Real American Heroes Series part 1 Leon A. McDaniel of Mt Ida, Ark (part A)

President Reagan and Senator Barry Goldwater present the fourth star to General Jimmy Doolittle during a White House ceremony in the Indian Treaty room, OEOB. 6/20/85.

I love the movie “Pearl Harbor” with Ben Affleck and it tells the story of Jimmy Doolittle.  He was born in 1896 and died in 1993. He is pictured above with Ronald Reagan.  He enlisted in the army in World War I and became an aviator. After the war he earned a Ph.D. in engineering and remained in the Army Air Corps as a test pilot until 1930, when he became head of aviation for Shell Oil Co. In 1932 he set a world air speed record. Returning to active duty during World War II, he led a daring raid on Tokyo (1942), for which he received the Congressional Medal of Honor. He commanded air operations on many fronts, including attacks on Germany in 1944 – 45. After the war he remained active in the aerospace industry. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989.

Here is a clip from the movie “Pearl Harbor” about Doolittle.

WWII Battle of Leyte Gulf


This was published earlier in the Saline Courier.

(I have known McDaniel’s daughter, Linda Matyskiela and her husband, Terry, for 10 years as the owners of Bobby’s Country Cookin’ in Little Rock. Here is a story about Linda’s father Leon McDaniel.)

A little after noon, Japanese standard time on Aug. 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito’s announcement of Japan’s surrender was broadcast over the radio in Japan. Some Japanese soldiers, crushed by the surrender, committed suicide, and well over 100 American prisoners of war were also executed by the Imperial Japanese Army. Nevertheless, the USA had arrived at Victory over Japan Day, or VJ Day.
Getting to this day did not come easy for the United States. Major sacrifices had to be made by our soldiers, and many of them were from Arkansas.
I wanted to recognize the service of just a fraction of the dedicated soldiers that have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Today I wanted to start with Leon A. McDaniel.
Currently McDaniel, 84, lives in Mount Ida with wife Joyce of 64 years, but he was born and raised in Nimrod in Perry County.
McDaniel joined the Navy at age 17 and served from October 1943 until August 1946. He was based in San Francisco and served 23 months on the USS George Clymer APA 27. The USS George Clymer was a Marine and Army transport ship and was involved also in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
After boot camp, McDaniel was trained to be the coxswain of the landing crafts. The coxswain is the person in charge of the steering of a boat.McDaniel drove both the larger crafts that landed the tanks on the beaches and the smaller crafts that landed the troops on the beaches. McDaniel said he transported many Japanese POWs to ships that took the Japanese to POW camps.

The Second Battle of Guam was from July 21 to Aug. 8, 1944, and resulted in the capture of the Japanese held island of Guam. The battle started with the Americans numbering 36,000 and the Japanese 22,000. It ended with 1,747 Americans killed and over 18,000 Japanese killed. There were 485  Japanese POWs taken captive.
When the USS George Clymer was anchored off Guam from July 21 to Aug. 21, every other day at dusk Leon McDaniel would be responsible for driving the landing craft around the ship that carried the commanders of the task force. His all-night duty would end at dawn. It was his duty to make sure Japanese divers or torpedo boats did not surprise-attack the ship.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf was fought from Oct. 23 to 26, 1944,  in waters near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar, and Luzon. It was and still is the largest naval battle of all time.
The Imperial Japanese Navy brought together almost all of its remaining major naval vessels in an effort to keep the Americans from cutting off their supply lines to their fuel reserves.
After their defeat at Leyte, the Japanese had to keep the majority of their surviving large ships at their bases because they did not have enough fuel to operate them. This remained the case for the rest of the Pacific War. Another interesting fact is that the Battle of Leyte Gulf is the first battle in which kamikaze attacks occurred.
McDaniel remembers that the morning of the invasion of Leyte, 16-inch shells from battle ships and bombs from airplanes hit the invasion site every three seconds for approximately two hours. During the bombardment, McDaniel drove his landing craft along with hundreds of others, carrying tanks and troops and rendezvoused away from the ships until the shelling stopped. They were ordered then to land troops and tanks.
On the first night in Leyte, the USS George Clymer was anchored off the beachhead of Leyte. McDaniel and others had to stay in their landing crafts tied to their ships. The air raid warning was sounded. A smoke screen was laid out all over the convoy of several hundred ships. This was done to keep Japanese bombers from seeing the ships. The difficulty of breathing and seeing your hand in front of your face was described as very trying and difficult by McDaniel.
The second night of the smokescreen, several landing craft were untied from their ships to find the outer edges of the screen. But instead of finding the outer edge, they became lost in the screen, and McDaniel did not know whether they were close to their own ships or close to the Japanese beach somewhere. When the screen lifted they were able to relocate their ship and eased back in without anyone realizing they were gone. McDaniel said it felt like being back at home once they were reunited with their ship.
During the three days in Leyte, there was a constant bombardment of the Island. The third night, as the ships were being escorted out, the sound of bombs, shells, planes, thunder and lightening echoed through the air as they left.
Japan had lost more than 10,000 men while the United States lost nearly 2,000.

(Next post we will look at some more war stories from Mr. McDaniel.)

Battle of Leyte Gulf part 2

Battle of Leyte Gulf part 3


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