Oral Histories: Galella, Reluctant Hero, Recalls Pearl Harbor Attack

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by Krista Madsen

Armando “Chick” Galella
Armando “Chick” Galella

Armando “Chick” Galella, 94, sees himself as a person with a life-long habit of serving rather than any kind of hero. He’s reluctant to get all the attention and accolades he gets as our region’s sole surviving Pearl Harbor veteran.

“I’m not the only veteran around,” he said. “They should interview other people besides me. I know what I did in my heart; I’m not one to make any reflections.”

Nonetheless he was gracious enough to host me for an audio interview in his Phelps Hospital room where he is recovering from a recent fall. The day prior was Veterans Day, and he was able to duck out of the hospital briefly to read this letter – available in full on our website: www.thehudsonindependent.com – to the Rotarians. By press time, it’s nearly Pearl Harbor Day, another heavy holiday he usually quietly honors by placing a wreath at Sleepy Hollow’s Horan’s Landing for his lost friend.

Galella recounted the day he, age 20, and a few of his friends just casually joined the draft – eating a banana spared him from getting sent home for being too skinny. After training at Fort Slocam, New Rochelle, he was stationed in Hawaii where he laid communications lines with the Signal Corps, since – in those days – a high school diploma made him well-educated.

Galella grew up in the Depression, a time he recalled fondly. “We had no money. It was a good time. Everyone’s in the same boat.”

chickIMG_1705His two brothers also served during the Second World War, both “in the European theater.” All three miraculously made it home alive and intact, answering the prayers of their devout and widowed mother. Over 40 young men from their high school didn’t fare so well. “A lot for a little school like that.”

Galella quickly found himself a wife – Leda sadly passed away just months ago at the age of 92 after 68 years of marriage – and work at a Chevrolet dealership where he spent his career.

His sons did not join the military, and he wouldn’t have wanted them to. “People take it for granted,” he said. “Citizens don’t understand the sacrifice, or they are just not paying attention.” He explained, war these days is different, and he wouldn’t have wanted his kids signing on for it.

He tells his grand- and now, great-grandchildren they can bravely do anything they want. For him, he found his calling was to give of himself – locally as a trustee and deputy mayor, at the fire department, and making sure the handful of war memorials that dot our villages remind us of those special names.

“I’m for the people, not for myself,” he said. “What’s your purpose in life?”

Hear clips and the full audio session with Chick Galella, along with a letter he recently wrote about Veterans Day. Next month, we will hear from 99-year-old Helen Manca about her long life in the same Sleepy Hollow home she grew up in.

The Oral History project is an ongoing collaboration between Warner Library and The Hudson Independent. Have topic ideas or want to volunteer? Email krista@sleepyhollowink.com.

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