13 December 1951: Major George Andrew Davis, Jr., United States Air Force, commanding officer of the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, flying a North American F-86E-10-NA Sabre, serial number 51-2752, led his unit on two “MiG Sweeps.”
During the mid-day fighter sweep, the 334th encountered Mikoyan Gurevich MiG 15 fighters of the 18th GIAP, 303rd IAD, Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily (the Soviet Air Force), and an air battle ensued. Major Davis was credited with shooting down two of the Russian fighters. The pilot of one of the MiGs, I.A. Gorsky, was killed. The identity and fate of the second Soviet pilot is not known.
During a second sweep in mid-afternoon, George Davis and the 334th again encountered enemy MiG 15s of the 40th Regiment, 14th Division, of the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (Chinese Air Force). At 3:52 p.m. (1352) Davis shot down one of the Chinese MiG 15s. One minute later, he shot down another, his fourth aerial victory for the day.
These frames of film from the gun camera of Davis’ F-86 Sabre show a MiG 15 trailing smoke after being hit by the Sabre’s six .50-caliber machine guns. Chinese sources confirmed the loss of two MiG 15s, but again, the identities of the pilots and whether or not they survived is not known.
30 November 1951: Major George Andrew Davis, Jr., commanding the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, based at Kimpo Air Base, South Korea, led a patrol of eight North American Aviation F-86 Sabre fighters near the Yalu River, dividing Korea from China. This area was known as “MiG Alley” because of the large numbers of Russian-built Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighters which were based on the Chinese side of the river.
At about 4:00 p.m., the American pilots saw a group of nine Russian Tupolev Tu-2 twin-engine medium bombers, escorted by 16 Lavochkin La-11 fighters. The bombers were on a mission to attack Taewa-do Island.
Davis led his fighters in an attack, making four firing passes on the bombers. He shot down three of the Tu-2s, when one of his pilots, Captain Raymond O. Barton, Jr., called for help. Barton’s Sabre, F-86A-5-NA 49-292, was under attack by 24 MiG-15s which had arrived to reinforce the bombing mission. Barton later described the battle:
“. . . I broke left again and was going to make another pass when I checked my ‘six o’clock’ to clear for my wingman. All of the sudden the SOB started shooting at me, and only then did I realize that I had attracted far more than one MiG. I turned into them. . . I called for help, and the only response I got was from my roommate, Major George Davis. I’ll never forget his reply. ‘I don’t have enough fuel left either but I’m on the way.’ All the MiGs except one had left the area. I had a huge hole where my left fuel cap had been, but I was still flying. When George reached me, he asked me to make a couple of identifying turn reversals. I reluctantly did and he shot that SOB right off my butt.”
—F-86 Sabre Aces of the 4th Fighter Wing, by Warren Thompson, Osprey Publishing Ltd., Oxford, 2006, Chapter 2 at Page 32.
Major Davis escorted Captain Barton back to their base, landing with just five gallons of fuel remaining in his tanks.
For his actions, Major George A. Davis, Jr., was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. (He had also been awarded a DSC in World War II.)
The President of the United States of America, under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Air Force) (Posthumously) to Major George Andrew Davis, Jr. (AFSN: 0-671514/13035A), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Squadron Commander, 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, FIFTH Air Force, on 27 November 1951, during an engagement with enemy aircraft near Sinanju, Korea. While leading a group formation of thirty-two F-86 aircraft on a counter air mission, Major Davis observed six MIG-15 aircraft headed southward above the group. With exemplary leadership and superior airmanship, he maneuvered his forces into position for attack. Leading with great tactical skill and courage, Major Davis closed to 800 feet on a MIG-15 over Namsi. He fired on the enemy aircraft, which immediately began burning. A few seconds later, the enemy pilot bailed out of his aircraft. Continuing the attack on the enemy forces, Major Davis fired on the wingman of the enemy flight, which resulted in numerous strikes on the wing roots and the fuselage. As Major Davis broke off his relentless attack on this MIG-l5, another MIG-15 came down on him. He immediately brought his aircraft into firing position upon the enemy and after a sustained barrage of fire, the enemy pilot bailed out. Although low on fuel, he rejoined his group and reorganized his forces to engage the approximate 80 enemy aircraft making the attack. Against overwhelming odds, Major Davis’ group destroyed two other MIG-15 aircraft, probably destroyed one and damaged one other. Major Davis’ aggressive leadership, his flying skill and devotion to duty contributed invaluable to the United Nations’ cause and reflect great credit on himself, the Far East Air forces and the United States Air Force.
