It is with great sadness that we inform all Headhunters of the passing of Colonel “Cyclone” Davis on November 3, 2015. Then Captain Davis joined the 8th Fighter Group, 35th Fighter Squadron, at Milne Bay, PNG, in August 1942. Initially flying the P-39, he later commanded the 35th Squadron when they flew the P-40, and was credited with destroying two Zero’s and a Tony during this period. As documented in the book “Attack and Conquer, the 8th Fighter Group in WWII,” Davis was “the quintessential fighter pilot.” When questioned by a squadron pilot about his doctrine to make an attack, destroy the enemy plane, then quickly get away, Davis “in frustration decided to give him a flying lesson. Those who witnessed were agreed and the official history bears witness that Cyclone Davis was about the best fighter pilot in the world…” Colonel Davis went on to command the entire 8th Fighter Group, known as “Cyclone’s Flying Circus,” first from January 1944 – June 1944, and again from June 1945 – December 1945. As Group Commander, Cyclone flew with the 35th, 36th, and the 80th. He ended the war by leading the first flight of P-38’s to escort the Japanese peace delegation’s two Betty bombers from Kyushu to Le Shima on August 19, 1945. Cyclone, accompanied by his son Tucker, was our guest speaker at the 2014 Colorado Springs Reunion where he regaled us all with war stories and fighter pilot songs. Rest in Peace Cyclone. You are a Legend in the history of the 8th Fighter Group.
Emmett ‘Cyclone’ Davis, Utahn who flew from Pearl Harbor through Korean War, dies at 96
Obituary • Davis commanded a flight group at age 25 and retired as a colonel.
Emmett Davis, an eastern Utah native who was one of the first American pilots in the air during the attack on Pearl Harbor, bombed Japan shortly before its surrender and then flew jets in the Korean War, died Tuesday. He was 96.
Davis’ son, Tucker Davis, said his father died at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray where he had been receiving treatment for circulation problems. Emmett Davis, who retired from the Air Force in 1963 with the rank of colonel, had lived in Highland.
Davis joined the Air Force’s predecessor, the U.S. Army Air Corps, in 1940. The next year, he was assigned to Wheeler Field on the island of Oahu. There, he invented a spiral maneuver to flummox his airborne adversaries.
The night of Dec. 6, 1941, then-2nd Lt. Davis and his comrades had gone to a dance and stayed up late partying and playing poker. When Japan struck, Davis was asleep on a friend’s daybed at Wheeler Field, about 16 miles north of Pearl Harbor.
According to a 2011 account he gave The Tribune, Davis’ roommate shook him and said, “Cyclone, wake up, the Japanese are here.”
Davis looked out a window and saw a Japanese dive bomber. Davis and another officer raced in a convertible toward the airfield. On the way, they were strafed by a Japanese plane.
At the airfield, personnel began moving U.S. fighters, lined up wingtip to wingtip, out of the flight line to keep them from burning in a spreading fire. Davis used an ax to break into the armory and load his plane with machine guns.
Davis flew the duration of World War II in multiple fighters. He became a lieutenant colonel at just 25 years old. He was credited with three kills, though he claimed seven, and earned the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The same day or the day after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki — there’s a discrepancy as to which — Davis lead 62 P-38s that dropped napalm on Kumamoto.
“The two big bombs got their attention, and my 62 P-38s brought them to the table,” he told The Tribune in 2012.
In his last mission of World War II, Davis flew among the aircraft that escorted the Japanese delegation to surrender to Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Emmett Smith Davis was born Dec. 12, 1918, in Roosevelt, the fifth of eight children born to John Henry Davis and Nora LaRena Smith. His father had joined Torrey’s Rough Riders, the Wyoming infantry that went to the Spanish-American War. The family moved to Duchesne when Davis was in the third grade.
“I used to go up and watch him fly that old airplane, and I guess that was really when I got struck with being an aviator,” Davis told KUED in 2006.
After the seventh grade, the family moved to Salt Lake City. Davis went to Roosevelt Junior High School then East High School and the University of Utah. He joined the Air Corps cadet program in April 1940.
After Pearl Harbor, Davis was sent to Australia and New Guinea. In New Guinea, he survived a bout of malaria that ravaged his squadron.
When he took control of the 8th Fighter Group, comprised of three squadrons and about 4,000 men, “Cyclone’s Flying Circus” was painted on a sign at the group’s base.
Davis knew Marjorie Gwen Poulton, of Salt Lake City, before he left for the Air Corps. They married Jan. 23, 1946.
In 1957, Tucker Davis said, Davis crash-landed an F-100 in New Mexico and was nearly killed. When Davis retired, he had a post at the Pentagon.
Davis and his family moved to Southern California, where he was employed by Hughes Aircraft Co. working on bombing and radar systems. In 2005, Marjorie and Emmett Davis moved to Highland.
Marjorie Davis died in December. Besides Tucker Davis, Davis is survived by two daughters, Pamela Lyn Mull and Kimberlee Davis Richards, and seven grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.
A viewing will be Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the LDS Hollowcrest Building, at 10962 N. 6400 West in Highland.
Services will be 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Hollowcrest Building. Interment will follow at Highland Cemetery, 11000 N. Timpanogos Highway (6100 West).
“I don’t know if I was natural born, but I always assumed [leading] was my job,” Davis said.