CRANSTON, RI – A 94-year-old Rhode Islander, Sergeant First Class (SFC) Ernest “Ernie” Mallory, was awarded some long overdue medals today that he earned but never received for his service in the U.S. Army during World War II. 

With a salute to the greatest generation, U.S. Senator Jack Reed presented Mr. Mallory with the medals he earned during his service in France, Germany, and Austria over 73 years ago and thanked him for his years of faithful service in the U.S. military, which also included a stint with the 65th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group in the Panama Canal Zone in the 1950s.

Born in Cumberland in 1924, Mr. Mallory joined the U.S. Army in March of 1943 after previously unsuccessfully trying to enlist at the age of 16.  He completed basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and specialized in wire and radio communications.  He then continued training with the 71st Infantry Division at Camp Carson, Colorado and at Hunter Liggett Military Reservation in California.  During this time he was trained as a forward observer, responsible for directing artillery and mortar fire onto a target.  The 71st was then sent to Fort Benning, Georgia where Mr. Mallory was responsible for eight men in the wire section.  This included setting up wire communications between the fire directions center and the artillery battery.

He and his unit then headed to Europe, where the 71st Infantry Division was assigned to relieve the 100th Division near Nancy, France.  The 71st continued into Germany where they were assigned to General George Patton’s famed Third Army before crossing the River Rhine at Oppenheim, Germany on March 30, 1945.  Then they continued through Germany and entered Austria on May 3, 1945 over a dam on the Inn River.  Near Lambach, the 71st Division liberated the Gunskirchen Lager concentration camp, a subcamp of the notorious Mathausen-Gusen concentration camp.  Gunskirchen contained over 15,000 slave laborers and prisoners.  Many did not survive the German atrocities.  In 2004, (60 years after the liberation) Mr. Mallory met three of these survivors at a 71st Division Reunion.

“I salute Mr. Mallory for answering the call to serve.  It is my great honor to present him with these medals for his selfless and dedicated service to our nation,” said Senator Reed, the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee and a West Point graduate.  “Mr. Mallory and his fellow soldiers in the 71st Infantry Division who liberated Gunskirchen must have witnessed unimaginable suffering and horrors – the worst of humanity.  And all of us have a duty to ensure the memory of the Holocaust is never forgotten and such atrocities are never repeated.  We will not forget what happened.  And we will always be grateful that men like Mr. Mallory answered the call to serve and did their part to fight fascism and defeat the Nazis.  On behalf of a grateful nation and the state of Rhode Island, I want to express my sincere gratitude for Mr. Mallory’s courageous service and sacrifice.”

After World War II ended, Mr. Mallory was assigned to the 66th Infantry Regiment of the 71st Division Occupational Forces for two months before returning home in April 1946.  He then decided to join the inactive reserves.

In September 1950 he was recalled into the Army during the Korean War.  He was sent to Camp Breckenridge in Kentucky as part of the 101st Airborne and then assigned to the 65th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group in the Panama Canal Zone as Commo Chief of the 65th Headquarter Battery with the rank of SFC.  He spent 35 months in Panama, where his wife joined him and where two of his three children were born.

Senator Reed presented Mr. Mallory with several medals, including the Good Conduct Medal with Clasp Bronze (2 Loops), the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, and the Sharpshooter Badge with Carbine Bar.

After returning to civilian life, Mr. Mallory enjoyed flying single engine aircraft and hot air balloons.  He became a licensed balloon pilot and flew his balloon “Late Start” for several years.  In 1988, he, along with several other balloon pilots, set a world record by building a 20-story hot air balloon named “Miss Champagne” which had a tethered ascent in Maine.