Having shot down four enemy aircraft during one fighter patrol, Davis’ score of aerial victories during his short time in Korea rose to six, making him an ace for the Korean War. Davis had previously shot down seven enemy airplanes during World War II with his Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. Davis was the first American pilot to become an ace in two wars.
George Davis would soon be credited with another eight victories, making him the leading American ace up to that time. He was killed in action 10 February 1952 in an air battle for which he would be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Raymond Oscar (“R.O.”) Barton, Jr., was born at Omaha, Nebraska, 8 March 1927. he was the son of Major General Raymond O. Barton and Clare Fitzpatrick Barton. He was a 1948 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Barton flew 100 combat missions during the Korean War. He is credited with three MiG 15s destroyed and another 7 damaged. R.O. Barton died at Augusta, Georgia, in 2003.
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Major George Andrew Davis, Jr. (ASN: 0-671514/13035A), United States Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Wing, Fifth Air Force in action against enemy forces near Sinuiju-Yalu River, Korea, on 10 February 1952. While leading a flight of four F-86 Saberjets on a combat aerial patrol mission near the Manchurian border, Major Davis’ element leader ran out of oxygen and was forced to retire from the flight with his wingman accompanying him. Major Davis and the remaining F-86’s continued the mission and sighted a formation of approximately twelve enemy MIG-15 aircraft speeding southward toward an area where friendly fighter-bombers were conducting low level operations against the Communist lines of communications. With selfless disregard for the numerical superiority of the enemy, Major Davis positioned his two aircraft, then dove at the MIG formation. While speeding through the formation from the rear he singled out a MIG-15 and destroyed it with a concentrated burst of fire. Although he was now under continuous fire from the enemy fighters to his rear, Major Davis sustained his attack. He fired at another MIG-15 which, bursting into smoke and flames, went into a vertical dive. Rather than maintain his superior speed and evade the enemy fire being concentrated on him, he elected to reduce his speed and sought out still a third MIG-15. During this latest attack his aircraft sustained a direct hit, went out of control, then crashed into a mountain 30 miles south of the Yalu River. Major Davis’ bold attack completely disrupted the enemy formation, permitting the friendly fighter-bombers to successfully complete their interdiction mission. Major Davis, by his indomitable fighting spirit, heroic aggressiveness, and superb courage in engaging the enemy against formidable odds exemplified valor at its highest.
General Orders: Department of the Air Force, General Orders No. 20 (April 30, 1954)
Action Date: February 10, 1952
Service: Air Force
Company: 334th Fighter Squadron
Regiment: 4th Fighter Wing
Division: 5th Air Force
George Andrew Davis, Jr., was born 1 December 1920, at Dublin, Erath County, Texas. He was the seventh of nine children of George Andrew Davis, a farmer, and Pearl Love Davis. George attended high school at Morton, Texas, and Harding College (now, Harding University), at Searcy, Arkansas.
Davis married Miss Doris Lynn Forgason in Maple, Texas, 21 February 1941. They would have three children, Mary Margaret Davis, George Andrew Davis III, and Charles Lynn Davis.
Soon after the United States entered World War II, on 21 March 1942, George Davis enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Lubbock, Texas. He was 5 feet, 7 inches (170 centimeters) tall and weighed 135 pounds (61 kilograms). Davis had a light complexion, black hair and blue eyes. He was selected as an Aviation Cadet and sent to Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, for pre-flight instruction. Cadet Davis received primary flight training at Bonham Field, Bonham, Texas, a member of Class 43-B.
