Veteran who helped liberate concentration camp honored

Veteran who helped liberate concentration camp honored

At 94, Ernie Mallory, shown in his Cumberland yard, is finally getting his due. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

CUMBERLAND – Sgt. First Class Ernest “Ernie” Mallory, a local man who witnessed some of the worst humanity has to offer and lived to tell about it, was awarded some “long overdue” medals this month that he earned but never received for his service in the U.S. Army during World War II, said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed.

Mallory, the veteran of honor at the July 14 Pawtucket Red Sox game, told The Breeze he’s been soaking in all the accolades he’s received over the past few weeks, saying it means a lot to him to be honored for his service to country.

He said he never pushed to receive military honors, knowing that he “made out pretty good in comparison with a lot of my friends” in the war. While these medals mostly represent “normal stuff” for a military member, it was still great to see his career recognized, he said.

A resident of Newell Drive on Rawson Pond for the past 44 years, he previously lived in Cranston, Warwick and Central Falls before ending up in Cumberland. He said he’s grateful that though his body has broken down, he can still use his mind.

“The mind isn’t 94 years old,” said the veteran, laughing.

After the war, Mallory started the Eagle Screen Company of Pawtucket, a company specializing in aluminum items. He later passeda the business down to his son.

On July 9, “with a salute to one of the last of the greatest generation,” Reed presented Mallory with the medals he earned during his service in France, Germany, and Austria more than 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.

Reed presented Mallory with several medals, including the Good Conduct Medal with Clasp Bronze (two 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.

Born in Cranston in 1924, 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 in 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 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 it was assigned to Gen. 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 Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. Gunskirchen contained more than 15,000 slave laborers and prisoners. Many did not survive the German atrocities. 

“God, that was a horrible place,” said Mallory. “It still bothers me.”

He said he remembers all too vividly the people he witnessed there.

In 2004, 60 years after the liberation, Mallory met three of the survivors from the concentration camp at a 71st Division Reunion. One of them asked Mallory if he recalled that there was no grass at the camp. Prisoners weren’t fed, so they resorted to eating the grass. Bark was also stripped off all the trees in an effort to make soup.

“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 Reed, in a statement. “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,” he said.

After World War II ended, Mallory was assigned to the 66th Infantry Regiment of the 71st Division Occupational Forces for two months before returning home in April 1946. After initially saying he would never go back in, he decided to join the inactive reserves.

“I started thinking about it, and I said, we can’t let that happen again,” he said.

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 nearly three years in Panama, where his wife, Margaret, joined him and where two of his three children were born.

Mallory recalled that it was on a trip to Washington, D.C., six years ago with George Farrell, the first group of 10 veterans Farrell took on the annual trip to see the World War II Memorial, that a man who pushed him around in a wheelchair helped get the ball rolling on researching his records, which eventually led to him receiving the medals this month.

That records search, which showed injuries related to his work in World War II, including a sprained ankle from a fall that caused additional accidents and broken hips after the war, led to him receiving a full disability pension.

 After returning to civilian life, 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.

He quit ballooning at age 76, today spending many of his days sitting peacefully overlooking Rawson Pond.

Cumberland resident Ernie Mallory receives the military honors due him from U.S. Sen. Jack Reed at a gathering on July 9.

Comments

Congratulations for a well deserved, but long overdue honor!
All the best,
Bert & Mary Lou

Thank you sir, for a live well-lived. May your remaining days be full of peace and happiness.

We should all strive to be like you sir!