Rodney Maxwell Davis

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Rodney Maxwell Davis
Born(1942-04-07)April 7, 1942
Macon, Georgia, U.S.
DiedSeptember 6, 1967(1967-09-06) (aged 25)
Que Son District, Quảng Nam Province, South Vietnam
Place of burial
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service1961–1967
Rank Sergeant
UnitCompany B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division
Battles/warsVietnam War
AwardsMedal of Honor
Purple Heart Medal
Combat Action Ribbon
Republic of Vietnam Military Merit Medal
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross

Rodney Maxwell Davis (April 7, 1942 – September 6, 1967) was a non-commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism above and beyond the call of duty in 1967, during the Vietnam War.

Davis joined the Marine Corps in 1961, and was ordered to the Republic of Vietnam in 1967. In September 1967, during a search and destroy exercise as part of Operation Swift, Davis's company was attacked by enemies. When Davis's platoon retreated into a trench, Davis ran up and down his company's line and encouraged the men to fight, returning fire at the same time. When an enemy grenade came close to several men, Davis jumped on the grenade, saving his men's lives.


Davis was born on April 7, 1942, in Macon, Georgia, to Gordon N. Davis and Ruth A. Davis. He attended elementary school and high school there and graduated from Peter G. Appling High School, May 29, 1961.

Shortly after graduation, Davis enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in his hometown, August 31, 1961; then reported for recruit training with the First Recruit Training Battalion Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. Upon completion of recruit training in December 1961, he was transferred to the Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and underwent Individual Combat Training with the Second Battalion, First Infantry Training Regiment, graduating the following February.

Davis then joined Company K, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, FMF, at Camp Lejeune and served as a rifleman until May 1964. While stationed at Camp Lejeune, he was promoted to private first class, April 1, 1962, and to lance corporal, January 1, 1964.

As a lance corporal, Davis was ordered to London, England, for a three-year tour of duty as a Guard with the United States Marine Detachment, Naval Activities. He was promoted to corporal on January 1, 1966, and to sergeant on December 1, 1966.

Ordered to the Republic of Vietnam in August 1967, Davis was assigned duty as a Platoon Guide with Company B, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division. On September 6, 1967, he was operating with his unit in the Quảng Nam Province on a search and clear mission during Operation Swift, when they were attacked by a large North Vietnamese force. Elements of the platoon were pinned down in a trench line by mortars, heavy automatic and small-arms fire. He went from man to man encouraging them on and also returning fire at the same time. An enemy hand grenade fell in the trenches his men were fighting from and without hesitation he threw himself upon the grenade. He saved his fellow Marines in this selfless act and thus earned the nation's highest military decoration: the Medal of Honor.

Presentation of the medal was made posthumously to Davis's widow, Mrs. Judy P. Davis, by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew in his office. The presentation is "in the name of the Congress of the United States."[1]

Davis was survived by his wife, Judy, and two daughters, Nichola Davis and Samantha J. Davis-Steen. His grandson, Tyler Steen, was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2023 NFL draft.[2]

After death[edit]

The City of Macon did not allow black decedents to be buried inside the city limits in 1967, in specific cemeteries. Davis was buried in an all-black cemetery in the city. About 2010, several white Marines were driving by Macon, including one man who was saved by Davis. They stopped to pay their respects at his gravesite and were angered to find that the wooden monument to Davis was rotting, and the cemetery was covered in weeds and had many headstones falling over. They removed all the weeds around Davis's grave and many graves around it, and cleaned up a section of the cemetery before leaving. The 1st Battalion, 5th Marines Association was informed and donations arranged. Civilians and other Marines, families, and surviving spouses accumulated over $60,000 and a large, granite monument was built at Davis's grave site. Several times a year, a gathering is organized and the entire cemetery is weeded and tended to. Donations continue to be accumulated and are now used mainly for scholarships of deserving children.[3][4]

Military awards[edit]

Davis' decorations and awards include:

Bronze star
Bronze star
Medal of Honor
Purple Heart Medal Combat Action Ribbon Navy Presidential Unit Citation
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal w/ one 316" bronze star National Defense Service Medal Vietnam Service Medal w/ one 316" bronze star
Republic of Vietnam Military Merit Medal Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/ palm Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal w/ 1960- device

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to


for service as set forth in the following


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as the right guide of the Second Platoon, Company B, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division, in action against enemy forces in Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam, on September 6, 1967. Elements of the Second Platoon were pinned down by a numerically superior force of attacking North Vietnamese Army Regulars. Remnants of the platoon were located in a trench line where Sergeant Davis was directing the fire of his men in an attempt to repel the enemy attack. Disregarding the enemy hand grenades and high volume of small arms and mortar fire, Sergeant Davis moved from man to man shouting words of encouragement to each of them firing and throwing grenades at the onrushing enemy. When an enemy grenade landed in the trench in the midst of his men, Sergeant Davis, realizing the gravity of the situation, and in a final valiant act of complete self-sacrifice, instantly threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing with his own body the full and terrific force of the explosion. Through his extraordinary initiative and inspiring valor in the face of almost certain death, Sergeant Davis saved his comrades from injury and possible loss of life, enabled his platoon to hold its vital position, and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Davis, Rodney (June–July 1969). "The Crisis". Retrieved January 9, 2018. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ "Eagles rookie Tyler Steen draws inspiration from his grandfather's valor that earned the Medal of Honor". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 29 May 2023. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  3. ^ "1/5 Vietnam Veterans". 1/5 Vietnam Veterans. Archived from the original on May 28, 2016. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  4. ^ "1st Marine Division". Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  5. ^ Here is the US Navy and its allies completely annihilating a decommissioned frigate as a message to China


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

External links[edit]