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WWII hero gets second chance at Medal of Honor

Army 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner once saved his unit from an oncoming assault of hundreds of German infantrymen — but that was not enough to get him Medal of Honor.

But now Conner, a Kentucky native, might get the recognition that many say he deserves, as a petition to get him the nation's highest honor is in the hands of the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The board was presented with new evidence from three eyewitnesses from that day, on Jan. 24, 1945: According to reports, Conner was recovering from a battle near Houssen, France, when he left to rejoin his unit, which came under attack. By unrolling telephone wire, Conner directed enemy artillery fire toward his position for three hours and held off an advance of six German tanks and about 500 infantrymen.

Conner's military service has not gone unnoticed: Doug Sterner, a military historian and Military Times contributing editor, can confirm Conner has received three Silver Stars — and mostly likely a fourth — four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts during World War II.

For the January battle, Conner, who served with the 3rd Infantry Division, "called for artillery fire upon himself, determined to destroy and smash the Germans even if it cost him his life," 1st Sgt. Harold J. Miller, an eyewitness, wrote in his statement, the Herald-Leader said.

1st Lt. Harold Wigetman and Pfc. Robert A. Dutil also included statements that were signed Feb. 9, 1945, just two weeks after Conner's acts — but the Army had not reviewed those statements.

The Board for Correction of Military Records first rejected Conner's application in 1997 and turned away an appeal in June 2000. Conner died in 1998 at age 79.

Even with letters of support from lawmakers, veterans, historians and authors, in 2014, a Kentucky district court ruled Conner was not eligible for the Medal of Honor based on a technicality. The court said that his wife, Pauline Conner — who devoted 17 years campaigning for her husband's award — waited too long to present evidence to alter her husband's service record.

"Now the Army Board for Correction of Military Records has, within 180 days, to issue a decision in the case," Dennis Shepherd, an attorney with the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, told the Lexington-Herald.

"Given the fact that we've been able to present all the evidence that we had sought to present, I'm confident that the right decision will be made now."

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