- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 9, 2002

The Pentagon has rejected the request of a highly decorated World War II veteran to award him the Medal of Honor.
Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White said the country's highest award for valor will not be granted to Wallace M. Gallant, of Virginia Beach because of lack of proof of the veteran soldier's heroic actions.
Mr. Gallant, 76, received a Distinguished Service Cross, the country's second-highest award for valor.
"After giving this request careful consideration, it is my determination that the award of the Medal of Honor is not warranted due to the lack of eyewitness statements required for 'incontestable proof,'" Mr. White wrote in a May 7 letter to Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, who asked the Pentagon to review Mr. Gallant's case.
"Sergeant Gallant's actions, while heroic, do not 'clearly distinguish the individual above his comrades,'" Mr. White added.
Mr. Gallant, who has been campaigning for an award upgrade for the past five years, said yesterday he is disappointed with Mr. White's decision. He said he and his fellow veterans who fought alongside him in Europe in 1945 have contacted the White House military office for help.
"What can I say; the secretary is wrong," Mr. Gallant said. "This is an ill-advised decision and frankly I don't think he knows what he's talking about. We had four eyewitnesses who sent statements. This is just a terrible mistake."
A spokesman for Mr. Warner said Friday the senator is disappointed with the decision.
"Senator Warner certainly believed that it was important for the Pentagon to review this case because the record and the heroism that this man demonstrated under extraordinary circumstances was and is what this nation needs to be appreciative of," the spokesman said.
Retired Capt. Douglas LaRue Smith, who served as Mr. Gallant's company commanding officer, has written a letter to Mr. White asking him to reconsider his decision.
"Our hope for Wallace Gallant was purely on merit, and he was indeed, as any fair-minded person would have to admit, the 'Sergeant York of World War II,'" Mr. Smith wrote. "That you and others in the Pentagon choose not to see it, and will not accept the 100 percent solid evidence we have given you to support it, has demeaned and debased our country's highest award, and it is a terrible legacy for all of you to leave behind you in your own military careers."
Mr. Gallant's campaign for the country's most coveted medal began in 1997 when he found out the Pentagon was reviewing Distinguished Service Cross medals given to Asian-Americans during World War II for possible upgrades to the Medal of Honor. A year later, he found out that black soldiers from the same war he fought were also granted a medal review.
A 1996 study conducted by Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., found there was a racial disparity in the way Medal of Honor recipients were selected and that U.S. Army practices and the political climate during the war guaranteed that no black soldier would receive the military's top award.
After the study was completed, Congress passed a law that created a way around the 1952 statute of limitations that blocked new World War II medals. About the same time, Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, wrote a provision of the 1996 Defense Authorization Act mandating a review of the service records of Asian-Pacific Americans who received the Distinguished Service Cross.
As a result, in 1997 President Clinton awarded the Medal of Honor to seven black veterans for their service during World War II. Three years later, Mr. Clinton awarded the Medal of Honor to 21 Asian-Americans, including Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat.
Mr. Gallant, who is white, argued that since the records of those veterans were reviewed, his should be too.
In 1945, an injured 20-year-old Sgt. Gallant killed nearly 100 German Waffen SS 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.
In the end, 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 the "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 from war.
In his letter, Mr. White said Mr. Gallant's deeds have not gone unnoticed. "This brave soldier clearly has distinguished himself by the courageous actions recognized by the Distinguished Service Cross," he wrote. "That the Medal of Honor is not awarded to Sergeant Gallant does not diminish in any way from this soldier's outstanding contribution to our country."
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. A few noncombatants, such as Col. Charles A. Lindbergh, have received a special Medal of Honor.


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