- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2002

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. A few noncombatants, like Capt. Charles A. Lindbergh, have received a special Medal of Honor.
Mr. Gallant's campaign for the country's most coveted medal began five years ago, 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.
Why review records some 50 years after the war?
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. The Army contracted the study in 1993.
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, who, according to his Senate biography, "slogged through nearly three bloody months of the Rome-Arno campaign with the U.S. Fifth Army and established himself as an outstanding patrol leader with the 'Go-For-Broke Regiment.'"
Mr. Gallant, who is white, argues that since the records of those veterans were reviewed, his should be, too.
Pentagon officials said Friday that Mr. Gallant's request for the medal upgrade is being reviewed. The process may take another 45 to 60 days.
Mr. Gallant, a native of Maine, won other awards for bravery in World War II, including the Bronze Star three times. He later served in Korea and Vietnam, during which he won two other awards for bravery and good conduct. He went on to become a lieutenant colonel before retiring from the Army in 1971.
Mr. Gallant said he will never give up his campaign for the medal. "You don't quit when you know you're right," he said.


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