David Edwin Daniel was born in 1917 to Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Daniel from Birmingham, Alabama. The couple had two sons, one of which, Dr. David E. Daniel, Jr., later served as the fourth President of The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) from 2005 through 2015. Daniel, Sr. graduated from Ramsay High School and received a degree from Birmingham-Southern College. After college, he worked as a sales representative for the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company.

In 1940, Daniel started his pilot training at Hicks Field at Fort Worth, Texas flying Fairchild PT-19 airplanes. After completing the course in February 1941, he moved on to Randolph Field, Texas training on North American BT-9 Yale airplanes. From May through July, he participated in the Advance Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas, piloting North American AT-6 Texan airplanes. On July 11, 1941, he received his rating as a U.S. Army Pilot. His first flight after flying school was on an AT-6 at Selfridge Field, Michigan. From 1941 through 1944, Daniel was stationed at various US and overseas stations to complete his training mainly on a Douglas DC-3/C-47 Skytrain. On January 24, 1944, he took his “first hop in my new plane- Belle of Birmingham” at Fort Wayne, Florida.

Daniel was the commander of a troop carrier command squadron, which he also trained for the invasion. After a test run on June 5, 1944, the next day, D-Day, he piloted the first flight of the invasion to Normandy, France dropping members of the 502nd Regiment of the 101st Division at Sainte-Mère-Église, France, towing gliders. His plane was hit by enemy fire forty-seven times. In the days following the invasion, Daniel flew resupply and medical evacuation flights. In July 1944, he was reassigned to Italy and Southern France dropping troops and resupplies.

On December 23, 1944, Daniel supported the 101st Division during the Battle of Bastogne with equipment. During the winter of 1944/1945, Daniel flew numerous missions throughout the European Theater and in Africa. On March 24, 1945, he dropped paratroopers across the Rhine and resupplied the American troops in Germany. Almost to the day after the invasion in Normandy, Daniel wrote in his logbook on June 4, 1945 “Sightseeing the invasion coast.”

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