On a chilly Thursday morning, members of the 3rd Infantry Division, civilians and other units across both Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield gathered at the Delta Range at 10 a.m. Dec. 6 to dedicate the Small Arms Range Complex to World War II hero 1st Lt. Garlin “Murl” Conner. Pauline Conner and family attended the ceremony to see both a husband, father and friend honored for his actions in WWII.
Conner spent his teenage years working on the family farm and before enlisting in the service, Conner served in the Civilian Conservation Corps. When Conner enlisted in the Army, he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division. Conner deployed in 1942 with the 3rd ID, and served for 28 months on the front lines in 10 campaigns and four amphibious assault landings, according to the program. Conner was wounded seven different times, and eventually earned a battlefield commission.
The dedication of the Small Arms Complex is to honor Conner’s memory and accomplishments on the war, specifically his actions in France, which earned him the nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.
“It is one of the highest honors that has ever been, that has ever happened,” Conner’s wife Pauline Conner said. “I appreciate everything that has been done. It’s amazing. Everyone has been so nice and so good to me.”
Other accolades include: the Distinguished Service Cross; the Silver Star with three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; the Army Good Conduct Medal; the American Defense Service Medal; the American Campaign Medal; the European African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Bronze Arrowhead and two Silver Service Stars; the World War II Victory Medal; the Presidential Unit Citation with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster; the Combat Infantryman Badge; the Expert Infantryman Badge; the French Croix De Guerre, the French Fourragere; and the Honorable Service Lapel Button-WWII, according to the program.
Conner spent nearly 800 days, or over two years, on the front lines in continuous combat. He received honorable discharge in 1945, and returned home, where he met and married his wife, Pauline Wells, after a week-long courtship. Conner passed away in 1998 after raising a son, serving as president of the local Kentucky Farm Bureau, and spending years volunteering with his wife to help disabled veterans receive their pension benefits.
The ceremony began with an invocation by the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team Chaplain Mount, and the playing of the National Anthem by members of the 3rd ID band. Members of the 3rd ID, and other divisions across were in attendance, as well as Conner’s widow and family.
“This past summer, on June 26, 2018, Conner was officially awarded the Medal of Honor in Washington, DC,” Sgt. Tyler Stewart, narrator of the ceremony said. “Today we find ourselves on Fort Stewart, the home of the 3rd Infantry Division, the division in which Conner served. Today, as it did during the days of WWII, the 3rd Infantry Division continues to deploy soldiers across the globe to defend our freedoms here at home and to confront evil abroad. The range on which we stand today is a vital part of that effort.”
The range is where every solider, no matter their specialty, train to become proficient with the United States Army’s many weapon systems, Stewart continued. The complex consists of 15 individual ranges that facilitate the training of all 3rd ID soldiers on Fort Stewart.
“It is only fitting that such a range complex should bear the name Conner,” Stewart said. “Lt. Conner embodied the warrior ethos through his actions in the field, and it is through those actions that 3rd ID soldiers will now look to for inspiration as they train to face the enemy.”
Commanding General of the Third Infantry Division Maj. Gen. Lee Quintas spoke briefly about Conner before the unveiling, and what an honor it is as a fellow 3rd ID solider to recognize his accomplishments and bravery during WWII.
“So as we consider how we might best honor the valor of 1st Lt. Conner, we thought about his example of lethality and leadership,” Quintas said. “As a leader, Conner fought from the front, he was selfless, in that he repeatedly put himself in harm’s way, not asking his soldiers to do anything he would not do himself. We needed to find a way to recognize this leadership.”
Quintas added that Conner was not only a great leader, but incredibly lethal in the field, especially with his individual weapon, the Thompson Sub-machine gun.
“In action after action, Conner dominated his enemies with his lethal skills,” Quintas said. “There is no better place to honor Lt. Garlin ‘Murl’ Conner’s amazing service.”
After the speech, Pauline Conner and family were escorted by Maj. Gen. Quintas and Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Hendrex to unveil the 1st Lt. Conner Medal of Honor citation range plaque to officially dedicate the Small Arms Range Complex.
“He didn’t do what he did for bragging, he did what he felt he had to do,” Conner said. “I don’t think he wanted to relive the circumstances that he went through. He just didn’t want to talk about it.”
To conclude the ceremony, soldiers conducted a demonstration of a Thompson Sub-machine gun and an M-4 carbine before the crowd on the newly dedicated range. Those in attendance finished by singing the 3rd Infantry Division’s song “The Dog Face Soldier,” and the Army song.
“Just remember he was a very humble person, he did what he thought he had to do,” Conner continued. “My only wish and regret would have been that he could have been here to hear it himself. To have accepted the honor that’s being given to him.”