Veterans Day is a special day for me every year. As the daughter of a Marine and an educator at The National WWII Museum, November 10 and 11 never go unnoticed at my house. But this year, it won’t be just my dad I am thinking about, but also a WWII veteran named Armando “Chick” Galella. I had the pleasure of meeting Chick during the Museum’s 75th Anniversary of D‑Day commemorations in 2019.
Armando “Chick” Galella, a lifelong resident of North Tarrytown, New York, was born in 1921 and enlisted in the US Army in 1940. After training, he was assigned to the 443rd Signal Corps at Hickam Air Force Base and was a survivor of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. SGM Galella served five years in the Pacific theater in some of WWII’s bloodiest battles, including Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.
By the time he left the service in 1945, Galella had earned the highest rank an enlisted man can achieve, Battalion Sergeant Major, and received the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Service and bravery in the Battle of Okinawa. Chick Galella passed away on Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at the age of 100, and everyone at The National WWII Museum who had met him felt a sense of loss that day.
During his 2019 visit to The National WWII Museum during the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, I sat down with him to discuss the attack on Pearl Harbor and his experiences in the Pacific during the war. Right in front of the American Sector restaurant, we sat for over an hour as he recounted what happened to him on December 7, 1941. He told me how the Marines would pull pranks on the soldiers at Hickam and vice versa in the months leading up to December 7. At one point, he began to tear up when he brought up his hometown friend, John J. Horan.
John was in the US Army Air Force and also stationed at Hickam on December 7. Chick and John had just finished breakfast together at the mess hall when the attack began. While walking back to their barracks, they heard the planes overhead and saw smoke coming from Pearl Harbor. It would not be until the next day that Chick learned his friend had been killed during the attack. John J. Horan was the first resident of the village of North Tarrytown (now Sleepy Hollow) to be killed in World War II, and Galella did not want him to be forgotten. He proudly told me how in 1999, he petitioned the village to rename a park in Sleepy Hollow to “Horan’s Landing,” in honor of his friend killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.
After he visited the Museum, he went to initiate the project for The Margaret J Horan Gold Star Mothers’ Memorial at Horan’s Landing Park in Sleepy Hollow. This project erected a Gold Star Mother Memorial to honor Margaret J Horan, mother of John J Horan. In honoring Mrs. Horan, the memorial also honors all Gold Star Mothers. Decades after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Chick never forgot to honor his fallen friend. Chick told me that people often called him a hero, but he said John J Horan was his hero.
Even though the topics we discussed were heavy and, at times, very somber, that did not stop Chick Galella’s personality from shining through. He told me about his love of the Yankees (and as a Boston Red Sox fan, that part of the conversation was hard for me to hear), cooking, and dancing. He was dancing up and down the hallways of the Museum. In fact, I think he may have danced with half the staff members from the Museum that day.
Abbie Edens, the Museum’s Director of Education, had the pleasure of introducing Chick at the Museum’s Victory Six concert on the evening of D-Day 75. Abbie acknowledged all WWII veterans, Holocaust survivors, and Home Front workers in attendance prior to the band’s performance. Chick had been outside “holding court” with several staff members and visitors to the Museum. Once he arrived, Abbie called out a warm welcome from the stage, to which he took off his Pearl Harbor veteran cap, waved it in the air, and started to dance.
During the evening, Abbie checked in with his son and daughter-in-law to see how Chick was doing. They both stated that he was still dancing the night away! Chick lit up the room the moment he walked in, and his presence at our commemoration was one that our staff will never forget. Even though Armando “Chick” Galella is no longer with us, he leaves a legacy of patriotism and service. He will continue to inspire all of us at The National WWII Museum who knew him.
Armando Galella’s oral history can be viewed on the Museum’s Digital Collections site.