Mr. Pace commented that Cal was well liked by everyone and it was a pleasure knowing
and flying with him. He had no idea that Cal was African-American. He was shocked,
said that Calvin never said anything about his family. Said that they met Davis on
the airbase in the club and that Cal wanted to fly with them, in which he did. He
did say that Calvin was older than the rest of the crew, and they knew that he was
with the 5th Air Force. Bill said he asked him why did he sign up for another tour,
and Calvin replied “ I don’t think I‘ve done enough”.
The Michigan State Representative Pete Hookstra has been contacted for assistance
on this family mission, and after a few months, we recently received a response that
says that Calvin is due some more medals. At first they stated that since we are
not direct descendants of Calvin Davis, we basically couldn't pursue information
about his recommendation for the Silver Star or the Medal of Honor. Hookstra’s office
will continue to pursue information on Calvin and has planned a presentation to family
and friends of the Davis’s in February 2002. Congressman John Conyers also joined
with Pete Hookstra in this mission. Both Congressman, (Democrat and Republican) requested
that the Secretary of the Army review this matter and determine if Davis is eligible
for the Medal of Honor and Silver Star, based on news reports from the War department.
Well, as a man that wanted to serve his country and die for his country, Calvin Davis
did not get the opportunity to have any descendants. We sent a letter to Secretary
Colin Powell and have yet to receive a response. This is a mission of a family to
secure something that might be due to our relative. We know him as "cousin Calvin"
and feel that what ever is due to him, he should get it. History shows the struggles
of African-Americans and repeated showed the loyalty to the USA during all Wars that
the US has been involved in. The giving of ones life to serve his country should
be "direct" enough to honor all of the fallen soldiers and obtain what ever is due
to them. He had to hide his heritage, completed 66 missions in serving his country,
proud to be an American, why would America not want to honor him?
Calvin Davis's father was a mulatto, and mother was white, as for Calvin, on his
birth certificate nothing is listed for race.
Resources & Research:
Shelley Viola Murphy
Tsgt. Calvin Clark Davis
Born September 2, 1912, Benzie County, Michigan-
Died November 30, 1944
WWII Solider-Serial number 16014331
Buried at Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Beligum
(Plot D, Row 10, Grave 29)
8th Air Force, "390th BG, 570 Squadron, The Flying Fortress
5th Air Force “90th BG, 400 Squadron, The Jolly Rogers
Siblings: Bessie (Davis) Marsh, Frances, Harlan, Ferman (Stub), Leo, Floyd, Al and
Parents: Horace and Hattie Alice (Lee) Davis
Grandparents: Joseph and Mary (Bell-Imes) Davis
Great Grandparents: William and Mildred (Brand) Davis
Great-Great Grandparents: Mr. Davis (Scotch/Irish plantation owner) & African slave
Attended school: Bear Lake High School, Class of 1932
Singer in the High School Glee Club and Track Star.
Military Awards: 50+ completed missions in SW Pacific, over Japanese held territory
16 missions in Europe
Wounded two times, from two different missions in the Pacific
Distinguished Flying Cross, Two Oak Leaf Clusters
Air Medal, 2 purple hearts with oak leaf, Air Medal with Star, Defense Medal,
European-African Campaign Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal,
Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, World War 2 Victory Medal, Honorable
Service Lapen Button,
WWII Purple Heart Received for Military Merit and for Wounds Received in actions
resulting in his death (6/2/1945)
Recommended for the Silver Star and Medal of Honor
A Special Tribute to Calvin Clark Davis by Shelley Murphy (niece)
“I Don’t Think I’ve Done Enough”
William Davis owned 11 acres in Franklin County PA prior to coming to Michigan. Other
children of Mildred and William are James Buchanan born in Shipensburg Pa, Susan
Ann also born in PA and other siblings noted later. In 1858, William and Mildred
sold their PA land for $1,000 to Rev. William Coursey and relocated to Medina Ohio
where they had two more children, Alma and Henry.
The Davis family arrived in Benzie County, Michigan about 1862. To our knowledge
they were the first African-American family in Benzie County. William Davis (born
1817) homesteaded 160 acres (July 23, 1863), and so did his son Joseph B. (5/17/1864).
The township had no cemetery, Joseph B. gave the township land for the cemetery and
it was named Joyfield Cemetery in 1864. Oral history handed down for over 60 years
reveals that William Davis is believed to be one of the three children of the Scotch-Irish
plantation owner and slave.
