Vice Adm. A. R. Gralla, 85, Hero in Pacific
Vice Adm. Arthur Robert Gralla, a veteran of three wars whose combat ribbons told of two crippled warships with some 5,500 sailors and airmen snatched from danger in the Pacific, died on May 22 at the Arleigh Burke Pavilion in McLean, Va. He was 85 and, most recently, a resident of Arlington.
Admiral Gralla entered the country's honor roll of war heroes in late 1944 as the gunnery officer of the cruiser Reno. On Oct. 14 of that year, he directed his antiaircraft batteries to deliver ''devastating fire'' against waves of Japanese torpedo bombers, bringing down 11 and preventing damage to his naval task force.
Ten days later, the aircraft carrier Princeton was bombed and set on fire in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, in the Philippines. His well-aimed batteries shielded the stricken carrier, and he was credited with sparing it.
Then, in November, off the island of Samar, the Reno took a torpedo that caused an underwater explosion and flooded parts of the vessel.
''Voluntarily taking charge of dewatering operations in the ship's flooded stern with high waves making footing dangerous,'' the Navy stated, ''Commander Gralla directed shoring to prevent further water from entering the compartment leading to the flooded'' main storeroom.
''When the water had lowered sufficiently to permit entry,'' the Navy said, ''he descended into the partially filled storeroom floating with debris and obnoxious gases before permitting his men to go below and then directed pumping operations in oil-covered water up to his armpits with the ship rolling heavily and the additional threat of possible pressure rupture of other water filled compartments.''
The Reno survived. Its gunnery officer received the Bronze Star, Gold Star (in lieu of a second Bronze Star), and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his conduct in those three fateful engagements.
Admiral Gralla retired at the end of 1971 after 37 years in the service. His last command was the Military Sealift Command, the ocean-going shipping agency of the armed forces.
Arthur Gralla was born in Brooklyn. Attending Brooklyn College, he worked as an apprentice merchant seaman one summer and won an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. He graduated with honors in 1934, ninth in a class of 463, and completed his education with a master's degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1942.
In 1961 he headed an inquiry into a fire aboard the carrier Saratoga off Athens in the Ionian Sea, which killed 7 crewmen and injured 23. When the Navy revamped its management in 1966, he was put in charge of its Bureau of Ordnance Systems.
He was promoted to vice admiral in 1969, when he briefly served as Navy inspector general. Later that year he was given his final assignment at what was then called the Military Sea Transportation Service.
Admiral Gralla is survived by his wife of 62 years, Mildred Lesser Gralla; their two sons, Arthur R. Jr., of Houston, a retired Navy captain, and Dr. Richard J., of New Orleans; a sister, Edna Berlly of Boca Raton, Fla., and three grandchildren.