Benjamin Olivia Davis, Sr., was the first black general for the US Army. His military career started during the Spanish-American War to the Second World War. General Davis was a highly decorated soldier. He earned a Bronze Star Medal, the French Croix de Guerre and the Distinguished Service Medal. He was also awarded the Grade of Commander of the Order of the Star of Africa from Liberia.
He was born Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr., on the 1st of July in 1877 in Washington DC. Although not much is known about his early life, his family was a comfortable middle class. He graduated from Howard in 1898 and signed up for the Army immediately after graduation when the Spanish-American war broke out. Davis was part of the 8th US volunteer Infantry (an all-black unit) as a First Lieutenant. He would later enlist as a private in 1899 in the US Cavalry which was a regular unit of the Army. He would soon rise to the highest rank ever attained by an African American at the time.
Against all odds
Davis was determined to become a commissioned officer and in 1901, he passed the commissioning exams and was promoted to Second Lieutenant. He was deployed to duty in the Philippine islands with his 9th Cavalry. He was later reassigned to the 10th Cavalry and returned to the US. Back home, he served as an adjutant at Fort Washakie, Wyoming. In 1905, He was promoted to Full Lieutenant and was appointed Professor of military science and tactics to teach military tactics at Wilberforce University in Ohio. Davis was assigned his first command in the 369th Cavalry in the New York National Guarding 1937 with the rank of a Colonel. He was promoted to the rank of Brigadier in 1940, becoming the first African American to hold the rank of a General, otherwise known as flag officers in the US Army. He reported for duty in 1941 as the Brigade Commander with the 2ndCavalry division in Fort Riley Kansas.
Contribution to the US Army
Throughout his career in the military, he confronted and fought against racial segregation in the US armed forces. He served as a mentor to soldiers during the Second World War and was noted as a diplomatic negotiator on issues regarding race. He was also an advisor to the then Commander of the allied forces in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower on integration in the US military. From the civil war to the Second World War which was a period of over 8 decades, Davis served as one among six black officers. General Davis retired in 1948 with half a century of military service the same year President Truman abolished segregation in the Military.