Matt Urban

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Matt Louis Urban
Nickname(s) "The Ghost"
Born (1919-08-25)August 25, 1919
Buffalo, New York
Died March 4, 1995(1995-03-04) (aged 75)
Holland, Michigan
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1941-1946
Rank Lieutenant colonel US-O5 insignia.svg
Unit 9th Infantry Division
Commands held
Battles/wars World War II

Matt Louis Urban (August 25, 1919 – March 4, 1995) was an American and United States Army lieutenant colonel. He is one of the most decorated infantry officers who had been awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism above and beyond the call of duty in World War II. He performed valiantly in combat on many occasions despite being wounded in action several times.

Urban received over a dozen individual decorations for combat from the U.S. Army, including seven Purple Hearts. In 1980, he received the Medal of Honor and four other individual decorations for combat belatedly for his actions in France and Belgium in 1944. In Section 7a of the "Prominent Military Figures" portion of Arlington National Cemetery's webpage, there is the statement, "Lt. Col. Matt Urban - World War II infantry officer who earned the distinction as the most decorated soldier in WW II".

Early years[edit]

Matt Urban was born Matthew Louis Urbanowicz in Buffalo, New York. His parents Stanley and Helen Urbanowicz (Urban) were Polish immigrants. Urban was baptized at Corpus Christi Church and attended Buffalo East High School. He had two surviving brothers, Dr. Stanley (Urbanowicz) Urban and Arthur (Urbanowicz) Urban.[1] A younger brother Eugene died in 1927 from appendicitis. His father was a plumbing contractor. The family home was at 1153 Broadway.

In the 1940 Census, he was listed as living at the family home and completed 3 years of college under the name of Matthew Urbanowicz. However, Urban attended and graduated from Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) under the name Matty L. Urbanowitz.[2] He graduated on June 14, 1941 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Government with a minor in Community Recreation. While at Cornell University, he was a member of the track and boxing teams and the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).[1]

U.S. Army[edit]

The names "Matt Urban" and "Matty Louis (L.) Urbanowitz" are used as his name in his U.S. Army service records and in his book The Matt Urban Story.[1][3][4] The name "MATT LOUIS URBAN" was engraved on the front of his white Arlington National Cemetery headstone.[5]His current and private grave monument at Arlington National Cemetery reads, "Matt L. Urban".[6]

Urban was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry in the U.S. Army on May 22, 1941 and entered active duty on July 2, 1941 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

World War II[edit]

He served as a first lieutenant and a captain in six campaigns during World War II and was severely wounded his seventh time while charging an enemy machine gun position in September 1944, in Belgium. He was promoted to major and lieutenant colonel on October 2, 1944 and October 2, 1945 respectively. He was medically retired from the U.S. Army on February 26, 1946.[1]

Beginning at Fort Bragg, Urban served as a platoon leader. During the war he was a morale and special services officer, a platoon leader, a company executive officer and company commander, and a battalion executive officer and battalion commander of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division ("Old Reliables").[7] Urban first went into combat when he made the beach landing under fire with another soldier on a raft during the invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch) of the North Africa Campaign on November 8, 1942.[1] Besides a Purple Heart, one of the first medals he received was a Silver Star.[1][8]

Life and death after the war[edit]

Beginning in October 1945, he was a staff writer and editor for Liberty Magazine's ("Liberty", 1924-1950) Veterans' View Bulletin for two years. In the meantime, he changed his name from Matty Urbanowitz to Matt Urban. He was the Recreation Director in Port Huron, Michigan from 1949 to 1956. He took a job as Director of the Monroe, Michigan, Community Center from 1956 to 1972 and remained at the community center as coach for basketball, baseball, and football programs. At Monroe, he also trained several young men who became national Golden Gloves Champions. He was appointed chair of the Michigan Olympic Boxing Committee. Later, as part of the Chicago Olympic Committee, he was one of three trainers who accompanied Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) to the San Francisco Olympic tryouts.

Urban was also Director of the Recreation Department of Holland, Michigan from 1972 to 1989. He served there with distinction until his retirement in 1989. He started and became a Camp Director for under-privileged children, Boys Club director, and a Cub Scout Master. He was also involved in other activities and organizations like the Red Cross, the Amateur Softball Association, and Boy Scouts, as chairman, board member, committee member, and coach. He was inducted into the Hall of Honor at the Softball Hall of Fame.

