Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

DANIEL  KANNEGAARD

 

 

 


ARMY ENGINEER

BRANCH INSIGNIA

26th ENGINEER BATTALION

UNIT CREST


DANIEL C. (DAN) KANNEGAARD

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 Army, Vietnam

 

Daniel Kannegaard was born in Wallace, Idaho in 1934, one of six children in his second generation Danish immigrant family.   He grew up in that mining town of about 5,000 population but, his father was not a miner.  He had started out working on a ranch but after a horse fell and rolled over on him his resulting disabilities left him unable to be a ranch hand or work in the mines.  By the time Daniel was born his father was working as a carpenter and the family was living in town.  Dan graduated from Wallace High School in 1953 and, like most of the boys growing up there, he also went to work in the mines.  He was employed at the Star Mine, a “hard rock” operation producing lead, zinc and some gold and silver.  He worked a variety of tasks, including drilling and blasting which required handling fuses and setting explosive charges, dangerous skills all picked up in on-the-job training without the benefit of formal instruction; and he was happy doing so for his first three years out of high school.  Then he got drafted.

 

Dan was inducted into the Army April 11, 1956, entering active duty at Fort Ord, California.  He was sent to Fort Carson, Colorado and assigned to the 28th Infantry Division, a division then filling with draftees and being readied to “gyro” to Germany.  After his initial 16 weeks of training, he used his leave time to return home and marry the girl next door.  He and Dolores “Tikey” Vroman were married in September 1956, and then upon his return to Fort Carson in October, the division deployed to Europe.  Private Kannegaard shipped over on the transport, U.S.S. Upshur, and upon arrival his unit moved from the port to its permanent station at Heilbronn.  Tikey” and many of the other dependent wives received their authorization for non-concurrent travel to Europe and joined their husbands several months later.  During that assignment the Kannegaard’s only child, a son, was born in the military hospital in Stuttgart.  Complications in the replacement of “gyro” units resulted in Dan being allowed to return home for discharge several months before his 2-year term as a draftee was completed.

 

In January 1958, Dan and his family returned to the United States.  He was discharged from active duty, but immediately signed up with the Army Reserve and was assigned to Company D, 321st Engineer Battalion back home in Wallace, Idaho.  He went to work again in the Star Mine, this time with training and equipment as part of the mine rescue team.  He was never comfortable in that job, because most of the miners had been his friends and schoolmates since childhood and the thought of having to retrieve bodies of life-long friends after a disaster was difficult to even think about, and disasters are inevitable (in fact, a few years later 91 men were lost in the Sunshine Silver Mine, only about 15 miles away in nearby Kellogg, Idaho, in what still ranks as the second worst mining disaster in U.S. history).  So, after several years in the Army Reserve he made a career choice to go back on active duty.  Prior-service reenlistment retaining his rank of Sergeant made the decision easier for him.

 

Returning to Fort Ord, California, Sergeant Kannegaard reported for duty at the US Army Training Center in June 1960, but he didn’t stay there long.  He volunteered for another family-accompanied “long tour” in Europe and in October was sent as an individual replacement to Company D, 547th Engineer Battalion at Taylor Barracks in Mannheim, Germany.  Again, his family was denied concurrent travel and after several months delay joined him later. He was not quite able to serve out the full three-year tour in Mannheim, due to reorganization within the command.  The personnel and equipment remained the same, but his company was re-designated as Company D, 20th Engineer Battalion with station in Giessen, where Dan spent his last six months before normal rotation back to the United States in September 1963.

 

He spent his next stateside assignment at Fort Lee, Virginia. The first year he was in Company C, 588th Engineer Battalion and in November 1964 he was moved to a job in the battalion headquarters.  The next year many units began deploying to Vietnam as the troop buildup there began in earnest.  The 588th Engineers were shipped to Vietnam in October 1965.  Dan’s battalion loaded aboard the U.S.S. Upshur, which by unlikely coincidence was the same vessel that had taken him to Europe nine years earlier.

 

The 588th Engineer Battalion was a corps level unit and their initial assignment placed them at Bien Hoa Air Base in support of the 1st Infantry Division.  About six months later they were moved to Cu Chi where they supported the 25th Infantry Division.  During this time, Sergeant First Class Kannegaard was Recon Sergeant in the battalion S-2 staff section and the only surviving photo that he has to accompany this article from his two tours in Vietnam is of him and the helicopter that had just flown him on a mission to inspect and report on the condition of five bridges within their area of operations.  After 14 months “in country” Daniel received orders for an inter-theatre transfer from Vietnam directly to Europe.

