On June 26, 2018, our nation honored a new hero when President Donald Trump awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to Garlin Murl Conner. Conner’s widow, Pauline, accepted the award during a White House ceremony. For Pauline, it’s the end of a long road. She has been spearheading a request to upgrade the Distinguished Service Cross her husband earned on January 24, 1945, to the Medal of Honor—something his battalion commander recommended at the time.
And no wonder! There are many ways to earn the Medal of Honor, of course, many paths to valor. In Conner's case, it involved calling in artillery fire on his own position to thwart a battalion-sized German counterattack with Panzer support. The engagement took place near Houssen, just north of Colmar. While General Jacob Devers’s Sixth Army Group had pushed to the Upper Rhine in many places, the Germans still held a sizable salient west of the Rhine around Colmar, a position known as the "Colmar pocket" to the Allies. Flattening it out and freeing the west bank of the Rhine from German forces took months.
And in a way that’s the whole point. We read a lot about the big German counteroffensive in the Ardennes Forest in December 1944, the famous “Battle of the Bulge,” but far less about the fighting farther south, where American and German soldiers alike were still fighting and dying in droves. Indeed, the Germans also launched a last desperate counterstroke, Operation Nordwind, in this region in late December, and heavy fighting would rage throughout the month of January 1945.
So here’s to Pauline, who fought for her husband’s memory. Here’s to Garlin Conner, our new national hero. And here’s to all the US servicemen who gave their last full measure of devotion in Alsace and Lorraine in the bloody winter of 1944–45.