President Trump on Tuesday awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to Army First Lt. Garlin Murl Conner for heroic and death-defying acts that saved countless American soldiers during a battle in World War II.
“Today we pay tribute to this Kentucky farm boy who stared down evil with the strength of a warrior and the heart of a true hero,” the president said at a ceremony in the East Room.
Conner received the Medal of Honor for risking his life in early 1945 to run to the front line in a fierce firefight in France, stringing telephone cable with him and directing artillery at German forces that were overrunning the American position.
As the Germans surged toward him, Conner called for artillery fire on his own position.
“‘Aim at me,’ he said, ‘aim at me,’ said Mr. Trump. “Well, they missed him by feet. But he kept calling in, ‘more rounds, more rounds’ until the blanket of fire broke the German advance and the enemy retreated, saving so many American lives.”
What’s more, Conner had actually volunteered for the mission after sneaking out of the hospital where he was being treated for a wound suffered in a previous battle.
Mr. Trump said that American soldiers who were there said it was the “single bravest act they had ever seen.”
“Although he died 20 years ago, today he takes his rightful place in the eternal chronicle of American valor,” said Mr. Trump.
The president presented the medal to his 89-year-old widow Pauline Conner, who spent the two decades since his death on a campaign to secure him the military’s highest decoration.
With the goal realized, the Medal of Honor capped a long list of decorations for Conner’s actions during 28 months on the front lines in Europe, where he served as in the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment.
The Kentucky native received the Distinguished Service Cross, four Silver Stars, the French Croix de Guerre, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.
He was wounded seven times, according to the Defense Department.
The Medal of Honor was awarded for Conner’s actions on Jan. 24, 1945, near the town of Houssen, France, as German forces converged on the 3rd Battalion’s position.
With complete disregard for his own safety, 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, according to the Army’s account.
Reaching the front line, he continued to move forward under the withering enemy assault to a position 30 yards in front of the defending U.S. forces.
From a shallow ditch, with rounds going off all around him, Conner calmly directed multiple fire missions onto the force of 600 German infantry troops, six Mark VI tanks and tank destroyers, adjusting round after round of artillery from his prone position, it said.
As the enemy made surged toward the American lines, Conner ordered his artillery to concentrate fire on his own position, “resolved to die if necessary to halt the enemy,” according to his Distinguished Service Cross citation.
Conner died in his hometown of Albany, Kentucky, on Nov. 5, 1998. He was 79.
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