Valor Friday

| December 4, 2020

Sgt (then Cpl) Rodney Davis, USMC

Born and raised in Macon, Georgia, Rodney Davis was 19 and had just graduated high school when he enlisted with the US Marine Corps in 1961. After completing recruit training he was a rifleman in Company K, 3/2 Marines at Camp Lejeune.

By 1964 he’d been promoted to lance corporal and was sent to be an embassy guard in London for three years. When that assignment was finished, now Sergeant Davis was ordered to Vietnam in August 1967.

A platoon guide with Company B, 1/5 Marines, he was responsible for ensuring his men were supplied with ammunition and coordinating care for casualties in battle. The 5th Marine Regiment is the Corps’ highest decorated unit, with honors both domestic and foreign, for service in every conflict since their activation for World War I. Among their many decorations are a record 11 Presidential Unit Citations.

He was just a few weeks into his new job in Vietnam when he and his Marines were engaged by a numerically superior force of North Vietnamese Army troops in the Quang Nam Province. The Marines had a platoon-sized formation and had been pinned down by the enemy fire.

The Marines took up defensive positions and fought from inside hastily constructed trenches.

As the battle raged, Sergeant Davis moved from position to position, ensuring his men had supplies and was coordinating their fields of fire onto the enemy. Moving back and forth across the battlefield, he inspired confidence in the men under his command and provided much needed motivation to the Marines.

Automatic and small arms fire directed towards him, mortars exploding all around, and grenades blasting, the sergeant was undaunted in moving to check on all of his men. As he shouted words of encouragement, Davis would throw grenades and fire his rifle on the charging enemy soldiers.

As he was visiting one fighting position an enemy grenade landed in the trench they were fighting from. Davis leapt on the grenade without a moment’s hesitation. It would be his final act. His body absorbing the blast from the enemy bomb, he perished, but he’d saved the lives of five of his fellow Marines.

Davis would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor for his actions that day. His widow Judy would receive the medal on his behalf from Vice President Spiro Agnew in the Vice President’s office. In addition to his wife, Davis was survived by two young children.

In 1967, Davis’ body was returned home to Macon. The city at that time didn’t allow blacks to be buried inside city limits, even those who had died in service to the country. Because of this, he was buried in an all-black cemetery outside of town.

Somewhere around 2010, a group of Marines, including one of the men saved by Davis on that fateful day, were driving through Macon. They went to Davis’ gravesite and were aghast to find that the wooden monument to the man’s heroism was rotting and falling apart. The cemetery itself was in a state of disrepair with weeds growing over the tombstones that hadn’t fallen.

The Marines notified the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines Association and funds were raised. About $60,000 in total was brought in, which was spent cleaning up the cemetery and securing a new, stone tablet to properly honor Sergeant Davis.

Judy Davis appears to have never re-married. She passed away in 2005 at age 60. His children both appear to still be alive.

The Navy named FFG-60, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate, the USS Rodney M. Davis in his honor. The ship’s crest featured three chevrons, which represent Davis’s rank of sergeant, affixed onto a bursting grenade. The bird at the top is described as;

The heraldic pelican, believed in antiquity to wound her breast with her long curved bill in order to draw blood for the purpose of feeding her young, is symbolic of Sergeant Davis’ selfless act by which he gave his life to save others. The light blue collar with a suspended gold inverted star alludes to the Medal of Honor awarded to him for his heroic act. The sprig of bamboo signifies South Vietnam where Sergeant Davis fought, and died.

USS Rodney M Davis was in commission from 1987 until 2015. At the decommissioning ceremony, the skipper presented Rodney’s older brother Gordon Davis with the last ensign flown aboard the ship.

Category: Historical, Marines, Medal of Honor, Valor, Vietnam, We Remember

Comments (7)

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  1. 5th/77th FA says:

    BZ and a Battery Gun Salute for a personal Hero of mine growing older in SGT Rodney Davis’ Home Town. A great many of us were aware of his Heroism and the Sacrifice that he made to protect his Marines. “…no greater Love…”

    A slight correction and some additions to the Wiki info in Mason’s Article. The Linwood Cemetery that SGT Davis is buried in was inside the City Limits of Macon. As were a number of other predominately Black Cemeteries. He grew up in that neighborhood, there are many prominent Black Citizens buried there and it was his family’s desire that he be buried there. A number of Black elected officials in the City of Macon had many opportunities to help maintain that area and pay proper Honors to SGT Davis and NEVER DID! It was the actions of his Comrades in Arms and a Marine Reserve Unit that arranged for the cleaning of the area and the placing of the Markers. I know of what I speak, I’m from and live in the area. Many of the Black “Leaders” of the City of Macon have done all that they can to “keep them on the Plantation.” Been like that since 1866. I attach a Linky with more info on SGT Davis’ action that day and a Link to the Cemetery/Neighborhood.

    Thanks Mason!

    https://cfcga.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Sgt_Davis_Story_021815_WEB.pdf#:~:text=The%20Sgt.%20Rodney%20M.%20Davis%2C%20USMC%20%28MOH%29%2C%20Memorial,considered%20the%20%E2%80%9Cback%20entrance%E2%80%9D%20of%20the%20memorial%20park.

    https://www.gatewaymacon.org/about-macon-ga/blog.cms/post/277/pleasant-hill

    Gun Salute…By the Battery…By the Piece…Ready on the Right…Ready on the Left…PREPARE…COMMENCE FIRING!

    • USAFRetired says:

      In my time here in middle Georgia they named the I-75/I-475 interchange here on the sout side of town Sgt. Rodney Maxwell Davis Memorial Interchange

    • USAFRetired says:

      Don’t know if you caught this

      https://www.13wmaz.com/article/news/local/cemeteries-tax-dollars-maintain-cemeteries-riverside-linwood-macon-bibb-county-mayor/93-c1bbbcc4-118d-4392-96c2-ba26798331e0

      But the mayor in Macon has proposed taking over maintenance of the Linwood cemetery and one other in town

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        Yeah I did. Both Linwood and Riverside were/are privately owned and for profit cemeteries. Riverside got split/moved when they FIRST (hr 2 Hack Stone) built I-75/I16 thru there. His dizhonor the mayor was a yellow dog demonrat before it became more popular t be a repub. His deep state involvement with Mercer and The Med Center/Navicent Health made sure both of those entities ended up with all types of prime real estate, but, again, I digress. If this latest bailing out of those two private cemeteries by the taxpayer is allowed to happen, it will open up the flood gates for every other neglected, derelict, semi abandoned, privately owned one in Macon/Bibb. His last gift to pay off political debts. Guess the 30-60 some odd millions of taxpayer dollars he made sure that the Tubman Museum got wasn’t enough to satisfy the Cotton St. Mafia.

  2. Haywire Angel says:

    That such men lived.

  3. Green Thumb says:

    Hardcore.