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    First Lieutenant Conner staves off a German assault



    Courtesy Story

    U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence

    by Lori S. Stewart, USAICoE Command Historian

    On Jan. 24, 1945, 1st Lt. Garlin M. Conner, S-2 of the 3d Battalion, 7th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division, prevented his battalion from being overrun by advancing German forces in the Colmar Pocket. He received a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day before being discharged from the Army. In 2018, seventy-three years later, his award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

    In Dec. 1944, the 3d Infantry Division relieved the 36th Infantry Division in the Vosges Mountains near the city of Colmar in northeastern France. The previous month, a combined American-French force had liberated much of the Alsace region, but German forces still maintained a bridgehead, referred to as the Colmar Pocket, along the Rhine River. As the Allies prepared to eliminate the pocket and push the Germans across the river, the Germans decided to take a stand.

    Conner, the 25-year-old son of a Kentucky farmer, had joined the Army in early 1941, while working with the Civilian Conservation Corps at Fort Lewis, Washington. Assigned to Lt. Col. (later Maj. Gen.) Lloyd Ramsey’s 3d Battalion of the 7th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division, he had landed with American troops on the coast of Morocco in Nov. 1942. He rose to the rank of technical sergeant while fighting through Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy before arriving in Southern France. When Conner earned a battlefield commission in June 1944, Ramsey appointed him the battalion S-2. In January 1945, Conner was recuperating from an injury sustained in a previous battle when he heard rumors of a pending German assault on his battalion. Not about to let a bum hip stop him, he snuck out of the hospital and rejoined his unit just outside the town of Houssen, north of Colmar.

    On the frigid night of Jan. 21-22, the 3d Battalion joined the rest of the 7th Infantry as it crossed the Fecht River and pushed south to clear the area between it and the Ill River. On Jan. 24, with the battalion facing heavy enemy resistance, Conner volunteered to establish a forward observation post from which he could direct artillery fire on the German forces. He and Pfc. Robert A. Dutil ran 400 yards, dodging enemy artillery and unspooling telephone wire until they were about thirty yards in front of the American line. Dutil, wounded, sought protection in one ditch, while Conner crammed himself into another foot-deep ditch and, under nearly constant fire, proceeded to radio and phone the position of about 600 advancing Germans for the next three hours. When the enemy reached a point just five yards from his ditch, Conner called in artillery fire on his own position.

    Conner miraculously survived. His actions resulted in the killing or wounding of nearly one-fourth the German force. He continued to fight with his battalion for several more days, even at one point taking command of a leaderless company. It would take another two weeks of hard fighting before the Allies finally eliminated the Colmar pocket and forced the Germans to flee across the Rhine River.

    Conner, however, was bound for the United States, but not before Gen. Alexander Patch, commander of the U.S. Seventh Army, presented him with a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on Jan. 24. Additionally, after twenty-eight months fighting on the front lines, Conner had also earned four Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. The 3d Battalion commander, Col. Ramsey, extolled his S-2’s bravery in a letter to his own father, stating, “I’ve never seen a man with as much courage and ability as he has. I usually don’t brag much on my officers, but this is one officer nobody could brag enough about and do him justice.”

    Discharged on June 22, 1945, Conner returned to Kentucky, married, and worked a farm of his own. He passed away in 1998 at the age of seventy-nine. After a decades-long effort by retired Gen. Ramsey to get Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross upgraded to a Medal of Honor, the new award was presented to Conner’s wife on June 26, 2018.



    Date Taken: 01.24.2023
    Date Posted: 01.24.2023 12:03
    Story ID: 437155
    Location: FORT HUACHUCA, AZ, US 

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