Sunday, February 17, 2013

TFH 2/17: 1LT(CC) Eugene L. Daniel, USA

Eugene Lewis Daniel was born on December 4, 1910 in DeKalb County, Georgia. He earned a commission in the United States Army via ROTC and served as an infantry officer during the 1930s. He later attended seminary and was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. He went off to serve in World War II not as a combatant, but as a shepherd with the Army Chaplain Corps.

Pastor Daniel, holding the rank of First Lieutenant, was posted with the 168th Infantry Regiment, part of the Iowa Army National Guard, and the 34th Infantry Division. They were one of the first American combat units committed to fighting in North Africa.

The green American forces suffered a defeat against the battle-hardened Nazis at the Battle of Sidi Boud Zid, February 14-17, 1943. As our soldiers retreated, Daniel remained behind at risk of capture or death to care for the wounded of not only our side, but that of the enemy. Before his fate was known, he was awarded the second-highest award for courage the Army could have given him: the Distinguished Service Cross.

From Military Times' Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant (Chaplain) Eugene Lewis Daniel (ASN: 0-306618), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Chaplain with the 168th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 17 February 1943, in the vicinity of Mount Lessouda, Tunisia. During the withdrawal of the infantry battalion to which he was attached, Chaplain Daniel assisted in carrying litters bearing our and enemy wounded. When the withdrawing column became surrounded by the enemy and it was impossible to carry the wounded further, he directed the litter bearers and first aid men safely through the enemy lines and then returned to the wounded men to administer first aid even though he knew that his act meant certain capture of possible death. Chaplain Daniel's acts were entirely voluntary and the bravery and heroism displayed reflect the highest traditions of his corps. He has been missing in action since this operation.

Earlier in the North African fighting on November 8, 1942, Daniel reverted to his earlier infantry experience, gathered up stragglers of the 2nd Battalion, 168th Infantry, and led them during the assault on Algiers. He received the Silver Star for his actions.

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to First Lieutenant (Chaplain) Eugene Lewis Daniel (ASN: 0-306618), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving with the 2d Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division. On the morning of 8 November 1942, during the initial assault on the city of Algiers, French North Africa, Chaplain Daniel voluntarily, without regard for his own safety and under enemy machine gun and rifle fire, organized scattered elements of the 2d Battalion, 168th Infantry, and personally led them into action against an armed enemy in the vicinity of El Biaz, Algeria. The bold and fearless action of Chaplain Daniel, above and beyond the call of duty, set a splendid example to all his men and demonstrated his extraordinary courage and gallantry.

(Note: both citations from Military Times' Hall of Valor incorrectly assign the 168th Infantry to the 41st Infantry Division. I have made the correction, as the 41st Division was in the Pacific and nowhere near North Africa!)

Pastor Daniel was indeed captured by the Germans after the action on February 17, 1943. He remained a prisoner of war until liberated in 1945. Throughout his captivity he was steadfast in attending to the spiritual needs of his fellow prisoners. Daniel left the active army in 1946, remained on reserve status, and retired from the Army Reserve in 1970.

The Reverend Eugene Lewis Daniel, Jr. settled after the war in Charlotte, North Carolina. He rests in peace in the cemetery of Sardis Presbyterian Church where he served his flock.

The present 34th Infantry Division is comprised of National Guardsmen from Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry is part of the division's 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and is based in Iowa.

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