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A Picture from History: Dan Edwards

US machine gun team with a Hotchkiss Machine Gun
We take a look at Medal of Honor recipient Dan Edwards and his amazing persistence and will to fight during World War I.
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    When Texans go to war, their enemies shudder, and perhaps no other Texan illustrates this point better than PFC Daniel Richmond Edwards.

    After surviving a rough upbringing, a youth on the run, a job as a Texas cowhand, and a series of other misadventures, Edwards signed up for the U.S. Army in time to be shipped overseas during World War I. 

    He was assigned to the 1st Division within the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion, given a Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun, and sent to work. 

    Battle of Cantigny

    During the Battle of Cantigny, Edwards first got a taste of German steel. Overrun by the Germans, Edwards’s men were forced to retreat.

    Wanting to give his brothers-in-arms time to make it out in one piece, Edwards stayed behind, pouring lead into the German ranks. 

    Battle of Cantigny
    Battle of Cantigny

    As the Germans came, he was bayoneted five times in the torso and shot in the thigh, kneecap, and under the left eye, as well as shot by a plane in his foot. Packing clay into his wounds to staunch the blood, Edwards held out and helped his men escape. 

    Sent to a hospital to recover; within a month, Edwards had enough. His friends were out there fighting, and he had no intention of laying in bed as they were out bleeding.

    So, he went AWOL, and Europe gained a bandaged hitchhiker who somehow managed to bum rides all the way to the front, where his friends were at Soissons. 

    Ruins in Soissons in 1916
    Ruins in Soissons in 1916 (Photo: George Eastman House Collection)

    In the Trenches

    Amazed and happy at his return, he was again given a machine gun and set to work. The area had seen heavy fighting, and a forward listening post was needed.

    Edwards was paired with a good friend and given the order to set one up in no man’s land. During the time of trench warfare, this was effectively a suicide mission. 

    Both of the men ran as fast as they could, but Edward’s friend was hit and killed. Edward spent the night in a crater next to his dead friend, burying him. 

    New York WWI Troops Fight to get into the Fight
    Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment man a trench in France during World War I. The Signal Corps photograph collection includes every major aspect of the United States (U.S.) Army involvement in WWI.

    The next day, Edwards ran out for a ridgeline he had spotted that seemed to offer a good machine gun nest position. As he ran with his gun and ammo, the Germans opened fire.

    Edwards made it all the way to the ridgeline. Then, to his horror, he found he had actually run right up to the edge of a German trench. 

    The Germans blasted him with a mortar, hitting the machine gun and sending him cartwheeling through the air. 

    World War I era German mortar
    World War I era German mortar (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

    A Close Call

    When Edwards awoke, he was dangling a foot in the air. His arm was trapped between the earth of the trench and the lattice work that supported the walls.

    His arm was broken, he was bleeding profusely, and his fingers were gone. And to make matters worse, he could hear Germans coming. 

    Cheshire_Regiment_trench_Somme_1916
    A German trench occupied by British Soldiers near the Albert-Bapaume road at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. The men are from A Company, 11th Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment. (Photo: John Warwick Brooke)

    Edwards watched as eight pointy helmets made their way through the trench to his position. His trench had a 90-degree angle that the Germans were soon going to have to turn.

    All eight men had had their rifles slung on their shoulders, anticipating finding a dead American and a free machine gun.

    So he pulled his .45 and aimed. As the Germans rounded the corner, Edwards killed four of them.

    Colt 1911
    Colt 1911 during training at Fort Knox (Photo: Library of Congress)

    The remaining four Germans instantly surrendered, then watched as he withdrew his knife and chopped his arm off with one deft swing. 

    He then forced one of the Germans to take out a Sterno can from his bag and light it to cauterize the wound. 

    Back to Allied Lines

    Edwards then had the men crawl out of the trench and head back to American lines with him behind them. 

    Apparently not recognizing their own men, a shell was dropped among them, killing one of the German POWs and shattering Edward’s leg. One of the Germans bandaged Edwards up and made a splint.

    Lt. Dan R. Edward at the White House in 1924
    Lt. Dan R. Edward at the White House in 1924 (Photo: Library of Congress)

    Edwards then had the POWs carry him back to the American aid station, where it was found that Edwards had also had one of the Germans stuff his severed arm into his bag.

    Why? He didn’t want to be cited for a self-inflicted wound. 

    Edwards was given the Medal of Honor for his actions and was later buried in Royal, Arkansas. You can read more about his life in the 1924 book This Side of Hell. 

    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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    4 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Tom Terrific

      Love stories of American heroes... and the links for suggested further reading. More please!!!

      December 25, 2022 5:14 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Dave

      What a man will do because he loves his brothers.

      December 25, 2022 4:57 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      VaWhitetailHunter76

      An excellent story about an amazing soldier. Rest In Peace PFC Edwards.....you were definitely a hero who went far above the call of duty!

      December 25, 2022 3:21 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      motomike

      That fellows chest should have been covered in medals. How on Gods' green earth did he survive that horror. I understand that giant smile. I hope he passed away peacefully in his sleep. He earned that.

      December 24, 2022 7:25 pm
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