Rodney Maxwell Davis was born on April 7, 1942, in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia. He attended both elementary school and high school in Macon and graduated from Peter G. Appling High School on May 29, 1961.
Rodney was 6-foot-5, a handsome sight in the Marines’ dress uniform. He was posted overseas to guard U.S. embassies in Great Britain and the Mediterranean, where he met a tall beauty from the Caribbean. They married, and soon Rodney and Judy Davis had two children, Nicola and Samantha Jane. Judy Davis died of cancer in 2012.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as the right guide of the 2d Platoon, Company B, in action against enemy forces. Elements of the 2d Platoon were pinned down by a numerically superior force of attacking North Vietnamese Army Regulars. Remnants of the platoon were located in a trench line where Sgt. Davis was directing the fire of his men in an attempt to repel the enemy attack.
Disregarding the enemy hand grenades and high volume of small arms and mortar fire, Sgt. Davis moved from man to man shouting words of encouragement to each of them while firing and throwing grenades at the onrushing enemy. When an enemy grenade landed in the trench in the midst of his men, Sgt. Davis, realizing the gravity of the situation, and in a final valiant act of complete self-sacrifice, instantly threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing with his body the full and terrific force of the explosion.
Through his extraordinary initiative and inspiring valor in the face of almost certain death, Sgt. Davis saved his comrades from injury and possible loss of life, enabled his platoon to hold its vital position, and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U. S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Rodney Davis entered the Marine Corps shortly after his high school graduation in his hometown on August 31, 1961. He then reported for recruit training with the First Recruit Training Battalion Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. After completion of recruit training in December 1961, he was then transferred to the Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. There he underwent Individual Combat Training with the Second Battalion, First Infantry Training Regiment and graduated in February of 1962.
He served in the United States Marine Corps during the War in Vietnam as a Sergeant in Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery at Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam, on September 6, 1967.
He then joined Company K, 3d Battalion, 2d Marines, 2d Marine Division, at Camp Lejeune and served as a rifleman until May 1964. While stationed at Camp Lejeune, he was promoted to private first class, April 1, 1962, and to lance corporal, January 1, 1964.
Lance Corporal Davis was ordered to London, England, for a three-year tour of duty as Guard with the U.S. Marine Detachment, Naval Activities. He was promoted to corporal, January 1, 1966, and to sergeant, December 1, 1966.
Ordered to the Republic of Vietnam in August 1967, he was assigned duty as a platoon guide with Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. While serving as the right guide of the Second Platoon against enemy forces in Quang Nam Province on 6 September 1967, he was mortally wounded when he threw himself upon a hand grenade to save his comrades from injury and possible death.
On March 26, 1969, the Davis family attended a ceremony at the executive office building next to the White House, where then Vice President Spiro Agnew presented the Medal of Honor to Davis’ widow, Judy.
Sergeant Davis’ remains were returned to the U.S. and her is buried in Linwood Cemetery, an all-Black cemetery in his hometown. According to the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, Davis’ mother passed on having him buried at Arlington National Cemetery so his family would be close enough to visit his grave.
However, the cemetery had fallen into disrepair by 2010, and Davis’ grave was affected. That concerned some Marines who noticed it, so they raised more than $80,000 to repair the cemetery and have a monument erected in his honor. The excess funds were used to create the Sergeant Rodney M. Davis Medal of Honor Scholarship in his memory.
Shown here are the medals Sergeant Davis earned during his career. They include:
A memorial site including a large obelisk commemorating his service also at Linwood Historic Cemetery.
The Rodney Maxwell Davis interchange at the intersection of I-75 and I-475 in Macon, Georgia.
The USS Rodney M. Davis, an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate.