Dan Frederic Shanower – Commander, United States Navy



Tuesday October 2, 2001

Courtesy of: Daily Herald of Illinois

In a secluded area of Arlington National Cemetery, the first military casualties of America's new war against terrorism will rest together for eternity.

Nearly three dozen military men and women killed in last month's attack on the Pentagon will forever be side by side in the nation's most sacred burial ground.

On Monday, the 12th of those victims – Navy Commander Dan Shanower of Naperville, Illinois, –  was buried amid all the solemnity America can bestow upon a fallen son.

A Naval intelligence officer, Shanower's grave site overlooks the Pentagon, where the destruction caused by the September 11, 2001, terrorist assault was clearly visible to mourners.

The day began with a Christian service at the Fort Meyer Old Post Chapel. Friends and co-workers eulogized Shanower as a patriot, an officer, a writer, a traveler, a gentleman.

“He covered it all,” one Naval commander said. “And he was a gift to us all.”

Military officials tightly restricted access to the funeral. Details were provided by a military spokeswoman.

Upon the service's conclusion, an honor guard placed the flag-draped casket atop a black caisson. The horse-drawn carriage then began a two-mile journey from the chapel to Shanower's final resting place.

A Navy band led the procession, playing the Navy hymn commonly known as “Eternal Father.” Shanower's parents and siblings followed the cortege as it wound through the cemetery on an unseasonably cool Virginia day.

Behind them walked nearly 250 friends and family, including Admiral William J. Fallon, Vice Chief of Operations of the Navy.

Once at the grave site, six sailors carried the commander's casket to the decorated officer's plot through a sea of white tombstones. His final resting place is in Section 64 – a secluded area rarely visited by tourists that is about a mile east of Tomb of the Unknowns.

Moments after the team put down the casket, a seven-man rifle squad fired three volleys.

As the shots echoed through the 612-acre cemetery, a lone bugler played taps.

After a 15-minute service – which included the reading of a letter of condolences from President George W. Bush – the casket team folded the American flag into a tight triangle and handed it to Admiral Richard Porterfield, Chief of Naval Intelligence and Shanower's supervisor at the Pentagon.

Porterfield presented the flag to Shanower's parents, Donald and Pat, as the Navy band played “America the Beautiful.”

Mourners, including officers dressed in crisp white dress uniforms, wiped away tears.

The Shanower family lingered after the ceremony, giving friends and family the opportunity to file out. Once alone, relatives each placed a single red rose on Shanower's casket.

Shanower, who lived in suburban Virginia, was assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence in June 1999. The Naperville Central High School graduate joined the Navy in 1985, later earning the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, two Navy
Commendation medals and the Navy Service Medal.

He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal at the grave site.

In the three weeks since the assault, the Shanower family has found solace in an article Shanower wrote for the U.S. Naval Institute magazine, “Proceedings.” His 1997 opinion piece, “Freedom Isn't Free,”paid tribute to four shipmates who died while on the aircraft carrier USS Midway.

“I believe that because they died in the prime of their lives in service of their country,” Shanower wrote, “their sacrifices take on special meaning.”

No doubt Shanower would have felt the same about the 189 people who died in the Pentagon attack, including those who will forever lie beside him.

“They knew the risks they were taking and gave their lives for something bigger than themselves,” he wrote of those on the USS Midway. “I'll never forget them and I'll never forget the day I learned that freedom isn't free.”

Commander Dan F. Shanower

Attack Location: Pentagon
Age: 40
Home: Vienna, Virginia

Navy Commander Dan F. Shanower had been posted around the world in his 15 years as a naval officer, but he was happy with his transfer to the staff of the Navy Command Center just more than a year ago, said his brother Jonathan Shanower, a lawyer in Naperville, Illinois.

“He loved being in Washington,” Shanower said. “He had spent some time there as a student at American University in the 1980s, and he loved politics.”

Dan Shanower, 40, was a lanky man with an easy smile who liked to spend his weekends hanging out at a Xando coffeehouse, his neighbors in Vienna said. On hot days, he was often seen behind his condominium complex washing his Lexus.

Jonathan Shanower said his brother was a very private person and revealed little about his personal life or much about his work, which had taken him to Japan, the Philippines and, for several tours, the aircraft carrier USS Midway.

“We didn't talk business,” Shanower said. “Family was important.”

Shanower grew up in Naperville, one of five siblings and the son of a schoolteacher, Patricia, and a retired college professor, Donald.

He went to Naperville Central High School, where he graduated in 1979, and then on to a private liberal arts institution, Carroll College in Wisconsin, where he graduated with a communications degree in 1983.

