10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall has had a remarkable career. With iconic roles in The Godfather I and II, Lonesome Dove, The Apostle, Tender Mercies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Apocalypse Now, Days of Thunder, and many more, Duvall is best known for his roles on screen and as an accomplished filmmaker. Perhaps lesser known is that he served in the Army for two years during the 1950s and comes from a military family where his father was a Rear Admiral.

WATM had the opportunity to speak with Duvall to hear about his fascinating life, from growing up as an Admiral’s son to working with some of the greatest minds in entertainment of all time.


WATM: What was your family like and your life like growing up?

We moved a lot because of being in a military family. We lived in San Diego and then Annapolis, MD, at the Naval Academy. I remember seeing a movie when I was really young at Camp Pendleton for a dime back in the 1930s when we lived in Mission Hills in San Diego. Right before WWII started, my dad was transferred from Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic Fleet, which led to our move to Annapolis for eight straight years. My father’s first ship was in the Atlantic. My grandmother lived with us for a while as well back then. As a young boy, I watched athletic events at the Academy and became inundated with their sports as a kid. I remember watching Army and Navy games when Army players such as Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis were on the field.

My father was a good line officer and had a solid war record where he retired as a Rear Admiral. His first command was in San Pedro which was the USS Clark, which was a minesweeper. He was with destroyers from Europe to North Africa where his last command was USS Juno, which was a light cruiser. My father served on the USS Indianapolis (famous for delivering parts for Little Boy and then being sunk by the Japanese losing a large percentage of the crew to sharks) and carried President Roosevelt’s bags for him while he was on the ship. My father kept quiet about his service in retirement and didn’t go out on ships once retired..

We prayed and did our bit at home while he was abroad fighting in the war. One funny thing was how my father stopped smoking during the war, so we sent him chewing gum instead. My father worked with the British Navy and enjoyed serving with them. He told us how the British Navy would toast the Queen but not the President of the U.S. After they would have dinner and wine, the British would have wrestling matches where it was best two out of three falls. My dad respected the British and Churchill. Thank God for Churchill as he was likely the greatest man in the 20th century.

The USS Indianapolis- U.S. Navy photo 80-G-425615

As a young teen, me and my siblings went out to our uncle Harold Prescott’s 40,000-acre cattle and sheep ranch in Montana for two summers in a row. This happened at the end of WWII. These memories and experiences at the ranch I’ll never forget; they embedded in me a certain culture. We would go there by train on the Empire Builder of the Great Northern. It would take us from Chicago where we took the Baltimore Ohio the first way and my aunt would pick us up when the Empire Builder would stop in the open fields.

We rode horses, cleaned out the chicken coop, went camping in the mountains and fly fishing with my uncle. I met Jimmy Morrison, a great veterinarian and immigrant from Scotland, while at the ranch and learned a lot about handling animals from him. He was just good to be around where we pitched horseshoes every night with him. Jimmy roped a baby coyote from his horse once and he raced full speed on his quarter horse and touched a galloping antelope on the neck.

They would have big dances there in Montana where if you asked the wrong woman to dance the whole place would turn into a gigantic fist fight, thereby ending the dance. My uncle even gave us a salary at the end of the summer for the work we did around the ranch. He told us, “With your father off fighting the war the least I can do is pay you boys something for your work around here.” My uncle Harold fought in WWI in the Battle of Belleau Wood as a Marine.

Empire Builder of the Great Northern. Credit: Great Northern Railway Historical Society.

I went into a small college, Principia College where my military family pushed me into acting. I changed my major to drama after my first A in an acting course and found myself.

WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My mother ran the home while my father was away. My father could be gone for eight months and we respected him for his service. He was a good man and taught us work ethic by example. My mother ran a cotillion for dancing as we grew up where we learned social graces and how to interact with people, especially women. She made for us a good and stable home life with great experiences.

The US Naval Academy in the 1940s. Credit:HipPostcard.com

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

We were taught to believe in God, do good for other people and to be patriotic. We were taught to keep positive thoughts even in hard times.

Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace” painting. Credit Norman Rockwell.

WATM: What influenced you to join the U.S. Army and what lessons did you take away from your service?

I was drafted and went in for two years where the Army was okay. I did a lot of imitations of people I met in the Army which was shared with my family and friends. One experience really stuck with me was with a fellow soldier nicknamed 3-D, who was like six feet six inches tall and could hardly see. We were marching one night and he disappeared as he had fallen into a fox hole. It struck me as strange that Mickey Mantle was 4F, but that 3-D was considered service worthy. How is a star center fielder for the Yankees not able to serve but this guy is?

I really brought away humor and the ability to tell stories from the Army and served my time. It served me later for playing military roles and allowed me to have a respect for the part. I have a respect for the military, so I played those parts with credence and professionalism.

President George W. Bush stands with recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Arts, from left: Leonard Garment, Louis Auchincloss, Paquito D’Rivera, James DePreist, Tina Ramirez, Robert Duvall, and Ollie Johnston. Credit: White House photo by Eric Draper – whitehouse.gov

WATM: What are the best lessons that Sanford Meisner taught you?

