For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 6, 2002
Statement by the President
Two days ago, on July 4th, America lost a true hero when General Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr. died at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. Throughout his career, General Davis served the cause of freedom with distinction and dignity. He will be sorely missed. On behalf of a grateful Nation, Laura and I send our condolences to the Davis family.
We will remember General Davis most for his leadership of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. The segregated African-American 332nd Fighter Group flew more than 15,000 sorties against the Nazi Luftwaffe, destroyed over 250 enemy aircraft, and never lost a single Allied plane flying under its escort protection. Davis' leadership and the dazzling success of his Tuskegee Airman contributed greatly to the victory over fascism abroad -- and to important victories over discrimination here at home, especially the desegregation of the Armed Services ordered by President Truman in 1948.
The quiet courage, discipline, and high achievement of the Tuskegee Airmen simply mirrored the qualities that Benjamin Davis, Jr. demonstrated throughout his career. A graduate of West Point, he was a recipient of the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross and was the first African American in the Air Force to earn a star. He retired with the rank of Lieutenant General and was awarded his fourth star after his retirement in 1998. His passing on the date of our Nation's Independence underscores the independence and pride with which he served our nation's highest ideals. General Davis left our country better than he found it and his legacy will endure for as long as Americans seek to protect -- and perfect -- our Union.