November 2003

Dan Sheedy -
Great War Hero, Great Grandfather


by Joseph H. RADDER

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"I have twenty-four grandchildren and four great grandchildren, " Dan Sheedy says proudly. But we're told he's not the type to gather them around him while he tells them his war stories. Perhaps, then, they'll read this and possibly learn for the first time what a great war hero he was.

Dan was awarded the Navy Cross by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942, as a result of the action at Midway.

He's mentioned fourteen times in John Lundstrom's book, "The First Team". Here's what the book says about the Battle of Midway on the 4th of June, 1942: "Suddenly a number of large black shell bursts below and to the left (of Sheedy's Grumman fighter) dramatically raised the curtain on another fierce struggle with the Japanese Zeros. In this struggle, six fighters, including Commander Jimmy Thatch, the commanding officer, took the brunt of the twenty to twenty five descending Japanese planes. Sheedy and Tom Cheek took on the rest. Dan eventually lost sight of Cheek and his plane and was all alone out there. Within thirty seconds there were three Japanese planes chasing Sheedy, two on his tail, and the third trying to cut him off from heading down to the water where it would be more difficult to shoot at him. Because Sheedy was flying slower, he was able to maneuver inside the Zero and he fired his six 50-caliber machine guns into the Japanese plane's flight path. To make a long story short, Sheedy shot down the Japanese plane, and, seriously wounded, he found himself all alone out there, about 150 miles from the U.S. Carriers. With luck and a “square search” he found the “Hornet” about 15 minutes later and it was taking planes aboard.

After being wounded in the Battle of Midway, Sheedy returned to the States as a Flight Instructor at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christ, Texas. After several other assignments, he continued his Navy flying career in the Reserves—retiring 22 years later as Wing Staff Commander at the Naval Air Station in Niagara Falls.

Dan Sheedy was born in 1916 in Narberth, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Phildadelphia. His father, Michael Sheedy, was originally an engineer but, eventually became an insurance broker. His mother, Imeld, was a full-time parent. Sheedy had two sisters and three brothers, Mary Louise, Imelda, Michael, Paul and Joe. Imelda, Paul and Joe are still living.

His education in the Lincoln School at Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. and School 18 and Amherst Central High School in Snyder, culminated in a business administration major at Notre Dame, the "Sheedy family university". At Notre Dame he earned a monogram as a manager of athletics. "I was the manager," he recalls proudly, of the NCAA champion basketball team in 1939."

After college, his Dad suggested he learn as much as he could about the insurance business, so he went to graduate school at the Wharton School of Finance of the University of Pennsylvania, "where the life insurance business was born." But then came the war in Europe and the threat that the United States would have to become involved. "I couldn't even finish at Wharton. I was the first one to be drafted in the Town of Amherst." he remembers. "So I got on the train in Philadelphia and went up to New York and joined the Navy. After training in mid-winter in open-cockpit planes, I got my wings in September 1941, several months before Peal Harbor".

Dan and Alice Elizabeth Popadowski were married in December 1941, just one week after Pearl Harbor. They had five children, Joanne, Kathy, Elizabeth, Donna and Dan Jr.

After the war, he went back to work briefly in his father's insurance business , but soon took a position with the Genrich Real Estate people. Later, he worked for three years for Colgate-Palmolive-Peet. While with Colgate he lived in a historic home in the picturesque village of Wyoming, New York. "It was right in the center of my territory" he said. After Colgate-Palmolive he returned to Buffalo to work as an account executive in the Buffalo office.of Batten Barton Durstine and Osborn, the famous advertising agency. After several years at BBDO. managing the Pfeiffer Salad Dressing account, he took a job with Beamcast, suppliers of Muzak services to stores and businesses. His Beamcast career was divided between positions in Syracuse, Cleveland and Buffalo.

Dan Sheedy never fully retired. Indeed he stayed young and active for over twenty years, working in a retirement job at Ed Young's Williamsville hardware store and playing golf as a member of Brookfield whenever he got the chance. Only recently have the years slowed him down a bit.

When one reads of Dan Sheedy's heroism in World War II, it's easy to understand why his country considers him a hero in the true sense of the word. He's one of those people who did indeed make life safe for all the rest of us.



Joseph H. Radder, a frequent contributor to Living Prime Time, is author of a new book, Young Jesus, the Missing Years. For more information, phone 1-888-280-7715 or visit www.1stbooks.com

 

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