From Honor to Medal: The Story of Garlin M. Conner tells the remarkable story of Lt. Garlin Conner, an American hero whose exploits in World War II made him among the most decorated soldiers in American history, and the rural Kentucky community that refused to let his sacrifice in battle be forgotten.
Two campaigns separated by fifty years…
Lt. Garlin M. Conner is one of the finest American heroes to serve in World War 2. That much is without debate. For twenty-eight consecutive months he stood on the front line using hot iron and steel to push back the Axis Powers, from the vast deserts of North Africa to the frigid farmlands of eastern France.
His commanders recommended him for many awards, and Lt. Conner left Europe with a Silver Star with three Oak Leaf Clusters, a Bronze Star, a Distinguished Service Cross, and multiple Purple Hearts, putting him alongside Audie Murphy as one of the most decorated veterans from World War 2.
But there should have been one more.
On January 24, 1945, Lt. Conner committed an act of heroism so remarkable, and with so little regard for his own safety, that his commander, Major General Lloyd Ramsey, began paperwork for a Medal of Honor – the military’s highest combat award. Maj. Gen. Ramsey would never complete those papers. He was wounded himself, and still fighting through a bloody European campaign. Furthermore, Lt. Conner was soon heading home. So Ramsey got Conner what he could – the Distinguished Service Cross – figuring that Conner would apply for the Medal of Honor after the war.
Garlin Murl Conner never did. His generation was a humble one, and instead of seeking recognition, he settled into a quiet Kentucky life serving his community and helping veterans get the pensions and disabilities they deserved. By all accounts he lived a good life with his wife Pauline and his son Paul, and in 1998, at the age of seventy-nine, he died from Parkinson’s Disease.
But a soldier’s story doesn’t end when he dies; it ends when the men and women who come after finish telling it. And many people weren’t yet finished with the story of Murl Conner.
A Green Beret determined to rectify an old mistake. A military historian desperate to see his hometown hero receive his due.
These are people who gave years, even decades of their lives to ensure that the sacrifices made by Murl Conner will never be forgotten.
This film salutes their quest, and joins them.
From Honor to Medal: The Story of Garlin M. Conner is a tale of close calls, near-death experiences, civic pride, community, and a battle against bureaucracy that mirrors the battles Lt. Conner fought in over two years of war. It traces the life of Murl Conner and the efforts of men and women who were determined to give a Kentucky Hero the only reward our veterans really desire:
To remember them for what they did, and why.
The Inspiring Story of a Kentucky Hero
Seventy-five years ago this January, a Kentucky soldier who had been in combat for more than two years, suffering many wounds and earning four Silver Stars, offered the ultimate sacrifice – calling in artillery on his forward position in order to save his battalion.
That soldier’s heroism, and the 20-year campaign to recognize it with the Medal of Honor, are recounted in “From Honor to Medal: The Story of Garlin M. Conner,” an hour-long documentary from the Institute for Rural Journalism at the University of Kentucky.
Conner—“Merle” to friends and family—survived that horrible day in a ditch in the French province of Alsace, and came home to a farm with no electricity or running water in Albany, Ky. He had a family, gave them a good life, and was a leader of his fellow farmers and veterans. He suffered in body and mind from his Army service, but rarely talked about it.
Only after Conner died in 1998 was his story told – first by a complete stranger who became his greatest advocate and inspired others to join the campaign to get the Medal of Honor for him. Led by a neighbor who wouldn’t take no for an answer, they struggled for 20 years to break through Army bureaucracy, losing at every turn – but remaining inspired by Conner’s battlefield examples of determination.
The documentary is sponsored by private donors and the Veterans Trust Fund of the Kentucky Department for Veterans Affairs, which assisted the Conner team’s legal efforts at the direction of then-Commissioner Heather French Henry, who has championed veterans since her tenure as Miss America 20 years ago.
About the filmmakers
Al Cross, Executive Producer
Al Cross is director of the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. He began his career at the Clinton County News in Albany, where he knew Murl Conner as a farmer and veteran, not as a decorated soldier.
Jeff Hoagland, Writer and Director
Jeff is a writer, director and editor from Lexington, KY. He has produced and written for projects airing on National Geographic Channel, The Military Channel, and KET, and has nearly fifteen years’ experience as a freelance writer, editor, and project manager in a variety of fields.
Janet Whitaker, Associate Producer
Janet has over 30 years of experience as a Director and Producer of documentary film and television, primarily at KET.