Tag Archives: Medal of Honor

Army Hero Fought Off 600 Nazis Now Getting The Medal Of Honor

Garlin Murl ConnerStanding 5 feet, six inches tall and weighing maybe 120 pounds soaking wet, 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner may not have been the most physically imposing GI during World War II, but on Jan. 24, 1945 he was an unmovable rock against which a wave of German troops crashed and ultimately rolled back.

Now Conner, who died in 1998, is posthumously receiving the Medal of Honor for his bravery in that battle, during which he called for artillery to shell his own position. President Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Conner’s widow on Tuesday at the White House.

With the U.S. military’s highest award for gallantry, Conner will become the second-most decorated service member of World War II, according to the Army. He is surpassed only by legendary 1st Lt. Audie Murphy.

Conner took part in 10 campaigns with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division during World War II, Army officials said, and he was wounded seven times during 28 months of combat. His awards include three Purple Hearts, four Silver Stars and the Distinguished Service Cross, which is being upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

His injuries couldn’t keep him from service. In January 1945, he was recovering from a wound when he “slipped away from the hospital” to rejoin his unit and volunteered to be an artillery spotter, said Luther Conner, a cousin and attorney who was part of the 22-year effort to have his relative’s heroism recognized with the Medal of Honor. That meant he would be positioned between the U.S. and German lines.

“He interpreted the intelligence role very liberally and thought, ‘Well, no better intelligence than having eyes on the target,’ so that’s when he ran forward,” said Erik Villard, of the U.S. Army’s Center for Military History. “This was not his job, but this is something he felt he had to do.”

With just a field telephone and a Thompson submachine gun, Conner ran from a forest where the rest of his unit was dug in to face about 600 German troops – including a small contingent from the SS – and several German tanks, including the feared Tigers, Villard said.

Connor spent three hours in an irrigation ditch directing artillery fire, Villard said. At one point, German troops came within 10 meters of his position. Rather than pulling back, Conner called the artillery to hit his own position, “and said just keep firing for effect,” Villard said.
With 105mm howitzers and 81mm mortars raining fire on his position and the Germans within spitting distance, Conner likely knew his chances of survival were slim.

“At that point, he’s like: ‘OK, I am not long for this world but I am going to keep that artillery coming down because folks in my battalion who are in the woods behind me – 30 meters – have got to continue the fight,’” Villard said. “I’m sure at a certain point he’s just like: ‘Just keep firing because I don’t think I’m probably going to make it.’”

When his commanding officer asked if the shells were landing close to his position, Conner replied, “It’s already been over my position; it’s behind me now,” Luther Conner said.

Conner’s ability to shoot, move, and communicate during the battle show exactly how the Army is preparing soldiers for future wars, said Maj. Gen. Leopoldo Quintas, commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division.

“That telephone with the wire connected was the most deadly instrument on the battlefield and he could communicate,” Quintas said. “He could call for fire. The other element, I think, that is so important is the element of leadership. He was a phenomenal leader and he was a leader of character.”

Conner never talked about what happened that day, but his wife Pauline Conner said he was obviously traumatized by is wartime experience.

“In World War II and Korea, they didn’t recognize PTSD like they did in Vietnam, but I’ve always said if anybody ever had PTSD he did because many times he’d wake up in the night with nightmares,” she told reporters on Monday. “After I would wake him up, he would go outside and sit on the porch and smoke cigarettes for hours at a time. But he still wouldn’t talk about what was happening.”

Pauline was just 15 years old when she first saw Conner at a parade for his homecoming, she said. She had read about his bravery in the local newspapers, but when she finally saw how slim he was, she told her mother, “My God, that little wharf rat, he couldn’t have done all they said he done,” she recalled.

She described her husband as a humble man who would say “Well, children” in lieu of “dang” or “darn.” She looks forward to meeting Trump on Tuesday to receive the nation’s highest award for valor on her husband’s behalf.

“It’s something he should have done in his lifetime,” Pauline Conner said as she fought back the tears, “but I’m going to be proud to accept it.”

Initially, when Pauline heard that the White House would call her to say her husband would receive the Medal of Honor, she thought it was a scam: “I’m 89 years old and people like to prey on old people like me,” she said.

