An effort that has been ongoing for many years now to secure a much deserved Congressional Medal of Honor for Clinton County native Garlin Murl Conner is apparently moving forward despite recent setbacks.
In an article that appeared last week in an issue of the Lexington Herald leader by staff writer Greg Kocher, it was noted that the effort has now moved to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In this latest development, a pair of Lexington attorneys, Dennis Shepherd and Donald Todd, are hoping to convince the Court of Appeals judges that several errors in the past have prevented Conner from being awarded the medal.
The campaign suffered its most recent setback this past March when a U.S. district judge said that too much time had lapsed in the presenting of new evidence.
In that opinion, U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell noted that due to a technicality in the case regarding the amount of time that had elapsed between the occasions that evidence had been presented in the case, the statue of limitations had been exceeded and that violation would prevent the matter from being considered now or in the future.
During an interview in March following news of Judge Russell’s opinion, Conner’s widow, Pauline Conner, vowed to keep the campaign going for as long as she could.
“I’m going to keep on trying. I’m going to protest this, or appeal it or whatever I have to do,” Pauline Conner told the Clinton County News. “I just don’t think this is right.”
Last week’s news that the case is being presented to the Circuit Court of Appeals, proves that she was, in fact, determined to continue with the effort.
Conner, who passed away in 1998 at the age of 79, was Kentucky’s most decorated soldier of World War II, and reportedly the second most decorated soldier from that war, being awarded four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, the French Croix de Guerre, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross.
Serving in the 3rd Infantry Division, after being wounded, Conner “slipped away” from an Army hospital while recovering from battle wounds to keep from being sent home to Clinton County, instead returning back to the front lines of battle.
After returning to the front lines with his unit, he reportedly single-handedly unspooled a roll of telephone wire as he advanced himself toward the enemy, directing that artillery be fired on his own location, resulting in the killing of 50 enemy soldiers and the wounding of over 100 more.
Accounts of his actions during the war have noted that he often stood up during fire fights instead of crawling toward his enemy because he could get a better look at where the enemy was shooting from.
Conner was said to have scouted alone for the security of his men, maneuvering through shells exploding only 25 yards from him, to set up an observation post where he stayed for more than three hours during the intense fighting, individually credited with stopping more than 150 Germans, demolishing the tanks and disintegrating the strong enemy assault force, while at the same time preventing catastrophic loss of life in his own outfit.
Conner’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Lloyd Ramsey, was wounded soon afterward, and was not able to see to it himself that the paperwork for the Medal of Honor was properly channeled.
Last week’s Herald-Leader article noted that in later years when completing his memoirs, Ramsey wrote that he had “never seen a man with as much courage” as Conner had, adding that his actions in January, 1945 should have certainly seen him awarded the Medal of Honor.
During a conversation last week with the Clinton County News, Conner’s widow said she hopes this latest effort proves to be the one that will eventually get her late husband the medal she and others think he so rightfully deserved.
“I’m going to keep on going after this until they tell me to shut my mouth,” Pauline Conner said last Thursday, acknowledging that in the past, there has been that suggestion made to her already.
She noted that her late husband, who is referred to by his first name, Garlin, in most military notes, but was fondly known in Clinton County by his middle name, “Murl”, probably could have been successful in acquiring the Medal of Honor himself if he had so desired, but he simply didn’t want to talk about his World War II actions.
“Murl probably could have gotten this done himself when he was alive, but he wouldn’t go after this,” she said. “He always said he was afraid that people would think he was bragging.”
Pauline Conner said that her nearly 20 year-long effort to have the Medal of Honor awarded to her husband, has also allowed her and her family – as well as most of the rest of the community the Conner’s have called home since the end of the war – to learn a tremendous amount of information about his actions during the war.
“I’ve learned more about what Murl did over there after he died than I knew when he was alive,” she added. “He just wouldn’t talk about it. He always said he ‘didn’t do anything special’ – just did what he had to do.”
The effort to have the Medal of Honor awarded to Conner has involved a host of local, state and national figures in addition to his family and friends.
Richard Chilton, a former soldier who served with the Green Berets and later became involved in military history, researched Conner’s military career several years ago, and was one of the leaders in the effort of going after the Medal of Honor for Conner.
Chilton made a presentation locally concerning Conner’s military service to a crowd gathered at Clinton County High School several years ago, at which time he also presented the Conner family with a copy of his research findings.
After returning to Clinton County at the end of World War II, Conner became a familiar figure in his home county, but not because of his war heroics, rather because of his involvement with issues here, especially issues and activities related to war veterans and the agriculture life he chose to lead.
Conner spent the rest of his post-war life farming with his wife, Pauline, and working to assist other veterans as a Volunteer and Service Officer with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization.
He was also heavily involved with the Clinton County Farm Bureau, serving as that organization’s president for many, many years.
He and Pauline, eventually farmed in the Concord Community of south-east Clinton County.
Their son, Paul Conner, and his wife Kathy, also raised their family in the same Concord Community, where they still reside.