My father, I Granger McDaniel, did not serve in the American military but he absolutely served, saved, survived World War II.
My dad was a short but quick and charming kid when he was in high school in Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1940.
Hitler was slaughtering Jews in Europe but America had not yet joined the forces to defeat him. My dad wanted a piece of the action, he wanted to fly, he wanted to save the world and he wanted to impress my mom.
So, at the age of 17 he dropped out of Hot Springs High, forged his own high school diploma and ran away to Canada. Because he’d been taking flying lessons at the Hot Springs Memorial Field the Canadians considered him a pilot. They shipped him to England where at the age of 17 he joined the RAF, the Royal Air Force.
He had just turned eighteen when he was made the Captain of a Short Sterling bomber with an eight man crew. Eighteen years old. Over several months he and his crew flew lots of successful missions and raids. They delivered their load, dodged gun fire from land and air and did their part to beat back the Nazis.
After completing a mission in 1942 Dad and his crew were limping home, across the North Sea after being hit by enemy gunfire He crash landed the plain in the North Sea. My father was able to save some of his crew but not all. They floated for days in a rubber dingy before being picked up by a Danish fisherman.
While on board Dad wrote a letter to his mom. I’m holding the letter now, so I’m gonna let him tell the rest of the story.
Now don’t go get all worried. I am o.k. On a Danish fishing boat at the present. Spent four days in a dinghe. Jerry will treat us ok. two of my crew are with me, I lost four. Tell Cal and Dailey to be good and take care of you. I will try to get my pay sent to you. sorry i let you all down, thought i was going to win this war. I had a hell of a crash in the sea. I was thrown through the wind screen and swam with full flying kit to the back and pulled two out. It sank before I could get the rest. Two of them were shot anyway.
Tell Cal not to forget all the things I told him and that with faith he doesn’t need to worry about anything. Maybe I can study Architecture in prison camp.
Write to Air Ministry and tell them to send all my pay home. I hope dad is feeling better and Ginia and the baby are ok. Dad always said would stick my neck out too far. Now I’ve done it. I am lucky to be alive tho.
Tell Choate he thinks he was pretty sly I guess.
I guess I kinda got my flying career cut short huh? I got four engine stuff anyhow….
Honest mom, I want you all to know, I tried to save my crew. I could have had em bail out in Germany, but I thought I could take em home on 3 engines but soon another cut. I tried to get em to crash positions before we hit, then I tried to pull em out but I got two and it sank in 1 1/2 min. My wirless (I can’t read his writing) was sending S.O.S though wounded.
I didn’t have my time all in my log. I wish you would write and try and get it.
Right now I got me a big black cigar, guess I better enjoy it.
I think I will be able to write through the Red Cross. Please don’t worry now. Just have faith.
Give everyone my regards Bud. Irven Granger McDaniel”
Everytime I read his words I am stunned by the grace, composure and selflessness of that eighteen year old boy. Strange things went on to happen. He spent four years in POW camp, but he was able to study architecture. He escaped so many times he was called “The Cooler King” and he was part of The Great Escape from Stalag III.
I was only sixteen when my dad died. but I hope his service to the world and faith will never be forgotten.
I love you Daddy.
Tags: Ar. Heroes., Hot Springs, Irven Granger McDaniel, Stalag III, The Great Escape, World War II