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ID #5239

Dan Pienaar, Soldier, South Africa.

Major-General Daniel Hermanus (Dan) Pienaar was a WW2 military commander.

He joined the artillery branch of the Natal Police (NP) in 1911 and transferred to the Union Defense Force (UDF) when they took over the NP in 1913. In WW1, he served in the artillery with the South African Overseas Expeditionary Force in German East Africa (Tanzania) and Palestine. In 1940-1941, during the East African Campaign, Pienaar commanded the 1st South African Infantry Brigade and fought in the battles of El Wak, The Juba, Combolcia, and Amba Alagi. During the North African Campaign he fought at Sidi Rezegh and Gazala. In March 1942 he was promoted GOC 1st South African Infantry Division which he led in the battle of Gazala, the retreat to Egypt, the defense of El Alamein, and the final battle of El Alamein. He was twice awarded the DSO and twice mentioned in dispatches for service in North Africa.

In November 1942 he was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) "in recognition of the supreme gallantry and magnificent achievements of British and Dominion Troops and their Commanders in the present operations in the Middle East".
During the early part of the North African campaign (November 1941), the South African 5th Brigade had been destroyed at Sidi Rezegh. In June 1942 the 2nd Division (4 and 6 Brigades), surrendered at Tobruk. As a result of these losses Pienaar became cautious and increasingly reluctant to risk his troops. It was felt, unfairly, that his division lacked the necessary aggressiveness and drive for offensive operations. However they played an important part in the victory at El Alamein.

In 1942, Pienaar was killed in an air crash in Kenya while returning to South Africa.

Major General Pienaar was one of South Africa's most charismatic and popular military commanders. An infantry regiment, the exhibition hall at the South African National Museum of Military History and a suburb of Bloemfontein were named after him.

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Last update: 2014-05-14 16:54
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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