The “River Rats,” as it has become known, were formed in 1969 by Brigadier General Robin Olds and Colonel Scrappy Johnson, two renowned fighter pilots.
Its original mission was to generate awareness of the Prisoners of War and aircrews Missing or Killed in Action (“POW”, “MIA” and “KIA”) and their families. Since 1970 the organization has awarded more than 1,500 scholarship grants with a value of nearly $2 million to the children of military personnel, who were POWs or MIA/KIA in armed conflicts. The name of the organization comes from combat missions flown over the “Red River Valley of North Vietnam” – a heavily fortified area North of Hanoi and South of China.
Davis was honored as a new member “for Successfully Striking Targets Located in the Southeast Asia Theater of Operations and for gallantry in facing MIGS, SAMS and guns defending those targets.” He served two combat tours, flying from Ubon and Udorn air bases in Thailand in the F-4 Phantom Fighter Jet as a Weapon Systems Officer over North and South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Davis’s combat missions, some euphemistically named the “Run for the Roses” and the “Dawn Patrol,” included escort of B-52 bombers, other F-4 fighter bombers and reconnaissance aircraft as well as bombing missions delivering conventional bombs and “illuminating” laser guided bombs over heavily defended military targets in the Red River Valley. These missions sometimes converted to air to air combat.
“I lost six pilot and WSO friends during the war,” said Davis. “That makes my inclusion in the River Rats all the more meaningful for me.”