On Dec. 1, Navy Captain Eugene “Red” McDaniel returned to the USS Enterprise in Norfolk, Va., a trip 45-years in the making, to participate in the inactivation ceremony of the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
The last time McDaniel was aboard the USS Enterprise, he was taking off in his A6A Intruder to participate in airstrikes on Hanoi during the Vietnam War. May 19, 1967, was the date, and instead of returning to the Enterprise, McDaniel’s plane was shot down over the skies of North Vietnam. He would then spend six years as a prisoner of war, enduring some of the most horrific torture imaginable.
In his book “Scars & Stripes,” published by WND Books, McDaniel documents his astonishing experience, but it was his return to the Enterprise that helped tie all the history of the ship together.
A crowd of more than 12,000 were in attendance for the event, and McDaniel was singled out for his distinguished career in the Navy.
“A mission 45 years is now accomplished,” said Captain William Hamilton, commanding officer of the USS Enterprise, of McDaniel’s return to the ship.
As Hamilton spoke the words, the entire crowd rose to their feet, giving McDaniel a long standing ovation.
“I still remember every moment that preceded my plane from being catapulted off this carrier back in 1967, and have the honor of being part of the deactivation ceremony of the Enterprise, the ‘Big E,’ well, it added a new, wonderful, dimension to my career in the Navy,” said McDaniel.
Video of the ceremony can be seen below:
Upon his release from captivity on March 4, 1973, McDaniel was awarded the Navy's highest honor for bravery, the Navy Cross. Among his other military decorations are two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit with Combat "V," the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars with Combat "V" and two Purple Hearts for wounds received at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors.
After returning to active duty as Commanding Officer of the USS Niagara Falls and USS Lexington, McDaniel later served as director of Navy/Marine Corps Liaison to the U.S. House of Representatives, working daily with Congress on national defense planning.
The word "hero" is used far too easily in today's world. So is "courage." But in the case of McDaniel and his astonishing experiences during the Vietnam War, neither word begins to describe the years he spent as one of America's most brutalized – and inspirational – prisoners of war. WND Books is honored to re-release McDaniel's tragic and ultimately inspiring story of survival as POW with the 30th Anniversary Edition of "Scars & Stripes: The True Story of One Man's Courage Facing Death as a POW in Vietnam."
After his A6A Intruder was shot down in the skies over Vietnam, McDaniel spent six agonizing years as a POW in the notorious "Hanoi Hilton." Despite the sadistic and barbaric ways his captors tortured him, McDaniel remained a source of hope and strength for his fellow POWs by clinging to his faith in God in even the darkest of hours.
No matter one's trials, readers discover in "Scars & Stripes" that McDaniel's heroic story re-affirms that reliance on God will always bring the light needed in times of darkness.