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Frederick Donald Daniloff
12 Mar 1938 – 22 Feb 1974
Died during an experimental test flight
at Fort Rucker, Alabama,
aged 35 years,
Interment: West Point Cemetery,
West Point, New York

Frederick Donald Daniloff

Class Memorial Pages\C-2 Fred Daniloff.pdf

THOSE OF US WHO were close to Fred will never understand why his life was taken in a tragic airplane accident at a period of time when he had so much more to offer his lovely wife and children, his relatives and friends, and of course, his country. But in the short thirty-five years that we knew him, Frederick Donald Daniloff loved life to the fullest, and those of us who still mourn his passing can be comforted with the certain fact that Fred would want us to continue to live our lives as he did — filled with love, confidence, a wholesome zest for living, and total dedication to family, country, and the principles in which he believed. A singular testimony to the love and admiration which so many of us had for Fred is the fact that it took so long to finally put into words this memorial tribute. With the passage of five years the sadness remains, yet Fred’s family and friends — expecially his children who are now much older — can perhaps better appreciate his accomplishments now at a time somewhat removed from the bitterness and shock that accompanied his passing on 22 February 1974./td>

A simple narrative biography of this soldier’s life would not do justice to the man, nor to those who knew him. Fred was a soldier, a scholar, a gentleman, a devoted husband, and a dedicated father. He was also a brilliant, sharp-witted, and extremely confident man. His humor was subtle, yet his laughter was contagious. He was the most loyal and devoted friend a man could have, and he had no equal as a husband and father.

Fred was born to Walter and Alice Daniloff, the eldest of six children in North Abington, Massachusetts, but Brockton, Massachusetts, was his real home since his family moved there when he was five. From his earliest years Fred participated in many activities that prepared him for West Point. He was active in athletics, scouting, and no doubt his lifetime “self-acknowledged” fishing prowess began as he hunted and fished with his dad as a boy. In junior high Fred played basketball and baseball and developed the qualities that later made him such a successful military leader. Even in junior high, saddled with the chores created by a family of eight, Fred managed to do — or have done (“detailing,” as his mother recalls) — jobs like mowing, watering, putting out the rubbish, or picking fruit from the orchard, so he could devote more time to the sports he loved so much. The tremendous confidence, poise, and infectious optimism that later became a trademark of Fred’s personality became obvious at an early age.

Fred was a tremendous student as a youngster and his scholarly achievements carried him through West Point, Stanford, and later the United States Naval Test pilot School in grand style. His mother recalled a junior high incident that those who were close to Fred could appreciate. One day she slipped into his class and distracted him enough to cause him to make one of few mistakes at the blackboard. The rest of the class snickered and laughed observing that they finally got “Mr. Right” to make a mistake — he made very few mistakes from then on, and he always, throughout his life, did what he thought was right — morally and professionally.

After high school graduation in 1955, Fred applied to Northeastern University and was accepted; however, he decided to enter the Army along with three high school friends. A short Army tour, a year at United States Military Academy Preparatory School, and Fred found himself as a member of the Class of 1961. Fred established his mark at West Point as a cadet — his Howitzer “bio” brings back fond memories:

“Considered as ‘no sweat,’ Fred expended most of his energies in sports while keeping his marks within the top 150. He is a disciple of having a good time — his best moments of college life at West Point were on vacations. Fred’s future wife will no doubt have a great influence on his future — a bright future, too!”

Joe Palone, who only this year retired from coaching soccer, remembered Fred who played intercollegiate soccer for him as a cadet eighteen years ago. A “tough kid” Joe recalls — one of the “toughest kids” he ever had play soccer for him.

If Fred enjoyed his vacations to the degree that was imagined, it must have been because he was seeing Phyllis most of the time. Phyllis Smith became Phyllis Daniloff on 9 September 1961 and as the Howitzer said, she quickly had an influence on Second Lieutenant Frederick Daniloff — he no longer would enjoy the last word — at least not always. Phyllis and later the arrival of Debbie, Eric, and Philip (in that order) played a major role in Fred’s life; in fact, his life centered around his family to as large a degree that an Army officer’s can.

