In Remembrance

Unwavering Valor

The Old Guard transports a flag-draped casket in full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery
Army Photo

 

Whether at present or years long past, so many of us are families of veterans. Their commitment and service is a legacy to succeeding generations on true values in life… honoring our country and those who serve.  In a sacrifice repeated through time, families send sons and daughters to peacetime duty or periods of war and conflict.

 

Immigrants to these Shores

Statue of Liberty
Liberty Island
New York City, New York
Welcoming those who yearn to be free

 

The origination of our veterans stem from major waves of immigration in native lands around the world in seeking America.  They sought the colonial era of the 1600s, the early 19th century, and the 1880s to 1920 with the dream still in existence.  Many came seeking greater economic opportunity and religious freedom. Others sought solace from war, famine, and oppression.  Their profound memories of gratitude in a new land of freedom are still cherished and relevant so many generations later.  As those sons and daughters have fought and died when the need arose, they are owed eternal devotion for their defense and love of this country.

 

Willingly Have Served

The National Mall
Washington, D.C.

Memorial Day
Arlington National Cemetery

The Unknown Regarded with No Less Honor

“Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Arlington National Cemetery

U.S. Joint Military Forces Forever Steadfast

U.S. Armed Forces are comprised of the six military branches: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and, most recently, Space Force.

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In Eternal Reverence and Gratitude

For Your Sacrifice on Behalf of Freedom

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God Bless America

Memorial Day
2020

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VE Day’s 75th Anniversary – May 8,1945

The End of World War II in Europe

Parisians march through the Arc de Triomphe waving flags of the Allied Nations to celebrate the end of World War II – May 8, 1945. German military leaders had signed an unconditional surrender in Reims, France, on May 7. (AP Photo)

REIMS, France  — World War II ended in a French schoolhouse 75 years ago when German commanders signed their surrender to Allied forces. Unlike the massive celebrations greeting the momentous news in 1945, today’s surviving veterans quietly marked V-E Day with private memories, confined by a global pandemic, and without usual fanfare of public honor.  Regardless, the world’s undying gratitude for their service and sacrifice remains eternal.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower holds up a V-for-Victory gesture with the two pens used by high ranking German officers in signing the surrender document in Reims, France on May 7, 1945. Official photo taken by T/Sgt. Al Meserlin, Ike’s personal photographer. (AP Photo/Al Meserlin)

General Alfred Jodl (1890 – 1946) Hitler’s military advisor, Controller of German High Command and Chief of the Operations Staff (centre), signs the document of surrender (German Capitulation) of the German armed forces at Reims in General Eisenhower’s headquarters. He is joined by Major Wilhelm Oxenius (left) and Hans Georg von Friedeburg, Admiral of the Fleet (right).
(Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Western Allies and the Soviet Union at 2:41 a.m. French time.  It took place in the headquarters of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and was signed for Germany by Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl, new Chief of Staff of the German Army.   The surrender was signed for the Supreme Allied Command by Lt. Gen. Walter Beddel Smith, Chief of Staff for Gen. Eisenhower. Also participants in the signings were Gen. Ivan Susloparov of the Soviet Union and Gen. Francois Sevez for France.

Gen. Eisenhower was not present at the signing, but immediately afterward Gen. Jodl and his fellow delegate Gen. Adm. Hans Georg Friedeburg were received by the supreme commander.   Asked sternly if they understood the surrender terms imposed upon Germany, and whether they intended to carry them out, their response was confirmed.  Elation at the news was tempered by the realization that the war against Japan remained unresolved.

The end of the European warfare, the greatest, bloodiest, and costliest war in human history — claiming at least 40 million casualties on both sides of killed, wounded and captured — resulted after five years, eight months and six days of conflict which circled the globe.

Germany, beginning the war with a ruthless attack upon Poland on September 1, 1939 and following with successive aggression and brutality in concentration camps, later surrendered with an appeal to the victors for mercy toward the German people and armed forces.

After having signed the full surrender, Gen. Jodl requested leave to speak and received leave to do so. “With this signature,” he said in soft-spoken German, “The German people and armed forces are for better or worse delivered into the victors’ hands. “In this war of more than five years, both countries have achieved and suffered more than perhaps any other people in the world.”

On May 8, 1945, President Harry S. Truman addressed the nation that Allied Armies have won unconditional surrender from the German forces on all fronts and the flags of freedom fly over Europe., although the war with Japan remains unresolved. (AP Photo/stf)

President Harry S. Truman smiles happily as he announces to the press the complete victory of the Allies over Germany, during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 8, 1945.

