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A Picture from History: Dan Daly

In this Picture from History, we take a look at two-time Medal of Honor recipient Dan Daly and the courageous acts that led him to be honored twice!

Born to a poor family in 1873, Dan Daly spent his youth selling newspapers to help his family make ends meet. He was a scrapper and became very adept at boxing during that time.

It was only fitting that when he joined the Marines at the ripe age of 16, he was shipped off to China during the Boxer Rebellion.

Daniel Daly
Dan Daly

The Boxer Fights the Boxers

In 1900 the Boxers were going throughout China murdering anyone associated with foreign countries.

This led to the compound where foreign embassies in Peking (now Beijing) were located being placed under a state of siege for 55 days by the Boxers

Siege of Peking during the Boxer Rebellion
Siege of Peking during the Boxer Rebellion

The siege was too much for the defenders, however. The German Marines in the area were soon overrun, leaving a single U.S. Marine behind to fight off the enemy. That Marine? You guessed it, Dan Daly. 

Throughout the course of the night, Daly protected the compound with his machine gun, coming under heavy sniper fire for hours. 

By the time the sun rose, 200 Boxers lay dead. For this, he was awarded his first Medal of Honor. 

Boxer Rebellion
Boxer Rebellion

From Sea to Shining Sea

After fighting off the Pacific Ocean, Daly found himself fighting in the Caribbean 15 years later. The Cacos were rebelling in Hait, and Daly was attached to a group of 38 men attempting to ford a river late at night. 

While in the midst of the river, the area erupted in gunfire. The men walked right into a three-sided ambush, manned by 400 Cacos. In the chaos, the Marines’ machine gun was dropped in the river.

The Marines pushed forward to take a position to fight back, but they knew the importance of possessing a machine gun to survive. 

U.S. Marines and guide in search of bandits. Haiti, circa 1919 (Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
U.S. Marines and guide in search of bandits. Haiti, circa 1919 (Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Daly volunteered. Running into the middle of the river alone. Daly found and picked up the machine gun and its ammunition, bringing it back to the Marine position. 

He then led one prong of a three-pronged counterattack against the ambushers — and succeeded.

His prong alone killed 75 of the Cacos, the enemy was driven back, and the Marines managed to live. It was 38 versus 400 at night in an ambush, yet not only did they live, but they also won. 

A second Medal of Honor soon found its way to Daly’s chest, making him one of only 19 Americans that had ever received two. 

Dan Daly Medaille Militaire
Daly was also awarded the French Medaille Militaire. (Photo: The War Horse)

Final Thoughts

At 44 years old, Daly wasn’t finished. World War I raged and he found himself once more at the front. It was June 1918 at The Battle of Belleau Wood.

Daley’s Marines were pinned down by heavy artillery fire, but to remain put was suicide. They had to move forward, and Daly was a man that led by example. 

(Photo: K72ndst via Wiki Commons)

Rising out of the trenches, Daly shouted to his fellow Marines, “Come on you sons of b-, do you want to live forever?!” Then, taking a few grenades and his .45 pistol, Daly single-handedly took out a German machine gun nest. 

A third Medal of Honor almost found its way to his chest, but it was decided that the limit on Medals of Honor was two. 

This is a new style of article for Pew Pew Tactical, if you liked it — let us know in the comments! If you didn’t enjoy it…well phooey. To catch up on previous Pictures from History, click on over to our History Category.

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6 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Charley Roberts

    Dan Daly was a real hero but this article is riddled with misinformation. Here's a few examples: Daly joined the Marines in 1899 at age 28, not 16. He single-handedly held off dozens of Chinese soldiers one night with a bolt-action rifle not a machinegun. At Belleau Wood, he and his men were laying on open ground not in a trench when Daly led a charge with his famous battle cry. His one-man attack on a machinegun nest with grenades and a pistol occurred on the fourth day of the fight for Belleau Wood, not the first when he led that charge. If you want the facts, read my carefully researched book, "Devil Dog" Dan Daly, America's Fightin'est Marine, published by McFarland.

    March 18, 2023 12:40 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mark Snyder

    Daly was required reading in my first summer of OCS in JUL91. As the years past, post 11SEP01, I prayed that my Marines and I would fight in a way to honor those before us, defend those beside us and to inspire those that were to come after. It is with the highest regard that I hold these Marines and I look forward to the day when we muster again and I hear the words "Make safe and show clear".

    August 24, 2022 7:02 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Daniel S

    I just got back from all my (first round of) training for the Marine Corps. I remember the drill instructor who taught us history told us-

    "Imagine waking up for fire watch and you see HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE trying to kill you and you just start going to work!" It was hilarious how he delivered it but it was still a crazy lesson to learn. Good article!

    August 22, 2022 7:34 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Daniel R Barshaw

    Loved it good read

    August 21, 2022 5:33 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Tim Adams

    Loved the article about Dan Daly. Walked two of the sites, Boxer Rebellion, and Belleau Wood.

    August 21, 2022 4:12 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Don Doner

    They definitely don't make that breed of fighter now days. Dan Daly is a legend and every Marine learns about him. Semper Fidelis Devil Dog! Dine Mightily in Valhalla!

    August 21, 2022 4:58 am
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