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A Brief Biography of General Michael Shannon Davison, originally printed in Assembly Magazine; Association of West Point Graduates July/August 1997 Issue
Used with the permission of Editor
A distinguished military commander, soldier- statesman, and matchless combat leader, Michael Shannon Davison has rendered a lifetime of extraordinary service to the Army, his country, and his Alma Mater. Throughout a career marked by outstanding leadership, the highest integrity, and steadfast devotion to duty, he consistently demonstrated the qualities embodied in West Point's motto: Duty, Honor, Country.
The son of an Army cavalry officer, Gen. Davison was born in San Francisco and grew up on Army posts throughout the American West. He graduated from Western High School in the District in 1935.
Davison graduated from West Point in 1939 and was commissioned in the Cavalry. His first tour of duty took him to Ft. Brown, TX, with the 12th Cavalry Regiment. Within two years of graduation, he commanded Troop A of the 12th Cavalry, and a year later, as a captain, he was appointed Executive Officer and later Commander of the 1st Squadron, 12th Cavalry, assignments that were to prepare him well for the larger crucible of the European war.
Michael Davison reported to the Operations Division, War Department General Staff Theater Group, in January 1943. Two months later he was reassigned to the 45th Infantry Division in North Africa as Assistant G-2 (Intelligence). During the next year, the then Major Davison served with the 45th Division in Sicily and Italy in some of the most intense and bitter fighting of the war.
The 45th Infantry Division suffered heavy casualties as they spearheaded the landings at Anzio in March 1944, and despite having no prior command experience with infantry units, and just two weeks before his 27th birthday, Mike Davison was chosen to command the 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment. Promoted to lieutenant colonel 4 months later, he remained in command of the battalion through the heavy fighting of the Italian campaign and the landing in southern France. During his service with the 45th Division, he was wounded twice and awarded both the Silver Star for gallantry in action and the Bronze Star Medal with V device.
In 1944, he was in the small
French town of Meximieux, his unit tactically divided as the Allies chased
retreating German army forces north. When a German armored division turned
to attack its pursuers, then-Col. Davison and his men found themselves
surrounded, outmanned and outgunned. The battle raged for two days until
the Germans were forced to abandon the assault and continue their retreat.
During the final year of the war in Europe, Davison served as G-2 (Intelligence) and G-3 (Operations) at Headquarters, VI Corps.
Davison was assigned to the Plans Section, Headquarters Army Ground Forces at Ft. Monroe, and later commanded the 18th Mechanized Cavalry Squadron in Puerto Rico. In 1951 he received a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University. After a tour in the Office, Chief of Legislative Liaison, he was assigned to West Point as Commander, First Regiment, United States Corps of Cadets, in 1954.
He graduated from the National War College in 1958 and returned to the Pentagon, where he served as Chief, Combat Materiel Division, Office, Chief of Research and Development until 1960. Subsequently, he commanded Combat Command A, 3d Armored Division in Germany, and was later named Chief of Staff for V Corps and promoted to brigadier general.
In 1963, Davison became the 51st Commandant of Cadets at West Point. Drawing on his wide military experience and unparalleled professional competence, he made important contributions to the career and character development of the Corps of Cadets. Greater responsibility for upperclassmen, an improved physical education program, and increased emphasis on leadership training marked Davison's tour as Commandant.
Appointed to the prestigious position as Commandant of the Army's Command and General Staff College, he was instrumental in preparing America's professional officers for the Vietnam conflict. Promoted to lieutenant general in 1968, Davison was appointed Commander in Chief, U.S. Army Pacific, and subsequently as Chief of Staff for Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command. In 1970, Nearly three decades after his combat experiences in World War II, Gen. Davison had just arrived in Vietnam as commander of II Field Force when Gen. Creighton W. Abrams Jr. paid him a surprise visit. The commander of military operations in Vietnam ordered Gen. Davison to plan and undertake an invasion of Cambodia. Although the invasion sparked bitter protests in the United States, Gen. Davison always believed it deprived the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces of vast amounts of logistical assets.
In May 1971, he was promoted to general and assigned as Commander in Chief, U.S. Army Europe, and concurrently as Commander, Central Army Group, NATO.
As a senior U.S. officer on the continent, he felt a special obligation to help the Army rebuild and recover from its Vietnam experience and to make the transition to an all-volunteer service.Gen. Davidson placed special emphasis on race relations and equal opportunity during his command tour. As a result of these seminal efforts, the NAACP presented him with its Meritorious Service Award in 1976. The citation reads: "In recognition of his leadership, courage, and dedication to the principles of human relations, equality of opportunity and justice, which has been the hallmark of his numerous commands in the Army of the United States."
Following his retirement from the Army in 1975, Mike Davison was President of the USO; Vice President of Joseph R. Loring Associates; a board member of Mercedes-Benz of North America; Vice Chairman of the Army and Air Force Mutual Aid Association; President, Shannon Enterprises; and a member of the Advisory Board, International Security Council. Elected to the Board of Trustees of the Association of Graduates, USMA, in 1980, he became President in 1983. General Davison served 6 years as President of the Association of Graduates-longer than any other elected president. His dynamic and innovative leadership was directly responsible for a major expansion in private funds raised for the benefit of the Military Academy; for a four-fold increase in the number of active West Point Societies; for the initiation of a program to create a $10 million alumni center solely through private financing; and the production, in coordination with NFL Films, of a 45-minute video, shown on national television, on Army football and the superb leadership and courage shown by Army football players as they served on active duty after graduation.
Jan Scruggs, president of the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, said it was Gen. Davison who rescued the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial when bitter controversy over the design threatened
to doom the project.
General Davison's decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters; the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster; the Silver Star; the Bronze Star with V for Valor and oak leaf cluster; the Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters; the Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster; the French Legion of Honor; the French Croix de Guerre; the German Grand Cross of Merit; the Bavarian Grand Cross of Merit; and the Royal Order of the King of Thailand, Knight First Class. He holds an honorary degree of Doctor of Law from the University of Maryland and is an honorary citizen of Meximieux, France.
Michael Shannon Davison, 89,
a retired Army general, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 7 2006
at the Knollwood military retirement home in the District. His first wife,
Jean Miller Davison, died in 1983. A daughter from that marriage, Katherine
Davison, died in 1957.
Throughout a lifetime of dedicated service to his country and to American soldiers, General Davison has made invaluable contributions to the welfare and security of the United States and the nations of the free world. His steadfast sense of duty, dauntless and innovative leadership, and unquestioned integrity and valor have set an example that those who follow can only hope to emulate.