I trained with Sanford on the GI Bill where he taught me how to be as simple as possible in connecting with people. He showed us how to be basic and get to the core of communication. He taught me a legitimate and helpful shortcut in acting. Meisner once said he was easier to please than Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Meisner was friends with Horton Foote, who gave me my first film in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Horton had seen me in a play that Meisner had directed at the Neighborhood Playhouse and liked what they saw, so from that I got Boo Radley. It was a wonderful part to start off with and Horton really helped me a lot in my career.

A photo of a young Robert. Credit unknown.

WATM: What was it like transitioning from stage actor to Film/TV actor?

I started out in the theatre and did summer stock. The main difference is you just speak up a little more on stage than you do in film and TV. You are still believing in an imaginary set of circumstances and going into an imaginary world. It is you doing it yourself where you are appearing as you are becoming something else as we have only one set of emotions and psyche. One of my favorite stage parts ever, American Buffalo, I did on Broadway, which is the Mamet play, it was the best. You do eight shows a week which can wear you down. I would nap between shows and just get up and stumble on stage from that deep nap. Rest is very important.

And Robert Duvall in the “Miniature” episode of the “Twilight Zone.” Credit IMDB.com

WATM: What are some of your best memories from your early to mid-career working on great shows and films?

There were parts I was able to grow in and was able to get better as I got older. There are always some parts you do better than other parts for whatever reasons. Eastwood was good to work with and I liked working with John Wayne as well. The Duke was just neat to be around. He did some good work and stuck up for me on the set of “True Grit.” I was having struggles working with the director of the film where Duke chimed in to balance the odds.

Ulu Grosbard was a close friend and gave me a lot of help early in my career. He directed me in Broadway and Off-Broadway plays. If I needed something from him, he would help me right away. He was a great guy.

Brando was the great one to work with and was so innovative. A memorable story is where I met a great English stage actor that went to see a Streetcar Named Desire when Brando was in it on Broadway. The English actor got embarrassed because he thought a stagehand had wandered on stage by mistake. The “stagehand” was so natural, but it turned out that it was just Brando on stage. The English actor went to see it seven times. Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and I would meet at Cromwell’s drug store two or three times a week for an hour. We mentioned Brando nearly every day in those conversations. Working with Brando was amazing; he turned the world upside down when he came around.

Jimmy Caan is super funny and an extremely quick wit. James has a lot of talent and is a wonderful actor where we stay in touch with each other. De Niro was wonderful and I did summer stock with Gene Hackman. One note on Gene, when I busted my pelvis on set a long time ago, he offered me his last 0. I didn’t take it but he is a great guy to be around. Gene Hackman was a Marine and played on the USMC Football team with Joe Bartos, a Naval Academy grad and professional football player for the Redskins. Gene also served in Korea and stood duty in the cold there. He used to tell me stories about his time in Korea. Dustin Hoffman was my roommate and was a character where he belongs in the business. I kept in touch with Wilford Brimley as well when he was a bodyguard for Howard Hughes and a Marine.

Robert in his first feature film “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Credit IMDB.com

Francis Ford Coppola, Robert, and Marlon Brando on set for “The Godfather.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert with George Lucas and Donald Pleasance working on “THX 1138.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert and Tommy Lee Jones in “Lonesome Dove.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert Duvall with Clint Eastwood while filming Joe Kidd. Credit IMDB.com

WATM: What was your experience like working on the military films “Apocalypse Now” and “The Great Santini?”

When I went in to read for “Apocalypse Now,” the initial writing for the character I played wasn’t written very well. Colonel Carnage was the original name for LtCol Kilgore and was made more of a caricature of the Army than a realistic portrayal. It was just too much for me. Coppola allowed me to adjust the LtCol for the film and to find the uniform and the hat for the character. Coppola always allowed me to find the character and was very instrumental in my career. He helped me a lot. Coppola and I were so close, we would have arguments on the phone about artistic points, but we had a mutual respect. I really like working for him.

When I did “The Great Santini,” I went down early to location to get settled in Beaufort, South Carolina. I found a place to live and went into a real estate office where they thought I was a Marine. One funny memory was when I went up to a beautiful house on the hill when looking for a place to rent. I went up to the door with the real estate people where this sweet, little southern lady opened it and I asked her if she would allow me to rent the home from her. She had the most honest and funniest response with her draw, “Well where would I go?” I thanked her for her time, and we left.

I would get up at 5:30 in the mornings and go hang out with the drill instructors at MCRD Parris Island. They seemed more beat up and tired than the recruits were. They were hoarse and exhausted from their work training them. I went to the officers and non-commissioned officers’ ball while on base where I had a great time with them. I always try to be as accurate as I can with military parts, especially in “The Great Santini.” Overall, working with the Marines was great! I love Marines!

As LtCol Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert Duvall with Francis Ford Coppola on set of “Apocalypse Now.” Credit unknown.

Robert Duvall in The Great Santini. Credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What are your favorite moments from your mid-career to now on such films?

“Tender Mercies” comes to mind where I insisted on Wilford being in the film with me where he had my back in dealing with the director. Wilford helped with the common distance between a foreign director and a native actor, which was taking place in my situation. One of the best memories from that set is when the director, Bruce Beresford, told us to, “pick up the pace,” on set. Wilford responded with, “I didn’t know anybody dropped it.” . Wilford’s retort drew laughter from the cast and crew.