 

THE WORLD

People crowd into the street outside the U.S. and British Embassies in Lisbon, Portugal, on VE-Day.
Jubilant crowds celebrated for two days and nights.
May 8, 1945 (AP Photo)

The great bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang out over Rome soon after the Associated Press reported peace had come to Europe, while several Allied capitals proclaimed VE holidays, and Tokyo announced continuation of “The Sacred War.”

Many of the world’s cities went wild at the news, and even neutral capitals were bedecked and filled with celebrating crowds. Masses of people gathered in front of loudspeakers and newspaper offices, which were frantically answering inquiries and rolling out extras.

War-scarred London burst into jubilant celebration at the end of the war in Europe, its millions of citizens unable to wait for the government’s V-E Day proclamation. Millions surged into the streets, from Buckingham Palace to the sedate East End. The Picadilly Circus, Whitehall and Westminster areas filled with a laughing, shouting throng. Some old-timers said the scene eclipsed those of the 1918 Armistice.  Pubs were jammed, Champagne was brought up from deep cellars and long-hoarded whisky and gin came out from hiding.  The great bells of Big Ben tolled the hours of the historic day.

In Paris, which lived through four years of German occupation to become a base for Supreme Allied Headquarters, the French government announced a two-day holiday. France had special cause for satisfaction in having staged a comeback and won the right to share in accepting Germany’s surrender.

In Washington, crowds gathered in Lafayette Square across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House in anticipation of an announcement by President Truman to proclaim Allied V-E Day.

Historic photos capture the joy that erupted throughout Allied countries after Nazi Germany surrendered in the spring of 1945, ending the horror of World War II in Europe.

 

UNITED STATES

Crowds in New York City’s financial district celebrate. VE Day, May 8, 1945

A huge American flag unfurled in New York’s Herald Square on VE Day, May 8, 1945. This 80×160 foot flag was hung from the eighth floor balcony of Macy’s New York department store, covering the façade from 34th and 35th Streets along Broadway. (AP Photo)

General Eisenhower celebrates peace and VE Day in Times Square, New York, NY. 1945

 

FRANCE

A group watches from the top of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe as crowds gather on VE Day May 8, 1945

A spontaneous parade of Parisians marches through the streets of the French capital on May 8, 1945.

 

SOVIET UNION

Moscow’s Red Square, packed with people as fireworks explode around the Kremlin. One man who was there later told Russian media “Strangers kissed each other. I don’t remember such a unity of people as it was on May 9, 1945; we were all one and the same — Russians, Tatars, Uzbeks, and Georgians — we were all united as never before.”

A British sergeant is thrown into the air by a crowd of youngsters in Moscow. The Soviet Union celebrated Victory in Europe one day after most Allied countries, as Germany’s high command signed a second surrender document demanded by Josef Stalin, late on May 8, 1945.

 

UNITED KINGDOM

A packed pickup rolls through London. A witness to the giant party described an infectious atmosphere that “combusted spontaneously” from the smallest to the oldest with revellers passing through the Strand in London, England. May 8, 1945

Churchill waves to crowds in Whitehall on the day he broadcast
to the nation the war against Germany had been won.
8 May 1945 (VE Day)

St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of the buildings that survived the wartime blitzes, is shown at night in floodlighting for the first time in nearly six years as a symbol of victory on V-E Day.
London, England,
May 8, 1945. (AP Photo)

Only in the unnatural calm of the European fronts was the news reported to have been taken soberly, by soldiers who had seen the fighting taper off in one sector after another for the past two weeks.

LONDON, England

Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill, center, joins the royal family, from left, Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI, and Princess Margaret, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London, England, on VE Day on May 8, 1945.

In this May 8, 1945 file photo a vast crowd assembles in front of Buckingham Palace, London to cheer Britain’s Royal family as they come out on the balcony, centre, minutes after the official announcement of Germany’s unconditional surrender in World War II. They are from left: Princess Elizabeth; Queen Elizabeth; King George VI; and Princess Margaret. Nazi commanders signed their surrender to Allied forces in a French schoolhouse 75 years ago this week, ending World War II in Europe and the Holocaust.

A vast crowd assembles in front of Buckingham Palace, London to cheer Britain’s Royal family just minutes after the official announcement of Germany’s unconditional surrender in World War II. They are from left: Princess Elizabeth; Queen Elizabeth; King George VI; and Princess Margaret. Nazi commanders signed their surrender to Allied forces in ending World War II and the Holocaust.  May 8, 1945

 

“Never in the field of human conflict
was so much owed by so many to so few.”