Luther Conner and his wife were with her when she received the call from the White House. The woman on the other end of the line connected her to the president.

“He told me that he had read Murl’s record and he had done a magnificent job and more than that,” Pauline Conner recalled. “He said, ‘I’m awarding him the Medal of Honor.’

“I told him: You just got to be kidding. ‘No,’ he said, ‘it’s true.’ He said, ‘He deserves it.’ And I said: Well, thank goodness and tell that beautiful wife of yours to give you a big hug and a kiss for me. That was our conversation and I was really thrilled.”

By JEFF SCHOGOL

Trump / Obama Honor Vietnam Veterans – New York Times Insults Them

Vietnam Veterans

Who would have thought that the unifying note in the Time of Trump would be Vietnam? Our country, after all, has been tearing itself apart over ObamaCare, tax policy, Russian meddling, immigration, climate change and the Middle East.

Yet there was President Trump Monday, bestowing the Medal of Honor on a one-time Army medic who was advanced for our nation’s highest award for valor by former President Barack Obama. It seems the two presidents actually agree on something.

And what they agree on is that a modest, retired coach and teacher from Michigan, James McCloughan, now 71, deserves our nation’s highest military honor for deeds done nearly 50 years ago. And in a war on which our own Congress turned its back.

What a deeply satisfying moment.

Not that this is the first time that a recent president has reached back to award a long-overdue Medal of Honor for valor in Vietnam. Just last year Obama draped the blue ribbon with white stars on an Army lieutenant colonel named Charles Kettles.

In Vietnam, Kettles had repeatedly flown his helicopter through heavy fire to rescue from an enemy attack 40 of his fellow GIs. It was an incredible display of valor. “Entire family trees,” Obama said, “were made possible by the actions of this one man.”

In 2014, Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to two Vietnam veterans. Sgt. Donald Sloat, honored posthumously, clutched an enemy grenade to his breast to save his buddies. The other, Command Sgt. Major Bennie Adkins, slew as many as 175 enemy soldiers while rescuing his comrades and sustaining 18 wounds himself.

Five years ago in a ceremony at Arlington Cemetery, Obama formally thanked the long-shunned veterans of Vietnam. And he went further, rightly calling America’s treatment of its Vietnam veterans a “national shame, a disgrace that should never have happened.”

It was Obama who signed the waiver legislation needed to enable James McCloughan to be awarded the Medal of Honor so long after the war (awarding the medal is restricted to the five years after the actions it recognizes). President Trump rose to the occasion, in a powerful White House ceremony.

It honored McCloughan for saving the lives of 10 fellow soldiers during 48 hours of desperate combat on a hill called Nui Yom. “It was as if the strength and the pride of our whole nation were beating inside Jim’s heart,” Trump said.

What a contrast to the way The New York Times is marking the 50th anniversary of Vietnam in 1967, which it calls the year that changed the war and America. It’s running a series riddled with praise for those on the Communist side or those who, while loyal to our side, opposed the war.

One piece celebrates “the women who fought for Hanoi,” meaning Soviet-backed Communists of North Vietnam. “My First Anti-War Protest,” reads another headline in the Times series. Another kvells about “a frontline nurse for the Vietcong.”

There’s a piece celebrating the glories of an antiwar concert. Another is by Joan Baez’s ex-husband, who’d decided “my country was wrong” and chose jail rather than answer the Vietnam draft. The Times series also extolls Muhammad Ali for refusing the draft.

Unless I missed it, though, there’s nothing about Jim McCloughan and the other outsized heroes who were touched by glory in Vietnam. Or about what turn history might have taken had we let the Communists seize Indochina without a fight.

These oversights might be rectified in the new series on Vietnam by documentary film-maker Ken Burns. It is set to be released in September. He and his filmmaking partner, Lynn Novick, have a piece in the Times series on the war.

“If we are to begin the process of healing,” they write, “we must first honor the courage, heroism and sacrifice of those who served and those who died, not just as we do today, on Memorial Day, but every day.”

A preview of their documentary makes clear how wracked with guilt are those who greeted returning veterans with sneers and jeers. One antiwar activist they filmed appears close to tears as she recalls such behavior.