Academic achievements at West Point led Fred into the Engineers and after branch school, Airborne, Ranger, and some other Engineer-related courses. The Daniloffs moved to Fort Lewis where Debbie was born on 17 August 1962. A short tour to Alaska was intermixed, then the Daniloffs moved to Fort Rucker where Fred’s flying career began. After graduation from the fixed wing officer’s course in September, Fred completed the rotary wing course at Fort Wolters. A son, Eric, was born in November 1964 and soon after the family again moved, this time to Italy, and duty with the 110th Aviation Company, Southern European Task Force (SETAF). During the period with SETAF, Fred was cited by the Secretary of State of the Holy See for his work with the Operation Mount San Guglielmo humanitarian project, a shrine-rebuilding effort for the Italian people. After that project Fred was assigned to Vietnam where he served as a pilot and section commander with the 101st Airborne and the Engineer Command. Fred received the Air Medal with Valor, nineteen Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Bronze Star during his first tour.

Following Vietnam, Fred completed the Engineer Career Course at Fort Belvoir, once again graduating from a school with honors. In 1968, now a major, Fred moved with his family to Fort Riley for duty with the 158th Aviation Battalion. Shortly thereafter, in January 1969, he was back in Vietnam commanding the 91st Assault Helicopter Company. Philip was born during the second Vietnam tour.

Fred found his “niche” as a commander. He was a superb commanding officer as those who worked for him or with him have testified. He later revealed that the culmination of his career was his command of that company — but with his special talents where else would he have been better challenged than as a leader of men? Fred led his troops by example as this narrative of his award of the Distinguished Flying Cross shows:

“Major Daniloff distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions while serving as aircraft commander of a transport mission to land near a downed aircraft and extract two wounded soldiers near Chou Duc. As he descended into the landing zone he came under enemy automatic weapons and mortar fire. Upon landing his aircraft he became the target of heavy enemy fire as he courageously attempted to extract the two men who were found dead in the aircraft. Fifteen minutes later, he volunteered to make an extremely critical evacuation of several wounded allied soldiers. Again, upon descending, his ship came under intense enemy fire with the mortar fire increasing as he landed. He remained on the ground directing the suppressive fire of his door gunners until all of the wounded were on board.”

The action described was typical of Fred throughout his life — always willing to help others regardless of the cost to himself.

Upon rotation to the United States, Fred, Phyllis, and children spent the next eighteen months at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, where Fred obtained his master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering. That period of time was one of great enjoyment for the Daniloffs: reunited, stable, a home, and a wonderful life in California.

After some flight cross-training, Fred embarked on his experimental test pilot career. At Patuxent River, Maryland, he sailed through one of the military service’s most difficult and demanding schools — the United States Naval Test Pilot School. As the class leader and as a close friend to all, he helped everyone “do battle” with engineering test projects and complicated, demanding academic courses. Sometimes I think he “baffled” the staff at that institution in that he did so well, but it was really more than that. Nothing ever got Fred down — and he simply always did what had to be done. His example was a shining light for the rest of us, and no matter how difficult things got, he shrugged the difficulties off as minor annoyances.

A final assignment at the United States Aviation Systems Activity at Edwards Air Force Base, California, was a prelude to the fatal airplane accident in an OV1 Mohawk test flight on 22 February 1974 at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

So life for the rest of us goes on. Phyllis will raise the children as she would if Fred were still alive. Nothing can fill the void that we all now have in our lives, but the feeling persists that Fred would not want us to spend too much time reflecting on his demise. His personality. His enthusiasm — the way he looked at the present and to the future — was such that he would have us go about our lives with the same anticipation and optimism he welcomed every day that he lived. So to all who loved him — especially Eric, Debbie, and Philip — let’s continue to live our lives the way your dad would — with love for each other, respect for our fellow man, and with complete optimism and confidence in everything we do — what better legacy could be established in your father’s memory?

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings:
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds . . . and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of . . . wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew
And, while the silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

— Bob Tetu

ASSEMBLY, March 1980


I remember you, Uncle Freddie, making sand castles with me when I was a kid. I'll always have some memories, even though there were so few. Only last year, after looking through a scrapbook, did I find out what an incredible soldier and human being you really were. I wish I could have gotten to know you better before you left us.

Your loving niece, Karen Hubbard

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