I once walked into the dining room on “Lonesome Dove” and told them, “We were making the Godfather of Westerns.” I really believe that and playing Gus is probably my most favorite part to play overall.

“Days of Thunder” was a lot of fun working with Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is a good guy to work with and he bought me a ,000 jumping horse. He really is a terrific and very giving guy. It was great to be with him again on “Jack Reacher.” I played a retired Marine in that film with him.

Working on “Falling Down” with Rachel Ticotin was wonderful. She is a smart and fun actress to work with. We had a great time on set for the film.

“The Apostle” was a wonderful film to make. Miranda Richardson was so talented in the film and we had Farrah Fawcett, who was underrated, in it as well. I put my own money in that film and we got it back. Marlon Brando loved it and so did Billy Graham, so I got praise on both sides from the secular and religious. Brando wrote me a letter that is framed on my wall and it still means a lot to me what he wrote.

Hank Whitman is another talented professional to work with where we worked together on “Wild Horses” in 2015. He is a Texas Ranger and served in the Marines. He is a classy guy and a man of his word.

My favorite film to work on recently was “Get Low,” just loved the character. It was just a nice production to work on, especially with Lucas Black who I worked with on “Sling Blade.”

Robert with Tess Harper in “Tender Mercies,” which he won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1984. Credit IMDB.com.

Susan Rinnell, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Jason Presson, Gail Youngs and Wilford Brimley in “The Stone Boy.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert working on “The Natural.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert with Tom Cruise while filming “Days of Thunder.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert and Gene Hackman in Geronimo: An American Legend. Credit IMDB.com.

Rachel Ticotin and Robert Duvall in “Falling Down.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert wrote, directed, produced and starred in “The Apostle.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert with Nic Cage filming “Gone in 60 Seconds.” Credit IMDB.com.

On set in “Get Low” with Bill Murray. Credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What are you most proud of in your life and career?

I am proud of my wife Luciana and we have a nice relationship. She is a great cook, she is going for her brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is studying Kali which is Filipino knife training. She has a great family she comes from in Argentina where she is the granddaughter of Argentinian aviation pioneer Susana Ferrari Billinghurst. We love our dogs and they are like kids.

Picture of Robert with his wife Luciana at an event for “The Judge.” Credit IMDB.com.


popular

Watch these glorious videos of terrorist drug labs being destroyed

There are certain things that just put a smile on every veteran’s face. The first smell of a warm cup of coffee on a cold morning, a child saying their first swear word, dogs jumping on their owners after they return from a deployment, and, of course, watching terrorist pieces of sh*t get blown to hell by precision-guided munitions. It’s the little things in life.


One of the key revenue streams of the Taliban comes from cultivating, manufacturing, and smuggling drugs. Nearly 90% of the heroin in the world comes from Afghanistan and 98% of that heroin comes from Taliban-controlled regions, which accounts for up to 60% of the Taliban’s half-a-billion dollar annual income. Not only do these labs directly fund terrorism, but the cultivation of the opium poppy fields outside them are often done using child and slave labor.

Destroying these labs and burning the fields is key to stopping terrorists in Afghanistan, which is exactly what Afghan National Police and the U.S. military have been up to in Afghanistan lately, employing 2 tons of laser-guided freedom at a time.

On Dec. 30, 2017, 24 precision-guided munitions were dropped on a Taliban drug lab and fighting position — setting a new record for munitions dropped from a B-52.

Since November, the ANDSF and U.S. forces in Afghanistan have destroyed more than 35 narcotics facilities, removing more than $30 million in direct revenue from the Taliban.
The average JDAM costs around $25,000. Each lab can generate over $1M every few months.
One of the primary reasons ISIS moved into Afghanistan was to gain control of the Taliban’s drug cartel. Thankfully, there’s more than enough ‘Murica to go around!
Everybody loves the A-10 Thunderbolt II for its BRRRRRT, but they also make things go “boom” very nicely.
In all seriousness, the shift to hitting the Taliban in the wallet has greatly weakened the recently emboldened terrorists. The Afghan National Defense and Security Force has been more successful than ever in regaining control of their country.

MIGHTY MOVIES

I don’t even know what’s going on in this Game of Thrones/Elmo mash-up

As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, Sesame Workshop is launching a video campaign about respect. Sounds reasonable enough.

Except…the videos include Elmo, a character designed to connect with children, and villains like Cersei Lannister, a character I hope no child ever becomes aware of.

Another video takes place in Westworld, another show that is decidedly not age-appropriate for children.

And these videos were not cheap to make! The actors, the production, the music…it’s all extremely authentic! We’ve got them right here and I can’t stop watching:


Sesame Street: Respect is Coming

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Sesame Street: Respect is Coming

This video legit looks like it was shot the day Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage shot their Game of Thrones Season 7 scene together. That would not be an inexpensive production, people!

Props to the actors, by the way, who absolutely stay true to character in this silly (by design, I think?) scene.

Sesame Street: Respect World

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Sesame Street: Respect World

Here’s my question: if Sesame Street is meant to educate children, why does Cookie Monster use incorrect nominative pronouns? I am very confused about who the audience is for these videos! Are these videos for children or adults?

And can someone please bring me a cookie???

