JAMES G. DANIELS / VETERAN NAVY OFFICER
James Daniels was the only Navy pilot out of six to land at Ford Island the night of Dec. 7, 1941, after being fired upon by U.S. sailors who thought enemy aircraft had returned to wreak more havoc. Three of the other five pilots were killed.
Fighter pilot survived
‘friendly fire’ at
Retired Navy Capt. James G. Daniels, one of three pilots who survived "friendly fire" anti-aircraft fire on Dec. 7, 1941, died Sunday in a Hawaii Kai care home. He was 88.
Daniels was one of about two dozen fighter pilots who took off at dusk from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise looking for the Japanese attack fleet. Unable to find the enemy, the strike group returned to the aircraft carrier, but six VF-6 pilots, including Daniels, were directed to Oahu.
Although the arrival of the six fighter planes had repeatedly been broadcast to all ships in the harbor and shoreside batteries, sailors panicked when they heard the sounds of the aircraft overhead shortly after 9 p.m. Just as the six pilots lowered their landing gears and entered the Ford Island landing pattern, the sky was alive with tracer fire.
Daniels was the only one of the six to land his F4F-3A "Wildcat" fighter on Ford Island. Three of the six were killed in the tracer fire; one landed on a golf course on Ford Island; and another pilot's plane ran out of fuel, and he had to parachute near Barbers Point.
A model of Daniels' Wildcat fighter, along with his tale, is on sale at the USS Arizona Memorial bookstore.
His son, James "Jay" Daniels, said he did not learn of the Dec. 7, 1941, incident until he was a junior in high school, after his father had retired from the Navy in 1970.
"We were moving from Ewa Beach to Kailua during the summer of my sophomore year," the younger Daniels said. "That's when he told me the story of Pearl Harbor for the first time."
Daniels was the son of New Mexico state Sen. J. Morris Daniels and was a graduate of George Washington University and the Naval War College. He was assigned to Hawaii in 1939 after graduating from flight school.
In a speech on Sept. 2, 1995, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Punchbowl, then-President Bill Clinton noted that Daniels was the only U.S. pilot in the air when war was declared and also in the air off Tokyo Harbor when the war ended in 1945.
He logged 4,500 hours, mostly as an attack carrier pilot, with 110 combat missions in World War II and Korea.
During the Korean War, Daniels commanded Air Task Group Two, the first carrier wing in the Pacific with nuclear strike capability, with 75 aircraft aboard the USS Essex, followed by a tour as executive officer on the same aircraft carrier.
Daniels commanded the carrier USS Ticonderoga from 1962-63 off Vietnam and was chief of staff to the commander of Carrier Division Five.
In 1967, Daniels became chief of staff to Fleet Air Commander, Hawaii, at the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station, and later headed Fleet Air Command. He retired in 1970 with more than 33 years of service and later was production manager for the National Alliance of Businessmen and executive director of the Arthritis Foundation.
His awards include the Legion of Merit with Gold Star and Combat V, Distinguished Flying Cross and six Air Medals.
His wife, Helen A. Daniels, was known to thousands as the "the Christmas card lady" because for 12 years before her death in 2000, she used Christmas cards from around the world to create her handmade scrapbooks for hospitalized children.
Survivors include daughter Bonnie Gardner, of San Diego; son James "Jay" Morris Daniels; and grandson James Ryan Daniels -- both of Thousand Oaks, Calif. -- and great-granddaughter Tiara Gardner, of San Diego.
Memorial services will be held at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the National Cemetery of the Pacific, where Daniels will be buried with full military honors.