Thomas “Tom” Edward Galles was born January 17th, 1929 in Port Washington, Wisconsin to Leo and Emily (Millie) Galles. As a kid Tom attended St. Mary’s Catholic School and then graduated from Port Washington High School in 1946. At the age of 16, Tom took up flying and as a young adult purchased his own plane with which he would later make frequent flights between Wisconsin and Florida.
Tom graduated from Marquette University in 1950 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He attended Marquette on a Navy ROTC scholarship and upon graduating entered the Navy as an Ensign. He chose to go into the Mine and Bomb Disposal Unit and was commissioned as a Navy Bomb Disposal Officer in June of 1952.
At that time the Korean War was entering its 2nd year of conflict and Tom was assigned to Mine Squadron Unit Three in Korea. To ward off the landing of US soldiers and Marines, the North Korean and Soviet troops had been extensively laying mines along the coastal waters and harbors. The Mine Squadron missions were to locate, diffuse and remove the mines to allow soldier transports to make their way onto the beaches.
Tom served with Mine Squadron Three from June 1952 to July 1953. On one mission, the “feint” invasion of Kojo conducted on Oct 13, 1952, Tom was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal for “exceptional meritorious service in performance of his duties.” The citation which accompanied the medal read in part:
“During the operation at Kojo on Oct 13, 1952, when the six boats of Minesweeper Boat Division One were taken under heavy and accurate fire from small arms and shore batteries at ranges of 1,000 to 1,500 yards, Lt. Galles interposed his small destructor boat between the shore batteries and the minesweeping boats and laid down a smoke screen which allowed three minesweeping boats to retire undamaged and the remaining three to continue and successfully complete the first minesweeping pass. His courageous action did much to convince the enemy that a real landing was intended and so furthered the mission of the task force”.
Upon returning from Korea, Tom applied for and was accepted to compete for a spot on the Underwater Demolition Team (UDT), or “Frogmen” as they were often called. Frogmen, predecessors of the Navy SEALs, were the Navy’s elite combat swimmers employed to breach cables and nets protecting enemy harbors, plant mines on enemy ships and locate and mark mines for clearing by minesweepers. Of the 248 who were accepted for the class, only 35 passed the demanding physical and mental challenges and became Frogmen. Tom served with the UDTs until he retired from the Navy in 1957.
In 1957, Tom married and moved to Arlington, VA. He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1958 and traveled extensively abroad during his 7-year career with the Agency. He had three children, Scott born in 1958, Robin born 1960 and Steve born 1962. In 1960 Tom moved his family to Mclean, Virginia where they lived for 10 years. In 1970, Tom built a new home in the Nantucket community of Mclean where they lived until Steve, the youngest, left for college
During the 1970’s Tom worked for a number of defense contractors, including System Sciences Corporation, The Mitre Corporation and Computer Sciences Corporation. In 1978 he joined the largest oil conglomerate in the world at the time, ARAMCO. He was hired to help design and build communication networks for the oil refiners in Saudi Arabia. He spent many months with the engineers in Los Angles and Houston before moving to Saudi in 1982.
Tom lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for 4 years while the equipment was being install at the sites. He would travel to Europe often during his time off and would occasionally go wind surfing in the Red Sea. After the work was completed in 1987, Tom moved back to Mclean. He landed with GTS Space Net and continued to work on communication network projects until he retired in 1991.
In 1981, Tom purchased a beach front property in Duck, North Carolina. His plan was to eventually build a beach home where he could spend his time enjoying the ocean and beach – always the “Frogman”. Upon returning from Saudi Arabia he began building the house and it was completed in 1988. In addition to enjoying living by the water, he also enjoyed boating. He bought a 40-foot Trawler and like most boaters, spent many hours working on it. Tom docked his boat, “The Tondelayo” at Cobb Island, Maryland off the Potomac. He took many day and overnight trips down the Potomac and into the Chesapeake Bay.
In 1991, Tom reunited with his high school sweet heart, JoAnn and they were married in August of 1992. Tom and JoAnn spent most of their time down at the beach house and taking boating trips on the Tondelya. In 1994, Tom and JoAnn purchased a home in Greeley Colorado and spilt their time between Colorado and North Carolina.
Tom and JoAnn enjoyed many road trips to Yellowstone park and other sites out West. In 2004, Tom sold the Duck beach house and purchased a cabin along the Poudre River not far from their home in Greeley Colorado. They spent their days relaxing on the cabin deck overlooking the Poudre river and occasionally Tom would try his hand at fly fishing.
In his later years Tom took up wood carving. He enjoyed the challenge and feeling of accomplishment of creating a figure out of a block of wood. He became very good at his craft and won several blue ribbons in competitions.
Tom passed on peacefully with his family by his side on September 17th,2017. He was a man of immense integrity, courage and honor, and he will be forever missed by all who knew him.