Veteran Petitions for Highest Honor

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 4, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Veteran Petitions for Highest Honor

Byline: Ellen Sorokin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Wallace M. Gallant helped break the back of a 1945 German counterattack during World War II. Now, more than half a century later, the 76-year-old widower from Hampton, Va., is seeking a review of his war record with the hope of winning a Medal of Honor.

Many of the soldiers he fought with believe he deserved to get the medal 57 years ago. For his bravery, Mr. Gallant received a Distinguished Service Cross, the country's second-highest award for valor.

"The Medal of Honor is the epitome of being a soldier," said Mr. Gallant, now a retired Army lieutenant colonel. "For the fighting men and women in this country, that's it."

Mr. Gallant's campaign for a review of his war record has attracted the attention of Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, who has forwarded the case to Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White.

"We believe Mr. Gallant has a superb combat record, and we'd like to see this issue resolved quickly," an official at Mr. Warner's office said.

In 1945, an injured 20-year-old Sgt. Gallant killed nearly 100 German Waffen SS enemy troops outside Lampaden, Germany. Mr. Gallant, armed with only a rifle, also single-handedly rescued six captured U.S. soldiers, captured six German soldiers and helped beat back an enemy counterattack, according to Army documents and eyewitness accounts."I sort of did all of this by myself because most of my men were down," Mr. Gallant remembered in an interview last week. "You don't think about what you have to do when you're in battle. You just do it."

Mr. Gallant's unit, Company M, 3rd Battalion, 302nd Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division, was credited with killing at least 500 Germans and received

a presidential citation for its actions. Mr. Gallant's superiors called him "Sgt. [Alvin C.] York of World War II." Sgt. York was a soldier who during World War I single-handedly killed or captured 157 Germans during the Battle of Argonne in 1918. He was regarded as a hero when he returned home after the war.

"What Wally did stands out as one of the very important victories we had at the time," said Douglas LaRue Smith, who served as Mr. Gallant's company commander during the action outside Lampaden. Mr. Smith, of Rye Brook, N.Y., is one of the main organizers of the campaign to award Mr. Gallant the Medal of Honor.

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the armed services of the United States. More than 3,400 men and women in the services have received the award since its implementation in 1861.

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