Sesame Street: Give it, live it, RESPECT feat. Common

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Sesame Street: Give it, live it, RESPECT feat. Common

In this music video, award-winning hip-hop artist Common, backed up by…muppets…sings an upbeat anthem about respect. Do children know who Common is?

According to the press release, the “Respect Brings Us Together” campaign will roll out throughout the year.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things you’ll have to learn when you first take a leadership position

Congratulations! You’ve either finally been pinned or you’ve been laterally transferred to a position where you’re placed over someone else. You’ve either worked your ass off to finally accrue the dreaded 798 promotion points… or you’ve been “hey, you”ed into it. Either way, from here on out, your entire career will change for the better.

You stand now at a crossroads and your very first act as a leader will determine which road you move down.

Some days, you’ll have to be the bad guy. You’ll be responsible for breaking the bad news, like the fact that no one is leaving until those NVGs are found. But on the flip side, there’s no greater feeling than the moment you train a troop up, they achieve a goal once thought to be impossible, and they sincerely thank you for getting them there.

For all you new leaders out there, listen up — these are the lessons you’ll need to learn.


Don’t get that twisted — NCO academies teach you a lot about being an NCO. It’s just that the best way to learn to lead troops is, well, leading troops.

(U.S. Army photo by KATUSA Pvt. Seung Ho Park 2ID/RUCD Public Affairs)

You’ll appreciate everything your previous leaders have done for you

No amount of leadership schools can fully train you for actually leading troops. All of that fancy book-learning will be tossed out the window as soon as you’re signing your first initial counseling statement. There’re just so many minor things that you can’t possible be prepared for — the only reference you’ll have is what your NCO did.

If they were fantastic leaders, emulate them. Take them aside and ask for pointers. There’s no shame in asking for advice, and I’m willing to bet they’d be happy to help you out.

But even bad leaders can teach you something. Mostly, they serve as examples of what not to do. Learn from those that came before you.

How it feels when your toxic leadership calls everyone into the training meeting.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Paul Stennett)

You’ll have to sidestep the pitfalls that every toxic leader has fallen into

As much as it’s painful to admit, there’s toxicity in military leadership. From the bottom of your heart, you should despise each and every one of those so-called “leaders” that give the NCO corps and officers a bad name. Ask anyone who blew off the retention NCO why they’re getting out and you’ll see a staggering amount of outstanding troops leaving the military because of terrible leadership. It sucks, but it’s reality — and it should be a call-to-action for every leader to do their part in weeding out this toxicity.

The first step in not becoming a toxic leader is managing one simple distinction: which is the easy path and which is the right path. It’s hard to jump into the 110 degree Connex and finish a layout when you could more easily hold a clipboard and simply supervise. It’s hard to take an asschewing from higher up when you could just let your troop deal with it. It’s hard to not care about your own ribbon rack when you could recommend others for rightfully earning it.

Unfortunately, the right path is often the hardest path, but it’s the one you must walk.

Now, if only there was a reading list compiled by one of the greatest minds the military has seen in ages… Oh wait, there is.

(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

You’ll have to study just enough of everything to have (at least) a slight understanding

There is a metric f*ck-ton of regulations that you’ll need to be well-versed in and follow. Not only that, but you’ll also need to make sure that your guys are following them, too. Sure, you’re never going to need to know the Army regulation on non-appropriated contracting funds — until, one day, you do.

You don’t need to know everything about every subject, just enough — or where to find that info. As long as you get the gist of things, like keeping good order, discipline, and appearance down, you can take it from there.

It’s much easier, legally in the clear, and more rewarding if you just invite everyone to go drinking. If the guy that you don’t want to come doesn’t show up, oh well…

(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Matthew Fontaine)

You’ll find the line between friendship and authority

There’s a reason that the “fraternization between the ranks” rule is a thing. Normally, the rule is reserved for people in power that try to sleep with their troops, but it’s also enforced for squad leaders who elect to go to the bar with just one or two of their squad and not everyone.

You can never, ever, ever show any sign of preferential treatment towards any of your guys. That is the single fastest way to immediately lose the respect of everyone else not given said treatment. Every order you’ll give will be met with, “well, why isn’t Specialist So-and-so doing it?”

Your opinion does matter if something makes its way up to a court martial, after all.

(Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Katherine Dowd.)

You’ll learn which rules are worth enforcing

No one wants to drop the hammer of the UCMJ — not even leaders. One day, you may have to counsel your Joe because they got caught doing something you thought you’d never have remind a grown-ass adult not to do. They played stupid games and, surprise, won stupid prizes. (We’re not naming names, but get ready for people to get roaring drunk, rip barracks doors down at 0200, use them as sleds to slide down the company area, and, somehow, manage to hit the staff duty van).

Regardless of their stupidity, you are now going to have to enforce the rules. If what they did warrants needing to put them on the chopping block, so be it. But you don’t always have to bring the ax down — especially if someone was just 2 minutes late to work call and they had a valid excuse.

You can never let them see you hurt. They’ll believe you if you say the impossible is possible.

(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Andrew Kosterman)

You’ll figure out how to hide your faults so no one can ever see them

No one is perfect, but now that you’re a leader, you have seem like it. The slightest mistake will be remembered by your guys from now until the end of time. If they see that you can’t meet the standard or you don’t keep in regulation — neither will they.

