World War II veteran awarded Bronze Star

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

After 65 years, a World War II veteran who lived in Portales has received a Bronze Star for his service.

The award

Herman H. Wallace, who worked at the Roosevelt County Electric Cooperative Inc. for 37 years, received a Bronze Star from a Cannon Air Force Base delegation at his 85th birthday party Sunday. Wallace fought in France and Germany after the D-Day invasion and lost his left leg to a combat wound.

“I feel very honored, very honored to receive it,” Wallace, who now lives in Arizona, said of the medal.

Although he knew his daughter, Linda Wallace Tripp, had been working to have the Bronze Star awarded to him, Wallace didn’t know he would receive it Sunday.

“When I saw the military walk in, I didn’t know what was going on,” he said.

Three airmen from Cannon, including base commander Col. Stephen A. Clark, presented the medal, and Clark gave Wallace a command coin, a gesture to honor the recipient. Wallace pointed out that the coin had “Presented for excellence” stamped on it.

“I don’t know what my excellency was, but I’m glad to get his coin,” Wallace said. “I’ll cherish it.”

Wallace Tripp said her parents had been good role models and would affect generations to come by that example.

The war

Wallace graduated from Elida High School in May 1943. A month later he entered the U.S. Army just shy of his 19th birthday.

As part of the 29th Infantry Division, Wallace landed on Omaha Beach in France six days after D-Day.

“We was the first group of replacements after D-Day,” he said.

Wallace helped take the French town of St. Lo, and for five months, fought across France, through part of Belgium and into Germany.

“I often said that I jumped every hedgerow in France,” Wallace remarked. “And I believe I did.”

The wound

In Germany, he was wounded by an enemy artillery shell. The medics responded quickly.

“I think the good Lord was looking over Mr. Herman H. Wallace,” Wallace said.

After going to a field hospital, Wallace went to another facility in Belgium.

Later, Wallace was taken to Paris on a hospital train.

On the train, he felt his wound bleeding and called a nurse. Because the wound from the already-amputated leg was bleeding so badly, Wallace was the first patient off the train, and the artery was tied at the Paris hospital.

“Here again, my life was probably saved,” he said.

After spending about a year and a half in hospitals, Wallace was discharged in May 1946. He still walks with a prothesis.

The days in Portales

Wallace graduated from New Mexico A&M, now New Mexico State University, and became an accountant at the Roosevelt County Electric Cooperative Inc. in 1950.

Two years later, he married Elinor McCan, whom he met in college. The couple raised two children, Linda and Kent, in Portales.

Wallace moved from accountant to office manager to general manager at the co-op. He served on the school board, coached youth baseball, avidly supported Portales High School athletics and was active at First United Methodist Church.

In 2002, Wallace moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., where his daughter also lives.

The road to the medal

Recently, he saw an article in the newspaper describing how another World War II veteran in the same division had just received a Bronze Star. The combat infantry badge Wallace was given in the Army made him eligible for the medal, although he didn’t know it for decades.

Wallace told his daughter that he wanted to pursue the Bronze Star, and in May, a few months later, they brought his discharge papers to the office of Sen. Jon Kyl, D-Ariz. In 13 days, the award was approved.

“There’s the good Lord working again for you, because Washington, D.C., never moves that fast,” Wallace Tripp said.

Clark said it was special to present the Bronze Star to a World War II veteran on Father’s Day with his family there.

More people wanted to help present the award than could practically come. Clark said the airmen who did go had connections with World War II, and the matter was important to them and to Wallace’s children.

“You could see it in everybody’s faces there,” the base commander said.