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1997 Distinguished Graduate Award

    GEN Michael S. Davison '39

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.
General Davison graduated from West Point in 1939 and was commissioned in the Cavalry. His first tour of duty took him to Fort Brown, Texas, 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 four 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.
During the final year of the war in Europe, Lieutenant Colonel Davison served as G-2 (Intelligence) and G-3 (Operations) at Headquarters, VI Corps.
Colonel Davison was assigned to the Plans Section, Headquarters Army Ground Forces at Fort 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, Colonel Davison commanded Combat Command A, 3rd Armored Division in Germany, and was later named Chief of Staff for V Corps and promoted to Brigadier General.
In 1963, General 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 upper classmen, an improved physical education program, and increased emphasis on leadership training marked General 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, General Davison was appointed Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Pacific, and subsequently as Chief of Staff for Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command. In 1970, he assumed command of II Field Force, Vietnam, and was responsible for conducting the vitally important campaign in Cambodia.
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 the senior United States officer in Europe, General Davison 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 six 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 ten million dollar 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.
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.
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.
Accordingly, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy takes great pride in presenting the 1997 Distinguished Graduate Award to Michael Shannon Davison, USMA Class of 1939.

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