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First Name: James

Last Name: Daniels

Birthplace: Kansas City, MO, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: G.

Date of Birth: 1915

Date of Death: 21 June 2004

Rank or Rate: Captain

Years Served:
James G. Daniels III

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


James G. Daniels III
Captain, U.S. Navy

James G. Daniels III was born in 1915 in Kansas City, MO. His father was former New Mexico state Sen. J. Morris Daniels.

Before joining the Navy in 1938, he attended the University of Southern California, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas.

Early in his career, he was attached to the USS Enterprise, which shuttled aircraft from West Coast ports to Pearl Harbor and other Pacific bases. After an assignment at Wake Island, the Enterprise was due to return to Pearl Harbor on 6 December. However, bad weather slowed the ship's arrival. By 7 December it was patrolling the western reaches of the Hawaiian islands.

As dusk settled about 150 miles west of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Ensign James G. Daniels III's first combat mission of World War II was about to begin. Based on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, he was one of the Navy fighter pilots ordered to respond to a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that resulted in more than 3,300 casualties. Their assignment was to search for the retreating Japanese attack fleet.

Shortly after 9:00 pm, unable to find the enemy and after terminating the search, they were returning to the aircraft carrier and six, including Daniels, were directed to land at the Ford Island airstrip.

As he was preparing to land his Grumman F4F-3A Wildcat at Ford Island, tracer fire lit up the sky. Panicky sailors on the ground, although advised that friendly U.S. planes would be incoming, released a barrage of rounds of anti-aircraft artillery at the six approaching planes.

Three of the six pilots attempting to land on the island were killed, including one who was shot as he parachuted to the ground after his plane ran out of fuel. Ensign Daniels was among the three survivors. Daniels went on to see further action during WWII and served as a Landing Signal Officer. He was flying patrol over the battleship USS Missouri when the Japanese surrender took place in 1945.

During the Korean War, based on the carrier USS Essex, he commanded Air Task Group 2, a carrier wing in the Pacific with nuclear-strike capability. He later became Executive Officer of the Essex.

In the early 1960s, he Commanded the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga and served as Chief of Staff to the Commander of Carrier Division 5.

Daniels attended the National War College during his Navy career and earned a Bachelor's degree in 1966 at George Washington University. In 1967, he was appointed Chief of Staff to the Fleet Air Commander in Hawaii. He commanded the Hawaiian Fleet before retiring in 1970.

During a 32-year naval career, Captain Daniels logged 4,500 flying hours, many of them in the Grumman Wildcat, the F6F Hellcat and the F8F Bearcat. He flew 110 combat missions during World War II and Korea

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Flying Cross
Legion of Merit with Combat "Valor" Device (2 Awards)
Air Medal (6 Awards)


Naval Aviator Badge
Surface Warfare Officer

In Retirement

When he retired from active duty in 1970, he settled in Kailua, HI, and often visited the USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center at Pearl Harbor. He signed many copies of "War in the Pacific," a collection of articles written by retired Marine Corps Brigadier General Jerome Hagen that is offered for sale in the visitors center bookstore. A chapter in the book details Captain Daniels' friendly-fire incident.

Sixty years after the friendly-fire incident, Daniels was the only one of the three pilots who survived that day that was still living when the Pearl Harbor survivors gathered in Hawaii.

"You think about it a lot," he told an interviewer at the time. "Why were you picked to be the only guy left alive out of that day? I can't outguess the Lord."

In 1995, at a speech at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, then-President Clinton saluted Captain Daniels for being the only U.S. pilot in the air both when the U.S. declared war in 1941 and when the Japanese surrendered in 1945.

Death and Burial

Captain James G. Daniels III died on 21 June 2004 at a care center in Honolulu, HI. The cause of death was pneumonia and complications from Parkinson's disease, diabetes and other ailments. He was 88. He is buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, HI.

Daniels' wife, Helen, preceded him in death on 11 June 2000. Survivors include daughter Bonnie Gardner of San Diego, CA; son James "Jay" Morris Daniels of Thousand Oaks, CA; two grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

Honoree ID: 2408   Created by: MHOH




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