A privileged, hell-raising youth who had greatly embarrassed his family—and especially his war-hero father—by being dismissed from West Point, Michael J. Daly would go on to display selfless courage and heroic leadership on the battlefields of Europe during World War II. Starting as an enlisted man and rising through the ranks to become a captain and company commander, Daly’s devotion to his men and his determination to live up to the ideals taught to him by his father led him to extraordinary acts of bravery on behalf of others, resulting in three Silver Stars, a Bronze Star with “V” attachment for valor, two Purple Hearts, and finally, the Medal of Honor.
Historian Stephen J. Ochs mined archives and special collections and conducted numerous personal interviews with Daly, his family and friends, and the men whom he commanded and with whom he served. The result is a carefully constructed, in-depth portrait of a warrior-hero who found his life’s deepest purpose, both during and after the war, in selfless service to others. After a period of post-war drift, Daly finally escaped the “hero’s cage” and found renewed purpose through family and service. He became a board member at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he again assumed the role of defender and guardian by championing the cause of the indigent poor and the terminally ill, earning the sobriquet, “conscience of the hospital.”
A Cause Greater than Self: The Journey of Captain Michael J. Daly, World War II Medal of Honor Recipient is at once a unique, father-son wartime saga, a coming-of-age narrative, and the tale of a heroic man’s struggle to forge a new and meaningful postwar life. Daly’s story also highlights the crucial role played by platoon and company infantry officers in winning both major battles like those on D-Day and in lesser-known campaigns such as those of the Colmar Pocket and in south-central Germany, further reinforcing the debt that Americans owe to them—especially those whose selfless courage merited the Medal of Honor.
What Readers Are Saying:
"This work is well up to the level of its counterparts in quality, and is useful as well for its emphasis on the war's final months, often overlooked in general accounts that treat events after the Battle of Bulge as an extended footnote. . . . I found this a very high-level piece of work . . . . the narrative has enough front-line material to attract even History Channel fans! "--Dennis E. Showalter, professor of history, Colorado College
"I'm not aware of recent works that so well document events in small units, particularly those of the campaign in Southern France and Germany. The author's superb source materials from the Daly family and veterans is what set this story apart."--Edward G. Miller, author, A Dark and Bloody Ground
"Stephen Ochs's biography of Michael Daly is a remarkable portrait not only of a hero but of a flesh-and-blood mortal with fears and failings, as well as strengths and successes, in both war and peace. Blending biography with military history, interviews with documentary research, and analysis of culture and religion, A Cause Greater than Self offers insights into small unit tactics and leadership in battle, as well as Irish-American politics and Catholicism—and, most of all, the qualities of mind and character of a soldier whose sacrifice of self was truly above and beyond the call of duty. Ochs writes as vividly about fighting in the hedgerows of France as he does about cocktail parties in suburban Connecticut, and his book is a welcome addition to our understanding not just of the battles of World War II but the American culture that produced the citizen soldiers who survived and triumphed in combat."--Robert Asahina, author, Just Americans: How Japanese Americans Won a War at Home and Abroad
"Stephen Ochs's students all know he is a passionate and compelling story-teller, and he brings those singular skills to the riveting story of Michael Daly. Ochs describes the breathtaking exploits of this one American soldier--not just on the one occasion that brought him the nation's highest military honor, but repeatedly, over a course of weeks and months, as well as the encompassing drama of those latter days of World War II. This is the story of the Greatest Generation distilled into the saga of a single, unexpected hero, a young man who comes back to life today through the vivid verbal pictures painted by Stephen Ochs."--Gerald F. Seib, Washington bureau chief, Wall Street Journal and author, Pennsylvania Avenue: Profiles In Backroom Power
"A Cause Greater than Self is a profoundly moving story, told in exquisite and loving detail by Ochs, a historian and scholar of the first order. You will never read and learn so much of the texture, the color, the feel of war. This narrative is a deeply affecting story of yet another quiet American hero: Michael J. Daly. Virgil writes of 'tears for passing things, of things mortal that touch the mind, and of the honorable finding its due.' Here is a grand story of all three very well told."--William J. Bennett, former US Secretary of Education and author of numerous books, including the multi-volume America: The Last Best Hope.
"Stephen J. Ochs, who teaches history at Georgetown Prep, has interwoven Daly's career with the rise of his Irish Catholic family and the Army's implacable drive across France and Germany. Throughout the narrative, Daly's tactical brilliance in leading a squad, a platoon, and a company shine through."--Washington Post
“This is a truly inspirational story of one man’s fight not to be locked in a 'hero’s cage' and find his way through life by ridding himself of the demons that he carried when one war ended and another one began.”—WWII History Magazine
“This book is highly recommended. The reader, as this reviewer did, will undoubtedly feel a connection to and admiration for Daly, a real hero.”—Humanities and Social Sciences Online
"This book is highly recommended. The reader, as this reviewer did, will undoubtedly feel a connection to and admiration for Daly, a real hero." -H-Net