He applied and was accepted into naval officer training in Pensacola, Florida, shortly thereafter, his brother said. Shanower lived quietly in a town house community and was studying to receive his master's degree at Georgetown University, his brother said.

The family learned late Tuesday that he was unaccounted for.

“We are doing as best as can be expected,” Jonathan Shanower said. “I think we're doing better than a civilian family might be. As a military family, we have some idea of the potential of something like this happening, where a civilian family could never expect or imagine something as horrific as this.”
— Annie Gowen

Playful boy, serious Navy man

Thu Sep 11, 2003
By Susan Stevens Daily Herald Staff Writer

On the eve of September 11, 2001, a thread of affection linked Naperville to an office in the Pentagon.

Dan Frederic Shanower, 40, still had that charming smile, dry wit and adventurous spirit that won him friends growing up in Naperville. Fifteen years as a naval officer had earned him a prestigious post culling secrets for the Navy's top brass.

The man who once exasperated local authorities with his exploits had risen to the upper echelons of Navy intelligence.

Friends at home were proud of Dan. Some breathed easier knowing his new post held little of the danger he faced during years at sea.

Two years ago today, the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon and Dan's newly renovated office. None in the room with him survived.

“Dan would never have been happy in a routine job,” said his mother, Pat Shanower, a retired schoolteacher. “That's one of the things you have to think about. He was doing exactly what he wanted to do.”

Mischievous streak

Growing up on Loomis Street near downtown, Dan chafed at convention.

The fourth of five children, he found adventures for him-self — building a stage in the basement, a fort in the attic. When his siblings picked cherries in their yard, he was the one who raced off to peddle them door to door.

In family photos, Dan's the one making a goofy face.

“Even as a little kid he was a little mischievous,” said family friend Ruth Fawell, Dan's fifth-grade teacher at Highland Elementary. “They were such an exemplary family that some of us mere humans took great comfort one of them could misbehave.”

In class, Dan was smart and curious. “He was a very inquisitive kid who liked to write and liked to research,” Fawell said.

Dan played in Little League, but his career highlight was the game during which he lay down in the outfield.

“He did it for fun, which every kid should do,” said Eugene Drendel, who had a son in Little League at the same time. “But he wasn't into who won or who lost, to put it gently. He did, on occasion, just take a rest.”

Drendel, the principal at the junior high where Pat Shanower taught, said Dan was no athlete, but he still held a spot at the center of attention.

He thrived there.

“You'd go to McDonald's on a Friday night, and Dan would be holding court,” high school friend Dan Sterr said.

Dan's high school exploits have become favorite anecdotes for those who shared his teenage years.

There was the time Dan buried an unwanted car engine in his parents' yard. The time he installed living-room furniture in the Naperville Central High School courtyard. The time he named his soon-to-be-dissected fetal pig after WGN farm reporter Orion Samuelson.

The time Mayor George Pradel, then a police officer, pulled Dan over after curfew only to find he had replaced his car seats with lawn chairs.

At football and basketball games, Dan led the cheers in the stands. He was fearless talking to girls.

“He was one of the funniest guys I knew,” friend J.J. Tindall of Chicago said. “I think he would have made a great improv actor.”

After high school, Dan kept in touch. Tindall saved 15 letters Dan wrote him. He looked up friends on holidays and visited them at college.

“Dan was good friends with so many people, but you always felt you were his best friend when you were around him,” said Bob Johnson, who met Dan the first day of high school.

In those days, Dan never mentioned the military. Years later, though, his friends would remark how well the uniform suited him.

“He was in love with the whole idea,” Johnson said. “He had a passion for what he was doing.”

12-hour days

Dan arrived at the Pentagon every day at 3 a.m.

He'd spend the next hour checking on world developments — the bits of intelligence, telephone conversations, news reports and analyses of geopolitical events and troop movements his team had assembled overnight.

By 4:30 a.m., he was rehearsing a PowerPoint presentation and reviewing a two-page written summary that would be delivered in a series of briefings to the admirals.

“At 6:15 in the morning, the knock would come at the door,” said Navy Cmdr. Robert Rupp, who met Dan while working for the director of naval intelligence, the first admiral on Dan's briefing schedule.

Rupp since has taken over Dan's role as head of the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot. It's an intense position, Rupp said, and an influential one.

The intelligence team sets the stage for decisions on troop deployments and weapons development.

“It was a very prestigious job because of the visibility it gets,” said retired Capt. Mark Greer, former director of information technology for Navy intelligence. “You're the window to the intelligence world for the Navy staff in the Pentagon.”

In late summer of 2001, Dan's 32-person team moved into newly renovated offices in the Navy Command Center on the Pentagon's west side.