The first Davis house in Michigan was a log house, years later they build a frame
house. The house burnt down in 1919, when the state was paving US 31 right in front
of their property. Son, William O. was the timekeeper for the road crew. The road
crew built the house that still stands to this day. The family calls this house the
“Mushroom”, due to the shape of the house. William and wife, Mildred Brand raised
their own children and 17 others. Any child that needed a home, they took them in
regardless of color.
William’s oldest son, Joseph Brand Davis born in Pennsylvania abt. 1841, died in
Benzie County, January or February of 1915, at the ripe age of 76. Joseph B. was
about 23 when the Davis's arrived in Benzie County. Twice a year he walked to Traverse
City to get supplies. At this time there were no trails for horses. He knew families
on the way, where he could stay the night and also fill their supply orders. It
would take him a week to do the round trip. His mother would watch patiently for
his safe return. During the 1860's, there was only a footpath from Benzonia to Traverse
Joseph's first wife was Mary Bell Imes; they had one son named Horace Burr Davis.
He was born in 1864. Horace was the first baby to be born in Joyfield Township
after the township got its name. Mary Bell Imes was one of the children that the
Davis's raised. Joseph was about 25 years and Mary about 17 when they married about
1863. Mildred, Joseph's mother, was a midwife. She was born in Virginia about 1825;
light skinned mulatto, with long straight black hair that she could sit on. Mildred’s
father was from Scotland (based on census information). She was believed to be a
free-born mulatto from Virginia. Three times a day she smoked a clay pipe. She delivered
her grandson, Horace and his first three children; Bessie, Frances and Al and many
more children in the Joyfield Township area.
Horace Davis died in 1914, when Calvin was only two years old. Hattie, Calvin mother's
was left with a house, land and a few dollars, which was more than enough for her
to live on and support the family. This time was not the best for uneducated rural
women. A white man from the area approached her with big ideas that cost her everything.
The land, house, as well as the money left by her husband. After being swindled out
of everything she owned, she and her children had to move into a little house, located
in the neighboring community of Thompsonsville.
Calvin attended the Malcolm School, Manistee County. According to information submitted
by John W. Martin, who provided a history on the Malcolm School, the 1922-23-school
term started late in August with 26 pupils making up eight grades.
The Davis, Marsh, Reed, and Schleuter children used a well-worn path through the
fields, woods, and across the railroad track, being a direct half-mile walk to school.
If the round about roads had been used, the distance would have more than doubled.
Attachment #2 shows the class picture of Malcolm School for the year of 1927-28.
Calvin attended Bear Lake High School, class of 1932. While in high school he sang
in the Glee Club and set a new regional record in the half mile run. Calvin always
dreamed of becoming being a pilot. But knew it was out of his reach, they wouldn't
allow him to attend pilot school being an African-American. He was very light skinned
and settled to be a radio gunner. He entered the military May 14, 1941, and there
is no indication that anyone ever ask what race he was.
The local newspaper reported on (attached, no date of article that Calvin was promoted
to the rank of Corporal and holds a position as a radio operator and studying typing
in the bombing squad in Spokane, Washington. .
If that wasn't enough for the Davis's siblings, their mother Hattie, died on April
30,1919, just five years after their father. Bessie, one of Calvin’s older sister,
was working as a live-in housekeeper when their mother died. Upon her mother’s death,
she quit her job and returned home to take care of her three young brothers, Ferman,
Floyd and Calvin. Bessie didn't have much to live on, and they were very poor. Bessie
used to talk about the hard times she had with raising her three young brothers.
She said that they were literally starving and being poor was an understatement.
To give us an idea of how hungry and poor they were, she commented that she would
buy one apple and cut it up for all four of them to eat.
Seven months later, Bessie was approached by Frank Marsh, a resident of Manistee
County for marriage. The Marsh family was the first African-American family to homestead
in Manistee County, Michigan. George and Mary (Goens) Marsh, Frank's parents arrived
from Jefferson County WV, right after the Civil War and homesteaded 160 acres on
Letteau Road. George had been a slave and Mary C. (Goens, a mulatto) was freeborn.
Frank told Bessie that he would take care of her and her brothers if she married
him. Frank had his eye on Ms. Bessie for a while. They married 11/20/1919, and Frank
took his new family to Manistee and brought new clothes for them. They moved on Letteau
Road, close to the Marsh homestead.
Another story that Bessie used to tell is that she asked Frank during a meal one
time, this was soon after the marriage and they were close to finishing meal. She
wanted just a little more maple syrup on her food, she asked Frank if she could have
a little more maple syrup. Frank told Bessie that she and the boys could have as
much to eat as they wanted and didn’t have to ask anymore.
