Edward R. Gallalee, Jr.
Biography: Edward Roger Gallalee, Jr. was born on September 10, 1924, in Petersburg, Virginia. He was the son of Edward R. Gallalee Sr. and Elizabeth Drewry but following the death of his mother in 1926, he and his younger brother William were raised by his grandparents, Dr. William F. and Bessie Seabury Drewry.
Edward attended local schools, graduating from Petersburg High School, before attending Virginia Military Institute just prior to the war. He was there for only one semester before he and the rest of the freshmen class enlisted in the military. His enlistment record identifies that he had signed up for the Army Reserves and was assigned to an artillery unit.
Service Time: Edward entered the service on March 8, 1943, at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. After his basic training, he was assigned to A Company of the 803rd Tank Destroyer Battalion. The 803rd had initially been activated as the 103d Antitank Battalion on September 30, 1940, from Washington National Guard troops, and then federalized on February 10, 1941 and redesignated them the 803d Tank Destroyer Battalion on December 12, 1941. They departed for England on June 24, 1943, and remained in the U.K. for almost a year, continuing their training and preparing for arrival in France. We believe it was during their time in England that Edward would have joined the unit. During his training, he qualified as a Marksman with the Carbine, M1 Garand and 03 Springfield Rifles.
The photo above left is Edward while attending VMI (Virginia Military Institute). The photo at right shows him in the assistant driver’s position of one of the unit’s M36 tank destroyers.
The unit boarded transports and landed at Omaha Beach on June 13, 1944, equipped with M10 tank destroyers. They helped capture St. Lô in July and raced across northern France in August, passing through Belgium and Holland before reaching the Siegfried Line in September. Fellow A Company veteran, Arnold R. Malde, remembered Edward and mentions him in his memoir and history of the unit. He recalls them both being on guard shortly before and after dusk. He said that this former student of VMI had allot of knowledge of artillery and field know-how. Arnold states, “About a half hour after we had assumed our tour of duty a shell came in and landed below us in the field. My companion’s teeth began to chatter and his hoarse voice whispered “If the next one lands above us they’re going to drop a lot of stuff right on us!” It turned out he was right as for the next ten, fifteen or twenty minutes (whatever time it took) we received about 200 German 88 shells.” Ultimately the two of them came out unscathed although one man was killed in the incident and several others were wounded.
Supporting operations north of Aachen, Germany, in October, they transferred to the Hürtgen Forest and then shifted to the Ardennes just before German offensive began in December. The unit was committed against the Siegfried Line again in early 1945, and then converted to the M36 tank destroyer in February. They participated in the capture of Trier, and then crossed the Rhine River on March 23rd at Oppenheim.
The 803rd joined the elimination of the Ruhr Pocket in April and then pivoted southeast and marched through Austria and into Czechoslovakia where they began occupational duties. Edward spent more than 27 months overseas with his primary responsibilities including driving Jeep and light trucks as part of the motor pool. He also was required to drive in blackout conditions, associated with operations in the combat zone. He was also required to make needed repairs to the vehicles.
The main photo shows Edward holding a little girl, which he and a number of men, including Nick, Lee and Herbert, got to know along with her family. After the war, the family sent Edward a letter which we have included below. It included a few photos and updated him on their situation as well as asking about him.
Edward shipped home on November 4th and arrived on the 16th. He was discharged on the 20th at Fort George G. Meade at the rank of Private First Class. He received credit for campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, the Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. He was awarded the EAME Ribbon, American Theater Ribbon, WWII Victory Ribbon and the Good Conduct Medal.
Now back in the U.S., Edward continued his education at the University of Virginia, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. In 1950, he started working for the Virginia Department of Health. On July 21, 1961, he married the former Ruby Angeline Burruss who was born in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and was the daughter of Willie Warren Burruss and Virginia Ann Wood. The new couple would make their home in Harrisonburg and have two children, Edward III and Elizabeth.
In his spare time, Edward enjoyed collecting, particularly stamps, coins and antiques. He was also active in the Harrisonburg Jaycees and served a term as their President. Edward retired from the Department of Health after 37 years. He passed away on September 8, 1993, and was buried in the Eastlawn Memorial Gardens in Harrisonburg. I want to thank Edward’s grandson, Edward Robert “Bobby” Gallalee, for providing the information and photos for this tribute.