In early 1979, a Michigan Disabled American Veterans (DAV) regional service representative who had come to know Urban personally over a long period of time, sent an official Medal of Honor recommendation inquiry to U.S. Army Headquarters. The misplaced MOH recommendation for Urban was found and revealed that Major Max L. Wolf, Urban's battalion commander in France, had initiated a Medal of Honor recommendation for Urban just prior to Major Wolf being killed in action in France, in July 1944.[9] The U.S. Army then completed the necessary recommendation process to award Urban the Medal of Honor.

In 1980, by the direction of the President, the Department of the Army awarded Matt Urban the Medal of Honor, in the name of the Congress.[10] On July 18, 1980, he was presented the Bronze Star Medal (second oak leaf cluster), the Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart (sixth oak leaf cluster) by the U.S. Army and the Croix de guerre with silver-gilt star by a representative from France during a special ceremony at the Pentagon. On July 19, President Jimmy Carter presented to Matt Urban the Medal of Honor in front of several hundreds of guests which included fellow 60th Infantry veterans who witnessed Urban's actions in combat:[1][11]

In 1989, Urban retired to complete his autobiography, The Matt Urban Story, Life And World War II Experiences.[1]


Urban died on March 4, 1995, in Holland, Michigan. The cause of death was from a collapsed lung, supposedly due to his war injuries. He is buried in Plot: Section 7a, Grave 40 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel (then captain), 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division
Place and date: Renouf, France, 14 July to 3 September 1944
Entered service at: Fort Bragg, North Carolina, 2 July 1941
G.O. No.: 10, 18 September 1980

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to



For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty: Lieutenant Colonel (then Captain) Matt Urban, 112-22-2414, United States Army, distinguished himself by a series of bold, heroic actions, exemplified by singularly outstanding combat leadership, personal bravery, and tenacious devotion to duty, during the period 14 June to 3 September 1944 while assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. On 14 June, Captain Urban's company, attacking at Renouf, France, encountered heavy enemy small arms and tank fire. The enemy tanks were unmercifully raking his unit's positions and inflicting heavy casualties. Captain Urban, realizing that his company was in imminent danger of being decimated, armed himself with a bazooka. He worked his way with an ammo carrier through hedgerows, under a continuing barrage of fire, to a point near the tanks. He brazenly exposed himself to the enemy fire and, firing the bazooka, destroyed both tanks. Responding to Captain Urban's action, his company moved forward and routed the enemy. Later that same day, still in the attack near Orglandes, Captain Urban was wounded in the leg by direct fire from a 37mm tank-gun. He refused evacuation and continued to lead his company until they moved into defensive positions for the night. At 0500 hours the next day, Captain Urban, though badly wounded, directed his company in another attack. One hour later he was again wounded. Suffering from two wounds, one serious, he was evacuated to England.

In mid-July, while recovering from his wounds, he learned of his unit's severe losses in the hedgerows of Normandy. Realizing his unit's need for battle-tested leaders, he voluntarily left the hospital and hitchhiked his way back to his unit near St. Lo, France. Arriving at the 2d Battalion Command Post at 1130 hours, 25 July, he found that his unit had jumped-off at 1100 hours in the first attack of "Operation Cobra". Still limping from his leg wound, Captain Urban made his way forward to retake command of his company. He found his company held up by strong enemy opposition. Two supporting tanks had been destroyed and another, intact but with no tank commander or gunner, was not moving. He located a lieutenant in charge of the support tanks and directed a plan of attack to eliminate the enemy strong-point. The lieutenant and a sergeant were immediately killed by the heavy enemy fire when they tried to mount the tank. Captain Urban, though physically hampered by his leg wound and knowing quick action had to be taken, dashed through the scathing fire and mounted the tank. With enemy bullets ricocheting from the tank, Captain Urban ordered the tank forward and, completely exposed to the enemy fire, manned the machine gun and placed devastating fire on the enemy. His action, in the face of enemy fire, galvanized the battalion into action and they attacked and destroyed the enemy position. On 2 August, Captain Urban was wounded in the chest by shell fragments and, disregarding the recommendation of the Battalion Surgeon, again refused evacuation. On 6 August, Captain Urban became the commander of the 2d Battalion. On 15 August, he was again wounded but remained with his unit.

