The name of Lt. Garlin Murl Conner is not as recognizable as that of Audie Murphy, but it should be. Conner, it turns out, was the second most decorated soldier of WWII. I did not know his name until seeing it in a March 29, 2018 article on Military.com. In a span of 28 months of straight combat, Connor was awarded four Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, 3 Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross. Here is some of his story.
Conner enlisted in the Army in 1941 and then participated in almost endless combat from an amphibious assault landing on French Morocco to campaigns up the boot of Italy and other areas of Europe. But it was at a battle near the town of Houssen, France that his actions were so singularly heroic that he would be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. It is that award that will be upgraded to the Medal of Honor at an upcoming White House ceremony.
In the bitter cold of January in 1945 Lt. Conner was serving as an intelligence officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Co., 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in France. His battalion at the front of allied forces pushing the Germans out of France and back into Germany. They suddenly came under a fierce and intense assault from a fanatical German force of tanks and infantry.
For his actions that day, Conner would be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The DSO citation reads in part:
“First Lieutenant Conner ran 400 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 600 fanatical German infantrymen, which was assaulting in full fury the spearhead position held by his battalion.
“He was individually credited with stopping more than 150 Germans, destroying all the tanks, and completely disintegrating the powerful enemy force and preventing heavy loss of life in his own outfit.”
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It was also said that after he had run through the enemy artillery kill zone to that forward position, which was about 30 yards in front of his own unit, he stayed there, alone, directing the intense use of friendly artillery against the German forces for three hours. It was reported that the enemy came as close as five yards from him, yet he did not abandon his position or his efforts, which, of course, meant that he was directing his own friendly artillery fire dangerously close to his own position. His courageous and skillful direction of his own artillery turned the fierce German assault into a devastating defeat.
Conner was born in Clinton County, Kentucky, and died at the age of 79 in 1998. According to an article in the Herald-Leader, Conner was rejected twice for the Medal of Honor by an Army review board, once in 1997 and in 2000. It was not until 2015 that the Board of Correction for Military Records decided his actions in January of 1945 deserved a recommendation to upgrade his Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor. President Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Conner’s widow, Pauline Lyda Wells Conner, and other family members in a ceremony at the White House.
The Veterans Site sends its condolences as well as its deepest respect and thanks to the family of Lt. Garlin Murl Conner. He was a superb example of the kind of soldier and citizen that we have come to call the Greatest Generation. That example was evident both on the battlefield during WWII and throughout his long life afterwards.
We will never forget your courage and sacrifice. Rest in Peace, good soldier. Hoorah!
Read about the female surgeon who won the Medal of Honor in the Civil War on the next page!
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.