                                                                     Winston Churchill

 

God Bless America

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A Christmas Truce – 1944

What more profound compassion at Christmas than to enemies in the midst of war

Infantrymen of the US First Army in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest
advance to contact German forces at the Battle of the Bulge, 1944

Christmas 1944

December 24th

Three American soldiers, one badly wounded, were lost in the snow-covered Ardennes forest.  They wandered for three days, unable to find their unit.  If shelter was not found soon, the injured soldier would most likely die.

Lost, cold, and in pain, with the sounds of war exploding everywhere, the thought of returning home to family kept them going.  Eventually stumbling upon a small cabin in the middle of the woods, they knocked on the door.

When Elisabeth Vincken and her 12-year-old son Fritz heard the knock, they were terrified. Elisabeth cracked the door open, shocked to see three enemy soldiers on her doorstep.

Upon viewing the injured man, Frau Vincken’s compassion welcomed them inside.  She had little – a single chicken was all she could produce for the war-weary soldiers – but willingly offered them all she had.  As the chicken roasted in the oven, there was another unexpected knock. Her son opened the door, assuming there were more lost Americans.  The four men standing outside the cottage were not Americans.  They were Germans.

The punishment for harboring enemy soldiers was death.  Elisabeth, fearing for her life, pushed past Fritz and stepped outside.

The German soldiers explained they were lost and hungry and asked for Christmas Eve refuge in her home.  Elisabeth told them they were welcome to share what little food she had but warned she had other “guests.” The German soldiers sternly asked if they were Americans.

Frau Vincken nodded. “Es ist Heiligabend und hier wird nicht geschossen,” she said. “It is the Holy Night and there will be no shooting here.”

She told the German soldiers to leave their weapons outdoors and then invited them inside.  The tension in the air was palpable as the German and American soldiers stared at each other.

What happened next can only be described as a Christmas miracle.

One of the German soldiers, a former medical student, noticed the badly injured American soldier.  The German had compassion towards his enemy and offered to tend his wounds – a simple act of kindness that eased the tension. The American soldiers began to converse using what little German they knew.

Frau Vincken finished preparing supper and motioned for everyone to sit at the table.  As they said grace, the exhausted soldiers forgot about the war – if only for a moment.  Several of the soldiers – both American and German – had tears in their eyes as they ate their humble Christmas dinner. That evening, enemies declared an informal truce as the spirit of Christmas filled Frau Vincken’s tiny home.

The next morning, the German soldiers provided directions to the American front lines – and provided the Americans with a compass.  They shook hands, thanked Frau Vincken for her hospitality, and went their separate ways.

With carnage all around them, the Spirit of Christmas proved to be a more powerful force than the hatred of war.

James C. Roberts
American Veterans Center

Christmas 2019

Christmas wreaths placed on veteran graves in remembrance
Arlington National Cemetery

American forces, far from home, in unending service at Christmas

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Christmas Blessings in Gratitude for the Service of our Military

Past and Present

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U.S. Joint Military Services

GOD BLESS AMERICA

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Pearl Harbor Heroes

From the man who led the evacuation of the USS Arizona to the fighter pilot taking to the skies in pajamas, there were servicemen and civilians who distinguished themselves on one of the darkest days in American military history.  These are but a few of the extraordinary acts of bravery and service.

 

Samuel Fuqua

(Credit: U.S. Naval Historical Center)

Missouri-born Samuel Fuqua had a front row seat to the devastation at Pearl Harbor from aboard the USS Arizona, a battleship heavily bombed during the first wave of the attack. The 42-year-old Lieutenant Commander was having breakfast when the ship’s air raid sirens first sounded at 7:55 a.m.  Immediately rushing to the quarterdeck, he was strafed by enemy fire and incapacitated by a bomb falling mere feet from his position.  Though dazed, Fuqua jumped to his feet upon regaining consciousness to begin directing firefighting operations.  Moments later, he became the Arizona’s senior surviving officer after another bomb detonated the ship’s ammunition magazine, killing more than 1,000 men.  As burned and maimed sailors poured onto the deck, Fuqua ignored gunfire from passing aircraft and calmly led efforts to evacuate his sinking ship.

“I can still see him standing there,” Arizona crewman Edward Wentzlaff later remembered, “ankle deep in water, stub of a cigar in his mouth, cool and efficient, oblivious to the danger about him.”

Fuqua was among the last men to abandon ship. He and two fellow officers then commandeered a boat and braved heavy fire while picking up survivors from the fire-streaked waters. He went on to win the Medal of Honor for his actions at Pearl Harbor, and was later promoted to Rear Admiral upon his retirement from the Navy in 1953.