Hence the importance of what Obama and Trump are doing. Let the next step in honoring the courage, heroism and sacrifice of those who served (and sometimes died) in Vietnam be finding a way to acknowledge that theirs was, as Reagan put it, a noble cause.

New York Post Seth Lipsky

Is it time to give Chesty Puller the Medal of Honor?

Chesty Puller
Chesty Puller

More than 300 Marines have earned the Medal of Honor since award’s inception in 1861. But missing from that list is perhaps the most legendary Marine, whose memory still looms large in the lore of the Corps: Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller.
The image of Puller’s iconic frown and his memorable quips about combat have come to define what it means to be a Marine for generations. Puller once told his troops, when surrounded by enemy fighters in Korea: “All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us … they can’t get away this time.”

Puller earned five Navy crosses, the nation’s second-highest honor for valor. At least two serious attempts have been made to get one of Puller’s awards upgraded to the Medal of Honor, but they failed. Even today, Marine veterans and devotees still grumbled that Puller deserves to be recognized with the nation’s highest honor and the book has not been closed on the matter.
“Marines still today in boot camp chant his name. They all still do know about him and they should keep his spirit alive,” said Kim Van Note, president of the Basilone Memorial Foundation, a charity named for one Marine Medal of Honor recipient who served under ­Puller’s command at Guadalcanal, ­Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone.
“I definitely believe he should have been awarded the Medal of Honor,” Van Note said.
The Pentagon has recently begun to acknowledged publicly for the first time that bestowing military honors and medals for valor is an imperfect bureaucratic process – critics say it can seem arbitrary.
A force-wide review of combat medals that began last year is confirming that dozens, potentially hundreds, of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were not properly recognized for their bravery on the battlefield and will have their honors upgraded. Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has recommended that two Navy Cross recipients have their awards elevated to the Medal of Honor.
While the review is officially limited to the post-9/11 wars, questions persist about whether Puller and other past warriors have been appropriately recognized.
LEADERSHIP
Puller, a Virginia native, enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War One and attended boot camp at Parris Island. He was soon commissioned as a second lieutenant a year later, setting in motion a career that would stretch more than three decades.

Whether serving in Nicaragua, the Pacific or Korea, Puller was routinely on or near the front lines, often exposed to the same risks as his men, said retired Marine Col. Jon Hoffman, who wrote the biography “Chesty: The Story of Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, USMC.”
“In Nicaragua in particular, he led the charges against the enemy himself rather than telling his men to charge while he held back,” Hoffman told Marine Corps Times. “It is a style of leadership common across the history of warfare, but one which he continued up through a relatively high level of command.”

Puller earned his first Navy Cross as a first lieutenant. Puller led several successful attacks against Nicaraguan bandits between February and August 1930, despite being outnumbered, according to his Navy Cross citation.

“By his intelligent and forceful leadership without thought of his own personal safety, by great physical exertion and by suffering many hardships, Lieutenant Puller surmounted all obstacles and dealt five successive and severe blows against organized banditry in the Republic of Nicaragua,” the award citation says.
During World War II, Puller temporarily took command of a Marine battalion at the Battle of Cape Gloucester after both the battalion commander and executive officer were wounded, the citation for his third Navy Cross says.

“Lieutenant Colonel Puller unhesitatingly exposed himself to rifle, ­machine-gun and mortar fire from strongly entrenched Japanese positions to move from company to company in his front lines, reorganizing and maintaining a critical position along a fire-swept ridge,” the citation says.
“His forceful leadership and gallant fighting spirit under the most hazardous conditions were contributing factors in the defeat of the enemy during this campaign and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Puller’s awards primarily recognize his leadership rather than the danger he placed himself in during battles, said Hoffman. One aspect of his leadership style was putting his Marines first.

“What endeared him to his men was not just that demonstrated bravery, but also the way he bonded with them and looked out for them, in a way that many other equally brave officers of the time did not,” Hoffman said.

In his book, Hoffman wrote how after one battle at Guadalcanal, Puller spent the night bucking up his Marines after an attack against Japanese troops had failed.

