General Raymond Gilbert Davis, who earned the Medal of Honor in Korea in 1950, was born on 13 January 1915, in Fitzgerald, Georgia, and graduated in 1933 from Atlanta Technical High School, Atlanta, Georgia. He then entered the Georgia School of Technology, graduating in 1938 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. While in college he was a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps unit. After graduation, he resigned his commission in the U. S. Army Infantry Reserve to accept appointment as a Marine second lieutenant on 27 June 1938.
In May 1939, 2dLt Davis completed the Marine Officers' Basic School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and began a year of service with the Marine Detachment on board the USS Portland in the Pacific. He returned to shore duty in July 1940 for weapons and artillery instruction at Quantico, Virginia, and Aberdeen, Maryland. Completing the training in February 1941, he was assigned to the 1st Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battery, 1st Marine Division at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He returned to the United States with the unit in April, and the following month was appointed battery executive officer, serving in that capacity at Parris Island, South Carolina, and Quantico. He was promoted to first lieutenant in August 1941. That September, he moved with the battery to the Marine Barracks, New River (later Camp Lejeune), North Carolina. Upon his promotion to captain in February 1942, he was named battery commander.
During World War II, he participated in the Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings, the capture and defense of Guadalcanal, the Eastern New Guinea and Cape Gloucester campaigns, and the Peleliu operation. Beginning in June 1942, he embarked with his unit for the Pacific area, landing at Guadalcanal two months later. After that campaign, he was appointed Executive Officer of the 1st Special Weapons Battalion, 1st Marine Division. He was promoted to major 28 February 1943. In October of that year, Maj Davis took over command of the battalion and served in that capacity at New Guinea and Cape Gloucester. In April 1944, while on Cape Gloucester, he was named Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division.
Major Davis' action while commanding the 1st Battalion at Peleliu in September 1944 earned him the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart. Although wounded during the first hour of the Peleliu landing, he refused evacuation to remain with his men; and, on one occasion, when heavy Marine casualties and the enemy's point-blank cannon fire had enabled the Japanese to break through, he personally rallied and led his men in fighting to re-establish defense positions. In October 1944, he returned to Pavuvu and was promoted to lieutenant colonel.
Returning to the United States in November 1944, LtCol Davis was assigned to Quantico as Tactical Inspector, Marine Corps Schools. He was named Chief of the Infantry Section, Marine Air-Infantry School, Quantico, in May 1945, and served in that post for two years before returning to the Pacific area in July 1947 to serve with the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade on Guam. He was the 1st Brigade's Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 (Operations and Training), until August 1948, and from then until May 1949, was Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4 (Logistics). Upon his return from Guam in May 1949, he was named Inspector-Instructor of the 9th Marine Corps Reserve Infantry Battalion in Chicago, Illinois. He served there until August 1950 when he embarked for Korea.
In Korea, LtCol Davis commanded the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, from August to December 1950. He earned the Nation's highest decoration for heroism, the Medal of Honor, during the 1st Marine Division's historic fight to break out of the Chosin Reservoir area. There, against overwhelming odds, he led his battalion in a terrific four-day battle which saved a rifle company from annihilation and opened a mountain pass for the escape of two trapped Marine regiments. The award was presented him by President Harry S. Truman in a White House ceremony on 24 November 1952.
Besides receiving the Medal of Honor for action during that period, he twice earned the Silver Star Medal by exposing himself to heavy enemy fire while leading and encouraging his men in the face of strong enemy opposition. He also received the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” for exceptionally meritorious conduct and professional skill in welding the 1st Battalion into a highly effective combat team. Later, as Executive Officer of the 7th Marines, from December 1950 to June 1951, LtCol Davis earned the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V” for his part in rebuilding the regiment after the Chosin Reservoir campaign. He returned from Korea in June 1951.
Ordered to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D. C., LtCol Davis served in the Operations Subsection, G-3, Division of Plans and Policies, until February 1952, when he took charge of the subsection. In April 1953, he became Head of the Operations and Training Branch, G-3 Division. While serving in this capacity, he was promoted to colonel in October 1953.
The following July Col Davis attended the Special Weapons Employment Course, Fleet Training Center, Norfolk, Virginia, under instruction. In September 1954, he entered the Senior Course, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. Upon completing the course in June 1955, he served consecutively as Assistant Director and, later, Director, of the Senior School. In October 1957, he was again transferred to Washington, D. C., and served there as Assistant G-2, Headquarters Marine Corps, until August 1959. The following June, he completed the course at the National War College in Washington. Assigned next to Headquarters, United States European Command, in Paris, France, he served from July 1960 through June 1963, as Chief, Analysis Branch, J-2, Staff of the Commander in Chief, Europe. On 1 July 1963, he was promoted to brigadier general while en route to the United States.
Brigadier General Davis' next assignment was in the Far East where he served as Assistant Division Commander, 3d Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, on Okinawa, from October 1963 to November 1964. During this period, he also performed additional duty as Commanding General, SEATO Expeditionary Brigade, EXLIGTAS, in the Philippines, during June 1964; and as Commanding General, 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, in China Sea Contingency Operations, from 2 August to 16 October 1964.
In December 1964, he was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps. He served as Assistant Director of Personnel until March 1965, then served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1, until March 1968. For his service in the latter capacity, he was awarded a second Legion of Merit. He was promoted to major general in November 1966.
Ordered to the Republic of Vietnam, MajGen Davis served briefly as Deputy Commanding General, Provisional Corps, then became Commanding General, 3d Marine Division. For his service in the latter capacity from 22 May 1968 until 14 April 1969, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, and three personal decorations by the Vietnamese Government.
Upon his return to the United States in May 1969, he was assigned duty as Deputy for Education with additional duty as Director, Education Center, Marine Corps Development and Education Command, Quantico, Virginia. After his promotion to lieutenant general, 1 July 1970, he was reassigned duty as Commanding General, Marine Corps Development and Education Command.
On 23 February 1971, President Richard M. Nixon nominated LtGen Davis for appointment to the grade of general and assignment to the position of Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. His nomination was confirmed by the Senate and he received his fourth star on assuming those duties, 12 March 1971. He served as Assistant Commandant until he retired from active duty on 31 March 1972, after more than 33 years with the Marine Corps.
For his service as Deputy for Education and subsequently as Commanding General, Marine Corps Development and Education Command, Quantico, Virginia, during the period May 1969 to March 1971, and as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, from March 1971 to March 1972, he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal.
General Davis died of a heart attack at the age of 88 on 3 September 2003. Interment was at Forestlawn Memorial Gardens in College Park, Georgia.
A complete list of his medals and decorations include: the Medal of Honor; the Navy Cross; the Distinguished Service Medal with Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Silver Star Medal with Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Legion of Merit with Combat “V" and Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V;" the Purple Heart; the Presidential Unit Citation with four bronze stars indicative of second through fifth awards; the Navy Unit Commendation; the American Defense Service Medal with Fleet clasp; the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver star in lieu of five bronze stars; the World War II Victory Medal; the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star; the Korean Service Medal with four bronze stars; the Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars; the National Order of Vietnam, 4th Class; the National Order of Vietnam, 4th Class; the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with three Palms; two Korean Presidential Unit Citations; the United Nations Service Medal; and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.