Harold Alec Daniels went to Oregon State University on a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps scholarship. He commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve upon graduating in 1939.
No one expected another war so soon, especially since it had only been two decades since the “war to end all wars” had concluded. Nonetheless, the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 called Daniels into active duty. He was given the option to remain in his electrical engineering job at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard because they were working on military vessels. He opted instead to go overseas with the Army. Daniels felt the experience would give him an opportunity to do something new, exciting and important.
Daniels served as a support soldier in World War II. For the European Theater, every four combat soldiers (the “tooth” of the fighting force) usually required the backing of six support soldiers (the “tail”) to make their work possible. Support soldiers took charge of administrative, logistical and infrastructural concerns for the combat troops. As a utilities engineer, Daniels worked on general infrastructure maintenance and repair at Allied Force Headquarters, first in North Africa and then in Italy.
He promoted to first lieutenant in March 1943 and to captain in August 1945. He also received a Bronze Star in September 1945. His citation reads, in part, “As the officer in charge of all electrical installations in connection with the operations of Allied Force Headquarters, Daniels was solely responsible for furnishing and maintaining the electrical power necessary for the operation of the complete headquarters. … [His] superb knowledge of electricity … [and] ability to put it to practical use was of inestimable value in solving the complex problem of electrical supply.”
Daniels was an avid photographer and took many images from his time overseas. His wife, Mary Daniels, kept scrapbooks of every picture he sent her, along with other memorabilia from the war years. He died in 1972 after health complications.
Their daughter inherited the scrapbooks, letters and photographs after her mother’s death in 2006. From them, she wrote Keeping the Lights on for Ike: Daily Life of a Utilities Engineer at AFHQ in Europe During WWII; or, What to Say in Letters Home When You’re Not Allowed to Write about the War.
We honor his service.
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Graphic artist: Michelle Zischke