Peter Tomich

(Credit: U.S. Naval Historical Center)

Around the same time the USS Arizona was being bombed, the training and target ship USS Utah was rocked by two torpedo strikes from Japanese aircraft. The aging vessel soon began to list to one side as water flooded its hull.  Inside the boiler room, Chief Watertender Peter Tomich ordered his crew to abandon ship.

After ensuring his men had escaped their engineering spaces, the Austro-Hungarian immigrant and World War 1 veteran, returned to his post and single-handedly secured the boilers, preventing a potential explosion that would have claimed many lives.  The USS Utah then proceeded to roll over and sank just minutes later. Fifty-eight men—Tomich among them—went down with the ship. The 48-year-old was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his life-saving actions but, in an unusual twist, the Navy was unable to locate any family members.  His award went unclaimed for nearly 65 years until 2006, when finally presented to a relative during a ceremony in Split, Croatia.

George Welch and Kenneth Taylor

Taylor (left) and Welch
(Credit: U.S. Air Force)

Army Air Corps pilots George Welch and Kenneth Taylor spent the evening before Pearl Harbor’s attack attending a formal dance and playing poker until the wee hours of the morning.  Still sleeping, they were awakened at 8 a.m. by the sound of exploding bombs and machine gun fire.  Speeding to Haleiwa airfield, they dodged strafing Japanese planes along the way.  Just minutes later, they became the first American pilots to get airborne after taking off in their P-40 fighters.

Welch and Taylor went on to wage a lonely battle against hundreds of enemy planes.  They would land at Wheeler airfield at one point and had their ammunition replenished before rejoining the fray.  By the time the attack ended, the Second Lieutenants had shot down at least six fighters and bombers between them.  Both were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their high flying exploits, and Taylor was given a Purple Heart for a shrapnel wound received when his P-40 was struck by machine gun fire.

Doris Miller

(Credit: U.S. Navy)

Doris Miller’s race usually relegated him to the role of cook and laundry attendant aboard the USS West Virginia, but when the ship was struck by multiple bombs and torpedoes on December 7th, he became one of its most vital crewmembers.  Miller had rushed to his battle station amidship as soon as the shooting started.  Finding it destroyed, the amateur boxer sprinted to the quarterdeck and used his hulking frame to help move the injured.  Miller was among the men who carried the ship’s mortally wounded skipper to safety, and then helped pass ammunition to the crews of two .50 caliber machine guns.

Despite having no weapons training, he eventually manned one of the weapons himself and began blasting away at the Japanese fighters swarming around the ship. “It wasn’t hard,” he later remembered. “I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine…”

Miller continued to operate the gun for some 15 minutes until ordered to abandon ship.  His actions would earn him the Navy Cross—the first ever presented to an African American—and he was widely hailed as a war hero in the black press.  He later toured the country promoting war bonds before being reassigned to the escort carrier Liscome Bay.  Sadly, Miller was among the 646 crewmen killed when the ship was torpedoed and sunk in 1943.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Doris Miller
at ceremony on board USS Enterprise (CV-6)
Pearl Harbor, May 27, 1942

John Finn

John Finn signs autographs at the opening ceremony for the Medal of Honor Society Convention
September 15, 2009.
(Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Chief Petty Officer John Finn was still in bed when Japanese fighter planes descended on his post at the Kaneohe Bay air station some 15 miles from Pearl Harbor.  After throwing on clothes and driving to the base, he commandeered a .30 caliber machine gun and dragged it to an open area with a clear view of the sky.  For the next two-and-a-half hours, Finn kept up a near-constant rate of fire against the strafing hordes of Zeroes, and may have been responsible for destroying at least one plane.

“I can’t honestly say I hit any,” he remembered in 2001. “But I shot at every damn plane I could see.”  Finn suffered more than 20 wounds from bullets and shrapnel during the battle. One shot left him with a broken foot; another completely incapacitated his left arm. He received medical aid after the attack ended but returned to duty that same day to assist in arming American planes.  Finn’s machine gun heroics won him the Medal of Honor—the only one awarded specifically for a combat action during Pearl Harbor. He would go on to survive the war and live to the age of 100.

George Walters

Damage to the USS Pennsylvania following the Pearl Harbor attack
Credit U.S. Naval Historical Center

One of the many civilians to win plaudits during the Pearl Harbor attack, George Walters was a dockyard worker who manned a massive rolling crane positioned alongside the dry-docked battleship USS Pennsylvania. When the yard came under fire during the early stages of the raid, he valiantly moved his crane back and forth on its track, effectively shielding Pennsylvania from low flying dive-bombers and fighters. Walters even tried to use the crane’s boom to swat the enemy planes out of the sky.

