June 4, 2014

D-Day tribute to a hero

June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, that launched Allied forces into victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. So, I thought I would use this occasion to let everyone know how proud I am of my father's participation in this massive operation.


2nd Lt. William M. Daniel, 1944
Wave after wave of U.S. Army Air Force C-47 transport aircraft loaded with paratroopers took off from England, flew across the English Channel and dropped the paratroopers into battle. Second Lieutenant William M. Daniel, just 21 years old, was one of those C-47 pilots from the 43rd Troop Carrier Squadron, 315th Troop Carrier Group, 52nd Troop Carrier Wing, 9th Troop Carrier Command, 9th Air Force. It was the proudest moment of a military aviation career that saw action in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. I think the only thing that he might have been prouder of was having the privilege of flying four-engine jets (C-135 Stratolifter — the Air Force version of the Boeing 707) before he retired.

Flight log entries, June 1944
Here is a copy of his flight log from June 1944. According to his log, he departed Spanhoe, England at 11 p.m. June 5, dropped 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers at St. Mere Engles, Normandy at 2 a.m. June 6, then returned to his base at Spanhoe, arriving at 4:30 a.m. June 6. What might have seemed like an ordinary flight log entry to the young lieutenant on that day is now a significant slice of American war-fighting history.

He flew out of England quite a while longer in that summer of 1944, and his squadron's history has an interesting story about a flight on Sept. 21, 1944:

"The weather is still pretty bad but it looks like we might have to run this mission with the Polish paratroopers as they are very badly needed ... in Holland. At 1310 hours 14 planes from our Squadron took off for Holland. ... The planes ran into very bad weather near the coast and after unsuccessfully trying to go above this front, the order was given to turn around and go back. One plane, piloted by Lt. DANIEL, in trying to go up through this front stalled out and he did a slow roll in recovering control of the plane. The jumpmaster on this plane must have thought that the time had come, so not wasting any time he hit the silk. The crew chief said that he would probably wipe out a small town before he found out he was still in England. All but two planes found their (way) back to base. ... The boys are going to try again tomorrow."

Thanks for your service, Dad. Rest in peace.

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© 2014 Will Daniel
www.willdaniel.com

2 comments:

  1. That is interesting. It is wonderful you have a piece of history that pertains to your family. I wish I had more time to ask questions of my family. My grandfather was in the RAF during that time. My grandmother, my mom and her oldest brother moved to Galway, Ireland during the war. That is where my grandmother was born and raised.

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