A story of survival


I love a good story.

Recently I read an amazing story about a plane shot down during WW II. The surviving crew members were stranded on an island before two of them made a makeshift raft and sailed off to find help.

The two eventually reached another island, found friendly forces, and in the end, the remaining five crew members were rescued. Sounds like a movie, right?

It’s the story of Hector McDaniel, a 1938 graduate of Rochelle Township High School. He enlisted in the Navy in 1939 and eventually became co-pilot on a B-24 bomber, dubbed the Liberator, and saw heavy action in the area of the Philippines.

On one of these missions, the plane encountered heavy enemy fire. They completed their mission, but the plane was so damaged it crashed on a remote island.

The Rochelle News-Leader story tells that he was missing in action — fearful words for family and friends half a world away.

Shortly after they crashed, a Japanese bomber also crashed on the island. Although its crew died, the plane contained supplies of rice and fish. Added to the coconuts on the island, the Navy crew was able to survive for two months.

McDaniel and another crew member set off in a makeshift raft, eventually reaching a friendly island.  

McDaniel received a variety of medals, including the Purple Heart, Gold Star, Navy Cross, and a Distinguished Flying Medal.

His story sounds like a must see movie.

Where did I get that information? From the Flagg-Rochelle Township Museum.

I am on the board of the museum, so maybe I am a little biased.  

Tom McDermott is also on the board, and he has scanned thousands of articles and pictures that appeared in Rochelle newspapers through the years, including Hector McDaniel’s story.

Anyone can access these stories at the museum. There is a research station, and if you are curious about an event or person, you can use the computer at the station to find out more information.

The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. There is an admission charge, but Thursday is always a free day.

After I read some newspaper accounts of Hector, I Googled his name. His is a fascinating story.

And a good one to share as we honor veterans on Monday.

Thank you for your service.

Terry Dickow is a retired elementary school teacher with lots of opinions, some you will like, some you won’t. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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