Garlin Murl Conner

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Garlin Murl Conner
Garlin Murl Conner.jpg
Garlin Murl Conner in approximately 1945
Born(1919-06-02)2 June 1919
Aaron, Kentucky
Died5 November 1998(1998-11-05) (aged 79)
Albany, Kentucky
Resting place
Memorial Hill
Cemetery, Albany
(36°41′52″N 85°07′54″W / 36.69780°N 85.13170°W / 36.69780; -85.13170Coordinates: 36°41′52″N 85°07′54″W / 36.69780°N 85.13170°W / 36.69780; -85.13170)
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1941–1945
RankFirst Lieutenant
UnitK Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division
Battles/warsWorld War II
* Battle of Anzio
Awards

Garlin Murl Conner (2 June 1919 – 5 November 1998)[1] was a United States Army technical sergeant and first lieutenant in the Second World War. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, four Silver Stars, and the French Croix de guerre for his heroic actions in Italy and France during the war. During his campaigns, he was wounded three times. An attempt to upgrade Conner's Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor, the United States military's highest decoration for valor, took 22 years. On 29 March 2018, the White House announced[2][3] President Trump would award the Medal of Honor to Garlin Murl Conner in a ceremony at the White House. On 26 June 2018, the president presented the medal to Pauline Conner, his widow, in a ceremony in the East Room.[4]

Biography[edit]

Conner was born on 2 June 1919 in Aaron, Kentucky.[5] He was the third child of eleven brothers and sisters. He and four of his brothers served during World War II. He stood at 5 ft 6 in (168 cm).

Military service[edit]

Conner, generally known by his middle name, was a selectee for the military and entered the U.S. Army on 1 March 1941 in Louisville, Kentucky.[6] He completed his basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington where he became a member of K Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. After training with his division at Fort Lewis, he was sent with the 3rd Infantry Division to Camp Ord, California and Fort Pickett, Virginia for further combat training.

On 23 October 1942, Conner and his division departed the United States from Norfolk, Virginia, to fight in the European-African-Middle Eastern theater of operations arriving on 8 November for the invasion of French North Africa. He participated in four amphibious assault landings and eight campaigns including the Anzio Campaign in Italy during which he earned his second Silver Star (Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster).[7][8][9] He was promoted to technical sergeant on 13 January 1944. He was discharged on 27 June 1944, and commissioned a second lieutenant on 28 June 1944.[7][10] On 29 December 1944, he was promoted to 1st lieutenant.

Conner was awarded four Silver Stars for gallantry in action: in October 1943, 30 January 1944, 11 September 1944, and 3 February 1945.[7] He was also awarded the Bronze Star Medal, and three Purple Hearts for being wounded in action on 6 March 1944, in August, and in September 1944.[7][8] He was presented the Distinguished Service Cross from Lieutenant General Alexander Patch, the Commander of the Seventh Army, for extraordinary heroism during a German counterattack with six tanks and 600 infantrymen on 24 January 1945, near Houssen, France.[7] Recently returned to his unit from the hospital, intelligence staff officer Lt. Conner volunteered to go forward to direct artillery fire against the German counterattack. The enemy got so close that Lt. Conner had to call artillery fire directly on his own position, leading to the death of more than 50 Germans and stopping the assault.

In March 1945, Conner was sent back to the U.S. and was honorably discharged on 22 June 1945. He was honored in an event in Albany, Kentucky in May 1945, at which Alvin C. York of nearby Pall Mall, Tennessee, the most noted Medal of Honor winner of World War I, was a speaker.[7]

Post-military and death[edit]

Conner married Lyda Pauline Wells on 9 July 1945.[11]

After the war, the Conners lived on Indian Creek several miles north of Albany, near the Cumberland River, in a home with no electricity or running water, on a farm worked with mules and horses. In 1950 the U.S. government bought their property for the impoundment of Lake Cumberland and they moved to the Rolan community in southeastern Clinton County, Kentucky. They had one son, Paul, one grandson, and three granddaughters. Conner was on 80 percent military disability form his war wounds but continued farming and was president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau for 17 years. He was active in various veterans organizations including the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Disabled American Veterans, and traveled to many nearby counties to assist veterans and their dependents with claims for benefits due them as a result of military service. He was handicapped from his war wounds, heart disease and Parkinson's Disease.

Conner died in 1998, and was buried in Memorial Hills in Albany.[12] In 2012, the U.S. Army honored him by designating a portion of a new maintenance facility at Fort Benning, Georgia as Conner Hall.[13]

Military awards[edit]

Conner's military decorations and awards:

Combat Infantry Badge.svg
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 purple ribbon with width-4 white stripes on the borders
Arrowhead
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Combat Infantryman Badge
Medal of Honor[7][14]
Silver Star w/ three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters[7][8] Bronze Star Medal[7][15] Purple Heart w/ two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters[7][15]
Army Good Conduct Medal American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal w/
Arrowhead device, 3/16" silver star, and three 3/16" bronze stars[7][9]
World War II Victory Medal French Croix de Guerre[7][16]
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Presidential Unit Citation w/ one bronze oak leaf cluster[17]

