FLORENCE, AL (WAFF) - More than 70 years after dropping out of high school to fight in World War II, a Shoals man received his high school diploma on Wednesday.
Born in Cloverdale, AL in 1925, Dalton McDaniel was raised during the Great Depression. Growing up, he attended Fairview Elementary, Cloverdale Junior High and finally Central High School in Florence. In 1945, however, before he was able to graduate from Central, he was drafted into the United States Navy to fight in World War II.
McDaniel had never left Florence when he was sent to Chicago for basic training. After completing basic training, he traveled to New Orleans, where he boarded the USS LST 1126 and traveled through the Panama Canal to San Diego. In Seattle, the ship finished loading its supplies and disembarked for the Pacific Theater. For the next 20 months, McDaniel's feet would not touch the ground.
McDaniel fought in the Battle of Okinawa - one of the deadliest battles of World War II. The battle, which claimed nearly 300,000 lives, was also the last major battle of the war.
After the war ended, McDaniel returned home to Florence. He re-entered school in the hopes of earning his diploma, but was unable to finish.
McDaniel, now 89, was unaware that he would be receiving the degree on Wednesday. During the ceremony, he told attendees that he was at a loss for words.