I left off last week where Private First Class Dan Daly, United States Marine Corps, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic part in fighting off thousands of Chinese soldiers who battled to enter the international enclave in Peking in 1900 and slaughter its residents, including thousands of Chinese Christians who had taken refuge there.
What intrigued me was the fact that Dan Daly’s name sounded so familiar. I had recently finished a book on World War I called “No Man’s Land” and thought I might have heard of Dan there. I was right, but I got a happy shock when I went back to the book to see what else he had done in addition to his incredible one-man stand on the Tartar wall in Peking, where he took out more than 200 Chinese in one night and stood off nine individual charges, alone and armed with nothing but a bolt action rifle, a bayonet, and a whole lot more guts than are granted to most of us.
It didn’t take long for me to find where I had read the name Dan Daly. WWI was, in my humble opinion, the worst of all wars. It was a time when the tactics of former wars and where men bravely stood their ground, or charged across open fields with cold steel no longer carried the day. In WWI, men — 16 million of them — were blasted into quivering bits of flesh by hours of shelling in open trenches, and mowed down like hay by machine guns as they emerged.
It was First Sergeant Dan Daly, by now 45, who fought during the slaughter at Belleau Wood, where Americans first proved their mettle against a hail of bullets. He was later credited by a reporter as calling out to his men, “Come on, you bastards! You want to live forever?”
Dan — more accurately I suspect — says it was, “For Christ’s sake men — come on! Do you want to live forever?” Either way, it was his words that inspired the charge that won the day.
And that’s not all. Not by a far sight!
First Sergeant Dan Daly, USMC, was awarded both the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal for his service on the killing grounds of France. And not just for fighting either. Listen to these individual acts of heroism.
• On June 5th, at the risk of his life, First Sergeant Dan Daly extinguished a fire in an ammunition dump at Lucy-le-Bocage.
• On 7 June 1918, while his position was under violent bombardment, he visited all the gun crews of his company, posted over a wide portion of the front, to cheer his men.
• On 10 June 1918, he attacked an enemy machine-gun emplacement unassisted and captured it by use of hand grenades and his automatic pistol.
• On the same day, during the German attack on Bouresches, he brought in wounded under fire.
But the most incredible part of all this is what I discovered when I casually decided to see what Dan Daly was doing between 1900 in Peking, China, and 1918 in France.
The small, unstable nation of Haiti has many times been a matter of concern for America, usually because of danger to Americans living or working there. During WWI, in 1915, the current dictator (the sixth one in four years) was tied up and hanged in an anti-American revolt suspected to have been provoked by numerous Germans on the island.
President Woodrow Wilson acted to protect American lives. Three hundred U.S. Marines landed at Port-au-Prince, and were soon engaged in fighting with the Caco rebels. And who was among them? Our Dan, of course, by then a gunnery sergeant. And he was the same old Dan Daly who had fought so hard 15 years earlier in Peking.
On 22 October 1915, Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly, 15th Company of Marines, 2d Marine Regiment, became part of a small detachment assigned to a six-day reconnaissance through the Haitian jungle. While crossing a river in a deep ravine at night the detachment was suddenly surrounded and fired upon from three sides by more than 400 rebels. Gunnery Sergeant Daly and his men fought their way forward to a better position, and maintained that position throughout the night despite the fact that they were subjected to continuous fire. At daybreak, the Marines broke into three squads, attacked and — as it says in Dan’s second award of the Medal of Honor — “scattered the Cacos in all directions.”
And yes, I said second award of the nation’s highest medal.
Please, Johnny, do not ever try to tell me that one man can’t make a difference.
I will not believe it.
At least not if he’s a United States Marine.