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"It's a good thing the war ended-we didn't complain. A lot of guys got it on the last [mission] or the first one." (Video Interview, 19:15)

   Ernest E. Gallego
Image of Ernest E. Gallego
Ernest Gallego in uniform
War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Army Air Forces/Corps; Army
Unit: 97th Bomb Group; 340th Bomb Squadron
Service Location: Italy; also:
Rank: Staff Sergeant
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America was at war in the summer of 1943 when Ernest Gallego graduated from high school. He tried to enlist but had to wait until he turned 18 that November for the Army Air Force to take him. His ambition was to be a pilot but he failed the depth perception test and chose gunnery school because it offered him a faster track to an assignment overseas. From their base in Italy, he and his crew flew more missions than they originally thought would earn them rotation back to the States, because the brass increased the magic number. After V-E Day, Gallego was on a ship headed home, expecting to fly more missions, when he heard the news of the Japanese surrender.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Complete Interview  (42 min.)
  Photos
»Photo Album (19 photos)
 Other Materials
»View List (2 items)
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»Hispanics in Service
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Couldn't speak English when he started kindergarten in East Los Angeles; his father died in January 1942; three older brothers went into the service, but one had a bad knee and stayed home to support their mother during the war; Gallego tried to enlist after he graduated but he was too young to be taken immediately into his first choice, the Army Air Force. (03:08) At Buckley Field, Colorado, for basic training; failed the depth perception test for pilots; choosing gunnery school over radio school because it was a shorter course; got "insanely sick" the first couple of times he flew; to Florida for more training; given 14 days for leave, spent ten of them coming and going on train to CA, leaving him four days at home; assigned to his permanent crew for the rest of the war. (02:52) Landing in Naples in October 1944; assigned to a bomber unit; took train to Foggia, on the Adriatic side of Italy; pitching a tent in the rain, their home for the next year. (01:45)
Memorable experience: passing out from lack of oxygen in the ball turret; saved by two of the crew, though one also passed out after pulling him out of the turret; description of the turret and his duties; the tricky maneuvers involved in evacuating; having the best view of the bombs dropping from his and other planes; flew 31 sorties; number of minimum sorties increased during the war (06:04) A couple of guys coming back from drinking in town with two dogs; one died from a disease, and they had to abandon the other when they went back to the States; also had a pet rabbit in the tent which an officer's dog chased; rigging up lights and hot and cold running water; he felt compulsive about making every bunk and picking up after everyone. (05:23) End of the war in Europe; thought they were coming back right away but they didn't leave until August 1945; had heard about the atomic bombs when they were still in Naples; going through the Straits of Gibraltar when they heard of the Japanese surrender; getting out of the service before his older brothers because he had accumulated so many points flying those sorties. (03:50)
  
 Other Materials (2 items)
Diary V-Mail to Mrs. Martinez [10/30/1944] 
  
 

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  October 26, 2011
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