|~ Hall of Heroes ~
Michael J. Daly
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|Michael J. Daly (September 15, 1924 – July 25, 2008) was a United States Army officer and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.
Although born in New York City, Daly resided his entire life in Fairfield, Connecticut, save for one year he and his wife lived in County Wicklow, Ireland. His great-grandfather Thomas F. Gilroy was an Irish immigrant who was mayor of New York City in the 1890s. His father, Colonel Paul Daly, was a World War I and World War II veteran who had received the Distinguished Service Cross and twice been nominated for the Medal of Honor. Michael Daly had three brothers, Gilroy, Daniel and Dermot and three sisters, Madeleine Potter, Bevin Patterson and Alison Gerard.
|Daly joined the Army from Fairfield's Southport neighborhood in 1942 and attended the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, where he was a classmate of George Patton IV. After only one year, Daly resigned his appointment to the academy in order to fight in the war. Sent to Europe as an eighteen-year-old infantry private, he trained in England and took part in the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach with the 1st Infantry Division. His father also volunteered to serve in the war and was sent first to Guadalcanal, then as a regimental commander to France.
After participating in the drive through France, Michael Daly was wounded in Aachen, Germany, and sent to England to recover. He rejoined the front lines as a part of the 3rd Infantry Division and was given a battlefield commission to second lieutenant. By April 18, 1945, he was a first lieutenant in command of Company A, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, 7th Army. On that day, he led his company in their advance through Nuremberg, Germany, and single-handedly engaged German forces several times. As his unit passed a city square, a German machine gun opened fire, causing several casualties. Daly rushed the position and killed the three gunners. Advancing ahead of his men, he came across a German patrol preparing to use rocket launchers to ambush American tanks. He again attacked alone and, despite being outnumbered and outgunned, killed all six patrol members. When a machine gun opened fire at close range, he picked up a dead man's rifle and killed the two-man German crew. The next day, on April 19, Daly was shot through the head; a bullet entered at his ear and exited from the opposite cheek. He was sent to England and eventually the United States to recuperate. At about the same time, his father, who had been wounded in France, was also being evacuated to the United States.
Daly was subsequently promoted to captain and, on August 23, 1945, awarded the Medal of Honor. Although still recovering from his wounds, for which he would continue to receive treatment until mid-1946, Daly attended a ceremony at the White House where President Harry S. Truman formally presented him with the medal. In addition to the Medal of Honor, Daly received three Silver Stars, two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with valor device. Commenting on his Medal of Honor citation in a speech at Fairfield High School sometime later, Daly said, "We all lose our courage at times. It is something we pray for in the morning, that God will give us the strength and courage to do what is right."
|After the war, Daly returned to Fairfield and began a business career. He worked as a salesman for an oil company before starting his own manufacturer's representative business, Michael Daly & Associates, in the Southport neighborhood. He was greatly involved in the operations of St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport. He served on the hospital's board of directors for more than thirty years, was a trustee, and helped obtain financial support for the hospital. A Democrat, Daly supported the political careers of his brother, Judge T. F. Gilroy Daly, and friend, city politician John J. Sullivan, but dismissed suggestions to run for office himself.
Daly married Margaret Wallace in the 1950s. He had two children, Deirdre and Michael. His wife's birthday is April 18, the date (though not the year) he battled so valiantly in Nuremberg.
Daly died of pancreatic cancer at his Fairfield home on July 25, 2008. His funeral was July 29 at St. Pius X Church in Fairfield with a burial at Oak Lawn Cemetery. During his funeral Daly's daughter Deirdre recited some of his reflections on visiting the cemetery at Omaha Beach, "You walk that hallowed ground alone with your memories – but not really alone – for if you listen, you can hear the clear notes of a distant trumpet -- the same trumpet you hear walking across the parade ground at West Point -- calling us – all of us – to a higher standard. Duty, Honor, Country – yes – but it is also an appeal to our central humanity – an appeal for a greater decency – an appeal for kindness, the discipline of kindness – a reminder that therein lies our only chance for a permanent victory.”
Also during the service, Rev. Samuel Scott, a long time friend of Daly's, spoke of their last meeting when Daly said, "'Father, we need peacemakers. Anyone can shoot a gun.'" He then saluted Rev. Scott from his death bed.
He was given full military honors, the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) of Fort Drum and The United States Military Academy of West Point performed the ceremony. The tribute included a 21-gun salute and West Point's bugle sounding "Taps" as preludes to a military helicopter flying over the cemetery in tribute to Daly. St. Vincent's Medical Center plans to name its new emergency wing in his honor.
He is survived by his wife, Margaret Wallace Daly; his son, Michael, his daughter, Deirdre Daly, and her husband, Alfred Pavlis, all of Fairfield; his sisters Bevin Daly Patterson of Cold Spring, N.Y., and Alison Daly Gerard of New York City; a stepson, W. Sanford Miller of Chadds Ford, Pa.; a stepdaughter, Blair Miller of Asheville, N.C.; and three grandsons. His brother, T. F. Gilroy Daly, who died in 1996, was a federal judge in Connecticut who had gained prominence as a lawyer for helping win the exoneration of Peter Reilly, who had been convicted of killing his mother in a highly publicized case of the 1970s.
DALY, MICHAEL J.
Rank and organization: Captain (then Lieutenant), U.S. Army, Company A, 15th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division.
Place and date: Nuremberg, Germany, 18 April 1945.
Entered service at: Southport, Conn.
Born: 15 September 1924, New York, N.Y. G
.O. No.: 77, 10 September 1945.
Early in the morning of 18 April 1945, he led his company through the shell-battered, sniper-infested wreckage of Nuremberg, Germany. When blistering machinegun fire caught his unit in an exposed position, he ordered his men to take cover, dashed forward alone, and, as bullets whined about him, shot the 3-man guncrew with his carbine.
Continuing the advance at the head of his company, he located an enemy patrol armed with rocket launchers which threatened friendly armor. He again went forward alone, secured a vantage point and opened fire on the Germans. Immediately he became the target for concentrated machine pistol and rocket fire, which blasted the rubble about him. Calmly, he continued to shoot at the patrol until he had killed all 6 enemy infantrymen.
Continuing boldly far in front of his company, he entered a park, where as his men advanced, a German machinegun opened up on them without warning. With his carbine, he killed the gunner; and then, from a completely exposed position, he directed machinegun fire on the remainder of the crew until all were dead.
In a final duel, he wiped out a third machinegun emplacement with rifle fire at a range of 10 yards.
By fearlessly engaging in 4 single-handed fire fights with a desperate, powerfully armed enemy, Lt. Daly, voluntarily taking all major risks himself and protecting his men at every opportunity, killed 15 Germans, silenced 3 enemy machineguns and wiped out an entire enemy patrol.
His heroism during the lone bitter struggle with fanatical enemy forces was an inspiration to the valiant Americans who took Nuremberg.
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