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The story of a soldier on D-Day

todayMay 27, 2024 6

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Memorial Day is a day to honor and remember all of our nation’s fallen military members. And this year many have a focus on our World War II veterans as we approach the 80th anniversary of D-Day on June 6th.

Sergeant John Daly from Blue Earth, Minnesota, made it through D-Day and spent time in Sioux Falls once the war ended.

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During his time in service, he sent many letters home, including two about D-Day.

Top left: Sgt. John Daly in uniform, Bottom two left: Photos of what Sgt. Daly saw on D-Day, Right photo box: Items carried through D-Day and letters sent home

Here’s an excerpt from one of the letters:

“By the grace of God, I’m able to write this letter to you. Without his help in the last few days, I never would have been possible. I believe I said more prayers on the sixth of June than I have my whole life.”
Sgt. John Daly in 1944

His son, Mike Daly, shared those letters with KELOLAND News.

“He went through the whole European and Mediterranean theatre during World War II,” Mike Daly said. “He started in North Africa, traveled with Pat and all the way across. Then he was a part of the invasion of Sicily into Italy. Then from there he went to England and prepared for D-Day. Then left on June 5th and landed on June 6th on the beach and kind of the rest this is the history of it.”

A history that Mike Daly keeps preserved in his basement with pictures of the views his dad saw and items he carried with him.

“He was in the 20th Combat Engineers which is a group that is assigned and main job is building bridges, clearing minefields, blowing up enemy areas of defense so that the Infantry could then move forward,” Mike Daly said.

Mike Daly says 50 to 60 percent of his dad’s unit was killed on D-Day. These are more of Sergeant Daly’s thoughts from that day:

“I came through the big day without a scratch, although there are many, many times when I thought my time was up. It’s the closest I’ve been to being an ex-soldier. Hitler used to have certain names on the bullets as to who they were for. But now he just writes, ‘to whom it may concern.’ I hope I never have to go through another day like this as long as I live.”
Sgt. John Daly in 1944

John Daly left the war and returned home in August of 1945. He got married and started a family, but in 1951 he contracted Polio and died.

“That’s the tough part. That’s the irony, I think, of his story,” Mike Daly said. “You obviously had wished that things turned out better that way but he defended our country.”

Mike Daly was just one year old when his dad died, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t know his father.

“The way I know dad is through his letters,” Mike Daly said. “I know his personality. I know he liked to tell jokes, even in the middle of all of this. I know that he cared deeply about his faith. I know that family was everything to him. I know he liked to play pool.”

Photo of Sgt. John Daly

He was his hero.

“There were a lot of heroes in that war and we’re proud of him,” Mike Daly said.

A sentiment he hopes everyone can remember this Memorial Day and on the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

“When you have had a family member go through doing what he did to allow the rest of us to have the liberties we do, that’s pretty special,” Mike Daly said. “It’s a reminder to us that a whole bunch of people sacrificed a whole lot for the United States to be what it is.”

Sgt. Daly’s unit was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for the heroism they had on D-Day.

Mike Daly is a former SDSU football coach who now lives in Sioux Falls.

Written by: Badlands Classic Rock

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