When First Lieutenant Garlin Murl Conner left the United States Army in 1945, after completing four years of service, he was a highly decorated U.S. soldier of World War II. His self-sacrificing acts of heroism were well known among the survivors of the Third Infantry Division as well as in his hometown of Aaron, Kentucky.
Much to the dismay of his wife Pauline, Conner never received the Medal of Honor. However, with the help of Army veteran Richard Chilton of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Conner will receive the award posthumously later in 2018.
For over twenty years, Pauline Conner battled with red tape trying to get her husband the recognition he should have received in life.
During Lt. Conner’s tour of duty he received the Bronze Star, four Silver Stars, and the Distinguished Service Cross, which is second only to the Medal of Honor. Conner was wounded seven times and was awarded three Purple Hearts.
The letter of presentation for the Distinguished Service Cross cites, “For extraordinary heroism in action, on 24 January 1945 at 08:00 hours, near Houssen, France, Lt. 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 German tanks, followed by 600 fanatical German infantrymen, which was [sic] assaulting in full fury the spearhead position held by his battalion.”
Not only that, but while under attack he ran a telephone wire to a ditch where he could call for backup and direct the Allied tanks.
At one point the Commanding Officer asked for volunteers for an unusually dangerous mission and Conner was the only volunteer. He reportedly liked to stand up in battle rather than lie on the ground because he could see the enemy better.
After the war, Conner went back to Kentucky and worked his farm. He became involved with the local VFW post and worked to help veterans until he passed away at the age of seventy-nine. He is buried at Memorial Hill Cemetery in Albany, Kentucky. His widow, son, and grandchildren still live on the farm.
Mrs. Conner had applied for the medal in 1997 but was rejected. She was denied again in a 2000 appeal. At the same time, Richard Chilton, a veteran of the Korean War and Desert Storm, was researching his uncle’s World War II service record.
“I would say that I interviewed over 300 (veterans of the 7th Infantry Regiment) looking for information about my uncle,” Chilton remarked, “but the name I kept hearing was Garlin Conner. They were amazed when they learned he had made it through the war and was still alive at that time and they would go on to tell me what he had done.”
Chilton gathered testimonials from former soldiers, commanding officers and what war records he could find to use for evidence and presented it to the family. In 2014, the Conner family made another bid for the medal but Judge Thomas B. Russell denied the claim on the basis that the statute of limitations was up.
Mrs. Conner and Chilton refused to give up. Chilton got veterans organizations from every state in the Union involved as well as Kentucky Congress members. In 2015, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records held another vote and recommended that Conner receive the honor.
The request must cross the desk of the U.S. Secretary of Defense and then to the President who has already spoken with Mrs. Conner and invited her to attend a presentation ceremony at the White House later in the year.