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Soldier of the Two World Wars

Mapmaker, Daniel O’Madigan Kennedy Celebrates His First 100 Years

By Hylan Beydler, USGS, Rolla, Missouri

Col. (Retired) Daniel O’Madigan Kennedy’s first one hundred years are awash with tears and smiles. Mr. Kennedy celebrated his 100th birthday March 5, 2001 with nearly 400 friends and family members. Kennedy is a decorated veteran of World War I and World War II who became Chief Topographic Engineer for the Central Region (position now known as Mapping Center Chief) at the USGS in Rolla, Missouri in 1948 and retired from the Survey in 1970 in that capacity.

Mr. Kennedy’s career with the Survey began in 1926 when he was a student at the Missouri School of Mines (MSM--now the University of Missouri-Rolla) in Rolla, Missouri. In 1926 with a degree in Civil Engineering he went on to complete the junior engineer civil service requirements and earned a Master’s Degree in 1935 (Civil Engineering).

In 1942, he entered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and in 1944 Kennedy was assigned as commander of the 1681st Engineer Survey Liaison Detachment, called “Kennedy’s Kommandos.” In 1944 he distinguished himself in the European Theater serving under General George S. Patton, Jr. in the 3rd Army, where he was General Patton’s chief mapmaker.

General Patton agonized over the Army’s inability to discover the location of a particular Nazi gun. Only the enemy had any information about the gun’s location – a quite frustrating situation for the Army. When pondering possible courses of action, Kennedy said, “That’s what you’ve got me for. I was sent here to augment the engineering section. We can plot the trajectories.”

The problem was that the Germans were using their own map grid system. By translating the German map grid system to the American standard, we found the tunnel where the gun was mounted on a railway car, gave the artillery all the pertinent information, and they destroyed the gun.

Kennedy later served as Chief Topographic Engineer for the Army’s Map Service in Washington, D.C., and was called again to active army service as deputy task force engineer on the Eniwetok Atomic Bomb experiments in the Marshall Islands. Kennedy settled in at the Survey as Chief Topographic Engineer for the Central in 1948 until his retirement on February 13, 1970.

In a ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri on his 99th birthday, he was awarded the Legion of Honor for service in France during World War I. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been assisting France in its effort to bestow the National Order of the Legion of Honor (that country's highest honor) to surviving members of the U.S. armed forces who fought on French soil during World War I.

Mr. Kennedy’s first century was marked with a number of celebrations. American Legion Post 270 of Rolla honored Col. Kennedy February 15 for more than 80 years of service to the community and country. Post Commander, Jimmy Brown, introduced Kennedy and referred to him as “one of the most valued treasures in Rolla’ and a “man of the millennium.”

February 21, Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan and Mrs. Jean Carnahan hosted a luncheon in Mr. Kennedy’s honor. Governor Carnahan spoke and presented a proclamation recognizing Mr. Kennedy’s public, military, and civil service. According to Jean Carnahan, it was the largest reception ever held in the mansion.

Kennedy also received a letter from USGS Director Charles Groat. Dr. Groat’s letter commended Kennedy stating, “It gives me great pleasure to wish you birthday greetings in honor of your 100th birthday. I am particularly proud of your faithful service to the U.S. Geological Survey…Your contributions to the success of the USGS during your service in Rolla include increasing the stature of the USGS in the community, contributing to the diversity of the USGS workforce, and advancing the work, and the employees of the Center.

March 5, Oak Meadow Country Club in Rolla was the site for Dan’s 100th birthday celebration. Max Ethridge, Mid-Continent Mapping Center (USGS, Rolla, Missouri), read and presented a letter wishing birthday greetings and commending Kennedy for his contributions to the United States, the USGS and in the US Army. “Your distinguished Army service in both World Wars… exemplify your strength of spirit and determination….Your ingenuity in translating the German map grid system to the American standard, resulting in your award of the Bronze Star by General Patton, is an inspiring example of your enviable reputation as one committed to excellence.

April 17 Jo Ann Emerson, U.S. Representative from Missouri’s Eighth District, presented Mr. Kennedy the U.S. Flag that was flown in honor of his birthday the month prior. The room was filled with USGS employees, former colleagues, and friends.

“I have so many friends,” Kennedy said. He holds his colleagues in high regard saying, “People talk about the USGS being a family, but I insist they “are” family.”

Mr. Kennedy authored a book recounting his life, “SURVEYING THE CENTURY a Soldier of the Two World Wars, and Topographic Engineer, Remembers. Daniel Kennedy resides in his home at 1955 Monterey Court, Rolla, MO 65401.


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