When Joe Daniel Jr. received notice that he would be drafted into the Army upon his graduation from North Carolina State University in 1963, he decided to join the Air Force instead. He began his pilot training in 1966, fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a pilot.
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Air Force Veteran Joe F. Daniel Jr., who served as a weapons systems officer during Vietnam and received a Silver Star.
Daniel decided to attend navigator school. He began navigator training in California with the hope of flying as a backseat navigator in F-4 Phantom II aircraft.
His wife encouraged him to pursue his goal of flying missions in F-4 aircraft. Daniel reflected upon how much his wife’s support of his military career meant to him in an interview with the Veterans History Project.
“That’s the kind of lady I married,” he said, smiling.
Daniel joined an F-4 Replacement Training Unit in Tampa, Florida. After completing his training, he deployed to Danang Air Base for a year. During his deployment, he flew close air support missions over South Vietnam to support ground troops.
Daniel deployed to Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand in 1972 to support Operation Linebacker, an Air Force and Navy air campaign to slow North Vietnamese supply transports.
In one mission over Hanoi, he and his pilot were confronted with targeted barrage fire from enemy Flak guns. Daniel and his pilot completed their mission despite this attack, and both received a Silver Star for their bravery in the face of enemy fire.
While on his second deployment, Daniel mainly flew missions over North Vietnam. He also flew with younger pilots as an instructor because of his years of experience as a navigator.
During his Veterans History Project interview, Daniel reflected on the camaraderie he felt while deployed in Vietnam.
“There’s a closeness that exists in that situation…” he said. “Even now, I go to several reunions and the people there who I did not know in Vietnam…the fact that we share that experience bonds us.”
Daniel took part in 370 combat missions in F-4 fighter aircraft over the course of his two tours in Vietnam. He had over 2,000 hours of total flying time in F-4 fighter aircraft at the time of his retirement.
In addition to a Silver Star, he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross with bronze “V” and eight oak leaf clusters and an Air Medal with 25 oak leaf clusters. He also received a Vietnam Service Medal with five bronze stars, a Korean Defense Service Medal and a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. He retired from the Air Force in 1983 after 20 years of service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Maggie Thomas
Editor: Merrit Pope, Annabelle Colton
Graphic artist: Philip Levine