One of the billboards at Dublin Airport
By Ray O’Hanlon
Four billboards have been placed in boarding areas at Dublin Airport telling the story of a County Mayo-born hero of the Vietnam War.
And it is hoped that the billboards, and favorable public reaction to them, will help in the effort to have a U.S. Navy ship named after Navy Cross winner Patrick “Bob” Gallagher.
The billboards provide a link to a website established to collect signatures for a petition to have Gallagher’s name attached to ship.
The petition has been up and running for a couple of years and has already attracted a significant number of names.
The billboards will be displayed at the airport through this month and August and so have the potential to attract the attention of many thousands of people.
Though his given name was Patrick, Gallagher was known to most as “Bob.”
He was the second eldest of nine children born to Mary and Peter Gallagher.
They lived at Derrintogher, three miles from Ballyhaunis in County Mayo.
To this day, Gallagher is well remembered by family and friends who still live there.
When he was 18, Patrick crossed the Atlantic to his aunt's on Long Island, and began his new life in America.
In 1966, he was drafted and joined the U.S. Marines.
In April of that year he shipped out to Vietnam with Hotel Company, 2/4 Marines, 3rd Marine Division as an ammunition carrier.
In July 1966, while other members of his unit slept, Gallagher's unit was attacked at Cam Lo, not far from the border with North Vietnam. The attackers threw grenades.
Gallagher kicked a grenade away 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."
Miraculously, the grenade under Gallagher had not exploded.
Gallagher’s squad leader ordered him to throw the grenade into a nearby river. It exploded on hitting the water.
"It is a pleasure to pin this on your breast," said General William Westmoreland at the later presentation of the Navy Cross.
Gallagher's luck was to run out, however.
He was shot dead while on Patrol in Da Nang on March 30, 1967.
Now, 48 years later, there is a campaign underway, by means of an online petition, to have a U.S. Navy ship named after Gallagher in 2017, the 50th anniversary of his death.
It is being led by California-based Martin Durkan, a Mayo native, and Dallas, Texas-based Dublin native, Marius Donnelly.
"We have established an online Petition requesting that the Secretary of the Navy consider naming a U.S. destroyer class ship in Patrick's honor. I believe the USS Patrick Gallagher will sail," Durkan said.
There is more on Gallagher and the campaign to have a ship named after him at www.patrickgallagherusmc.info.