and advancing 8 miles along primitive icy trails in the bitter cold with every passage disputed by a savage and determined foe, Lt. Col. Davis boldly led his battalion into the attack in a daring attempt to relieve a beleaguered rifle company and to seize, hold, and defend a vital mountain pass controlling the only route available for 2 marine regiments in danger of being cut off by numerically superior hostile forces during their re-deployment to the port of Hungnam. When the battalion immediately encountered strong opposition from entrenched enemy forces commanding high ground in the path of the advance, he promptly 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, rested his men, and reconnoitered the area under enemy fire to determine the best route for continuing the mission. Always in the thick of the fighting Lt. Col. Davis led his battalion over 3 successive ridges in the deep snow in continuous attacks against the enemy and, constantly inspiring and encouraging his men throughout the night, brought his unit to a point within 1,500 yards of the surrounded rifle company by daybreak. Although knocked to the ground when a shell fragment struck his helmet and 2 bullets pierced his clothing, he arose and fought his way forward at the head of his men until he reached the isolated marines. On the following morning, he bravely led his battalion in securing the vital mountain pass from a strongly entrenched and numerically superior hostile force, carrying all his wounded with him, including 22 litter cases and numerous ambulatory patients. Despite repeated savage and heavy assaults by the enemy, he stubbornly held the vital terrain until the 2 regiments of the division had deployed through the pass and, on the morning of 4 December, led his battalion into Hagaru-ri intact. By his superb leadership, outstanding courage, and brilliant tactical ability, Lt. Col. Davis was directly instrumental in saving the beleaguered rifle company from complete annihilation and enabled the 2 marine regiments to escape possible destruction. His valiant devotion to duty and unyielding fighting spirit in the face of almost insurmountable odds enhance and sustain the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

From Military Times' Hall of Valor, here is his earlier Navy Cross citation from World War II:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Major Raymond Gilbert Davis (MCSN: 0-5831), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer of the First Battalion, First Marines, FIRST Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu, Palau Islands from 15 to 22 September 1944. Although wounded during the first hour of landing, Major Davis refused evacuation to remain with his Battalion's assault elements in many hazardous missions. On one occasion, when large gaps occurred in our front lines as the result of heavy casualties, and his right flank company was disorganized by point-blank enemy cannon fire following a successful nine hundred yard penetration through heavily defended lines, he rallied and personally led combined troops into these gaps to establish contact and maintain hasty defensive positions for the remainder of the night. Despite many casualties from close-range sniper fire, he remained in the vicinity of the front lines, coordinating artillery and Naval gunfire support with such effect that several determined counterattacks were repulsed. His outstanding courage, devotion to duty and leadership were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Davis' career in the Marines continued after the Korea. He later commanded the 3rd Marine Division during the Vietnam War (1968-1969) and was the 14th Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps from March 1971 to March 1972. Davis retired as a full General on March 31, 1972 after almost 34 years of service. In addition to the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross, he was a two-time recipient of three other major decorations: the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, and the Legion of Merit.

General Davis passed away due to a heart attack on September 3, 2003 at age 88. The 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee, commanded the honor guard at his funeral. He rests in peace at the Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens, College Park, Georgia.

Davis' battalion during his Medal of Honor action, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, is still a component of the 1st Marine Division. Their home post is the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California.

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