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Daniel Richmond Edwards, a native Texan, received the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War I. He also claimed a wide range of other adventures before moving to Arkansas and becoming a Lake Ouachita fishing guide.
In its entry on Edwards, the Texas State Cemetery website states: “The events of Medal of Honor recipient Daniel Edwards’ life, from birth to death, are unclear. He was prone to embellishment, a trait most likely enhanced by his celebrity, and records from the time he lived are often incomplete, making many of his claims impossible to disprove and many true events difficult to confirm.”
Daniel Richmond Edwards was born on April 9, 1897, in Mooreville, Texas, to Jefferson Dudley Edwards and Llewellyn Sutton Edwards. Growing up on the family farm with four brothers and a sister, he left home at an early age. He claimed to have been a dance instructor and bouncer in New Orleans, Louisiana, before serving as a Texas Ranger before joining Pancho Villa’s rebellion in Mexico, where he was captured and imprisoned in a salt mine before escaping and becoming an observer of the U.S. occupation of Veracruz. He also claimed to have served during the Philippine-American War before World War I.
On April 6, 1917, the day the United States declared war on Germany, Edwards joined the Army at Bruceville, Texas, stating that he was born in 1888, which is the date reflected in his military records. The young soldier was assigned to Company C, Third Machine Gun Battalion, First Division, and was serving in a machine gun crew when ordered to advance during the battle of Cantigny in France on the morning of May 28, 1918. While moving to the assigned position, Edwards was bayonetted in the wrist by a German soldier but established a machine gun nest with his crew. All three of his comrades were killed during the course of the day, but Edwards held the post, fighting off repeated enemy attacks that included the use of machine guns and flamethrowers—and despite being stabbed in the stomach during one assault. He received a Silver Star on June 22, 1918, in recognition of his actions at Cantigny.
Edwards was recuperating at a hospital when he learned that his unit was heading into a new battle at Soissons. Despite his earlier injuries, he sneaked out of the hospital to re-join his unit and, on July 18, was in a German trench when eight enemy soldiers approached him. Edwards killed four of them, and the rest surrendered before an artillery shell exploded nearby, trapping his previously injured arm. He severed his right arm with a bolo knife, bandaged the wound, and ordered his prisoners to march toward American lines. The group was hit by a German shell, killing one of the prisoners and shattering Edwards’s left leg. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on April 4, 1923, for his actions on July 18, with the citation stating that “the bravery of Pfc. Edwards, now a tradition in his battalion because of his previous gallant acts, again caused the morale of his comrades to be raised to a high pitch.” Edwards also received the Distinguished Service Cross in recognition of his earlier exploits at Cantigny. He ended World War I with the rank of sergeant.
Following the war, Edwards attended Columbia University in New York, though he left without receiving a degree. Warren G. Harding hired the veteran to serve as his press secretary during the 1920 election and later appointed him as a veterans’ affairs consultant. Edwards married Francis Sullivan of New York in 1921, and they had one daughter before apparently divorcing. Around this time, Edwards became something of a celebrity after he embarked on a national tour lecturing on his wartime experiences and promoting education as a key to lasting peace. In 1932, Lowell Thomas published a book on Edwards’s military experiences titled This Side of Hell.
Though there is little if any evidence to substantiate his activities, Edwards claimed that during the period between the world wars he served in the war between Bolivia and Paraguay, in the Greco-Turkish War, and during the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, as well as a serving a stint in the Venezuelan navy and in conflicts in Ethiopia, Morocco, Nicaragua, and Madagascar. These events may have provided the basis for a Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon that said Edwards had received fifty-five wounds and eighty-three medals during his career.
He married Mary Elizabeth Haynie in Georgia on June 6, 1940, and they had three sons and a daughter. By 1942, they were living in Mena (Polk County), and Edwards registered for the World War II draft on February 16, 1942. The registration lists him as five feet eight and one half inches tall with brown hair and a ruddy complexion and a “missing right arm.” He also claimed to be a retired colonel. His gravestone shows he held the rank of major and was a veteran of both world wars.
Edwards retired to Royal (Garland County) in 1952, and he worked as a fishing guide on Lake Ouachita for the rest of his life. He died on October 21, 1967, and fellow Medal of Honor recipient Maurice “Footsie” Britt served as an honorary pallbearer. Edwards’s penchant toward embellishment remained apparent in his obituary, which stated that he had been a general in Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese army and had been wounded during the London Blitz, where he had been an observer. Though many of his claimed adventures have been challenged, the World War I exploits for which he received the nation’s highest military honors are well documented. He is buried in Cunningham Cemetery in Royal.
For additional information:
“Daniel Richmond Edwards,” Texas State Cemetery. http://www.cemetery.state.tx.us/pub/user_form.asp?pers_id=11241 (accessed May 26, 2018).
“Daniel Richmond Edwards.” Hall of Valor Project. https://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=576 (accessed May 26, 2018).
Dillard, Tom, “A Bold and Foolhardy Soldier.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 19, 2017, p. 2H.
Leatherwood, Art. “Daniel R. Edwards.” Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fed15 (accessed May 26, 2018).
“Maj. Daniel R. Edwards, 70, Winner of Medal of Honor, Buried in Ouachita Foothills.” Arkansas Gazette, October 27, 1967, p. 10A.
Medal of Honor Recipients 1863–1978, Prepared for the Committee on Veterans Affairs United States Senate, February 14, 1979. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1979.
Thomas, Lowell. This Side of Hell: Dan Edwards, Adventurer. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1932.
Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 5/26/2018
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