As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, many members of the United States military are stationed overseas, far from home. In November 1956, Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. and his wife Agatha sat down to a Thanksgiving turkey in Taipei, Taiwan, provided by an unusual source—the Vice President of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Davis’s entire career was groundbreaking. He was the son of Army general Benjamin O. Davis Sr., the first black American to rise to the rank of general in the United States armed forces, and in 1936 Davis Jr. was just the fourth black American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point. (Davis Jr. preferred to use the term "black" or "black American" as opposed to "African American" when referring to himself.) He originally asked for a commission to the Army Air Corps, but they did not accept blacks at the time. After serving in the infantry for several years, in 1942 Davis was posted to the newly-established Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama and graduated in the first class of pilot training—the first class of what would later be known as the Tuskegee Airmen. He was selected to lead the new 99th Pursuit Squadron, the Army Air Corps' first all-black air unit, and later the 332d Fighter Group in Europe during World War II.
President Harry S. Truman ordered the desegregation of the military in 1948 and by 1956, Davis had risen to the rank of Brigadier General. He was stationed in Taiwan as the Commander responsible for establishing Air Task Force 13 (Provisional), as well as serving as the Vice Commander, Thirteenth Air Force, and Director of Operations and Training, Far East Air Force (FEAF). His wife, Agatha, served an active role on the base as a member of the Taipei Air Force Officers' Wives' Club, Taipei International Women's Club, and the Women's Service Committee to Allied Personnel (just to name a few).
General Davis took pride in his ability to maintain good relationships between American military forces and the local military and civil authorities. As the Commander and his wife, the Davis's frequently received invitations to social events. They often dined with General and Mrs. Wang Shu Ming, their counterparts in the Republic of China Air Force. Agatha maintained a scrapbook of dinner invitations from American and Taiwanese dignitaries, including Vice President and Madame Cheng Chang and President and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek.
In May 1957, Benjamin Davis was reassigned as the Chief of Staff to the Twelfth Air Force, headquartered in Ramstein, Germany. He and Agatha stayed in contact with many of their friends from Taiwan. They kept good memories from their travels abroad, including their unusual Thanksgiving turkey in Taipei.