The gunners on the USS Pennsylvania initially considered the dockworker a nuisance, but soon realized his 50-foot-high cab gave him an excellent view of incoming aircraft. Using the movements of the crane arm as a guide, they were able to return fire against the enemy to devastating effect. Walters continued his suicidal maneuvers until a Japanese bomb exploded on the dock and sent him to the hospital with a concussion. His actions may have helped save Pennsylvania from destruction, but his story went largely untold until 1957, when it appeared in author Walter Lord’s famous book Day of Infamy.

Edwin Hill

(Credit: U.S. Naval Historical Center)

The USS Nevada was the only ship from Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row to make a break for the open ocean but its great escape might never have happened, if not for the efforts of 47-year-old Chief Boatswain Edwin Hill.  Shortly after the battle began, Hill and a small crew braved heavy fire and strafing to go ashore and cut the moorings holding the Nevada to the quay at Ford Island.  He then dove into the oil-stained water and swam back to his ship to continue the fight.  As Hill directed an ammunition train, the ship ran a gauntlet of enemy fire and tried to steam out of the harbor.  The lone battleship was an obvious target, however, and after taking repeated hits from Japanese dive-bombers, its Captain opted to beach his vessel to avoid bottling up the rest of the fleet.

Chief Hill was soon called into action a final time. He was on the forecastle working to drop anchor when a group Japanese planes rained bombs on the deck, blowing his body off the ship and killing him instantly.  Hill was later posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and the USS Nevada survived Pearl Harbor to participate in the Normandy invasion in 1944.

Phil Rasmussen

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Phil Rasmussen was one of the handful of American pilots who managed to take to the skies during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Like many others, the 23-year-old Second Lieutenant was still sleeping when his post at Wheeler Field was bombed.  Rushing outside,  he found an undamaged P-36 fighter sitting on the runway.  Still clad in a pair of purple pajamas, Rasmussen took off and joined three other pilots in a dogfight against 11 Japanese aircraft.

Rasmussen’s plane was slower and less maneuverable than the enemy Zeroes but he quickly managed to shoot one of them down.  He then crippled another plane before two Japanese pilots raked his P-36 with machine gun and cannon fire, leaving behind some 500 bullet holes.  Another Zero just narrowly missed when it tried to ram him. Rasmussen’s canopy was blown off and he briefly lost control, but he managed to right his damaged plane and make a miraculous landing without brakes, rudders or a tail wheel.  The young pilot was later awarded a Silver Star for his bravery and  served in the Air Force for another 24 years, retiring as a Colonel.

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HISTORY: Pearl Harbor

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Kamikaze-GettyImages-615309728

History.com

In Service and Sacrifice

The very soul of a nation is its heroes”

USN Pearl Harbor Survivor, Bill Johnson (January 20, 2004)
Wall of Casualties – USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
To the memory of gallant men and their shipmates
here entombed who gave their lives in action
December 7, 1941
(U.S. Navy Photo)

 

In Eternal Remembrance

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Valor Delayed – 73 Years

 

Lt. Garlin Murl Conner

Second-most Decorated WWII Soldier

Did Not Receive the Medal of Honor

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  Lt. Garlin Murl Conner left the U.S. Army as the second-most decorated soldier during World War II, earning four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during 28 straight months in combat.

Lt. General Alexander M. Patch awards 1st Lieutenant G. Murl Conner
the Distinguished Service Cross, Feb. 10, 1945 for extraordinary heroism in action
on January 24, 1945 near Houssen, France.
(photo credit: courtesy photo, army.mil)

Despite backing from congressmen, senators, military veterans and historians, he never received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military distinction, awarded for life-risking acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.

A federal judge in Kentucky would end his widow’s 22-year quest to see that her husband received the medal.

The Medal of Honor
America’s highest and most prestigious personal military decoration
awarded to recognize U.S. military service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor.

U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell, in an 11-page opinion issued March 12, 2014, had said a technicality prevented Pauline Conner of Albany, KY from continuing her campaign on behalf of her husband, who died in 1998.  Russell concluded that Pauline Conner waited too long to present new evidence to the U.S. Army Board of Correction of Military Records, which rejected her bid to alter her husband’s service record.

Russell praised Conner’s “extraordinary courage and patriotic service,” but said there was nothing he could do for the family.

“Dismissing this claim as required by technical limitations in no way diminishes Lt. Conner’s exemplary service and sacrifice,” Russell wrote.

Richard Chilton, a former Green Beret and amateur military historian who had researched Conner’s service, said Conner deserved the Medal of Honor. Chilton pledged to get resolutions from lawmakers and veterans’ groups in all 50 states in an attempt to get Congress to act on Conner’s behalf.