This means that there will be days off-duty where you do nothing but train. If you fail a PT test, they won’t take PT seriously. If you don’t know how first aid, they won’t see it as important either. Give everything 110 percent and your troops will subconsciously try to do the same.

We’ll leave this on a quote from the great General Patton. “If you can’t get them to salute when they should salute and wear the clothes you tell them to wear, how are you going to get them to die for their country?”

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Candace Mundt)

You’ll place your troops’ needs above your own.

This rule is baked into the Army’s NCO Creed, but it’s something that everyone from every branch has to come to terms with eventually. This is why something as small as, say, letting your Joe’s cut in front of you at the chow hall separates you as a leader from the so-called “bosses.”

Small gestures are important, but the biggest piece of advice I can offer is that you must be the shield when sh*t rolls downhill. Take the brunt of the First Sergeant’s asschewing. Let them focus on the mission while you bounce between the front line and training meetings that the good idea fairy insisted on starting. The best leaders I’ve had the honor of serving under have all shared a single, collective mentality: The only people that should matter in the chain of command are the little guys at the very end. Embody this.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here’s footage of John Wayne visiting troops in Vietnam

Hollywood legend John Wayne never served in World War II, partially due to the machinations of Republic Pictures. He tried, though. He put in an application to work with the Office of Strategic Services. Although he was accepted, the letter notifying him so was sent to his estranged wife and never reached him. According to one biography, Wayne’s failure to serve in one of history’s most important wars stung him for the rest of his life.


Wayne did, however, visit troops during World War II and The Vietnam War. One such visit was in 1966 to the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He wasn’t simply there fulfilling an obligation, either. In addition to being a legendary figure in war movies and westerns, John Wayne was known for being a staunch anti-communist, so much so that Josef Stalin ordered his assassination.

John Wayne starred in many war movies, like Warner Brothers’ ‘Operation Pacific,’ but missed World War II, much to his chagrin.

(Warner Brothers)

Wayne’s visit came after elements of the 101st Airborne had taken part in Operation Hawthorne with elements of the 1st Cavalry Division. The troops’ objective was to relieve the Army of the Republic of Vietnam’s 42nd Regiment, which had been under siege by North Vietnamese Army forces.

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During that operation, Capt. Bill Carpenter, who commanded a company of the 101st that was nearly overrun, called in a napalm strike on his own position. He survived and earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. The Air Force eventually sent B-52s to carpet bomb the suspected North Vietnamese positions.

U.S. Army troops assault a North Vietnamese position during Operation Hawthorne.

(U.S. Army)

The Screaming Eagles suffered 48 dead and 239 wounded during the three-week operation. The South Vietnamese unit was rescued after suffering the loss of 10 and another 42 wounded. The Americans and South Vietnamese, though, killed at least 688 of the enemy and captured another 21.

Watch the video below to see Hollywood legend John Wayne sign autographs for the Screaming Eagles after their costly mission. As a bonus, you’ll get to see The Duke heft an M60 machine gun!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2QfMuGwuKU

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MIGHTY HISTORY

How this ‘Silent Farmer’ earned the Medal of Honor in WWII

Garlin Conner charged alone into the cold abyss, toward the massive silhouettes of German tanks in the distance.

Clutching a telephone, radio and wire, the first lieutenant carried himself through the frigid January air, toward 600 encroaching Germans and the enemy rounds he knew were coming.

Conner could not turn back if he wanted to.

His company needed a guide to cut into the surging German infantry or risk getting overrun. The Kentucky marksman always fought in front of his men, and his fellow soldiers trusted him to lead. Conner often fired at the opposition standing while others ducked for cover.


Conner could see the enemy before they spotted him, fellow soldiers wrote.

The thunder of the German rifles didn’t rattle him. His father had raised him to be fearless while hunting wild game in the woods of southern Kentucky. A bullet wound in his left hip could not keep him from returning to the front lines, nor could orders to remain at a military field hospital. On a frigid winter morning in 1945, Conner would once more put himself between his fellow soldiers and the onslaught of enemy fire.

First Lt. Garlin Murl Conner

This time, in a snow-covered forest, 5-foot-6-inch Conner faced the full brunt of German forces. On Jan. 24, the Nazi-led German army mounted a desperate surge to split American units near the French-German border.

Conner headed toward the flurry of bullets until he ducked into a shallow, snowy ditch.

Here in the frozen French countryside, amid rampant automatic fire, Conner would make what could be his final stand, guiding American artillery toward the German infantry. Here, Conner would remain until American forces stopped the Germans, or until a bullet stopped him.

Quiet Farmer

When locals in the rural farming town of Albany, Kentucky, would ask Garlin “Murl” Conner about his time in World War II, he’d hush them quickly.

“I’d done what I had to do,” Conner said in soldier accounts, “and that’s all there is to it.”

After returning to Clinton County following the war and starting a tobacco farm, the decorated Army veteran decided he had seen enough of the world and the horrors of armed combat. Conner had found peace plowing fields in the shadows of the Appalachians.

1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner


Conner never boasted about his acts of bravery.

For more than 53 years until his death in 1998, he rarely spoke about the war again — not to his wife, Pauline, or even to a fellow soldier.

