Captain William W. Galt, USA (May 29, 1944)

William Wylie Galt was born on December 19, 1919 in Geyser, Judith Basin County, Montana. I wasn’t able to determine how he joined the United States Army for service in World War II, but by May 29, 1944 he was a Captain and the operations officer (S-3) with the 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment of the 34th Infantry Division.

The 34th’s motto is simply, “Attack! Attack! Attack!”. On that day seventy years ago, Captain Galt’s battalion had two of their attacks during the breakout from the Anzio beachhead and push towards the Italian capital of Rome repulsed. He took it upon himself to go forward and determine how to get the battalion moving.

He climbed aboard a tank destroyer, either a M10 or a M18 armored vehicle, whose crew was reluctant to resume the assault because all their fellow vehicles had been destroyed, and commanded it to lead the infantry forward. As they advanced, Galt used the tank destroyer’s machine gun to great effect, and the Nazi enemy was routed.

Galt was killed when the tank destroyer was hit by a German shell, and his undaunted courage was recognized with the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (G-L):

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Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

*GALT, WILLIAM WYLIE

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, 168th Infantry, 34th Infantry Division. Place and date: At Villa Crocetta, Italy, 29 May 1944. Entered service at: Stanford, Mont.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Galt, Battalion S3, at a particularly critical period following 2 unsuccessful attacks by his battalion, of his own volition went forward and ascertained just how critical the situation was. He volunteered, at the risk of his life, personally to lead the battalion against the objective. When the lone remaining tank destroyer refused to go forward, Capt. Galt jumped on the tank destroyer and ordered it to precede the attack. As the tank destroyer moved forward, followed by a company of riflemen, Capt. Galt manned the .30-caliber machinegun in the turret of the tank destroyer, located and directed fire on an enemy 77mm. anti-tank gun, and destroyed it. Nearing the enemy positions, Capt. Galt stood fully exposed in the turret, ceaselessly firing his machine gun and tossing hand grenades into the enemy zigzag series of trenches despite the hail of sniper and machine gun bullets ricocheting off the tank destroyer. As the tank destroyer moved, Capt. Galt so maneuvered it that 40 of the enemy were trapped in one trench. When they refused to surrender, Capt. Galt pressed the trigger of the machinegun and dispatched every one of them. A few minutes later an 88mm shell struck the tank destroyer and Capt. Galt fell mortally wounded across his machinegun. He had personally killed 40 Germans and wounded many more. Capt. Galt pitted his judgment and superb courage against overwhelming odds, exemplifying the highest measure of devotion to his country and the finest traditions of the U.S. Army.

Captain Galt’s remains were repatriated to the United States and he was laid to rest in the Mount Olivet Cemetery of Great Falls, Montana.

The 34th Infantry Division is a present National Guard unit staffed by guardsmen from throughout the upper midwest United States. 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry is part of the division’s 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Iowa Army National Guard.

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