Trump to Award Medal of Honor to World War II Infantryman

This undated photo provided by the family's attorney, Donald Todd, shows Lt. Garlin Murl Conner, of Albany, Ky. Conner left the U.S. Army as the second-most decorated soldier during World War II, earning four Silver Stars, one Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during 28 straight months in combat. Now, he's been nominated for the Medal of Honor. (AP Photo/Courtesy Conner Family Attorney)
This undated photo provided by the family's attorney, Donald Todd, shows Lt. Garlin Murl Conner, of Albany, Ky. Conner left the U.S. Army as the second-most decorated soldier during World War II, earning four Silver Stars, one Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during 28 straight months in combat. Now, he's been nominated for the Medal of Honor. (AP Photo/Courtesy Conner Family Attorney)

President Donald Trump will soon award the Medal of Honor posthumously to an Army lieutenant who directed artillery fire from an exposed position for three hours while fending off "fanatical German infantrymen" during a 1945 battle near Houssen, France.

Garlin Murl Conner, then a first lieutenant, will be the third service member to be awarded the military's highest combat award since Trump took office. According to a White House statement released Thursday, Conner's widow, Pauline Lyda Wells Conner, and other families will be present at the medal ceremony. The date for the ceremony has yet to be announced.

In January 1945, Conner was serving as an intelligence officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, according to information released by the White House.

"Then-First Lieutenant Conner voluntarily left his position of relative safety to place himself in a better position to direct artillery fire onto the assaulting enemy infantry and armor," the White House announcement said. "He remained in an exposed position, which was 30 yards ahead of the defending force, for a period of three hours."

During that time, enemy soldiers came within five yards of him and he was constantly at risk from friendly artillery shells, the announcement states.

Despite all that, "he continued to direct the fire of friendly artillery, which ultimately repelled the assaulting enemy elements."

Conner survived the battle and would be discharged from the Army on June 22, 1945.

He had first entered the service as an enlisted soldier in 1941, according to released information, and would ultimately participate in an amphibious assault landing on French Morocco and serve in combat operations in Italy and elsewhere in continental Europe.

He received a battlefield commission in June 1944 and became a lieutenant.

Trump's announcement comes a day after the Lexington Herald-Leader of Lexington, Kentucky, reported that Pauline Conner, 88, had received a call from Trump notifying her of the award.

According to the publication, Conner was a native of Clinton County, Kentucky. He died at age 79 in 1998, the outlet reported.

According to a report from the Army Board for Correction of Military Records reviewed by Military.com, Conner had received an astounding four Silver Stars, one Bronze star and three Purple Hearts during his brief but intense Army career. He also received the Distinguished Service Cross, according to the report.

The Distinguished Service Cross was awarded for the Jan. 24, 1945, act of heroism now being recognized with the Medal of Honor. The citation for that award, posted by the Military Times Hall of Valor, is striking in its dramatic description of the fight.

"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," the citation reads.

According to the citation, Conner unspooled telephone wire to set up an observation post, which he then bravely manned for hours of fighting.

"He was individually credited with stopping more than 150 Germans, destroying all the tanks, and completely disintegrating the powerful enemy assault force and preventing heavy loss of life in his own outfit," the citation reads. "First Lieutenant Conner's intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3d Infantry Division, and the United States Army."

The Herald-Leader reported Conner had twice been rejected for the Medal of Honor, in 1997 and 2000, by an Army review board. But in 2015, according to the report, the Board of Correction for Military Records decided Conner's actions deserved a recommendation for the award.

Trump has previously awarded two Medals of Honor. On July 31, 2017, he presented the award to James McCloughan, a 71-year-old former Army medic who served in Vietnam; and on Oct. 23, he presented the medal to another Vietnam Army medic, 70-year-old Gary Michael Rose.

Trump has also approved the Medal of Honor for a Marine who served in Vietnam, John L. Canley. A date for that presentation has yet to be announced.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the number of Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts Conner was awarded for actions during World War II.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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