During the two decades since Conner died of complications related to heart and kidney failure, others took up the cause the farmer so adamantly declined. Former Army Green Beret Richard Chilton, with the support of seven retired generals, presented Conner’s bid for the Medal of Honor to the Army’s personnel records office.

The curious case of Conner, who held a war record so compelling that it rivals the accolades of the more famous veteran Audie Murphy, baffled those who knew him. In all, Conner spent more than 800 days on the front lines in World War II. He suffered seven combat wounds while earning four Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the French military decoration Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross.

And yet, in an effort to get Conner recognized with a Medal of Honor, Chilton and his team endured a difficult quest that spanned decades. A federal district court rejected Conner’s initial bid for the award. In the 2014 ruling, a federal judge in Kentucky told a heartbroken Pauline that she had not filed her husband’s paperwork in time.

Conner had for decades shied away from talk of the award, much like he avoided any conversation of his four years in the Army. Still, his family continued to cling to hope that one day Conner would earn the U.S. military’s highest distinction.

Old Kentucky home

A curving paved road leads to Murl and Pauline Conner’s red brick farmhouse wedged near the foothills of the Appalachians in southern Kentucky, two miles north of the Tennessee state line.

Blue skies hang over Albany’s green rolling landscape, as plowed fields seem to shine under the midday sun. Cardinals outside the one-story house chirp as a light wind sweeps by. This farm, cradled in the hilly terrain of Clinton County, hid the story of a man whose steely courage withstood the gravest circumstances.

Just footsteps down the road from the farm, Murl’s son Paul, and his wife Kathy, live in a modular home that was built to replace their home that had been destroyed by a tornado. Paul took over the farm after his father suffered a heart attack on a spring day in 1979.

Fellow soldiers trusted Garlin Conner to lead them through difficult circumstances on the battlefield. Maj. Gen. Lloyd Ramsey, whose career extended over three wars, called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen.

He spent long hours planting tobacco plants before the farm transitioned into raising cattle as its primary product.

Born nine years after Conner returned from the war, Paul contrasts his dad in appearance. Burly and stout, he sports a much larger frame than his father, who had been thin and wiry, at 5-foot-6-inches tall, and weighing only 120 pounds during active duty.

Paul shares his father’s love of animals. And Paul raised his four children with the same grounded morals he learned from his father. Paul said his father offered sound advice that Paul would later instill in his children. “Be a man of your word,” Paul recalled his dad saying. “Do what you say. If you can’t fulfill a promise, don’t make it. Be mindful of people around you because everyone has feelings.”

In the family’s living room, Paul sits next to a black and white portrait of Murl as a young soldier, flanked by faded portraits of Paul’s children and grandchildren. Decorated with beige ceramic lamps, rustic wooden chairs and shelves, the room has changed little since Pauline and her husband moved into the home more than 50 years ago.

For decades the photo loomed over the room. As a boy, Paul occasionally would stare at the black and white picture in awe.

When he asked his father about his time in the Army, he’d receive the same cold response: “We went over there, we did what we had to do,” Paul recalled his father saying. “And it needs to stay over there.”

Paul grew up without knowing the full extent of his father’s achievements on the battlefield. And for the most part, so did Pauline.

Generations have passed since the soldier with only an eighth-grade education used wit and intelligence to thwart enemy advances. But buried in eyewitness accounts and in the testimonials of fellow soldiers, Conner’s heroic deeds remained etched in history, unknown to his family and many of Albany’s residents.

“I just thought he was a farmer and he did a little something in the war,” said Walton Haddix, a family friend of the Conners. “But he never would talk about it. He never mentioned anything he did in the military.”

Outside of his war medals, this 200-acre farm on the lower east end of Clinton County is Conner’s lasting legacy. The family purchased the plot of land in 1949, after the government bought the family’s previous farm to make way for the Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Cumberland Reservoir. With his time in service long behind him, Conner turned his attention to his farm and raising Paul.

He never boasted about his wartime achievements, telling his wife he didn’t want to appear to be bragging. After all, Conner’s five brothers also served in the military: four in World War II and one in the Korean War.

As a farmer, he took pride in working on his farm, where he could often be found in his long-sleeved khaki shirt, farmer’s billed cap and overalls, riding a tractor or teaching Paul how to grow tobacco from the soil.

But the war never truly left him. Sometimes, at night, Conner would wake, gripped with tension and reliving moments from the battlefield, said his wife. Instead of returning to bed, Conner would retreat to the family’s wooden porch, where he lingered for hours smoking cigarettes.

The episodes at times became so traumatic, Pauline declines to talk in detail about them. Pauline said her husband suffered symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness that had not yet been widely identified until the Vietnam War.

“If anyone had PTSD, it was Murl,” Pauline said.

Conner carried the burden internally, never voicing his anguish to his family. The last time Conner had spoken publicly about the war, it happened to be the same day Pauline laid eyes on her future husband for the first time.

A hero’s welcome

On a bright spring day in May 1945, the Wells family heard that a war hero, a native of Clinton County, would be returning after four years overseas.

The local American Legion post organized a parade in the town square to welcome back a war veteran whose bravery had townspeople talking. They traveled from surrounding counties, some by wagon. Others drove in by car, while some came on foot.