On Sept. 11, after finishing his briefings, Dan returned to his office with a team of analysts to begin collecting data on the attacks at the World Trade Center. He was there at 9:41 a.m., when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.

Life abroad

As an undergraduate at Carroll College in Wisconsin, Dan had his first taste of foreign affairs.

After an internship with U.S. Sen. Charles Percy in Washington, Dan enrolled in a course that included a trip to the Soviet Union.

During the fall, he studied the country's art, politics, literature and geography. On the trip that winter, Dan appreciated everything, said his professor, Eugene Haugse.

“When you travel for three weeks in a strange part of the world with a group of kids, it's always nice to have someone who can see the humor in everything,” Haugse said. “He was a great asset in that respect. He kept spirits high when the food was bad.”

When he became lost one day in Moscow, Dan later told his family, he drew a picture in the snow of the ship docked near his hotel. He pointed frantically at his drawing until someone showed him the way back to the hotel.

“Dan always found connections wherever he went,” Pat Shanower said. “He was interested in every new topic. Any new idea just grabbed him.”

When he graduated from college in 1983, Dan hadn't chosen a career. He spent a year as a resident adviser in a North Central College dorm, went on interviews and traveled. He decided he'd like to work in intelligence.

In February 1985, he joined the Navy.

Donald and Pat Shanower's free-spirited son had entered one of the most rule-bound professions.

News from Pentagon

The morning of Sept. 11, Pat and Donald Shanower were driving through North Dakota listening to the radio.

They were on their way to Montana, where they planned to watch their grandchildren before their eldest son, Tom, returned home from a research trip to China.

They heard about the planes hitting the twin towers. They heard about the crash at the Pentagon.

“We knew there were 25,000 people who worked in the Pentagon, so of course it couldn't affect our son,” Pat Shanower said. “We just kept driving. We were very positive.”

Pat was certain she'd find an e-mail from Dan waiting for her. When her mailbox was empty, she sent one to him.

That night, Dan's younger brother called.

“I knew from the tone of his voice,” Pat said. “I said, I know this is going to work out all right.' Jon tried to prepare me for the fact it wouldn't have a happy ending.”

In the Navy

Dan spent the first decade of his military career overseas. Part of that time he lived in Japan, where he debriefed pilots on the aircraft carrier USS Midway and served other functions as a Navy intelligence officer.

He made the most of his life abroad; he climbed Mount Fuji and tried to learn Japanese. At gatherings, he could captivate a crowd with his sea stories.

He also built a reputation as a smart, confident officer who loved his profession.

“He once told me it was almost a religion with him,” Cmdr. Stewart Holbrook said. “He took his job very seriously, protecting his country and just having pride in the Navy.”

His parents received photos of Dan in foreign ports wearing a kimono, peeking through bamboo stalks, hoisting his ceremonial sword. His nieces and nephews received stuffed iguanas and machetes for birthdays.

When he docked in Hawaii, he showed up at the hospital, where Holbrook's son was undergoing cancer treatments.

“That's the kind of stuff he would do, go out of his way to make people happy,” Holbrook said.

For four years in the early 1990s, Dan left active duty and took a position with the U.S. State Department serving the ambassador to the Philippines. When he returned to the Navy as a lieutenant commander, he met retired Capt. J.R. Reddig in San Diego.

“I realized within two or three sentences this was one of the funniest guys, with a dry wit and an absolutely captivating personality, and smart — holy smokes,” Reddig said. “He read extensively. He understood cultural differences. He really was a student of life and the world.”

A few years later, Dan won a post in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, Md. His next move was to the Pentagon.

He was happy to be back in the United States, in front of the decision-makers, where he hoped to advance his career.

“He just didn't want to get lost in the shuffle,” Donald Shanower said.

The cloak and dagger

Dan was drawn to intelligence work for the usual reasons, Reddig said.

“You want to know the secrets,” he said. “Dan enjoyed the cloak and dagger, and he also had the spirit many folks in the service had that you're doing good for your country and the world at large.”

In 2001, Dan was preparing for another career shift. He was finishing his final course for a master's degree in international studies at the Naval War College, where he demonstrated an aggressive curiosity for the subject.

“He was extraordinarily well-informed,” instructor Stephen McBrien said. “He was able to cite, in sort of a grad professor's dream, the relevant literature and different points of view.”

To advance to captain, Dan would have to take another tour as an intelligence officer on an aircraft carrier. But he had another goal: becoming an attache, the senior naval officer assigned to an ambassador at a foreign post, likely Hong Kong or Beijing.

He consulted with Reddig, who told him to go for it.

“He had all these grand dreams,” remembers his mother. “He was going to take a boat up the Mekong Delta. He was going to dive for sunken treasure around the Solomon Islands. He was going to write books. There was never a time he didn't have big dreams.”