Distinguished Service Cross citation[edit]

Conner's Distinguished Service Cross reads:

Name: First Lieutenant Garlin M. Conner
Unit: Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division
Place and date: Near Houssen, France, 24 January 1945
G.O. No.: 47, 10 February 1945

Citation:
For extraordinary heroism in action. On 24 January 1945, at 0800 hours, near Houssen, France, Lieutenant Conner ran four hundred yards through the impact area of an intense concentration of enemy artillery fire to direct friendly artillery on a force of six Mark VI tanks and tank destroyers, followed by six hundred fanatical German infantrymen, which was assaulting in full fury the spearhead position held by his Battalion. Unreeling a spool of telephone wire, Lieutenant Conner disregarded shells which exploded twenty-five yards from him, tearing branches from the trees in his path, and plunged in a shallow ditch thirty yards beyond the position of his foremost company. Although the ditch provided inadequate protection from the heavy automatic fire of the advancing enemy infantry, he calmly directed round after round of artillery on the foe from his prone position, hurling them back to the shelter of a dike. For three hours he remained at his OP [observation post] despite wave after wave of German infantry, which surged forward to within five yards of his position. As the last, all-out German assault swept forward, he ordered his artillery to concentrate on his own position, resolved to die if necessary to halt the enemy. Friendly shells exploded within five yards of him, blanketing his position, wounding his one assistant. Yet Lieutenant Conner continued to direct artillery fire on the assault elements swarming around him until the German attack was shattered and broken. By his exemplary heroism, he killed approximately fifty and wounded an estimated one hundred Germans, disintegrated the powerful enemy assault and prevented heavy casualties in his Battalion. Entered military service from Aaron, Kentucky.
By command of Lieutenant General Patch[7]

Medal of Honor campaign[edit]

Since 1996, there have been continuous efforts to have Conner's Distinguished Service Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor. The numerous requests for the change of award required Army approval and were denied by the Army up until 22 October 2015.[7][12] Included in these requests was a comparison of Conner's actions on 24 January 1945 to Audie Murphy's Medal of Honor actions two days later.[7][20] Murphy, one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II,[21] also served in the 3rd Infantry Division.

Through the pictures, medals, and testimony of Conner's superior officers, including Maj. Gen. Lloyd Ramsey, the story of Conner's heroic actions more than 50 years earlier in France came back to life. Early on 24 January 1945, Conner's commanding officer was seeking a volunteer for a dangerous and life-threatening mission: Run 400 yards directly toward the enemy while unreeling telephone wire all the way to trenches on the front line. From that point, the volunteer would be able to call in targeting coordinates for mortar fire. Conner and another soldier with him, grabbed the spool of wire and took off amid intense enemy fire. They made it to the ditch, where Conner stayed in contact with his unit for three hours in near-zero-degree weather as a ferocious onslaught of German tanks and infantry bore down on him.[7]

Korean War veteran Richard Chilton, whose uncle Pfc. Gordon W. Roberts served with Conner in combat and was killed in action at Anzio on 31 January 1944, stated in 2015, "My God, he held off 600 Germans and six tanks coming right at him. When they got too close, his commander told him to vacate and instead, he says, 'Blanket my position.'"[11] The request meant Conner was calling for artillery strikes as he was being overrun, risking his life in order to draw friendly fire that would take out the enemy, too,[11] during which time he directed his men for three hours by telephone. During the action, Conner killed 50 German soldiers with artillery fire and his companion was wounded.[7] Lt. Harold Wigetman a member of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, credited Conner with saving the battalion.[12]

Pauline Conner with the help of Chilton and others,[11] waged a seventeen-year campaign for the Medal of Honor recognition for Garlin, for the 24 January 1945 action. On 11 March 2014, U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell ruled that Pauline had waited too long to submit her most recent request.[12]

There is no doubt that Lt. Conner should have been awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I've ever had the privilege of commanding.

— Maj. Gen. Lloyd B. Ramsey, Ret.

In late October 2015, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the parties into mediation. The Army's Board for Correction of Military Records recommended Connor for the Medal of Honor.[11]

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 which was signed into law by the President on 12 December 2017, includes in an amendment, the "Authorization For Award Of The Medal Of Honor To Garlin M. Conner For Acts of Valor During World War II", that waives the time limit to award the Medal of Honor to Conner for which he was previously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism on 24 January 1945 in France.[22][23]

On 29 March 2018, The White House announced that President Trump would present the Medal of Honor posthumously to Conner; the presentation took place on 26 June 2018.[3][4][24]

