A Kentucky man will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor after his family and others pressed for the recognition for more than 20 years.
Army First Lt. Garlin Murl Conner, credited with demonstrating acts of valor during World War II, will be recognized in a ceremony later this year.
President Donald Trump telephoned Conner’s 88-year-old widow in Albany on Monday to tell her the news. Sunday was National Medal of Honor Day.
“I think it’s one of the most wonderful things that’s ever happened to me besides marrying my husband. That was best,” said Pauline Conner in a telephone interview. “He said my husband had one of the best records that he had seen.”
Garlin Conner, a Clinton County native, died at age 79 in 1998. The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military distinction, given by Congress for life-risking acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.
On Jan. 24, 1945, while recovering from a battlefield wound near Houssen, France, Conner ran away from his field hospital to rejoin his unit, and thereafter, single-handedly held off the advance of six German tanks and 600 German infantrymen. Unrolling a spool of wire so he could use a a field telephone, he directed artillery to fall onto his own position, killing 50 enemy soldiers and wounding another 100.
“He called for artillery fire upon himself, determined to destroy and smash the Germans even if it cost him his life,” wrote 1st Sgt. Harold J. Miller in an eyewitness statement.
Conner also earned four Silver Stars, one Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during 28 straight months of combat during World War II.
The effort to see Conner recognized began when Richard Chilton, a Green Beret from Wisconsin, wrote the Army Board for Correction of Military Records saying that Conner should be honored. While researching the military career of his uncle, Chilton met and talked with Conner before he died. Conner knew Chilton’s uncle.
The Army board rejected Conner’s application for the Medal of Honor in 1997 and turned away an appeal in June 2000.
In the years that followed, lawmakers in Kentucky, Tennessee and other states passed resolutions backing the effort to see Conner receive the Medal of Honor. After three eyewitness accounts to Conner’s deeds were obtained in 2006, Pauline Conner resubmitted the case to the board in 2008 —two years after the statute of limitations expired.
In 2014 a federal judge said Pauline Conner had waited too long to present new evidence to the Board of Correction for Military Records. But in 2015, the board went against the advice of its staff and voted unanimously that the evidence “was sufficient to warrant a recommendation” that Conner receive the medal.
Kentucky Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis supporting the effort to recognize Conner, said Dennis Shepherd, a retired Air Force colonel and attorney with the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs.
McConnell attached an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 that cleared the way to legally recognize Conner, Shepherd said.
“It’s been a very long process with a lot of bureaucracy to go through and a lot of boards to go through,” Shepherd said.