Daniel Warnel Lee, Sr. was born on June 23, 1919 in Alma, Bacon County, Georgia.
Lee was one of seven children who grew up in the family home, described by his daughter as a plain wood-boarded house on stilts with a dirt driveway, no air conditioning or window units, no bathroom, and a barn in the back.
Like most farm families, the Lee children awoke early to do chores, then went to school, and then returned home to do even more chores. His daughter Von Nerveldt says working on the family farm gave her father the determination he needed to work for a better life. To follow his goals, he enrolled at the University of Georgia and began working toward a degree in agriculture. He paid his tuition with the help of a two-year scholarship from Sears, Roebuck and Company. He also worked for one of his professors, typed papers for other students, and worked summers surveying crops. Hard work and determination were a part of his fabric.
Lee earned his agriculture degree in 1941 and began a career working in soil management. He attempted to join the Air Force but was denied service because of color blindness. In 1942, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. In December of 1942 he married Sallie Davis.
1st Lt. (then 2d Lt. ) Daniel W. Lee was leader of Headquarters Platoon, Troop A, 117th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized, at Montrevel, France, on September 2, 1944, when the Germans mounted a strong counterattack, isolating the town and engaging its outnumbered defenders in a pitched battle.
After the fight had raged for hours and our forces had withstood heavy shelling and armor-supported infantry attacks, 2d Lt. Lee organized a patrol to knock out mortars which were inflicting heavy casualties on the beleaguered reconnaissance troops. He led the small group to the edge of the town, sweeping enemy riflemen out of position on a ridge from which he observed 7 Germans manning 2 large mortars near an armored half-track about 100 yards down the reverse slope.
Armed with a rifle and grenades, he left his men on the high ground and crawled to within 30 yards of the mortars, where the enemy discovered him and unleashed machine-pistol fire which shattered his right thigh. Scorning retreat, bleeding and suffering intense pain, he dragged himself relentlessly forward. He killed 5 of the enemy with rifle fire and the others fled before he reached their position. Fired on by an armored car, he took cover behind the German half-track and there found a panzerfaust with which to neutralize this threat.
Despite his wounds, he inched his way toward the car through withering machinegun fire, maneuvering into range, and blasted the vehicle with a round from the rocket launcher, forcing it to withdraw. Having cleared the slope of hostile troops, he struggle back to his men, where he collapsed from pain and loss of blood. 2d Lt. Lee’s outstanding gallantry, willing risk of life, and extreme tenacity of purpose in coming to grips with the enemy, although suffering from grievous wounds, set an example of bravery and devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.
Daniel Lee joined the Army in Alma, Georgia in March of 1942, and by September 2, 1944, was serving as a second lieutenant in Troop A, 117th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. On that day, at Montrevel, France, he single-handedly attacked an enemy mortar position. Despite being seriously wounded in his approach, he successfully killed or drove off all the German soldiers. Lee survived his wounds and was subsequently promoted to first lieutenant and, on February 4, 1946, awarded the Medal of Honor.
After World War II, Lee joined the Army Reserves and was recalled to service during the Korean War. He served for two years at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and attained the rank of captain. He and his wife raised two sons and a daughter. In civilian life, Lee rose to the position of a senior vice president of Southwest Region of Military Service Company, the oldest division of EBSCO Industries.
Like many American World War II soldiers, Lee did not return home unscathed.
“He would get severe headaches and cluster migraines and he would have pain in that leg because he still had shrapnel in it. But he didn’t complain,”
Shown here are the medals Captain Daniel Warnel Lee earned during his career. They include:
He died on January 22, 1985, at age 65 and is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in his hometown of Alma, Georgia.
In 1996, the Georgia legislature passed a measure to dedicate and memorialize a highway bridge in his honor. At the time of this legislation, Lee was one of just 22 native Georgians to have been awarded the Medal of Honor.