On completion of flight training, Davis was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Reserve, 16 March 1943. He was then sent to Bowman Field , Kentucky, for combat training in the Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk.
Assigned to the 342nd Fight Squadron, 348th Fighter Group, Lieutenant Davis was deployed to the Southwest Pacific, serving in New Guinea and the Philippine Islands. With that unit, he flew both the North American P-51 Mustang and the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. He was credited with destroying seven enemy aircraft.
Second Lieutenant Davis was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant, Air Corps, Army of the United States, 3 February 1944, and to First Lieutenant, A.U.S., 2 March 1944. On 12 November 1944, he was promoted to Captain, Army of the United States.
Following World War II, Captain Davis was assigned to Bryan Field, just west of Bryan, Texas. A contemporary newspaper article described his experiences during the war:
. . . Credited with seven Japanese planes, Davis got two of them and won the Silver Star over Clark Field, near Manila, last Dec. 24. He was leading a flight of three Thunderbolts, escorting Liberators, when he saw the two Nips attacking the bomber formation. He immediately turned in pursuit of one, and chased it to within firing distance. Then he let his wingman shoot it down. Soon after that he saw eight to ten more enemy planes attacking American fighters and went after one of them. Three short bursts from his guns were enough to send one Nip crashing into the side of a mountain.
Once again in position covering the bombers, he saw another enemy fighter heading for the big planes. He climbed after it, and fired from 200-yard range. Pieces flew off the Jap plane and it burst into flames and crashed.
The official citation says “the superb protection afforded the bombers by this officer enabled them to carry out their runs with telling effect.”
Davis got the DFC when he shot down two more planes over Leyte last Dec. 10. He and his flight of four Thunderbolts were attacked by four Nips over Ormoc Bay. Davis gave chase and caught one over Cebu and the other over Negros.
The Oak Leaf cluster to the DFC came 10 days later over the Mindoro beachhead. Again his flight of Thunderbolts was attacked by the Nips and again Davis gave chase to one of them. He fired three different bursts into his target and a short time later the enemy crashed into the water.
The captain had flown a total of 705½ hours on 266 combat missions before he left for home. He was commanding officer of one of the 348th’s units.
Following World War II, Captain Davis reverted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant, Air Corps Reserve, 16 Feb 1946. On 24 August 1946, he was appointed a 1st Lieutenant, Air Corps, with a date of rank retroactive to 16 February 1946. Lieutenant Davis was transferred to the United States Air Force when it was established as a separate military service, September 1947.
In 1950, Captain Davis flew as a member of the 1st Fighter Interceptor Group’s Sabre Dancers, an aerial demonstration team, based at George Air Force Base, California.
Captain Davis was promoted to the rank of Major in February 1951. He was assigned as commanding officer, 334th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Interceptor Group, in Korea.
Major Davis was killed in action 10 February 1952, when his F-86 Sabre was shot down near the Yalu River. Both a Chinese pilot, Zhang Jihui, 12th Fighter Aviation Regiment ¹ and a Soviet pilot, Mikhail A. Averin, claimed the shoot down. Davis was posthumously promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, 15 April 1953.
The Medal of Honor was presented to Mrs. Davis by General Nathan F. Twining, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, at a ceremony held at Reese Air Force Base, 14 May 1954.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Lieutenant Colonel Davis was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, three Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross with three bronze oak leaf clusters in lieu of a fourth DFC, and eight Air Medals. He flew 266 combat missions in World War II, and 60 during the Korean War. An ace in both wars, he is credited with destroying 21 enemy aircraft.
Davis’ remains were not recovered. A cenotaph in his memory is at the City of Lubbock Cemetery, Lubbock, Texas.
¹ An interesting analysis can be found in “Who Shot Down Major Davis?” at https://www.historynet.com/shot-major-davis.htm