On March 30th, Patrick was remembered in his hometown of Ballyhaunis with an tremendous turnout for a Memorial Mass and Parade to the town's cemetery for a graveside ceremony performed by a Colour Guard from the Irish Defence Forces. Along the parade route, as also occurred during Patrick's funeral, school children came out to the sidewalks, storekeepers and villagers stood in recognition and the event was captured on video & photographs by both the IDF and local Photographers.
Patrick returned home to his final resting place in Ballyhaunis, following his death in an ambush in Vietnam.
Among the letters of consolation delivered to his family, Senator Bobby Kennedy (NY) wrote to offer his condolences to the Gallaghers for their son & brother who had canvassed for his successful election. The Senator wrote
"Winston Churchill said, `Courage is rightly esteemed as the first of all human qualities because it is the one that guarantees all others'. This courage Corporal Gallagher gave to all of us.
To him, and to his family, are due the thanks of a humbly grateful nation."
Corporal Patrick "Bob" Gallagher
Everybody that knew him, knew him as "Bob", though his given name was Patrick. He was the second-eldest of nine children born to Mary and Peter Gallagher. They lived at Derrintogher, three miles from Ballyhaunis in Co Mayo, Ireland.
When he was 18, Patrick left home and emigrated to his aunts' home on Long Island in New York, and began to build his new life in America.
In 1966, Bob was drafted and joined the US Marine Corps, after a three week visit home he returned to New York and in April of that year he shipped out to Vietnam with Hotel Company, 2/4 Marines, 3rd Marine Division as an Ammunition Carrier with an infantry unit.
Awarded THE NAVY CROSS - (The Navy's award is second only to the nation's highest award, The Congressional Medal of Honor, recognizing combat valor. It shares this position with the Army's Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Force Cross awards)
MARCH 1, 1967 - Front page article relating the medal ceremony conducted personally by Gen Westmoreland.
Please Click Image For Full Size
In July 1966, while other members of his unit slept, enemy fighters infiltrated the area, and on approaching his unit's position they threw grenades in on top of his squad. "Four of them had been manning a defense post at Cam Lo near the border with North Vietnam, when it was attacked by Communist forces. Patrick kicked a grenade out of their position before it exploded and, as the citation for the Navy Cross he was later awarded read, "another enemy grenade followed and landed in the position between two of his comrades. Without hesitation, in a valiant act of self-sacrifice, Corporal Gallagher threw himself upon the deadly grenade in order to absorb the explosion and save the lives of his comrades.
"As the three other marines ran to safety two further grenades landed in the position and exploded, "miraculously injuring nobody". Patrick's squad leader ordered him to throw the grenade he was lying on into a nearby river. It exploded on hitting the water. "Through his extraordinary heroism and inspiring valor in the face of almost certain death, he saved his comrades from probable injury and possible loss of life," the citation continued.
"It is a pleasure to pin this on your breast," said Gen Westmoreland, commander of all US forces in Vietnam, at the awards ceremony there. It is said that Patrick was told at the time that the only reason the military authorities decided to award Patrick the Navy Cross, and not the US forces' highest honor the Congressional Medal of Honor, was only that “the grenade had not exploded and killed him… if it had, he would have certainly been a shoe-in”.
Only months after receiving this prestigious Award, Patrick was killed in action in Vietnam.
OUR MISSION: To Have A United States Navy Ship Named To Honor Cpl Patrick "Bob" Gallagher
The US Navy is slated to procure additional Destroyers in the coming years. This would be a unique way for our country to say thank you for your shining example, courageous selflessness in defense of your fellow Marines, and your mission. There would be no better recognition of this service & commitment than a powerful modern vessel out in the world at sea, under the US Navy Flag, carrying the name of one of her immigrant heroes!
The primary responsibility for naming new United States Navy ships lays with the US Secretary of the Navy.
With YOUR help and that of your friends, colleagues and communities, we hope to persuade Secretary Maybus
to honor Patrick, believing that Patrick "Bob" Gallagher fully committed himself to this his adopted homeland, answered the call to serve when drafted, served bravely and with distinction, inspiring others with his selfless courage, and making the ultimate sacrifice on our country's behalf.
Patrick's Return To Ballyhaunis
Following his courageous action in 1966, Patrick was nominated for an award, and after timely review it was determined that he would earn The Navy Cross and he was notified of the upcoming ceremony. On January 28th, 1967, he wrote home, he had chosen not to tell his family that he was serving in Veitnam before that. He wrote to tell his Mom before she was contacted by the press, as they were writing their news stories in New York, and at home in Ireland!
Bob began the letter: "I hope you won't be too mad at me for the news I got for you. When I was at home last year I had my orders for Vietnam when I went back to the US. I have been in Vietnam since last April (1966) and I will be leaving here in 60 days. Now don't get worried. Everything is going just fine here and I am enjoying it very much."
“I was afraid you might worry too much so I made my aunt and sister in New York promise they would not tell you I was there. I had planned on not telling you myself until I got back to the US." He made light of his heroism and the upcoming award, describing his selfless act of valor humbly "It was not much, but they made a big thing of it," he said.
On March 30th, 1967, he was shot dead while on patrol in Da Nang. He was 23. The American embassy in Dublin contacted Father Rushe, parish priest in Ballyhaunis. He told Patrick's parents following that Sunday's Mass. Bob's casket was escorted home by Staff Sergeant Moylan, (a cousin who had preceded Patrick into the Marine Corps) who laid a wreath on the grave on behalf of the US forces and then presented the American flag which draped the coffin, the Navy Cross insignia and the citation to Mrs Gallagher, mother of the deceased.
There are many news reports and stories of Patrick's funeral procession arriving to his hometown, the massive turnout of his family, neighbors and the County Mayo community, and the attention of two nations on his tragic homecoming.