 

On this, their third time in Germany, the Kannegaard’s were able to complete the full three year tour in one place.  They were in Aschaffenburg from December 1966 to December 1969 while Dan was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 9th Engineer Battalion in Smith Barracks.

 

Upon return to the United States, Dan had a fourteen month assignment at Fort Carson, Colorado with Company A, 7th Engineer Battalion before being ordered back to Vietnam. He arrived at Cam Ranh Bay in February 1971 assigned to Company B, 26th Engineer Battalion, the organic engineer battalion of the Americal Division. He was seven months into that second tour when wounded and medevac’d back to the United States.

 

In Company B, Dan was in charge of a “land clearing platoon” equipped with specially modified bulldozers known as “rome plows.”  Today he says, “On September 5th, we were working at a road junction on Highway 1 that was about a half-hour flying time from Cam Ranh Bay, in an area that was known to be heavily mined. It also happened to be only about a mile from Ho Chi Minh’s birthplace.  One of the dozers was stuck, having slipped down into a bomb crater, and we were retrieving it.  I was going down to hook up an anchor chain to pull it out and just as I was about to step up onto the dozer I set off a mine. Later, it was identified as a modified M-79 grenade launcher round rigged as a mine and the men told me I was blown 25 feet in the air.  My only conscious memory was realizing my left foot was shattered and looking down and seeing my toes pointed up at me at an odd angle.  A report went in immediately and since our Battalion headquarters was next to the Cam Ranh Bay hospital a “dustoff” helicopter was dispatched in record time.  I was carried into the hospital 45 minutes after it happened.”

 

The major surgery was done at Cam Ranh Bay, the left foot and part of the ankle were amputated, but after only two days hospitalization there he was medically evacuated to Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in Denver, Colorado.  There were brief stops enroute at Guam and Travis Air Force Base in California. At the hospital on Guam, Dan had a brief reunion with three of his men who had been wounded earlier and were recuperating there in anticipation of returning to duty at Cam Ranh Bay.

 

Dan remained as a patient at Fitzsimmons from September 1971 until February 1972, being treated and fitted for prosthesis. He was determined to stay in the Army during a time when amputees were routinely being medically discharged. He had to fight hard against Medical Board action, insisting that he could still perform all duties required, even with an artificial foot—and he won. Dan went on to serve thirteen more years active duty at Fort Bliss, Texas, Fort Riley, Kansas, and even had a tour in Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division’s engineer battalion, until finally, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Master Sergeant Daniel Kannegaard retired from the Army in May 1985.  But, he still wasn’t finished.

 

He moved to Ogden, Utah and began a second career in Civil Service.  For the next fourteen years he served three different federal agencies in succession, working as a warehouseman, first for the Defense Mapping Agency, then for Ogden Army Depot, and finally for Hill Air Force Base, before retiring for the second time in September 1999.

 

Daniel and Dolores Kannegaard continued to live in Ogden.  They acquired a very large motor home RV and put it to extensive use for recreational travel.  In June 2005, Dolores passed away unexpectedly during a trip in Canada.  Soon after that Daniel moved from Ogden to Rathdrum, Idaho (August 2006) conveniently near his childhood hometown of Wallace. But, he continues to make frequent use of his RV, especially for extended visits to Texas during the winter months; with destinations in Austin to see his niece (and our Unit 1919 Trustee) Laurie Anne Hudgeons, and this year in Houston, meeting his sister.  In 2008 “Uncle Danny” was Fred and Laurie Anne’s guest at our George Washington’s Birthday Dinner Party in the Austin Club and he liked us so much that he joined MOPH, signing up with Chapter 1919.  He is back again now and just provided all the above in an interview, but is leaving for Houston intending to return for this year’s Dinner Party on the 18th, and this time bringing his sister and her husband as his guests. Don’t just sit home reading this story, sign up for the party and come out and meet these people yourself.

 

This month, PATRIOT BULLETIN proudly salutes Patriot Daniel C. Kannegaard.

 



"Rome plow.”

Dan’s platoon had five of these modified bulldozers and he was wounded by an improvised land mine when working to retrieve one of them that was disabled at the bottom of a bomb crater.

Navy photo of the transport U.S.S. Upshur.

Dan was shipped overseas with troop units twice, once to Europe in 1956, and then to Vietnam ten years later. Both times he just happened to be on the same ship.


TOP PHOTO

 

SFC KANNEGAARD

VIETNAM, 1965


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