Joe Galloway (1941-2021)
Joe dropped into my life in October 1965, a few weeks after I arrived at An Khe, South Vietnam, with the First Cavalry Division (Airmobile) Advance Party. We were almost the same age—I’m four months older—and at the time we were both rookies. He had been with United Press International for several years but never in a combat zone, never as a war correspondent, never in a place of constant, sudden danger. I was faking my way through the job of combat photographer with the Public Information crew. Both of us were pretty much getting away with our fakes, and because Joe was Joe, programmed to charm anyone and everyone, and we saw in each other a kindred spirit, we became fast friends.
We saw each other infrequently because while he often visited my outfit, I was usually in the field with one battalion and he with another. When I went home in November 1966, Joe remained. For the next eight years, he was in and out of Vietnam and I was a junior officer serving where he wasn’t.
In 1974, however, I was once again a civilian and living in Southern California. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Joe was given UPI’s Los Angeles bureau. he somehow learned where I was working and called me and our we renewed our friendship. When he left Los Angeles and went to Moscow and UPI’s bureau there, we lost track of each other. But when he retired from UPI for a better job at US News & World Report, and I had moved from Orange County to Los Angeles, he once again found me. On his visits to Los Angeles we always got together, sometimes with our mutual friend Jim Caccavo, a photojournalist, for a meal in a good restaurant.
I learned a great deal about my friend with the 1992 publication of We Were Soldiers Once, and Young. Lots of stuff that he had never mentioned during our infrequent get-togethers. And I learned a great deal about writing as I read his lean yet evocative prose. We saw each other infrequently until both of us moved to North Carolina. Joe had been twice married—once widowed and once divorced—but not until North Carolina did I meet his third wife, the incomparable Gracie. By then, of course, Joe was no longer a young man and his health was deteriorating.
It was during his last few years that our friendship became much more than casual. We wrote a book together, and again I learned from him about writing.
Joe never went to college, but I am convinced that he knew and had assimilated and understood the world and its ways in a deeper, more profound manner than anyone I’ve ever known, including many with a lot of initials after their names.
As fine a scribe as he was, Joe’s best talent was for instantly sizing up everyone he met, be they a general, a head of state, an ordinary soldier, or a workman. He intuitively knew how to approach anyone, how to find out what they really thought about some particular subject, and how to get them to tell him that. And when it came to the military, Joe radiated love for the common soldier, and a deep and abiding respect that he communicated both in person and through his work.
I’ve known many, many fine journalists, several of them quite famous. But I will never know a better man than Joseph Lee Galloway of Refugio, Texas, and other parts of the world.
Marvin J. Wolf, Asheville, North Carolina, 2022
FROM Marvin J. Wolf
On this page are true stories, magazine articles, excerpts from books and unpublished works, short fiction, and photographs, each offering a glimpse of my life, work and times. Your comments welcome. © Marvin J. Wolf. All rights reserved.