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

First Lieutenant Garlin M. Conner distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity while serving with Company K, 3d Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division. On the morning of January 24, 1945, near the town of Houssen, France, German forces ferociously counterattacked the front left flank of the 7th Infantry Regiment with 600 infantry troops, six Mark VI tanks, and tank destroyers. Lieutenant Conner, having recently returned to his unit after recovering from a wound received in an earlier battle, was working as the Intelligence Officer in the 3d Battalion Command Post at the time of the attack. Understanding the devastating effect that the advancing enemy armor could have on the Battalion, Lieutenant Conner immediately volunteered to run straight into the heart of the enemy assault to get to a position from which he could direct friendly artillery on the advancing enemy forces. With complete disregard for his own safety, Lieutenant Conner maneuvered 400 yards through enemy artillery fire that destroyed trees in his path and rained shrapnel all around him, while unrolling telephone wire needed to communicate with the Battalion command post. Upon reaching the Battalion’s front line, he continued to move forward under the enemy assault to a position 30 yards in front of the defending United States forces, where he plunged into a shallow ditch that provided minimal protection from the advancing enemy’s heavy machine gun and small arms fire. With rounds impacting all around him, Lieutenant Conner calmly directed multiple fire missions, adjusting round after round of artillery from his prone position, until the enemy was forced to halt its advance and seek cover behind a nearby dike. For three hours, Lieutenant Conner remained in this compromised position, enduring the repeated onslaught of German infantry which, at one point, advanced to within five yards of his position. As German infantry regrouped and began to mass in an overwhelming assault, Lieutenant Conner ordered friendly artillery to concentrate directly on his own position, having resolved to die if necessary to destroy the enemy advance. Ignoring the friendly artillery shells blanketing his position and exploding mere feet from him, Lieutenant Conner continued to direct artillery fire on the enemy assault swarming around him until the German attack was finally broken. By his heroism and disregard for his own life, Lieutenant Conner stopped the enemy advance. The artillery he expertly directed, while under constant enemy fire, killed approximately fifty German soldiers and wounded an estimated one hundred more, preventing what would have undoubtedly been heavy friendly casualties. His actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3d Infantry Division, and the United States Army.[25]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Normally the fourragère requires two cites. The 3rd Infantry Division was cited one time and awarded the fourragere.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Garlin Murl Conner". geni.com. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  2. ^ "President Trump to award Medal of Honor to World War II hero for repelling German attack".
  3. ^ a b "President Donald J Trump to Award the Medal of Honor". whitehouse.gov. The White House. 29 March 2018. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b "WWII Soldier's Widow to Accept Medal of Honor for Late Husband".
  5. ^ "Conner, G. Murl". Gravesite Locator. U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  6. ^ "Access to Archival Databases". Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Army Board for the Correction of Military Records: AR20150006700". Boards of Review Reading Room. US Department of Defense. 22 October 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  8. ^ a b c "Garlin Murl Conner". Hall of Valor. Military Times. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  9. ^ a b (CMH), U.S. Army Center of Military History. "3d Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment - Lineage and Honors - U.S. Army Center of Military History (CMH)". history.army.mil.
  10. ^ Baxter, Randall (2013). The Veteran Next Door: Randall Baxter, Volume 1. AuthorHouse. p. 110. ISBN 978-1491803806.
  11. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Greg (4 November 2015). "Battle joined: Army panel backs WWII vet's posthumous bid for Medal of Honor". Fox News. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d "Second-most decorated WWII soldier won't get Medal of Honor". CBS News. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
  13. ^ Rodewig, Cheryl (3 October 2012). "TACOM FMX dedicates buildings". Bayonet & Saber. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  14. ^ 3d Infantry Division (1947). Donald Taggart (ed.). History of the Third Infantry Division in World War II. 1115 17th Street NM, Washington 6, DC: Infantry Journal. p. 389. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  15. ^ a b Ridenour, Hugh (Winter 2012). "Garlin M. Conner: The Elusive Medal of Honor". Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. 110 (1): 79, 81.
  16. ^ "Rhode Island State Senate 05-R 300".
  17. ^ "Department of the Army Pamphlet 672-1" (PDF). K Company, 7th Infantry Regiment cited for the period 29 February to 1 March 1944, War Department General Order 64-47 / 7th Infantry Regiment cited for the period 22 January to 6 February 1945, War Department General Order 44-45.
  18. ^ [1] DA GO 43, 1950. 3rd Infantry Division awarded under Decision No. 976, 27 July 1945 (cited for the period 15 August 1944 to 6 February 1945)
  19. ^ "Department of the Army Pamphlet 672-1" (PDF). Foreign Unit Awards, #50 French Fourragere. Page 21, awarded to 3rd Infantry Division for the period 15 August 1944 to 6 February 1945, DA GO 43-50 (DA GO 43, 1950)
  20. ^ Sergeant Audie Murphy Association, Medal of Honor Citation
  21. ^ "SMA William G. Bainbridge, 4th SMA, passes - The NCO Historical Society - NCOHistory.com". The NCO Historical Society - NCOHistory.com.
  22. ^ Mac, Thornberry, (12 December 2017). "H.R.2810 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018". www.congress.gov.
  23. ^ Mac, Thornberry, (12 December 2017). "Amendments - H.R.2810 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018". www.congress.gov.
  24. ^ Seck, Hope Hodge (29 March 2018). "Trump to Award Medal of Honor to World War II Infantryman". Military.com. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  25. ^ "3rd Infantry Division Soldier Earns Medal of Honor: First Lieutenant Garlin M. Connor". US Army. Retrieved 9 June 2019.

External links[edit]