Garlin Murl Conner, a farmer’s son who voluntarily joined the Army in 1941, had come home from the war.

Pauline Wells, still in her teenage years, climbed into the back of the family’s horse-drawn wagon along with her two brothers, two sisters and her parents at the family’s farm in northern Clinton County. They drove the wagon along a dirt trail, 10 miles to the town square. The county’s schools dismissed classes early so students could attend the parade.

Pauline Conner, an 89-year-old resident of Clinton County, Kentucky, holds the photo of her late husband, 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner.



Pauline’s family learned that following the parade, Conner would be speaking to the crowd about the war. So townspeople crowded into the second floor of the old courthouse. Sergeant Alvin C. York, the most decorated soldier of the First World War, also attended, beginning what became a lifelong friendship with Conner. Pauline leaned onto the wooden bench in the back row to hear Conner speak.

“I was expecting a giant of a man,” Pauline said.

When Conner finally emerged before the crowd, his appearance stunned Pauline. Wearing his olive-colored military dress uniform, the lieutenant’s small stature underwhelmed the young Pauline. With narrow shoulders, and a slender frame, Conner hardly appeared like heroes in storybooks.

“That little wharf rat,” Pauline said to her mother, Tressie. “He couldn’t have done all the things they said he’d done.”

But unbeknownst to Pauline and her family, Conner had long proved his mettle to U.S. forces, the Allies, and fellow soldiers, his commanding officer would say.

Conner was a quiet man of few words. The native of nearby Aaron, Kentucky, stood before the crowded courtroom and said what would be his last public statements about his time in the war.

“It gives me great pleasure,” Conner began, “to be able to come out here today. I am not a speaker, and did not come here to make a speech.”

“But,” Conner continued, “I will try to explain to you a small part of the war in Europe and some of the things I saw.”

Conner didn’t mince words. He talked first about the early November morning in 1942 when his unit first landed on the shore of Fedala, Morocco, in support of Operation Torch. American and Allied forces wrested control of North Africa from the Axis powers in only three days.

He moved onto the invasion of Licata, Sicily, a war-ravaged city that lay in tatters after 38 days of continuous fighting. Through his 10-minute testimony, Conner didn’t talk about his medals, or the times he fought on the front lines ahead of his men. Instead he spoke of his unit’s achievements, and how they survived the changing elements and terrain.

Finally, Conner touched on his unit’s trek into southern France and a difficult battle in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. But he didn’t say a word about any of his selfless, valorous acts. Nor did he mention a fateful January morning near a small French village during the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge, when for three hours in the winter of 1945, he risked his life so his unit could survive.

At any cost

On the morning of Jan. 24, 1945, the men of the K Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division entered the Brunwald Woods near Houssen, France.

As U.S. troops scrambled to reinforce their position in the small village near the German-French border, a bitter cold swept over eastern France, creating a stinging chill.

As the frigid wind stung their faces, K Company’s soldiers marched into the snow to take on a Battalion of desperate German soldiers.

Conner had rejoined his unit in the French countryside while still recovering from a sniper bullet wound in his left hip. Conner, knowing a crucial battle loomed, had earlier slipped out of the field hospital in northern France and returned to the front lines.

Garlin Murl Conner lived a quiet life on a farm in Southern Kentucky. His neighbors and even his family did not know the extent of his valorous acts during World War II until years after his death.



Upon his return, Conner learned that his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Lloyd Ramsey, had made arrangements to send him home. Conner had earned eligibility to return to Kentucky based on his time served and accolades earned. Ramsey removed Conner from the front lines and reassigned him to serve as his intelligence officer in battalion headquarters for his own safety.

Hitler’s army, facing looming defeat, countered American forces with desperate barrage after barrage, attacking U.S. forces with ruthless resolve. The German assaults gravely concerned Ramsey. The day before, the Germans had rallied for a fierce offensive against another company, costing the Americans 25 men.

Ramsey needed a patrol team to scout the enemy’s position, but resources ran thin.

Conner, still ailing from his hip injury, once again volunteered to take a patrol and said he would attempt to use direct artillery to halt the German offensive. Ramsey, knowing the weight of Conner’s previous contributions and his pending return home, reluctantly agreed.

“No words can express the outstanding leadership qualities that Lt. Conner had,” the late Ramsey wrote. “(He was) always willing to do more than his part.”

Conner had built a reputation as an expert scout and marksman. The soldier from the Bluegrass State had earned the respect of his fellow soldiers by fearlessly confronting the enemy and taking dangerous missions. Maurice Williams, a soldier who served under Conner, said Conner’s background as a Kentucky outdoorsman helped prepare him to go undetected in combat. Raised on a farm during the Depression era, Conner learned to become a skilled marksman and hunter.

“He could go through the woods unnoticed,” Haddix, the family friend, said. “And if a squirrel (was) in a tree somewhere and move its tail, he could see it.”

While other soldiers would go on night scouting missions with team members, Conner operated alone.

Conner had fostered such a respect from his fellow soldiers, and had performed with such distinction, that he earned a battlefield commission at Anzio. Conner, along with the highly-decorated Murphy, both served in the 3rd Infantry Division, which suffered more casualties than any other during World War II.

“He always led from the front,” wrote Williams, who fought alongside Conner earlier in the war. “And his platoon felt safe following him.”