“I want to make sure they can’t walk away from this,” Chilton told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “He’s a man worthy of this.”

Pauline Conner, widow of 1st Lt Gavin Murl Conner, holds photo of her husband
the 2nd most decorated soldier of WWII

Roughly 3,400 people have received the Medal of Honor since its creation in 1861, including actor Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. soldier in World War II.

Conner served with the 3rd Infantry Division, which fought in France and Europe in 1945. His citation for the Distinguished Service Cross states that on Jan. 24, 1945, near Houssen, France, he slipped away from a military hospital with a hip wound to rejoin his unit rather than return home to Kentucky. He would unreel a telephone wire and plunged into a shallow ditch in front of the battle line to direct multiple rounds of fire for three hours, as German troops continued their offensive with sometimes getting within five yards of Conner’s position.

The board had first rejected Conner’s application in 1997 on its merits and turned away an appeal in June 2000, saying at the time no new evidence warranted a hearing or a new decoration despite more than a dozen letters of support for Conner.

In the years that followed, lawmakers in Kentucky, Tennessee and three other states passed resolutions backing the effort to see Conner receive the Medal of Honor. After Chilton found three eyewitness accounts to Conner’s deeds in 2006, Pauline Conner resubmitted the case to the board in 2008 – two years after the statute of limitations expired.

A bipartisan group of current and former members of Congress backed Conner’s application in the past, including retired Sen. Bob Dole, a Kansas Republican and World War II veteran; retired Sen. Wendell Ford, a Democrat from Kentucky; current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky; and Whitfield, who represents Conner’s home town near the Tennessee line. Noted World War II historian Steven Ambrose, who died in 2002, wrote in November 2000 to support Conner’s application, saying his actions were “far above the call of duty.”

The review board remained unmoved by Conner’s submission.

“The most recent information received 22 December 2008 is not new evidence and does not warrant granting an exception to the above cited regulation and a formal hearing,” wrote Conrad V. Meyer, the director of the Army Board for Correction of Military Records on Feb. 9, 2009.

The military can also conduct a review at the behest of Congress.

Conner’s commander in World War II, retired Maj. Gen. Lloyd B. Ramsey of Salem, Va., filed an affidavit saying Conner’s work, while injured, provided valuable intelligence.

“There is no doubt that Lt. Conner should have been awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions,” Ramsey wrote. “One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve ever had the privilege of commanding.”

Conner’s fellow soldiers also filed affidavits crediting Conner with helping not only save the lives of fellow soldiers but being key to defeating the Germans in the battle.

Retired Lt. Harold Wigetman, a member of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, said that between the artillery strikes Conner called in and spray from his own machine gun, he killed at least 50 German soldiers and wounded twice as many.

“His heroic and entirely voluntary act saved our battalion,” Wigetman wrote.  “If he hadn’t done what he did, we would have had to fight for our lives.”

First published March 12, 2014 / AP

WASHINGTON — Garlin “Murl” Conner never wavered under fire during his 28 consecutive months of combat in North Africa and Europe. In the two decades since Conner’s death, his family never wavered in their quest for the recognition that they knew he deserved – the Medal of Honor.

On June 26, 2018, President Donald Trump posthumously awarded the nation’s highest military honor to Conner, explaining how he might not have been an imposing figure by stature but his bravery on battlefields during World War II made him larger than life.

Medal of Honor posthumously presented to 1st Lt Garlin Murl Conner’s widow, Pauline, in a White House ceremony
June 26, 2019

“Today, we pay tribute to this Kentucky farm boy who stared down evil with the strength of a warrior and the heart of a true hero,” the president said before presenting the Medal of Honor to Conner’s widow, Pauline. “Murl was indeed a giant in his daring, in his devotion and in his duty.”

Garlin Murl Conner and wife Pauline
Courtesy of Pauline Connor Collection

Conner stood five feet, six inches tall and weighed about 120 pounds, but soldiers who served with the first lieutenant described him as fearless.

Conner had already received three of his four Silver Stars for risking his life to save the men with whom he served when his unit – 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment – found itself facing down some 600 German infantrymen and six Panzer Mark VI Tiger tanks near the town of Houssen, France.

It was the morning of Jan. 24, 1945 and the German army was launching desperate attacks on American formations in the wake of its defeat in the Battle of Bulge.

Conner, his battalion’s intelligence officer, could see his unit was in danger of being overrun and took it upon himself to ensure U.S. artillery was hitting the German positions not entirely visible from behind the front lines.

