Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) will officially call for the Pentagon to name a warship after an Irish immigrant who was awarded the US Navy’s highest medal of valor during the Vietnam War, and died in 1967 on one of his last days in combat in Southeast Asia. Schumer, accompanied by family and friends of Marine Corporal Patrick Gallagher will make his call at the USS Intrepid on the West Side of Manhattan on Monday, March 12.
Gallagher, from Mayo, was awarded the Navy Cross after diving on a grenade then throwing it away and kicking away another in a foxhole near the town of Cam Lo, in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
His Navy Cross citation praised Gallagher for displaying “valor in the face of almost certain death.”
Gallagher of H Company, Second Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division — was personally awarded the Navy Cross by the U.S. Vietnam commander Gen. William Westmoreland.
But within a month, Gallagher an Irish citizen, who had not yet claimed US citizenship, was dead at age 23 following another enemy attack.
Patrick Gallagher was an immigrant from the Irish town of Ballyhaunis in County Mayo and moved to Long Island in 1962. Four years later, Corporal Gallagher joined the Marines and was stationed in Vietnam.
One night, during the first year of his tour in Vietnam, Corporal Gallagher was involved in a surprise attack by enemy fighters. While his fellow soldiers slept, adversaries invaded the area and lobbed grenades into the middle of their camp. Heedless of the risk posed to himself, Gallagher kicked a grenade away from the area in which his fellow soldiers were sleeping. When another grenade followed, Corporal Gallagher threw himself on the deadly grenade to absorb the explosion and save the lives of his comrades. Using his quick wits, Corporal Gallagher was able to throw the grenade he was lying on into a nearby river and escape the situation without injury.
In 1967, Corporal Gallagher was tragically killed in action on his last scheduled day in Vietnam. Not yet a citizen, Schumer said that Corporal Patrick Gallagher made the ultimate sacrifice for his adopted nation. Gallagher is one of over 30 Irish citizens killed in the Vietnam War. Senator Bobby Kennedy, for whom Gallagher volunteered before deploying to Vietnam, wrote a personal letter to Gallagher’s family upon his death, praising Gallagher for his fearlessness.
In his letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Schumer asked that the next available destroyer ship be named for Corporal Gallagher.
“The courage and bravery of our fallen soldiers, including those immigrants who have made the ultimate sacrifice even before they have received citizenship, is the American dream manifest,” Schumer said.
“Corporal Gallagher’s breathtaking bravery and selflessness deserves to be memorialized and naming a Navy ship after the Corporal Gallagher would be the perfect tribute to recognize this Irish-American hero – on behalf of a people who have contributed so mightily to the greatness of our nation. It would also duly recognize the deep love so many immigrants from every corner of the world have for America and serve as an appropriate memorial for the countless newcomers to this nation who love America so much they are willing to serve this nation in our Armed Forces – and even to die for it.”