Born 4 October 1895, Newark Delaware, died 27 July 1918, France
James Allison O’Daniel was born in Newark Delaware, the son of James and Nora Wilson O’ Daniel. At the time of his birth, his parents lived at 315 E. Main Street with Mr. and Mrs. James Alexander Wilson, his maternal grandparents. Much of Allison’s early childhood was spent in Chester County Pennsylvania. After his mother’s death, in 1914, he returned to Newark to reside with his aunts, the Misses Nell and Etta Wilson.
In 1914 he entered Delaware College, now the University of Delaware, and in July of 1914 he enlisted in Company E of the Delaware National Guard. He served on the Mexican Border for seven months as a member of that unit in 1916-1917.
Allison was back in college when the Delaware Regiment was organized. Al O’Daniel was a member of the Delaware College Class of 1918 (now the University of Delaware) having volunteered for service before graduating. Before going overseas, he had been living with his brother John Wilson O’Daniel and Aunts Etta J. Wilson, and Willie Nelson in their home at 313 E. Main Street in Newark.
He enlisted in the Delaware regiment, which became part of the 59th Pioneers, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Assigned to Camp McClellan, Austin Texas, he attended the School of Military Aeronautics, graduating and reporting overseas in July 1917. In Europe he attended two additional flying schools, and was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant, Signal Corps. After August 1, 1918 Lt. O’Daniel was scheduled to go to an active combat air unit.
1st Lieutenant O’Daniel was attached to the 2nd Aviation Instruction Center. He was a camera man and observer on a reconnaissance flight. He died when his plane went down over France before the battle of Chateau Thiery. James Allison O’Daniel was the first Delawarean to be killed in action in World War I.
Al O’Daniel was buried first at Camp Coetquidan in Morbihan France and the reburied at Oise- Aisne American Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, Aisne France (Block C, Row 16, Grave 17) on 13 September 1922.
Lt. James Allison O’Daniel’s name is engraved on a bronze plaque in the center hall of the University of Delaware’s Memorial Hall, and his name is inscribed in the Book of Remembrance which has the names of those who died in WWI from Delaware. This book is in a glass-covered case in the middle of the hall and currently members of the ROTC ceremoniously turn a page every day to display another name of one who died in the War.
He was the younger brother of Lieutenant General “Iron Mike” John Wilson O’Daniel. VFW Post Number 475 and American Legion Post Number 10 of Newark are named after Lt. J. Allison O’Daniel who was called Al by most of his friends.
Since his mother and grandmother were deceased, his step-mother, Anna, made the Gold Star Pilgrimage for War Mothers and Widows in 1931 to visit his grave. She traveled to France on the SS President Roosevelt and returned home on the SS Washington. This pilgrimage was made possible by an act of Congress of 2 March 1929.
By Marie Godfrey, cousin to the Wilsons and O’Daniels 8 August 2007 302-731-5204, firstname.lastname@example.org