The soldier – already wounded in his hip from sniper fire in an earlier fight – grabbed a telephone, unspooling the wire that connected it to his commander’s telephone, and dashed 400 yards forward, passing his battalion’s defensive position. Ignoring warnings from soldiers around him, Conner continued another 30 yards past the line, maneuvering through a field of artillery fire before diving into a snowy, shallow ditch from where he could observe the enemy formation, according to recounts of the battle.

With only the telephone and his submachine gun, Conner spent the next three hours laying in that ditch, directing American artillery fire as swarms of German soldiers moved toward his battalion, according to his Medal of Honor citation. When his position was eventually spotted by the German soldiers closing within some 10 yards of him, Conner remained calm. He called in fire on his own position, “having resolved to die to stall the enemy advance,” fearing if the Germans near him moved forward they would decimate the U.S. soldiers behind him, according to the citation.

“By his incredible heroism and disregard for his own life, Conner stopped the enemy advance,” the citation reads. “The artillery he expertly directed under constant enemy fire killed approximately 50 German soldiers and wounded at least 100 more, thus preventing heavy casualties in his battalion.”

“Those people who were with him, many of them say it was the single bravest act they’d ever seen,” Trump said of Conner’s actions that day for which he was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. “Somehow Lt. Conner survived the attack.”

Pauline Conner, 89, beamed Tuesday as Trump upgraded the award. She was helped onto the stage at the front of the White House’s East Room to receive the honor that she had fought to attain for her husband for 22 years. In attendance was a crowd of U.S. officials, friends and family members including her son Paul, her five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Pauline Conner Accepts MOH for her husband 1st Lt Garlin Murl Conner in a White House Ceremony
June 26, 2018

It was a moment Pauline Conner never thought would come.

“After all these years it really is and truly is an honor,” Conner said Monday at the Pentagon. “I had really and truly given up on it. I just didn’t think it would ever happen. But he has a [combat] record that speaks for itself. I don’t have to tell it.”

Conner’s Army record earned him decorations in savage battles between October 1942 and March 1945 as his 3rd Infantry Division unit pushed from Morocco, across Tunisia into Italy, across France and into Germany.

The Medal of Honor raises Conner into the ranks of the highest-decorated soldiers in the Army’s history, according to Erik Villard, a historian with the Army’s Center for Military History.

His actions earned him the respect of his fellow soldiers and of his commanders, who in 1944 granted him a battlefield commission from technical sergeant to second lieutenant.

Lloyd Ramsey, Conner’s battalion commander who would rise to major general, wrote Conner was the best combat soldier he had ever observed in action.

“No words can express the outstanding leadership qualities that Lt. Conner had,” the late Ramsey wrote after the war. Conner was “always willing to do more than his part.”

But people who knew Conner after he left the Army knew little of the small-town Kentucky farmer’s battlefield exploits. He rarely, if ever, spoke of his service because he was concerned it could come across as bragging, said Pauline Conner. He instead chose to tell people who inquired about his time in combat that he’d left those memories across the Atlantic Ocean, she said.

The Conner family’s quest to see Murl Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for combat valor, upgraded to the Medal of Honor, launched a struggle that would last the next 22 years through battles with the Army’s awards branch and eventually in courtrooms. Luther Conner said the family had finally found some closure with Trump’s upgrade of Murl Conner’s award, 20 years after his death at the age of 79.

“We were quite sure from the outset,” Luther said about his cousin’s deserving a Medal of Honor. “You could read the account. There was just no doubt he was deserving of it. That’s separating any emotion or family interest.”

Trump agreed, saying his decision to approve the upgrade was easy.

“He couldn’t stop [fighting] because he loved our country and he fought with everything he had to stop the Nazi menace,” the president said. “ We will always be grateful to God for giving us heroes like Murl.”

Pauline Conner said her only wish was that her late husband had lived long enough to receive his Medal of Honor himself.  “He would feel highly honored,” she said.

Stars and Stripes

 

In Grateful Appreciation of WWII Service and Valor

Veterans Day

2019

God Bless America

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Our Enduring Anthem of 1814

The Star-Spangled Banner

U.S. Flag flown over Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812

On September 13, 1814, the lyrics to our national anthem were penned by Francis Scott Key.  An American lawyer, author, and amateur poet from Georgetown and Washington, D.C., he was inspired by witnessing the sight of our flag, still waving at dawn, in the aftermath of British bombardment on Ft. McHenry.

Quickly published on September 21 1814, the lyrics were adapted to music and became known as the “The Star Spangled Banner.”  More than a century later, the song was adopted as the American national anthem, first by Executive Order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and later by Congressional resolution in 1931, to be signed by President Herbert Hoover.

