O’Daniel, John Wilson “Iron Mike”

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O'Daniel, John Wilson "Iron Mike"
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O’Daniel, John Wilson “Iron Mike”, born in Newark, Delaware February 15-02-1894, graduated from high school at Oxfor Pennsylvania, in 1912 and attended Delaware College in Newark, Delaware, where he played varsity football and earned the nickname “Mike”. He enlisted in the Delaware National Guard  in 1913 with Company E, 1st Delaware Infantry. On 19-07-1916 he was mobilized, and served as a corporal and sergeant with the First Infantry at the Mexico border in Deming, New Mexico. He was honorably discharged from service on his 23rd birthday, 15-02-1917. After graduation from Delaware College in 1917 he was commissioned a second lieutenant of the Infantry Reserve on August 15 at Reserve Officers Training Camp at Fort Myer, Virginia.  He received his regular commission on October 26 and was assigned to the 11th Infantry Regiment  at Camp Forrest, Tennessee. He shipped out for overseas duty and participated in the St Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives..  He was wounded at St. Mihiel  on 12-09-1918, 24 years old. Testifying to his endurance and aggressiveness in battle was his nickname, “Iron Mike”,  awarded by his peers, said to be a result of his actions at St. Mihiel, where he fought for twelve hours, even though he was hit in the face by a German machine gun bullet and severely wounded. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions as well as the Purole Heart. He returned to the United States with the 11th Infantry on September 1919 and was transferred to the 25th Infantry Regiment, at Camp Stephen D. Little at Nogales, Arizona. General O’Daniel became an infantry instructor with New Jersey National Guard at Trenton in May 1924. In September 1927 he entered the Infantry School at Fort Benning Georgia and was graduated in May 1928. He was transferred in July 1928 to the 21st Infantry at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii and in January 1930 was placed in command of the Military Police Detachment of the Hawaiian Department at Fort Schafter. In October 1931 he joined the 12th Infantry  at Fort Howard Maryland. General O’Daniel entered the Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth Kansas in September and was graduated in June 1939. He was then assigned to Ford Brady, Michigan as an instructor of the Citizen’s Military Training Camp and Officer’s Reserve Corps. In August 1939 he became branch instructor in the Michigan Military Area with headquarters in Detroit. In July 1942 General O’Daniel was transferred to Allied Force Headquarters in Europe as Commander of the American Invasion Training School in the British Isles. In September 1942 he assumed command of the 168th Infantry Regiment in the North African theater and led that unit on November 8–9 in the capture of Algiers. He was also rewarded with his first star on the 20th of November. In December 1942, he was assigned to organize the U.S Fifth Army  Invasion Training Center in Africa which trained the forces for the landings in Sicily and at Salerno. General O’Daniel in June 1943 was named Deputy Commander of the 3rd Infantry Division  with whom he landed in Sicily. Casualties of the division during the war were 3.177 killed in action with 12.940 wounded.On 24-07-1943 he returned to Algiers and was attached to the 36th Division, nickname “Arrowhead”  for the Salerno landings. Although not required to do so, he chose to land with the troops at Salerno. He became officer in charge of amphibious operations for the Fifth Army on 01-10-1943 and the following month was reassigned as Assistant Commander of the Third Infantry Division. He took part in the landings at Anzio in January 1944 and assumed command of the 3rd Infantry Division while still on the beachhead in February 1944. While under his command the division repelled furious German counterattacks, finally breaking out of the beachhead encirclement and driving to Rome, where he was rewarded with his second star. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his service in Italy. Much publicized, if not completely reported, was the comment he made at a staff meeting in response to a question from British Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander commander of the Allied Armies in Italy. “I believe your division did not give an inch”, said Alexander. “Is that true?” The reply was “Not a God-Damned inch.” He served there until August 1944 when O’Daniel and his 3rd Division landed at the St Tropez Peninsula in Southern France and drove north through the Vosquez Mountains to Germany. General O’Daniel led the 3rd Division up the Rhône Valley to Strasbourg, in the Colmar Pocket where it decimated German forces in January 1945 and when it smashed across the Siegfried Line at Zweibrücken in March 1945.

 He frequently flew over the front lines in a light airplane dropping notes to the troops below, exhorting them to advance. He led the division across the Rhine. Last O’Daniel took the 3rd Infantry Division Berchtesgaden Obersalzberg one. Fighting took place here not because the German troops had left the premises. It was a spectacular race to the abandoned mountain farm, the O’Daniel with a quick trip across the highway from the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles”  arrived. Representatives of German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring surrendered to him and he turned them over to General Jacob Loucks Devers  near Munich on May 05-05-1945. One of O’Daniel’s proudest trophies from the war was a pair of Hermann Goering trousers. He called them “a lot of pants”. At war’s end it was reported that O’Daniel’s “Rock of the Marne” 3rd Division had been awarded one fourth of all Medals of honor presented during the war for its feats in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. In July 1945, General O’Daniel was assigned temporary duty with Army Ground Forces Headquarters in Washington DC. He awarded 1st Lieutenant Audie Murphy with the Medal of Honor on 02-06-1945,   for his heroism during the fighting in the Bois de Riedwihr. Later that month O’Daniel became the commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, and in November 1946 was also appointed Commanding General there. Ike Eisenhower called him “one of our outstanding combat soldiers”. The press likened him to General Georg Smith Patton   for his strong personal opinions and his fearless demeanor, as well as his dash and daring in moving the Third Infantry Division across the European Theater of Operations.

Death and burial ground of O’Daniel, John Wilson “Iron Mike”.

He died in San Diego on 27-03-1975, age 81, survived by his wife Gretchen, a daughter Mrs. Ruth Snyder of Pacific Grove California, and four grandchildren. His first wife, Ruth died in 1965. His only son, John W. O’Daniel Jr., a paratrooper, was killed in action in World War II at Arnhem in 1944 while serving in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, under General James “Slim Jim” Gavin   A brother, J. Allison O’Daniel, was killed in an air crash while serving in World War I  . Iron Mike O’Daniel is buried on Ford Rosecrans National Cemetery San Diego, San Diego County, California, USA, Plot: Section A-E, Grave 1172.

 

Cemetery location of O’Daniel, John Wilson “Iron Mike”.

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