“A squad leader who had experienced the ‘terrible feeling being under fire the first time’ thought that the colonel’s display of courage and calm during the fight ‘really raised our ­morale,’” Hoffman wrote.
INITIATIVE
As a battlefield commander, Puller did not wait for orders when things went wrong. He took initiative and responded aggressively and quickly.

One example of this is in September 1942, when Puller, on his own authority, led a mission to rescue nearly 400 Marines trapped behind enemy lines. “While others dithered, Puller acted,” Hoffman said.

Puller was leading one of three units in an operation to cross the Matanikau River. The Marines only expected to encounter a few hundred enemy troops, but the Japanese had amassed roughly 4,000 in the area, Hoffman wrote.

The plan to cross the river quickly fell apart, but the 1st Marine Division ordered the attack to continue.
When a small group of Marines launched an amphibious landing behind enemy lines, they were surrounded by the Japanese and cut off from the sea. Outnumbered by Japanese troops, the unit “was on the verge of reenacting Custer’s Last Stand,” Hoffman wrote.
Puller was leading a battalion elsewhere on Guadalcanal. He realized that time was running out for the trapped Marines. He became enraged that his superiors had not come up with a plan to save them.
“He used his initiative to figure out what to do and then make it happen, while others were preoccupied with other issues or simply unable to come up with a solution to this difficult problem of a battalion surrounded behind enemy lines,” Hoffman said.
Puller boarded the destroyer Monssen and worked with the ship’s captain and gunnery officer to come up with a plan to shell the Japanese troops and allow the trapped Marines time and space to withdraw, Hoffman wrote.
The first landing craft to approach the beach where the Marines had gathered came under fire, forcing some to back off, Hoffman wrote.

“Chesty had already boarded one of the small craft,” Hoffman wrote. “He ordered it into shore and shouted at others to follow him. The battalion laid down additional covering fire and the landing boats finally came in at both locations. The Marines carried their wounded out into the surf, but had to leave their dead behind.”
Puller had gone far outside his normal authority, but saved many Marines who might have otherwise been killed. None of his superiors had authorized him to work with the Monssen’s captain, but the skipper agreed to help rescue the Marines.
“That’s what makes this operation so special in my eyes – Puller responding to the situation, figuring out what to do, and then making it happen, all in a very short space of time,” Hoffman said.
“It was all about rescuing his men, when no one else seemed sufficiently concerned about them.”
UPGRADE

Puller’s service record shows he was never recommended for the Medal of Honor, according to the Marine Corps History Division. Still, some people have unsuccessfully campaigned for one of Puller’s awards to be upgraded, including Medal of Honor recipient Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington.

In February 1952, Boyington wrote directly to President Truman, calling Puller “the greatest soldier of any ­service that has ever existed.”
“I had the honor and pleasure of ­serving under General Puller when he was a captain in the Marine Corps,” Boyington wrote. “I never served under General Puller in combat, however, I know his record from A to Z. I would like better than anything in the world to have you look into his record. General Puller is entitled to the Congressional Medal of Honor more than any living person in the United States.”
But Truman may have never seen Boyington’s letter, said Jim Armistead, an archives specialist at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
“Much of his incoming mail was filtered and referred to other more appropriate offices,” Armistead said. “For example, if a mother who wrote to President ­Truman wanted an early discharge for her son so he could come home to work on the farm, her request would be forwarded to the Department of the Army.”
In this case, Boyington’s letter was sent to Truman’s naval aide, Adm. ­Robert Lee Dennison, Armistead said. That April, Dennison received a response from the commandant’s office saying that Puller had never been recommended for the Medal of Honor, according to the History Division.
Another attempt to get President Kennedy to award Puller the Medal of Honor was referred to the Marine Corps, which determined Puller was no longer legally eligible to be considered for the nation’s highest award for military valor, Hoffman wrote.

In recent years, there have not been any serious campaigns to upgrade one of Puller’s awards. Hoffman said.

“Usually a service would need substantial new information (lost recommendations or witness reports, or new witness reports provided by surviving veterans),” Hoffman said.  “None of that came forward in Puller’s case – the people pushing for it were simply asking that his case be re-evaluated.”

February 19, 2017 Marine Times