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December 9, 1998

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So often today, America faces the challenge of helping to prevent conflicts overseas fueled by divisions of race, ethnicity, and religion. We cannot meet these challenges unless we can bridge our own divisions. General Davis is the very embodiment of the principle that from diversity we can build unity, and that in diversity, we can find the strength to prevail. If we follow General Davis's example, America will remain strong. America will stay a leader for democracy, opportunity and peace.

President Bill Clinton
December 9, 1998

Today at the White House, President Clinton will advance Lieutenant General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. to the rank of Four-Star General. Lt. General Davis was the commander of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and served with distinction and honor in the Air Force until his retirement in 1970.

Saluting A Lifetime Of Service. Today, President Clinton honors Lt. General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., whose advancement to the grade of General on the retired list of the Air Force was authorized by Congress in the 1999 Defense Authorization Act. Lt. General Davis's life has epitomized superior performance in the face of distinctive challenges:

  • Lt. General Davis was the first African-American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point in this century, graduating 35th in a class of 276, even as he was subjected to difficult treatment by fellow cadets;
  • Lt. General Davis was the first commander of the 99th Pursuit Squadron and 332nd Fighter Group, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, who he led into air combat over many European locations during World War II. The 332nd distinguished itself in World War II by never losing a single bomber, under its escort cover, during the en route, penetration, and withdrawal phases of their strategic bombing;
  • Lt. General Davis served with distinction until his retirement from the Air Force in 1970. Lt. General Davis served as Commander of the 51st Interceptor wing during the Korean War, was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in 1953, Major General in 1959, and Lieutenant General in 1965. Lt. General Davis also received the Army distinguished Service Medal, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, distinguished Flying Cross, three Legions of Merit, Air Medal, with four oak leaf clusters, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, and the Phillipine Legion of Honor.

Recognizing Achievement, Honoring A Military Leader. President Clinton salutes the efforts of Lt. General Davis and his wife, who spent World War II working in a munitions factory, his fellow aviators, the many military spouses who worked and sacrificed to defend our freedom, and others who served valiantly in World War II and helped turn the tide against racism and pave the way for the end of segregation in the military 50 years ago. When Lt. General Davis became an officer, he was the only black officer in our Air Corps, now the Air Force has over 4,000. General Davis is a true American hero. We honor him for his courage and achievement.

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