Dublin's Own Flying Ace

George Andrew Davis Jr. (December 1, 1920 – February 10, 1952)

George Andrew Davis Jr. (December 1, 1920 – February 10, 1952) was a highly decorated fighter pilot and flying ace of the United States Army Air Forces in World War II, and later of the United States Air Force during the Korean War. Davis rose to the rank of major, and was promoted posthumously to lieutenant colonel and awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in "MiG Alley" during the latter war. He was the only flying ace of the United States to be killed in action in Korea.

Born in Dublin, Texas, Davis joined the United States Army Air Corps in early 1942. He was sent to the Pacific Theatre after pilot training and flew in the New Guinea and Philippine campaigns, scoring seven victories over Japanese aircraft. He quickly gained a reputation as a skilled pilot and accurate gunner whose "daredevil" flying style contrasted with his reserved personality.

Davis did not see action in Korea until late 1951. In spite of this, he achieved considerable success flying the F-86 Sabre fighter jet, quickly rising to become the war's ace of aces and downing fourteen North Korean, Chinese, and Soviet aircraft before his death in February 1952. During his final combat mission in northwest Korea, Davis surprised and attacked twelve Chinese MiG-15 fighter jets about to attack friendly aircraft in "MiG Alley", downing two of the MiG-15's before he was shot down and killed. Controversies arose surrounding the circumstances of his death.

Davis was born in Dublin, Texas, on December 1, 1920. He was the seventh of nine children born to George Davis Sr. and Pearl Love Davis. In his childhood, Davis briefly lived in Maple, Texas. Davis attended Morton High School in Morton, Texas. Davis then attended Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas. After completing a degree, he returned to Texas. He took up farming for a time with his family before eventually deciding to join the military.

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On March 21, 1942, Davis enlisted in the United States Army in Lubbock, Texas, just after the US entry into World War II. On June 3, he was appointed an aviation cadet in the Army Air Corps. He was moved to Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas for pre-flight training, which he completed in August. He was then moved to Jones Field in Bonham, Texas for primary flight training. During this training, he got his first 60 hours of flight time aboard a Fairchild PT-19 trainer aircraft. Then, he flew for another 74 hours during Basic Flight Training in Waco, Texas and a final stint of training aboard the T-6 Texan at Aloe Field in Victoria, Texas. On February 16, 1943, Davis completed his training and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army Reserve, and immediately ordered to active duty with the Army Air Forces. By this time he had accrued 314 hours of flight time.

Davis' first assignment was the 312th Bombardment Group based at Bowman Field in Louisville, Kentucky. There, he was qualified to fly the P-40 Warhawk fighter plane. He was trained there until August 1943 when the group was ordered to the Pacific Theater of Operations.

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Nicknames: "Curly"
"One Burst Davis"

Born: December 1, 1920
Dublin, Texas

Died: February 10, 1952 (aged 31)
Yalu River, Korea

Buried: City of Lubbock Cemetery

Allegiance: United States

Service/Branch: United States Army Air Forces
United States Air Force

Years of Service: 1942–1952

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel (posthumous)

Service Number: 13035A

Unit: 342nd Fighter Squadron
71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

Commands Held: 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

Battles/Wars: World War II

  • Pacific War

    • New Guinea Campaign

    • Philippines Campaign

Korean War

  • "MiG Alley"

Awards: Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star (3)
Distinguished Flying Cross (4)
Purple Heart
Air Medal (10)

Upon the outbreak of the Korean War, Davis continued to serve in the 71st Squadron and did not see combat in the initial phase of the war. As it progressed, however, Davis began training on the F-86 Sabre (Sabrejet), the latest jet engine-powered fighter. On February 15, 1951, he was promoted to major and in October 1951 he was assigned to the headquarters of the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, which was based in Japan and operating aircraft throughout Korea. As such, Davis was sent to the conflict as a fighter pilot.

On February 10, 1952, Davis flew his 59th and last combat mission of the war in an F-86E Sabre (tail number 51-2752). That day, he led a flight of four F-86s on a patrol near the Yalu River, near the Manchurian border. Davis' group was part of a larger UN force of 18 F-86s operating in the area. As Davis' patrol reached the border, one of his F-86 pilots reported he was out of oxygen causing Davis to order him to return to base with his wingman. As Davis continued patrolling with one wingman, Second Lieutenant William W. Littlefield, and cruising at an altitude of 38,000 feet (12,000 m), they spotted a flight of 12 MiG-15s of the Chinese 4th Fighter Division heading in the direction of a group of US F-84 Thunderjets conducting a low-level bombing mission on North Korean communication lines.

The MiGs were 8,000 feet (2,400 m) below Davis and Littlefield and had not noticed them. Without hesitating, Davis immediately flew behind the MiG-15 formation and attacked them from the rear. His surprise attack destroyed one of the MiG-15s, and he quickly turned to the next closest MiG and destroyed it before it could outmaneuver him. By this time, Davis and Littlefield passed many of the MiGs and some that were behind them began firing. Davis then moved to target a third MiG at the front of the formation, but as he was lining up his shot a MiG scored a direct hit on Davis' fuselage, causing his aircraft to spin out of control. Littlefield said later, that he spotted Davis' landing gear open, indicating hydraulic failure, and that he attempted to defend Davis' aircraft as it lost altitude until Davis crashed and died. Littlefield reported he did not see Davis bail out of his aircraft. Davis was declared missing in action and presumed killed. Intense aerial searches of the area later revealed no evidence that Davis had survived the crash. In fact, a week after the incident, the Chinese military searched the region and recovered Davis' body, still in the crashed aircraft. The Chinese never returned Davis' body to the United States.

To See Artifacts From Lieutenant Colonel Davis' Military Career Visit The Dublin Historical Museum