An ace, credited with 13 aerial victories, Brigadier General Robert E. Galer received the nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for conspicuous heroism in aerial combat during the Guadalcanal campaign. Born 23 October 1913 in Seattle, Galer attended the University of Washington, starred in intercollegiate basketball, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering in 1935. Galer earned a commission in the Marine Corps in July 1936 and was designated a Naval Aviator the following April. He witnessed the shock and surprise of the Japanese attack on Hawaii while stationed at MCAS Ewa on Oahu.
In May 1942, he took command of Marine Fighting Squadron 224 and led it to Guadalcanal for a bloody campaign that stopped the Japanese advance in the South Pacific. In just 2 months, the men of VMF-224 downed 27 enemy aircraft ...including 11 by Galer. He was assigned to the Pacific Theater during most of WW II. After the war, he rose through several command and staff assignments, including Operations and Training Officer at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, and a staff tour with the US Pacific Fleet.
In Korea, he commanded Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, and led many missions, including several maximum effort air strikes against heavily defended targets in North Korea. On an airstrike in the fall of 1952, his aircraft was hit by ground fire. He bailed out, but became entangled in his F4U Corsair. Wrestling free of the diving aircraft, he opened his parachute only 150 feet above ground. Under fire, behind enemy lines, and badly injured, Galer was in trouble.
Fortunately, he landed near his plane and, although over 100 miles deep in enemy territory, he was rescued by an alert US Navy helicopter crew. After hospitalization in the States, he reported to MCAS El Toro, California, as Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel, and later as Director of Aircraft Operations for Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. Upon graduation from Air War College at Maxwell AFB, he moved to Headquarters US Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., where he served as Director, Guided Missile Division, for the Department of the Navy.
For exceptionally meritorious service in combat, he was advanced to brigadier general upon retirement in 1957. Galer later worked as Vice President for Engineering with Ling Temco Vought (LTV) and for the owners of the Dallas Cowboys football team.
In 1942, Japanese forces drove southeast along the Solomon Islands to cut Allied supply lines to Australia and the southwest Pacific. On 7 August, US Marines landed on Guadalcanal and took a Japanese air base then under construction. With enemy ground forces only yards away on three sides, and subjected to daily air bombardment and nightly naval gunfire, Americans of the "Cactus Air Force" fought for their lives. Many died, but Galer, himself shot down three times, inspired fellow Marines to fight on and emerge victorious. For sustained heroism in the darkest and most critical days of the war in the Pacific, President Roosevelt awarded Major Robert Galer the Medal of Honor.