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Leading from the Front: Col. Joseph Davis Jr.

Col. Joe Davis and his F-84 "Four Queens." (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Joe Davis and his F-84 "Four Queens." (U.S. Air Force photo)

Upon completing his 100th and final mission in F-84 Thunderjets, Col. Victor Warford (left), 58th Fighter Bomber Wing (Reinforced) commander, hands over his gun to his deputy, Col. Joseph Davis Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Upon completing his 100th and final mission in F-84 Thunderjets, Col. Victor Warford (left), 58th Fighter Bomber Wing (Reinforced) commander, hands over his gun to his deputy, Col. Joseph Davis Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Joseph Davis Jr. in the cockpit of his aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Joseph Davis Jr. in the cockpit of his aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The brightly colored "Four Queens" armed with two 500-lb. bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The brightly colored "Four Queens" armed with two 500-lb. bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

430th Fighter-Bomber Squadron emblem on the right side of Col. Davis’ F-84. (U.S. Air Force photo)

430th Fighter-Bomber Squadron emblem on the right side of Col. Davis’ F-84. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Joseph Davis Jr. in Korea wearing the jacket that is now on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Joseph Davis Jr. in Korea wearing the jacket that is now on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Joe Davis Jr. at his retirement from the U.S. Air Force with his "Four Queens," (left to right) daughter Scott, wife Ann, and daughters Chris and Jan in 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Joe Davis Jr. at his retirement from the U.S. Air Force with his "Four Queens," (left to right) daughter Scott, wife Ann, and daughters Chris and Jan in 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Col. Joseph Davis Jr. exhibit in the Korean War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Col. Joseph Davis Jr. exhibit in the Korean War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Thunderjet wing commander Col. Joseph Davis Jr. displayed exceptional leadership by personally leading successful close air support strikes and interdiction raids over North Korea. By war's end, he was the commander of all F-84 units stationed in Korea.

Perhaps the most important mission Davis led was on July 27, 1953, the last day of the war. United Nations forces hoped to knock out all the enemy's airfields to prevent them from bringing in more jet fighters (the terms of the armistice limited the communists to what remained in North Korea at the time of the cease fire). Davis led a formation of 24 F-84s in an attack against Chunggangjin airfield, deep in North Korea and only 300 feet from the Yalu River and the Chinese border.

Davis showed outstanding navigational skill by leading the formation directly to the target. He dove at the airfield through enemy gun fire and placed his bombs precisely on the target, thereby marking it for the other aircraft. The attack rendered the enemy airfield unusable for jet aircraft. For his gallantry and skill during this mission, Davis was awarded the Silver Star and the South Korean Award of Military Merit Ulchi with Silver Star.

Davis commanded the 474th Fighter-Bomber Wing from December 1952 until the unit was attached to the 58th Fighter-Bomber Wing (Reinforced) in April 1953 -- Davis then became the deputy commander of the 58th FBW(R), which contained all the Air Force's F-84 units in Korea. On July 1, 1953, he became the 58th FBW(R) commander.

Already a combat veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, Davis continued his distinguished military career after Korea. In the 1950s he flew various aircraft types as the Deputy Commander for Flight Test and Chief Test Pilot at the Wright Air Development Center. In the 1960s he came up with the revolutionary concept of the laser-guided bomb and spearheaded its development into operational use.

Davis retired in 1969 with over 10,000 hours of military flight time (including about 580 hours of combat time in Korea and WWII). His decorations included the Silver Star, Legion of Merit with three oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster, and the Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters.

Four Queens
Col. Joseph Davis Jr. named his F-84G Four Queens for his wife, Ann, and his three daughters, Scott, Chris and Jan. Davis had four queen playing cards painted on the left side of his aircraft to represent a poker "four-of-kind" hand. On the right side of the fuselage was the tiger emblem of the 430th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 474th Fighter-Bomber Wing. The colors on the nose, tail, and wingtips of the aircraft represent the three squadrons of the 474th FBW (428th FBS, red; 429 FBS, blue; 430 FBS, yellow).

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