Garlin M Conner
Garlin was born on the 2nd of June, 1919 in Aaron, Kentucky, and was the third of eleven children. Four of his brothers also joined the US military and would go on to serve in World War two. Garlin entered the US Army on the 1stof March, 1941 in Louisville, Kentucky, and went to Basic Training at Fort Lewis in Washington. He was then assigned to K Company, 3rd Batallion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, and the Division was then sent to Fort Ord in California and For Pickett in Virginia for combat training. Garlin and the 3rdInfantry Division left Virginia on the 23rd of October, 1942, and arrived in time to participate in the invasion of French North Africa. In about a year and a half, Garlin had been involved in four amphibious assault landings and eight campaigns, earning him four Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts, and a commission to First Lieutenant. It was his actions in France that would earn him the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation reads:
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 Batalion 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.
After this action, Garlin returned to the States in March of 1945 and a few months later was honored at an event in Albany, Kentucky. He was then honorably discharged on the 22nd of June and got married to Pauline Wells on the 9th of July, 1945. They lived in a home with no electricity or running water and worked their farm with mules and horses. The land was purchased in 1950 for the impoundment of Lake Cumberland so they moved to Rolan, Kentucky. Even being 80 percent disabled from service connected injuries, Garlin continued to farm and was also the president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau for seventeen years. He was also active with many veterans groups and assisted veterans with filing claims for their service connected injuries. Garlin died on the 5th of November, 1998, at the age of 79, but the story cannot stop here. Why? Because this is a podcast about the Medal of Honor and when Garlin died, he was still a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross and technically, the citation I read earlier was not the citation for that medal. Two years before his death, a campaign had began to have his medal upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
For nineteen years, numerous requests were made and all were denied by the Army. Pictures and testimonies were given in support of this upgrade, including comparison of his actions to the actions of Audie Murphy that took place two days later and earned him the Medal of Honor. Garlin's wife had spent almost two decades fighting for her husband's upgrade just for a US District Judge to rule that she had waited too long to submit her latest request. Almost two years later, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the parties into mediation and the Army's Board for Correction of Military Records finally recommended Garlin for the Medal of Honor. Two years after that, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 was signed and an amendment was included to upgrade Garlin's Distinguished Service Cross. At the age of 88, Garlin's wife received his Medal of Honor from President Trump in a ceremony at the White House on the 29th of March, 2018, seventy-three years after his actions making Garlin Murl Conner the second most decorated soldier from World War 2. He is buried in the Memorial Hill Cemetery in Albany, Kentucky.