On 3 September, the 2d Battalion was given the mission of establishing a crossing-point on the Meuse River near Heer, Belgium. The enemy planned to stop the advance of the allied Army by concentrating heavy forces at the Meuse. The 2d Battalion, attacking toward the crossing-point, encountered fierce enemy artillery, small arms and mortar fire which stopped the attack. Captain Urban quickly moved from his command post to the lead position of the battalion. Reorganizing the attacking elements, he personally led a charge toward the enemy's strong-point. As the charge moved across the open terrain, Captain Urban was seriously wounded in the neck. Although unable to talk above a whisper from the paralyzing neck wound, and in danger of losing his life, he refused to be evacuated until the enemy was routed and his battalion had secured the crossing-point on the Meuse River. Captain Urban's personal leadership, limitless bravery, and repeated extraordinary exposure to enemy fire served as an inspiration to his entire battalion. His valorous and intrepid actions reflect the utmost credit on him and uphold the noble traditions of the United States Army.

/S/ JIMMY CARTER[12][13]

Military awards[edit]

Matt Urban's military awards include fourteen individual decorations for combat he received from the U.S. Army: the Medal of Honor, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Star Medals (two for heroism), and seven Purple Hearts.[14] This appears to be the most number of individual decorations for combat awarded to an infantryman by the U.S. Army for World War II. He received five combat decorations for valor from the U.S. Army.

Urban received the following military decorations and awards:

Combat Infantry Badge.svg  Combat Infantryman Badge

Medal of Honor
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver Star with One Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Legion of Merit
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star with "V" Device and Two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart with One Silver and One Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Presidential Unit Citation with One Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Silver star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Arrowhead Device and One Silver and One Bronze Campaign Star
World War II Victory Medal
Gold star
French Croix de Guerre with One Silver Gilt Star and Palm [15]
French Liberation Medal
Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm
(Unit Award)
Belgian Fourragère

Personal awards and honors[edit]

Urban's personal awards and honors include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h The Matt Urban Story, by Matt Urban and Charles Conrad, 1989, ISBN 0-9624621-0-1.
  2. ^ Cornell Alumni News issues, 1939-1941, "Matty L. Urbanowitz, 41"; December 15, 1943, Vol. 46, #12, p. 233, "Captain Matty L. Urbanowitz", two Silver Stars.
  3. ^ [1] US Army Silver Star index, 1943, WWII; two Silver Stars, Urbanowitz, Matty L.
  4. ^ GO# 10, 18 September 1980, Lieutenant Colonel (then Captain) "Matt Urban". National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO.
  5. ^ [2] Arlington National Cemetery Website, government headstone information
  6. ^ [3] Arlington National Cemtery Website, Find a Gravesite
  7. ^ "9th Infantry Division Unit History (". 
  8. ^ [4] Military Times, Hall of Valor, Matt Urban (Urbanowicz); Note: Matty Urbanowitz is the name on his citations except for Medal of Honor.
  9. ^ Buffalo News, "July 4, 1979: Matt Urban To Finally Get Medal of Honor" by Steve Cichon, July 3, 2014
  10. ^ General Orders No. 10, 18 September 1980, Citation (Corrected Copy).
  11. ^ [5] The American Presidency Project. Jimmy Carter- Congressional Medal of Honor Remarks on Presenting the Medal to Lt. Col. Matt Urban, US Army Retired
  12. ^ General Orders No. 10, 18 September 1980, Citation (Corrected Copy)
  13. ^ "Medal of Honor Recipients - World War II (T–Z)". Medal of Honor Citations. United States Army Center of Military History. December 3, 2010. Retrieved May 17, 2011. 
  14. ^ [6] Army Regulation 600-8-22, Military Awards, 11 Dec. 2006: U.S. Army Individual Decorations, p. 36-37, Chapter 3, 3-2 / Section II, Individual DOD Decorations (Purple Heart), p. 20, 2-8
  15. ^ Boven, Robert W. (2000). Most decorated soldier in World War II: Matt Urban. Canada: Trafford Publishing. p. 230. ISBN 1-55212-528-9. Retrieved 3 March 2012. 
  16. ^ "Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA)". 1995-03-04. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  17. ^ [7] Veterans Service Agency. Lt. Col. Matt "The Ghost" Urban
  18. ^ [8] PLAV Post 164
  19. ^ "LT. Col Matt "The Ghost" Urban | Buffalo Veterans Boxers Association". Archived from the original on 2013-12-15. Retrieved 2016-01-27. 
  • Urban, Matt; Conrad, Charles. The Matt Urban Story, Life And World War II Experiences, By Lieutenant Colonel Matt Urban, Our Most Combat Decorated Soldier, 1989. ISBN 978-0-9624621-0-8. 
  • Urban, Matt. The Hero - We Nearly Forgot, 1990. ASIN B002GJ1CA0. 

External links[edit]