WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, is naming its newest cadet barracks after Air Force Gen. Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr., a Tuskegee Airman who had graduated from the academy.
Davis graduated from West Point in 1936 with a commission as a second lieutenant of infantry. He later transferred to the Army Air Corps and then to the Air Force, when that service was established.
"Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., epitomizes the essence of character and honorable living we strive to inspire in every cadet at West Point," said West Point superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen.
Caslen said it was "particularly fitting" to make the announcement March 16, on the 213th anniversary of the founding of West Point, and to "pay tribute to his demonstrated acts of perseverance, courage and humility throughout a lifetime of selfless service to the nation."
While at West Point, the academy officials said Davis was "silenced" during his four years there, as no cadets or staff befriended him or spoke to him except on an official basis.
He persevered, becoming the fourth African-American to graduate from West Point. In 1941, he was accepted as one of the first Tuskegee Airmen and received his pilot wings the following year. He transferred to the Army Air Corps in May 1942.
During World War II, as a lieutenant colonel, he commanded the 99th Pursuit Squadron, flying P-40 Warhawks. Following promotion to the rank of colonel, Davis assumed command of the 332nd Fighter Group known as the legendary "Red Tails," flying P-51 Mustangs and P-47 Thunderbolts.
Under his leadership, the unit was commended for its outstanding combat record and was held in such high regard for their discipline and performance that they were sought by bomber crews to escort the most dangerous missions over Germany.
Davis was awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal for meritorious service and gallantry. It was his continued love of flight that led him to transfer from the Army to the Air Force in 1947.
In the Air Force, he led the development of policy improvements for ethnic integration in 1948 and spent the next two decades as a prominent leader focused on ensuring equal treatment and opportunities for all.
After commanding the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing, in Korea, he held various command and staff positions before culminating his service time as a lieutenant general and the 13th Air Force commander at Clark Air Base, Philippines.
He retired in 1970, but received a final promotion to four-star general in 1998, during a White House event led by President Bill Clinton.
Davis died in 2002, at the age of 89.
West Point has not announced a date for the dedication ceremony of the barracks.