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The text that follows is reproduced from (the report of the) Forty-Fifth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 12th, 1914.
Although stricken in middle age, David DuBose Gaillard served his Country more effectively than most men are able to do in the ordinarily allotted number of years. His most striking characteristic was a marked alertness of both mind and body, coupled with a determination to know every detail of the work on which he was engaged and to see that every step taken was founded on correct principles, be that step physical or moral. This, with a genius for administration and organization, coupled with indefatigable energy, constitute a combination from which great results should follow. We consequently find Gaillard at the age of 32 a member of the International Boundary Commission between the United States and Mexico. Upon first call to arms in the Spanish-American War, we find him requisitioned by Major General Wade for duty as Engineer Officer on his staff. Then we find him, although only a Captain in the regular establishment, appointed Colonel, Third Regiment, United States Volunteer Engineers, and serving in Cuba. After the war with p100 Spain, we find him a member of the General Staff Corps, and again in Cuba during the second occupation of that island as Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the forces there. Finally we find him appointed a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission and assigned to a duty that involved among other things, digging the great cut through the Continental Divide at Culebra, the most trying, discouraging and difficult feature connected with the building of the Panama Canal.
The surest proof of duty well done is the continual selection for duties more and more important.
In the performance of all the above work, the records show the same determination to forget self and to fully master the duty at hand, whether that duty be the astronomical observations necessary in establishing an international boundary line, the preparation of a volunteer regiment for service in the field or in keeping the tracks intact and the trains and shovels going in spite of the sliding mountain sides at Culebra.
When Gaillard was selected in 1907 as a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission and assigned to a duty that involved cleaving a passageway for ships through the Continental Divide at Panama, everyone recognized the stupendousness of the task and furthermore that success at a reasonable cost involved the best solution of an intricate problem in railroad transportation, a field practically new to Gaillard. The work was under way, with competent subordinates, and Gaillard first undertook a complete study of the bigger elements of the problem. He noted that the loaded cars were taken from the shovels to extensive yards and there made up into trains and sent to the dumps. His studies indicated that if trains of suitable size could be partially loaded at one shovel, passed on to others and finally when completely loaded go direct to the dumps, that the output of the steam shovels would be increased and that the same railroad transportation equipment could carry this increased output p101 to the dumps and thus bring about a material decrease in cost. The results proved the correctness of his deductions, and the resulting system of train movement in the Culebra Cut was highly praised by many visiting railroad transportation men.
After studying and unifying the general features of the work, Gaillard commenced a similar study of the smaller elements with a view of further increasing output and diminishing cost. This involved an immense amount of work, such as the selection of the explosive best suited to the various classes of rock, the best depth to drill holes and how best to space them; keeping records of performance and costs of repair of each unit of the varied and extensive plant; the relative cost of similar operations in the several subdivisions of the work, etc., etc.
As the work proceeded, the slides and other difficulties increased and the burden became more severe; and just as victory was in sight, he broke under the strain and was unconscious when the last barrier was destroyed that held back the waters of Gatun Lake from his essentially completed work.
Another classmate in the following lines has most fittingly expressed the spirit of the service rendered by Gaillard:
"To lay down one's life upon the field of battle in voluntary service of fatherland has been considered in all ages the loftiest expression of patriotism, if not of heroism itself. To fall as Gaillard has fallen — is it any less true heroism? Any less self-sacrifice upon the altar of country? Not amid the din of armed conflict, nerved by the frenzy of an hour or a day, but at the end of long years of patient, exacting work, of terrific responsibility, the tragic end has come. But it is just as much a direct result of the struggle itself as if it were the work of a hostile bullet, and the exalted standard of duty which his career exemplified will command the increasing admiration of men as long as his work in the Isthmian hills endures.
"We grieve that he could not have remained to enjoy the fruits of his well-earned fame. But there is compensation in the thought p102 that to him was reserved the higher privilege of laying down his life work just as it was crowned with success. Like Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham, he has been called with the plaudits of victory ringing in his ears. Whatever may come to others, his record is secure."
The duty done and the results accomplished by Gaillard for his Country are of permanent record and will be an inspiration for many young graduates of our Alma Mater, but the personal side of his character, his unselfishness, his unfailing courtesy, his genial manner, his quick brilliant wit can only be of adequate record in the memory of those who knew him through sunshine and through rain.
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Page updated: 13 Dec 13