The son of Zelma Tribby Davis and Raymond Roy Davis, Raymond Gilbert Davis was born in Fitzgerald, Georgia on January 13, 1915. After his second-grade year, his family moved to Atlanta, where he graduated from high school in 1933 and from the Georgia Institute of Technology, with honors, in 1938. An Army ROTC cadet at Georgia Tech, he chose the marine corps for his career.
Raymond G. Davis is one of the most renowned modern military leaders from Georgia. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1952 for his extraordinary strategy and leadership during the Korean War at the Chosin Reservoir in November-December 1950. In his career of more than thirty-three years as a marine, Davis was also decorated with the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, two Distinguished Service Medals, two Legions of Merit, the Purple Heart, and numerous other national and international military awards. At the time of his retirement as a four-star general in 1972, he was the assistant commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Davis died on September 3, 2003, at the age of eighty-eight. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in College Park.
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.
World War II (1941-45)
In September 1944 he received the Navy Cross for his heroism as a battalion commander during the assault on Japanese forces entrenched on the Pacific Island of Peleliu. Raymond Davis participated in the Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings, the capture and defense of Guadalcanal, the Eastern New Guinea and Cape Gloucester campaigns, and the Peleliu operation.
The Korean War (1950-53)
When the Korean conflict began with North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in 1950, Davis, by then a lieutenant colonel, was sent to Camp Pendleton, California, and given the task of recruiting an 800-man battalion in five days, which he accomplished. The First Battalion of the Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, was sent immediately to South Korea via troop ship. On the way he trained and drilled his men constantly to prepare them for battle. By the time they landed at Inchon, General Douglas MacArthur’s strategy to destroy and drive back the North Korean forces was already producing excellent results.
Thus, Davis’s unit saw little conflict until MacArthur ordered the invasion of North Korea. The Fifth and Seventh regiments were to go north through the Toktong Pass to secure the Chosin Reservoir and then proceed farther north to the Yalu River, the border with China. In bitterly cold weather the regiments fought their way up existing roads until they reached the Chosin Reservoir, where in late November they were surrounded by more than 125,000 Chinese soldiers in a counterinvasion. For several days they were pinned down in fierce fighting with the Chinese. Fox Company, a small force that had been left behind at the Toktong Pass, was also surrounded and under heavy fire. As the crisis escalated, Davis came up with a plan: he proposed to leave everything his marines could not carry, break through the enemy lines, and journey east all night through the high mountains to come around behind the enemy soldiers surrounding the unit at the Toktong Pass. The two regiments, meanwhile, would break out and take the main route up which they had come.
Davis’s First Battalion left their jeeps and loaded mortars and rounds on stretchers. They packed food close to their bodies to keep it from freezing in temperatures around 30 degrees below zero. Then they broke through the Chinese lines to the east of the camp and headed through the mountains, 800 men trudging in single file through knee-deep snow. Chinese soldiers were firing blindly into the night, and as the battalion got closer to Fox Company, Davis ordered them not to return fire when fired upon so that they could keep their location secret. When his battalion got close enough to the surrounded marines to be in danger of friendly fire, he gave the order to stop, take cover, and rest. At dawn Davis’s battalion took the Chinese by surprise and fought their way in to the stranded company. Then they proceeded to take the Toktong Pass away from enemy forces, opening it for the Fifth and Seventh regiments to get through. After the battle the regiments made their way southward to safety. For his role in rescuing thousands of men, U.S. president Harry Truman presented Davis with the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1952.
Vietnam War (1964-73)
Davis returned to conflict during the war in Vietnam (1964-73), whereas major general he served as deputy commander and then commander of the Third Marine Division. Then he returned to the United States, earning his third and fourth stars and serving as assistant commandant of the marine corps.
Upon retirement from the military in 1972, Davis became the executive vice president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Three years later he retired to Conyers, where he became a land developer. Davis served on the board for the construction of the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated in July 1995 in Washington, D.C.
Source: Tech Topics, Georgia Tech Alumni Association
Shown here are the medals General Davis earned during his career. They include:
The General Raymond G. Davis Center at Quantico, Virginia which houses the Marine Corps Combat Development Command