Col. Joseph Davis Jr. (1917 - 2014)

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Col. Joseph Davis, Jr., USAF Retired, died with his daughters by his side on Aug. 21, 2014, a few months before his 97th birthday. He was born in New York City and grew up in Linden, N.J. He learned to fly at the age of 15 while attending high school and earned his pilot's license at 16. He left college to pursue flying as a barn-storming pilot in North Carolina, Delaware and New York state. Col. Davis received a di-rect commission into the New Jersey National Guard on Sept. 14, 1940. Two days later he went on active duty in the Army Air Corps as a 2nd Lt pilot. During World War II and the Korean War, Col. Davis flew bomber and fighter plane combat missions totaling 808 hours. Over his 30 years of service in the Air Force, he totaled 12,120 hours of military flying and never damaged an airplane. He was a true American hero and an example for us all.
In 1946, Col. Davis and his loving wife, Ann, were married in Pensacola, Fla., and remained together for 66 years until Ann's death in 2012. They were a formidable team in their personal endeavors and in his military career. Ann was truly his partner in life, an accomplished military spouse, a community leader, a supportive wife and a dedicated mother and grandmother. They raised three successful and endearing daugh-ters, Scott, Chris and Jan. In October 1969, Col. Davis retired from the Air Force as Vice Commander of the Armament Development and Test Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Prior assignments included Squadron Commander, Group Commander in the Pacific Theater, Wing Commander 58th Fighter Bomber Wing /474th Fighter Bomber Group in Korea, Deputy Commander for Flight Test and Chief Test Pilot at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH and Operational Readiness Inspector USAF Europe.
In the 1960's Col. Davis came up with the revolutionary concept of the laser-guided bomb and spearheaded its development into operational use. In 1968, he lead the team that tested the first 48 laser-guided bomb kits in Thailand and Vietnam. During his military career, Col. Davis was awarded 28 medals including the Silver Star, four Legions of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and nine Air Medals.
After retiring from the Air Force, Col. Davis became Assistant to the Vice President of Beech Aircraft Corporation for 15 years. He flew another 3,000 hours during this time and after his retirement from Beech Aircraft continued flying, bringing his total flying hours to 16,781.
Col. Davis was one of the founding directors of the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin AFB and served as Treasurer of the Museum Foundation from its inception in July 1984 until March 2002, being instrumental in raising the funds necessary for the Museum's success. He was a member of the Quiet Birdmen since 1956.
In June 2010, Col. Davis and his family attended the opening of the Korean War Exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, where he was honored for his exceptional leadership of close air support strikes and interdiction raids over North Korea. The Museum's Korean War Exhibit in-cludes a restored F-84 airplane as flown by Col. Davis painted with his Four Queens "poker hand four-or-a-kind" personal insignia (named for his wife and three daughters) and the 474th and 58th fighter-bomber wing insignias. Additionally, the exhibit includes a permanent display of personal memorabilia and several story boards describing his exceptional Air Force career and highlighting one of his most important mis-sions. On the last day of the war, Col. Davis successfully lead a formation of 24 F-84s through enemy fire in an attack against Chunggangjin airfield deep in North Korea and only 300 feet from the Yalu River and the Chinese border. His exceptional navigational skills resulted in a direct hit on the target rendering the enemy airfield unusable. For his gallantry and skill during this mission, Col. Davis was awarded the United States Silver Star and the South Korean Award of Military Merit Ulchi with Silver Star.
Col. Davis was a devoted husband, loving father and proud grandfather. He was preceded in death by his wife Ann, his son-in-law Stanley Kossoff, his sister-in-law Alice Ray and his brother-in-law Ray Van Jaeckel. He is survived by his three awesome daughters and two sons-in-law, Scott (Davis) Kossoff, Chris (Davis) and Lee Rosenberg, and Jan (Davis) and Tom Vater and his three amazing grandchildren Angela and Kari Rosenberg and Tommy Vater and his dear sister Anne Van Jaeckel. Col. Davis was an avid golfer with four holes-in-one to his credit, proving once again there wasn't anything he couldn't do.
A funeral mass will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 11:30 a.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church, 110 St. Mary Ave, SW, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., followed by a luncheon at 12:45 p.m. at Two Trees Restaurant (Ft. Walton Beach Golf Club), 1955 Lewis Turner Blvd, Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Burial will be at Arlington Na-tional Cemetery with full military honors.
In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made (please reference Col. Joseph Davis, Jr.) to the Air Force Armament Museum Foundation, 100 Museum Drive, Eglin AFB, FL 32542 (checks should be made to AFAMF) www.AFArmamentMuseum.com or to the Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. P.O. Box 1903, 1100 Spaatz Street, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433-1903 (www.afmuseum.com/donations).
Published Online in Northwest Florida Daily News from Aug. 24 to Aug. 26, 2014
JOSEPH DAVIS
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