It’s August 14, 1900 and U.S. Marines are defending an official American building in Beijing from armed Chinese insurgents. Enemy action has exposed one flank to attack. Private Daniel Daly volunteers to defend the breach single-handed. With nothing more than a bolt-action rifle he holds hundreds of rebels at bay throughout the night. This is only the first of many outrageously brave feats that Daly will perform in a long career.
We don’t know a great deal about Daniel Joseph “Dan” Daly’s childhood and youth but he was born on November 11, 1873 in Glen Cove on New York’s Long Island. He’s believed to have worked as a newsboy and to have been a keen amateur boxer.
Daly wasn’t a large man, just 5 feet 6 inches in his bare feet and weighing in at around 132 pounds. But his diminutive size clearly didn’t dampen his fighting instincts. This much is evident from the fact that he signed up for the notoriously tough U.S. Marines in January 1899 at the age of 25.