Daniel Richmond Edwards spent years working on farms and ranches in Texas. His life was checkered by mischief and mischaracterizations, but Edwards nevertheless became one of the most decorated American soldiers in World War I. By July 1918, he had already received some of the highest awards for bravery. For his actions on July 18, 1918, he would receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award the military can give.
He had fled his own hospital bed to help his fellow troops of the First Infantry Division. He returned to the trenches as they faced a bitter German onslaught. Edwards and a small squad of twelve men went to try to pin down the Germans with their machine guns. Within minutes, Edwards was the only one left. He continued on his own, knowing that he was the last man between the Germans and a potential slaughter of American troops.
He neared the German lines when a shell exploded near him, taking most of his arm. Shocked by the sight, he continued onward nevertheless. He sighted a small German squad of eight, and killed four with his pistol. The remaining four immediately surrendered. Shelling continued, and on the way back to the American lines, a burst killed one of his prisoners and shattered Edwards’s own leg. He kept the remaining prisoners under guard, and ordered the Germans to patch him up. His three remaining prisoners carried him back to the American lines at gunpoint. He lost most of his right arm, and his left leg was mangled. A bullet remained lodged in his right leg for the rest of his life. In spite of these losses, he kept his upbeat outlook on life after the war. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for this incident in 1923.
After his discharge from the army and from the hospital, Edwards talked his way into the graduate program in journalism at Columbia University in New York. He never went to high school, and no one could confirm that he even had a bachelors degree. Edwards claimed he had graduated from Texas A&M University in 1910 after playing halfback for the football team. He also claimed that he had a degree from Baylor University after playing football for them. However, poorly kept records at Baylor and an archival fire at Texas A&M made it impossible to either support or reject his claims of attending either one. He never completed the program before embarking on his next adventure.
In 1920, he served as a press aide for U. S. Senator Warren Harding’s presidential campaign. After Harding’s election, Edwards worked as an advisor to Harding on veterans issues. He spent several years in New York and took a series of jobs, including writing and publicity campaigns. He was a member of the Comeback Club, a group of veterans helping fellow veterans adjusting to their injuries and life after the war. Congress consolidated all programs for World War I veterans into the Veterans Bureau in 1921, and Edwards went to work for the bureau in 1923 as a special administrator for rehabilitation programs and became an advocate for vocational programs. After his work with the federal government ended in 1926, he returned to New York and took a series of jobs, including as a court receiver in bankruptcy cases.
Edwards became a popular speaker and toured across the country on a number of occasions in the 1920s and 1930s, captivating audiences with his tales. His life was featured in two books: a compilation of magazine articles on Medal of Honor recipients titled Medals of Honor by James Hopper in 1929 and This Side of Hell by famed journalist Lowell Thomas in 1932.
He married twice, once in 1921 in New York. He remarried in Georgia in 1941. He had five children altogether.
When the United States entered World War II, Edwards stepped up to serve once again. He had certainly given enough in the First World War, but he felt he had to give more. Though now past 40 and with many injuries, he was not sent back into the infantry. Instead, the army used him to promote the war effort, a task he took on proudly. Edwards also periodically worked as a war correspondent as well. After the war ended, he stepped away from the army with the rank of major.
Though he was cited for his amazing acts of courage during the war, he admitted that he was scared at the time. As he told a reporter in a 1928 interview, “Whenever I did one of these things, I was scared to death.”
Edwards spent his last years in Arkansas. He settled in the Hot Springs area and worked quietly as a fishing guide on Lake Ouachita. It was a simple job of helping others make the most of a special time in their lives. He still spoke to the occasional group and still worked with veterans causes. For Edwards, the 1950s and 1960s were a time far removed from warfare and battle. He enjoyed the peace he had won for others and deserved for himself, spending his days on a clear blue lake in a majestic forest. He passed away at the age of 70 at the veterans hospital in Little Rock in October 1967.
Special Note: Happy Birthday, Toby! Love, Dad. Ken Bridges is a Texas native, writer and history professor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org