In recent years he also had begun talking to friends about retiring from the Navy and starting a family.

“He wanted a wife and a family,” said Tindall, who shared a drink with his high school friend at Christmas in 1999. “The last night we were out together he was talking about that being the next hurdle, the next dream, maybe when he retired soon from the Navy.”

Rescue attempt

Dan would become the second victim identified in the crash at the Pentagon.

That morning, Fairfax County Fire Department Lt. Mike Regan had been watching news reports of the attack at the World Trade Center when the fire radio reported an explosion at the Pentagon.

Regan pulled up to the scene while the Pentagon was still burning.

“At some places, the smoke was so heavy you couldn't see anything,” he said. “But there was also a tremendous amount of heat.”

Regan led a nine-member team into the building to look for survivors. They hoped people might still be alive in air pockets created during the building's collapse.

Retreating after an initial search, the rescue team returned to work around midnight. Regan found Dan in an office, with five others.

There were no survivors.

“I know the first thing that came into my mind,” Regan said. “These people were easily identifiable, and we wanted to get them home. We knew there were a lot of people who were not going to be identified for a long time.”

Regan didn't recognize Dan's name, but he knew his hometown. He had taught courses in structure collapse with Naperville fire Capt. Chuck Wehrli, who was assisting rescue efforts in New York.

Regan said he has assisted at disaster sites worldwide. He makes it a policy never to go back once the work is finished.

But because the Shanowers invited him, Regan will be in Naperville today for the dedication of their son's memorial.

“We've been asked to go to a lot of things, and we've always declined,” Regan said. “But this is really special. These people went to such lengths, despite their personal loss, to contact me and ask me to be there with them. It's difficult to say no.”

Family in mourning

Dan officially was declared dead on Sept. 13, 2001.

The media converged on his family. Family members responded by pulling in.

Officials from North Central College, where Donald had retired from the theater department in 1986, worked with the Shanowers to issue a statement. The family declined interviews.

The public nature of Dan's death meant his family received hundreds of letters, flowers and even lasagna. They appreciated all of them, Pat Shanower said.

“The negative side was that you didn't always want to share how deep the pain was, is,” she said. “You just wanted to suffer in silence, I guess.”

In the days that followed, Gloria Johanns, an old friend, suggested a memorial for Dan, perhaps a flagpole on the Naperville Riverwalk. Pat Shanower thought it sounded nice.

Since then, the flagpole has grown to include a sculpture, bas-relief wall of faces, garden, eternal flame and monument markers. The community rapidly raised nearly $300,000.

Part of that, friends say, is because of the Shanowers, who quickly said the memorial ought to honor all who died on Sept. 11, not only Dan.

Part also is because Naperville is a community with a history of supporting such initiatives. Residents struck by the enormity of the terrorist attacks welcomed an outlet for contributions.

And then there was Shanower's essay, which he wrote in 1997 on the 10-year anniversary of four shipmates' deaths. Titled “Freedom Isn't Free,” the piece took on new significance after Sept. 11 and has appeared frequently in connection with the attacks.

“It was such a rare thing,” said Ruth Fawell, who served on the city commission that planned the memorial. “He not only came out of the community, but he exemplified the best of the town and, I think, the military. He gave everyone a focal point.”

Childhood friend Ken Wehrli said the memorial is important for people like him, who watched Dan grow as a man and an officer.

“His family is so humble about it,” he said. “They don't want the notoriety. But the rest of the city wants everyone to know how proud we are of him.”

At rest

On an overcast October day, Dan was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. You can see the Pentagon from his gravesite.

Since the funeral, Pat and Donald Shanower have established a scholarship in his name at Carroll College for students studying political science or foreign affairs.

They've been remembering their son through his words, recorded in letters, high school journals and writings at sea.

“When you're on a ship like the Midway at sea for months and months, there's lots of time to write,” Pat Shanower said. “So we have these reflections.”

But his best-known words continue to haunt many who knew him. In the essay about his lost shipmates, Dan wrote that their sacrifice took on special meaning because they died serving their country.

Those words have become immortalized.

They appear on a monument in Newport, R.I., on the grounds of the Naval War College, which lost two other students in the attack. They'll also appear in the new garden on the Naperville Riverwalk, where Dan's portrait has been cast on a wall representing all the victims of Sept. 11.

“They knew the risks they were taking, and gave their lives for something bigger than themselves,” his tribute ends. “I'll never forget them, and I'll never forget the day I learned that freedom isn't free.”

NOTE: Commander Shanower was laid to rest in Section 64 of Arlington National Cemetery, in the shadows of the Pentagon.

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