Hand-written copy of Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner
Housed at the Library of Congress

Since its inception, there have been many poignant and patriotic renditions performed over the years, both nationwide and around the world.

In 2015, over 1,000 high-school choir students sang the U.S. national anthem during their Kentucky conference.  They gathered on balconies in the lobby of their high-rise hotel as below an appreciative audience listened enthralled.  The students repeat their touching performance each year.

Then there’s 96 year old WWII veteran, Pete DuPré, performing his stirring rendition to millions of admiring fans, during the Women’s soccer match in Harrison, NJ, on Memorial Day, 2019.

Pete DuPre’ WWII US Army Veteran

AN INCOMPARABLE GENERATION

Women’s soccer match between U.S. and Mexico
Harrison, New Jersey
May 28, 2019

History of Independence Day

On July 8, 1776, the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square to the ringing of bells and band music.  One year later, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells, and fireworks.

243rd Anniversary

1776 – 2019

4th of July fireworks
Washington D.C.

God Bless America

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Inconceivable Courage – June 6, 1944

Allied invasion of Normandy
June 6, 1944
(U.S. Air Force Photo -Illustration/Dennis Rogers)

Almighty God: Our sons and the pride of our Nation this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

                                                                                                           President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Address to the Nation
June 6, 1944

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At 10:00 pm on 5 June 1944, Allied troops would begin departing from British shores on the English Channel to launch a successful invasion of German-occupied western Europe.  Five assault groups set sail under darkness in an armada of nearly 7,000 vessels with 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landing at Normandy on June 6, 1944, along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coast.  Five beaches in northern France code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold were the main targets for the landing of this great magnitude of troops by sea.

U.S. assault troops in LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach
6 June 1944

After anchoring off the coast of France for a couple of hours, US troops landed on Omaha and Utah beaches at about 6:30 am.  About an hour later, Canadian forces landed at Juno, and British troops at Gold and Sword.

U.S. troops faced stiff German resistance at Omaha beach in particular and were pinned down for several hours, suffering heavy losses.

U.S. Soldiers departing LCVP landing craft approach Utah Beach
6 June 1944

Despite involving a large number of troops, keeping D-day secret was vital to the success of the operation.  A disinformation campaign had led the Germans to believe that Operation Fortitude was the main plan for the allies to invade the continent, via a two-pronged attack involving Norway and Calais.  Even once the D-Day landings began, German commanders were convinced they were just a diversionary tactic before the real invasion.

U.S. assault troops carrying equipment onto Utah Beach following
deployment from landing craft seen in the background
6 June 1944

Just after midnight on 6 June, aerial bombardment of enemy positions on the Normandy coast had begun. That night, more than 5,300 tons of bombs were dropped. Special operations troops were parachuted into the country to attack bridges and secure vital infrastructure targets before the landings. Information was also transmitted about German positions via carrier pigeons.

U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion scaling Pointe du Hoc at Normandy landings on D-Day
6 June 1944

The public had also been kept in the dark until the operation had begun. On D-Day, at 9:00 am, Gen Dwight Eisenhower issued a communique announcing the invasion had begun. Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons in London at noon: “So far the commanders who are engaged report that everything is proceeding according to plan.  And what a plan!”

At 9:00 pm, King George VI addressed the British public in a broadcast, describing the operation as a “fight to win the final victory for the good cause.”  By midnight the allied forces had full control of the beaches, and the push into occupied France was under way.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, talks with men of 101st Airborne Division
Royal Air Force base in Greenham Common, England
June 6, 1944, before joining the D-Day invasion. (U.S. ARMY)

13,100 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early on D-Day, June 6, followed by 3,937 glider troops flown in by day.

From the air — US and allied paratroopers parachuted onto the beach and deep into enemy German territory on D-Day and in support of the massive military invasion by land, sea, air, World War II combat photos.

By the end of the day, the allies had disembarked more than 135,000 men and 10,000 vehicles on the beaches, and established bridgeheads of varying depths along the Normandy coastline. This came at a cost of 4,400 allied troops killed, with thousands more injured or missing.

WWII cemetery and memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe during WWII. Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.

 

NORMANDY

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For Those Recognized To All

 

 

And Those Only Known To One

 

 

 “Lord, where did we get such men?”

 

Veterans and dignitaries gather for D-Day service at Bayeux cathedral in France. June 6, 2014
Photograph: Reuters

 

In Eternal Reverence and Gratitude

 

Sunrise on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France
June 6, 2014
(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

 

For Your Sacrifice on Behalf of Freedom

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“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

John F. Kennedy

 

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75th Anniversary of D-Day

June 6, 2019

 

 

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