By Stephen J. Ochs
Texas A&M Univ. 271 pp. $42.50
This is a classic tale about how the values of the “1 percent” shaped military leadership during World War II. After he graduated from Georgetown Preparatory School, Michael J. Daly’s insouciant willfulness caused his dismissal from both Princeton and West Point; he seemed spoiled and wealthy enough not to care. Yet rather than disappoint his family, he volunteered for the Army infantry and fought splendidly from the time of the 1944 Normandy invasion until he was gravely wounded as the war ended.
Stephen J. Ochs, who teaches history at Georgetown Prep, has interwoven Daly’s career with the rise of his Irish Catholic family and the Army’s implacable drive across France and Germany. Throughout the narrative, Daly’s tactical brilliance in leading a squad, a platoon and a company shine through. His repeated acts of valor rivaled those of the much-decorated Audie Murphy. After the war, though, Murphy became a moody loner. In contrast, Daly took on an ever-expanding role as a volunteer at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport, Conn., tending to the indigent and the dying.
His daughter summed up Daly’s life by calling war “the one time in life when you are willing to sacrifice everything for the guy alongside of you. . . . You had a cause greater than yourself.”