Bessie and Frank moved the boys down the road to the Marsh homestead and that is
where Calvin, Ferman and Floyd grew up, and where Bessie died in 1981 at the age
of 90. The house that Calvin grew up in is still standing, but has been remodeled.
Only 30 acres of the original Marsh homestead is still held in family ownership.
According to the newspaper articles attached, he graduated from army radio school
and after running a radio station at Rapid City, South Dakota, for some time he finally
was picked for combat duty in a heavy bombardment group. He arrived in New Guinea
June 30, 1943, and started combat flying three weeks after his arrival. From there
he flew on many missions, some very long and some shorter. Although he completed
combat flying well into July of 1943, Calvin had completed his 300 hours of flying,
or 50+ missions in a few months, According to the newspaper reports, Calvin was wounded
on both the first and last missions, for which he received the Purple Heart. (He
flew on Captain Showalter’s, Pride of the Yanks)
News again November 26, 1943, reported that Calvin, as a Tech Sergeant was awarded
the Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism in flight and exceptional and outstanding
accomplishment in the face of great danger above and beyond the call of duty over
Wewak. New Guinea on August 29, 1943. (Attached)
News again, April 11, 1944 reported that Calvin was cited for Heroism at Rabaul,
and visited his sister Bessie Marsh for a well-earned rest. According to this article
it is quoted that Calvin started combat flying in July of 1943, he had completed
his 300 hours of flying, or 50 missions, which included two-week rest periods and
being grounded for one month. In addition, he was awarded for heroic service, the
Distinguished Flying Cross, and two oak leaf clusters, and was been recommended for
the Silver Star. According to this article, it stated that with Calvin winning
two more medals, he would be eligible for the Congressional Medal of Honor. During
this time he was in the 5th Air Force, 90th Bomb Group, 400th Squadron,
June 2, 1944 news reported that Calvin Davis was one of four Michigan fliers of the
5th Air Force awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster. How did Calvin survived hiding his race,
you asked? Well for one thing, he never spoke of his family, so no one ever suspected
that he was African-American, due to being very light-skinned. The mood of the US
regarding African-Americans was and still is vicious. Over in New Guinea, lived
the locals, which were very native in style and the US soldiers interacted with them
on routinely. Can you image the hate, racial slurs, jokes and God knows what else
he heard or seen from his fellow soldier’s. During WW2, blacks were allowed to do
certain type of jobs, such as cook and maintenance workers. Separate facilities were
set up for the black soldiers and white soldiers. Calvin was not among them, he
was with the white soldiers, but didn’t associate that much. He kept to him self,
but word has it, that he was somewhat of a ladies man. He had several girl friends,
but never married or had any children.
November 7, 1944, Elmer Short of Bear Lake reported that he turned on his radio and
heard Cal Davis speaking form London. A few days later a photo was released with
Calvin Davis pictured during the BCC radio broadcast from London England
The event that Calvin was being interviewed was the American Red Cross Rainbow Corner
in London, during the BBC program, The American Eagle in Britain".
January 9, 1945, TSgt, Calvin Davis, reported missing in action over Germany. His
sister, Bessie Marsh, received an official telegram.
Calvin Davis was a decorated WWII solider, had a dream of being a pilot and knew
that he could not enter the service to serve his country because of his race. Information
received on Calvin Davis's last mission serving his country should not go untold.
He flew with a crew of the "Asterisk", a B-17, (8th AF 390 BG, 570 Sq) over Germany.
Research showed that Everett Fitchlee was ill and in the hospital, he is alive and
doing well at the age of 78. He told me that he remembered Cal Davis, and didn't
know until several years ago what had happened to his crewmates. He saw William "Bill"
Pace at a 390BG reunion. He suggested that we contact him, since Pace was on the
last mission with Calvin Davis. Mr. Fitchlee said it hit him hard, finding out what
According to the military records the Asterisk was involved in a crash over Merseburg
Germany, all of the crew was killed, except three soldiers, which they were taken
as POW's. We contacted Bill Pace for details of the mission. It was exciting to
talk to someone that flew with Calvin Davis. Bill stated that they were flying their
13th mission. They were flying right wing to the lead plane. The mission was to bomb
the oil refineries in Meresburg. Shots were coming from every where, the lead plane
was hit and fell right on them and the Asterisk split in half. He said where Cal
was at; there was no way out, the pilot, co-pilot and engineer as well as Cal, as
the radio gunner went down. They were all killed, with the exception of himself,
Raymond Labinski and Custer Green; they became POW's. Bill said he went to Stalag