Wife of World War II Medal Of Honor Recipient Reveals Their Love Story

  • Historic photos from Pauline Conner's collection show her husband Garlin Murl Conner. (Courtesy Pauline Conner)
    Historic photos from Pauline Conner's collection show her husband Garlin Murl Conner. (Courtesy Pauline Conner)
  • Historic photos from Pauline Conner's collection show her husband Garlin Murl Conner. (Courtesy Pauline Conner)
    Historic photos from Pauline Conner's collection show her husband Garlin Murl Conner. (Courtesy Pauline Conner)
  • Historic photos from Pauline Conner's collection show her husband Garlin Murl Conner. (Courtesy Pauline Conner)
    Historic photos from Pauline Conner's collection show her husband Garlin Murl Conner. (Courtesy Pauline Conner)
  • Historic photos from Pauline Conner's collection show her husband Garlin Murl Conner. (Courtesy Pauline Conner)
    Historic photos from Pauline Conner's collection show her husband Garlin Murl Conner. (Courtesy Pauline Conner)
  • Historic photos from Pauline Conner's collection show her husband Garlin Murl Conner. (Courtesy Pauline Conner)
    Historic photos from Pauline Conner's collection show her husband Garlin Murl Conner. (Courtesy Pauline Conner)
  • Historic photos from Pauline Conner's collection show her husband Garlin Murl Conner. (Courtesy Pauline Conner)
    Historic photos from Pauline Conner's collection show her husband Garlin Murl Conner. (Courtesy Pauline Conner)

Back in 1945, when she was 15 and first set eyes on her future husband, Pauline Conner didn't think much of the scrawny fellow they were making all the fuss about in town with the parade and the speeches.

The great Sgt. Alvin York himself, the Medal of Honor recipient from World War I, had shown up for what the folks in Albany, Kentucky, called the "speakin'" at the Clinton County courthouse to welcome home Garlin Murl Conner from fighting the Nazis.

Conner had received the Distinguished Service Cross, four awards of the Silver Star, three purple hearts and an Army battlefield promotion from tech sergeant to first lieutenant.

In a conference call with reporters Thursday, that day in Albany in 1945 came back to Pauline Conner.

They were tenant farmers in Pauline's family. They didn't have a car, so "Daddy hitched the horse to the wagon and we got in the wagon and went into town to see the parade. Daddy parked the wagon down on what they called Jockey Street," she said.

She wasn't quite sure which one he was but "everybody was bragging on what he'd done. I was expecting a giant of a man," she said.

But Conner was maybe 5-foot-6 and about 120 pounds at the time.

She turned to her mother and said, "My God, Mama, that little guy couldn't have done all of what they said he'd done," Pauline Conner recalled.

She would learn the things that Conner had done to earn the respect of the county, but not from him.

"It was always other people. He didn't want to say much, didn't want to seem to be bragging. He was very private with his military record," she said.

"More than anything, he was proud of his brothers in World War II. He had five brothers, all came back home. I've often wondered how his mother could take that, with six boys in the war," she said.

Pauline's mother didn't take to Murl at first, but he was a persistent suitor. He came by the house every day, she said.

"Mama said 'you tell him not to come back here no more,'" Pauline Conner said.

Finally, Murl said to her: "Let's go get married. I said, 'I don't have any clothes.' He said, 'I'll buy you some clothes.'"

They were never parted.

In their life together, he was a farmer and also served with the Disabled American Veterans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the American Legion and Kentucky Veterans Affairs. The war stayed with him in ways he could not explain.

"I always thought if anybody had PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder], it was Murl. He'd wake up in the night, kind of fighting, because of the nightmares. Lots of times he'd just go outside and sit by himself," she said.

Last month, Pauline Conner, now 88, received a phone call from President Donald Trump about her husband, who died in 1998 at age 79. The upgrade of his Distinguished Service Cross had been approved after more than 20 years of bureaucratic and court fights.

No date had been set, but Trump was inviting her to the White House to accept the presentation of the Medal of Honor for 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner.

Pauline Conner said she was stunned by the phone call.

"You sound like an old country girl," she said Trump told her.

She said she most definitely was. He asked if he should call her husband "Garlin," and she said he went by "Murl."

"I've been studying his record and he has a magnificent record," Trump told her. "I'll see you at the White House."

She responded, "Tell that beautiful wife of yours [First Lady Melania Trump] to give you a big hug and a kiss for me."

Conner, a member of K Company, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, served 28 months in Europe and the Mediterranean in World War II. He had joined the Army in 1941 and was discharged in 1945.

The actions for which he will be awarded the Medal of Honor occurred on Jan. 24, 1945, when he volunteered to run 400 yards through "an intense concentration of enemy artillery" in Houssen, France, according to his DSC citation.

As he ran, he unrolled a spool of telephone wire so he could use a field telephone to direct attacks on the enemy, and then directed artillery fire to hold off six German tanks and about 600 German infantrymen.

As shells exploded 25 yards from him, he set up an observation post, where he stayed for more than three hours, the citation said.

Conner was individually credited with stopping more than 150 German troops, destroying the tanks and "disintegrating the powerful enemy assault force and preventing heavy loss of life in his own outfit," the citation said.

The effort to upgrade Conner's award began when Richard Chilton, a former Green Beret, wrote to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records saying Conner should be honored.

Chilton had been researching details of his uncle's military career, and he came across Conner, who had served with Chilton's uncle. The Board rejected the initial application for the upgrade in 1997, and also rejected an appeal in 2000.

Luther Conner, a lawyer in Albany, Kentucky, and a second cousin of 1st Lt. Conner, said veterans organizations, local lawmakers and others then got together to reverse the rulings. They found three affidavits in the National Archives testifying to Conner's actions on Jan. 24, 1945, and the upgrade was finally approved.

"We had such a happy marriage," Pauline Conner said. There was a son, Paul, and now three granddaughters and a grandson, who is currently serving in the Navy. There are two great-grandsons and two great-granddaughters.

Once she receives the Medal of Honor, "I would like to display it for some period of time" in the Albany courthouse, and then "put it in my lockbox in the bank and take care of it."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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