The below letter has been set to Senator Charles Schumer and the NY State Congressional Delegation requesting that legislation be introduce mandating that the Pentagon review the the case of Lance Corporal Patrick Gallagher, USMC to be awarded our Nations’s highest honor: the Medal of Honor. Congress recently did right by 24 other heroic Veterans who had previously received Service Crosses by mandating a review of their heroic actions with the result that they have received the honor that they richly deserve and was long over due. However, given the specific guidelines of that review, the case of Corporal Gallagher would not have been considered and we seek to redress that by asking that his heroism be given the same courtesy and consideration, especially. as you can read below, it appears that his recommendation for the Medal of Honor was incorrectly downgraded and not submitted for consideration in 1966.
There is currently a petition drive ongoing to have a Navy Destroyer named after Lance Corporal Gallagher, you may find it here . We also encourage you to write or email our representatives in Congress asking them to introduce legislation directing that the Pentagon review the heroic actions of Lance Corporal Gallagher for consideration for the Medal of Honor. You may email Senator Schumer here #MOH4GallagherUSMC
The Honorable Senator Charles Schumer
U.S. Senate Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Schumer:
I am writing to you to draw to your attention the life of a gallant Irish American immigrant from New York who displayed incredible heroism and died in the service of his adopted country while serving in Viet Nam. I request your assistance Senator in introducing legislation requesting the Pentagon to review the actions of Lance Corporal Patrick Gallagher at Cam Lo on 18 July 1966 for the purpose of upgrading his Navy Cross to out Nations highest award for valor: the Medal of Honor.
Patrick Gallagher was born in Derrintogher, County Mayo Ireland on February 2, 1944. At the age of eighteen, as so many you Irish men and women before him, Patrick immigrated to the United States and the promise of a new life filled with opportunity. He quickly started on the immigrant dream: studying law while working in real estate; even getting involved in local politics as a campaign worker for Senator Robert Kennedy. In 1966, Patrick was drafted for service in Viet Nam. Despite pleas from a heart sick sister living in the states to avoid the horrors of war by simply returning to Ireland, Patrick was committed to his new home in America and instead swore her and other American relatives to secrecy to avoid worrying his family in Ireland. Patrick returned to his native land to visit his family where he told no one that upon his return he would be joining the United States Marines.
Patrick shipped out to Viet Nam as a member of Hotel Company, 2/4 Marines, 3rd Division. On the night of 18 July 1966, while serving in a forward position at Cam Lo with three other Marines who were sleeping, their position came under grenade attack by enemy forces. The first grenade Patrick was able to kick out of their position where it exploded only to be followed by a second grenade that fell between two of his comrades. Without hesitation and in an unselfish act of valor, Lance Corporal Gallagher threw himself on the grenade to personally absorb the full brunt of the explosion and save his comrades. Pinned under Gallagher’s body, the grenade failed to go off. Lance Corporal Gallagher continued to lie on the grenade as his three comrades escaped the position despite the fact that two more enemy grenades were thrown into the position to explode around him. His comrades now in a position of safety and still miraculously unhurt, Gallagher then rolled off the grenade at his squad leaders order and threw the grenade where it immediately exploded upon hitting the ground.
For his “extraordinary heroism and inspiring valor” Gallagher was awarded the Navy Cross. It is said that Gallagher was informed at that time that the only reason he had not been awarded our nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, was only that “the grenade had not exploded and killed him, if it had, he would certainly have been a shoe in.” This account has been verified in written accounts by Gallagher’s former Executive Officer who has stated that over his protests the Medal of Honor citation he had written up was downgraded to a Navy Cross before being submitted to higher authority by his battalion. Again the reason given for not recommending Lance Corporal Gallagher for the Medal of Honor was that Lance Corporal Gallagher’s unselfish act of sacrifice and heroism had not been fatal. As you know Senator, there is no requirement, nor has there ever been, that a person must die to receive the Medal of Honor, the Medal is awarded for the act of valor performed, not what happened to the individual performing it.
Even the “luck of the Irish” is not infinite Senator, and it appears that Corporal Gallagher had expended his allotment in trying to save others. Two months after receiving the Navy Cross and due shortly to return home, Lance Corporal Gallagher was killed while on patrol.
While certainly the Navy Cross is a prestigious honor worthy of the highest respect, I believe that the actions of Lance Corporal Gallagher on that night in Viet Nam embody both in action and in the spirit the very definition of why the Medal of Honor was established. Whether through misunderstanding of the criteria for the award of the Medal of Honor or some other factor, the decision to downgrade the recommendation that Lance Corporal Gallagher be recommended for the Medal of Honor appears flawed. We take heart that recently, due to the initiative of the Congress in mandating the Pentagon conduct further review, 24 heroic veterans who had been previously been awarded service crosses when their actions merited our Nation’s highest honor have had their awards upgraded. We applaud this action; there should be no statute of limitations on appropriately recognizing valor and doing right by those who sacrificed so much for our nation. I ask that the case of Lance Corporal Gallagher be accorded similar consideration.
I therefore call upon you Senator, as the senior member of New York’s Congressional Delegation, to do right by an adopted son of New York and America. I request that you and your colleagues introduce legislation directing the Pentagon to review Lance Corporal Patrick Gallagher’s unselfish and heroic actions on the night of 18 July 1968 with consideration to upgrading his Navy Cross to the Medal of Honor.
Neil F. Cosgrove
Historian, Division 3 Ancient Order of Hibernians Pearl River