A friend recently sent me an e-mail with a link to YouTube. A click took me to a tribute to Col. Bob Howard, broadcast by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams upon Howard’s death just before Christmas 2009. Howard is one of our most decorated heroes, his courageous and brilliant acts in combat worthy of multiple medals. The tribute was moving, beautifully delivered, and certainly welcomed by those of us who complain that the mainstream media does next to nothing to honor American heroes. Considering all that, I feel a bit curmudgeonly to mention that Williams made two surprising misstatements, claiming that “Bob was the only man ever to be nominated for the Medal of Honor three times. . . . But you can only receive one Medal of Honor per lifetime so that’s what he got in 1971 from President Nixon.” For the record, there is no limit to the number of Medals of Honor one can receive—19 men have been awarded two—and Dan Daly, a double recipient, was recommended for the Medal of Honor three times.
That children in our politically correct public schools are no longer taught such things is bad enough, but it is especially disturbing that a national newscast and a highly respected news anchor would share in such ignorance. Moreover, in the pantheon of military heroes, Dan Daly is among a chosen handful. The son of Irish immigrants, Daniel Joseph Daly was a wiry and scrappy little guy who fought many a battle on the sidewalks of New York before he enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1899 at the age of 25. Daly hoped to fight in Cuba in the Spanish-American War, but by the time he had finished training the Caribbean phase of the war was over, and he was ordered to the Asiatic Fleet.
During the Boxer Rebellion, Private Daly volunteered, all by his lonesome, to defend the Tartar Wall, on the south side of the American Legation in Peking, until more Marines arrived. When darkness fell, Chinese rebels hit Daly’s position. With a machine gun and his rifle and bayonet, Daly fought through the night. At the break of day Marine reinforcements arrived and found Daly resting and smoking his pipe. Below the wall were 200 dead rebels. Daly was awarded his first Medal of Honor.
Responding to what became known as the Tampico Affair in 1914, Marines were landed at Vera Cruz. Leading the first platoon ashore was Gunnery Sergeant Daly. The fighting became widespread and intense, with Daly always in the thick of it. Maj. Smedley Butler would earn the Medal of Honor for the fight at Vera Cruz but forever after said the decoration should have gone to Daly.
In 1915, Butler and Daly were together again, this time in Haiti, leading a mounted patrol of three-dozen Marines who had been attacked by 400 Haitian rebels. The Marines desperately needed their only machine gun, lost when the mule carrying it was shot and tumbled into a river, now behind rebel lines. When the night turned pitch black, Daly set out alone to retrieve the weapon. He stealthily slipped by most of the rebels but had to knife three of them silently. Diving repeatedly into the river and swimming underwater, he located the dead mule. He then unstrapped the machine gun and its ammunition and hoisted the more than 100-pound load onto his 5’6″, 132-pound frame. He crept back the way he had come, made easier by his earlier elimination of three sentries. At dawn, with the machine gun barking, Butler and Daly led an attack on the rebels, killing 75 of them and sending the rest fleeing. For his actions Daly was awarded his second Medal of Honor.
During World War I in France, First Sergeant Daly and his company of Marines were pinned down by twice their number of Germans at Belleau Wood. With artillery and machine-gun fire ripping holes through the Marine ranks, Daly sprang to his feet and yelled, “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?” Tossing grenades and firing his Colt .45, Daly single-handedly took out three German machine-gun nests, while his boys destroyed others. The attack turned the tide of battle at Belleau Wood. Daly was recommended again for the Medal of Honor, and the recommendation was endorsed up through the chain of command. When it came to John J. Pershing, commanding general of the American Expeditionary Force, he exclaimed that no one should have three Medals of Honor and reduced the decoration to the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest award for valor in the Army. Since Daly was a Marine, he was also awarded the Navy Cross.
Dan Daly was awarded two Medals of Honor and recommended for a third. He should have had four. Altogether, he was awarded seven medals for valor.
He’s a legend in the Marine Corps, but evidently not on the nightly news.