John O’Daniel, a veteran of three wars, headed one of the first American military-assistance groups in Indochina and was known for his strong opinions. During WWI he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the nickname “Iron Mike” for his heroic actions at Saint-Mihiel in France. Whilst serving as a second lieutenant with the 11th Infantry he was shot through the left cheek by a German bullet, for which he was also received a purple heart.World War II
After occupying numerous prominent positions following the Great War, O’Daniel headed the American Invasion Training School in the UK before leading the 168th Infantry in the capture of Algiers in November 1942. In February 1944 Iron Mike assumed command of the Third Division, which included Audie Murphy among its members. He subsequently led the Division across the Rhine and participated the capture of Nuremburg, Augsburg, Munich, Salzburg and Hitler’s stronghold Berchtesgaden in May 1945.Korean War
From 1948 to 1950 O’Daniel served as Military Attaché to Moscow and in 1951 he commanded I Corps in Korea, receiving the Air Medal for meritorious achievement on flights from 21st July to 14th August 1951.Indochina / Vietnam War
After Korea Lieutenant General O’Daniel became commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces, Pacific and in June 1953 he headed a military survey mission to Saigon. He met with General Henri Navarre, Commander in Chief of the French Union Forces (FUF
) in Indochina, and received the Frenchman’s plan
for winning the war.
In April 1954 Iron Mike agreed to a reduction in his rank to Major General in order assume command of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Indochina. During his tenure as Chief MAAG he also headed the Training Relations and Instruction Mission (TRIM
), after the U.S. assumed responsibility for training the Vietnamese Armed Forces in February 1955.
Upon retiring from the Army in October 1955, O’Daniel became Chairman of the American Friends of Vietnam, an organization dedicated to highlighting the political and moral interests of the U.S. in the survival of South Vietnam as a bulwark of freedom in Southeast Asia. He resigned from his position in September 1963 after the AFV suspended its assistance to the University of Hue.