He was just Dad, not a battle-hardened Marine, but a loving family man. Dad held the rank of lieutenant colonel when I was born, but my first remembrance of him was as a full-bird colonel. He was not a glory seeker. Dad said his Marines earned him the Medal of Honor in Korea because all he did was point them in the right direction.
In World War II, Ray Davis survived Guadalcanal and the horrific close-quarters combat on Peleliu. When North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, Davis was off to his second war. He’d received a call from Col. Homer Litzenberg, commander of the 1st Marine Regiment.
Litzenberg told Lt. Col. Davis, “Get on a train to Pendleton, Ray; Marine reservists are wandering all over the base. Form up a battalion.”
At Pendleton Davis recruited, if not shanghaied, officers of lesser rank. Then they set about with trucks to recruit, if not shanghai, unassigned Marines.
As commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, Davis and his band of shang- haied Marines set sail for Korea after very limited training. The men sharpened their marksmanship by shooting at targets off the fantail of the ship.
After participating in Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s rear area entrapment called the Inchon landing, Da- vis and his Marines were pulled out and shipped to the eastern side of Korea. MacArthur wanted the Marines to push north, toward the Chosin Reservoir. The Marines were skeptical, thus proceeding with caution.
Sporadic contact with Chinese forces built in intensity. MacArthur, from his headquarters in Japan, disregarded reports of Chinese troops.
Nearing the reservoir, thereafter remembered as the “Frozen Chosin,” up to 100,000 Chinese attacked the Marine positions at Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ni. Marines of Fox Company were surrounded and trapped at an important junction called Toktong Pass.
Litzenberg gave Davis and his Marines the impossible task of relieving Fox Company. Litzenberg was reported as saying, “When I shook hands with Ray and wished him luck, I knew it would be the last time I saw him alive.”
Davis led his Marines, not down the Chinese-controlled road, but over three treacherous ridgelines, fighting the stunned Chinese en route.
Davis’ son, Miles, related his father’s exploits: “The temperature hovered around 30 degrees below zero, with a 60 mph wind. Dad tried to use his compass, but it was no good in the freezing cold. He’d jump into bomb craters, cover himself with a rain poncho or blanket, then use a flashlight to take his bearings from the compass.
“Once out of the bomb crater, it was so cold he couldn’t remember which direction to march. So he pulled an officer into the bomb crater with him, got his bearings again, then told the officer where to stand outside the crater. Emerging from the crater, Dad looked where the officer was standing and told his men, ‘We’re heading that way.’”
Marine Gen. O.P. Smith said of the retreat from the Frozen Chosin, “We’re not retreating. We’re attacking from a different direction.”
All night long in the bit- ter cold, Davis and his invincible Marines “attacked from a different direction.”
Marines froze, Marines died, but Davis and his
Gen. Ray Davis led his Marines to help a squadron, which was trapped by a group of Chinese soldiers, to a reservoir known as the Frozen Chosin.