At about 8 a.m. on Jan. 24, a sudden barrage of light artillery swept on the American troops. Six German Panzer tanks emerged from the frigid air, flanked by a battalion of 600 German soldiers descending on K Company. The powerful, 9-foot tall tanks nearly spanned 27 feet across and 12 feet wide.

“The Americans, the Allies, had nothing like it,” said Luther Conner, President of Clinton County’s historical society. “It was the most potent war weapon at that time. It was just a monster. It caused fear just for a soldier to see the size of it.”

Two thirds of the battalion pushed toward K Company, attempting to split and divide the Americans. A week earlier, a German Panzer division attacked Second Battalion’s 600 soldiers. About 100 returned to their units. Germans killed or took the remainder as prisoners.

Near Houssen, K Company faced similar odds. Conner knew his unit’s only chance in the wintry conditions rested in his hands. He needed to guide artillery fire on the Germans.

Conner saw the towering frames of German Panzers barrelling through the forest. Without a moment’s hesitation, the soldier sprinted straight toward tanks, carrying a telephone, radio, and wire reel.

Conner uncoiled the wire as exploding shells and wood splinters from the surrounding woods showered upon him. Conner ran nearly 400 yards toward the enemy, ignoring warnings from his unit, said Chilton.

He did not stop until he had advanced 30 yards past the American Infantry front line.

There, in a shallow ditch beneath the January snow, Conner planted himself before the oncoming German fire. And for three hours, Conner laid like immovable rock under a violent wave, directing artillery rounds onto the German infantry. As swarm after swarm of German soldiers came like an avalanche upon him, Conner, barked directions and coordinates to battalion headquarters.

“Although he was in a prone position, the ditch only covered part of his body,” wrote 1st Lt. Harold Wigetman, who served as the S-3 in 3rd Battalion. “He was wedged in there so tight, that it was almost impossible for him to move or shift his position.”

The Germans soon grew aware of the lone figure in the snow guiding the American artillery. German soldiers began to swarm and surround Conner and the Americans. The German army mounted a final surge to overwhelm the American forces.

Conner, seeing the enemy close, made a lasting, drastic choice to defeat the German infantry.

Conner directed American artillery rounds toward his position, and the surrounding Germans. As the enemy attack continued to unfurl, Conner put himself in peril so that his unit could achieve victory.

“He cared about his men more than he cared about himself,” Chilton said.

With bullets flying toward him from both directions, Conner never wavered. At one point, a German soldier ran within five yards of Conner clutching a grenade before an American stopped him. Haddix said Conner dispatched German soldiers with his submachine gun.

“With icy self-control, he kept telephoning his directions,” Wigetman wrote, “although he must have seen that the (Germans) would have killed him before he could get on his feet.”

The American onslaught led by Conner overwhelmed the German attack. By the time the final rounds fell, Conner’s actions had resulted in killing 50 German soldiers and leaving more than 150 wounded. American munitions destroyed the six German tanks.

“I saw elements waver … their fighting spirit broken by the deadly concentration of (American) fire,” Wigetman wrote.

Conner paid a heavy toll for his valor during the war. The injury to his left hip would hamper his mobility for the rest of his life. Like many veterans of his generation, Conner did not think highly of anything he had achieved in Europe, his wife said.

“He was always very humble,” Pauline said. “He did what he felt like he had to do to protect our freedom to vote and our freedom of speech, which we have truly earned from what he did and others like him.”

Ramsey called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen. Troops who remembered him noted Conner’s cool resolve under the most difficult conditions.

Wrote Williams in his journal, “I had such confidence in (Lt.) Conner. I would have followed him anywhere he wanted to go.”

New beginning

In the years after Conner’s heart attack in 1979, he found a new calling. He listened with concern to stories of soldiers who had not received their veteran’s affairs benefits. Some servicemen struggled with living expenses after they left the service.

Conner and his wife would drive across Clinton County’s 196 square miles of rolling hills and farmland to meet with vets. They extended their travels to 10 neighboring counties. Once a month they would place their paperwork and a suitcase in their Buick sedan and travel to veterans’ homes or meet them at their office in the courthouses. Pauline acted as his secretary, fielding phone calls and helping her husband coordinate his appointments with the veterans in need.

The night episodes continued through the years, Pauline said. And Conner still struggled to sleep on some nights. But helping other veterans, she said, helped him find peace.

Garlin Conner sits with his wife, Pauline, during the early years of their marriage.


“(Assisting veterans) became his life,” Paul said.

But listening to the tales of other soldiers and hearing about their struggles awakened a longing in Conner he thought that he had long buried.

Throughout his four years in the Army, Conner’s concerns rested with his soldiers, never seeking personal glory, but always on the lookout for how he could help, whether scouting the enemy position, or finding ways to help retired vets file their military records. But hearing their stories, Pauline said, she noticed for the first time regret.

That regret became clear in 1996, his wife said.

Chilton, a former Army Green Beret from Wisconsin, wrote a letter to Conner in search of information on his late uncle, Pfc. Gordon Roberts, who was killed after landing at Anzio. Conner, no longer able to speak or write, invited Chilton to his Albany home.

Chilton visited Conner on a fall day in 1996. He sat with Conner in the family living room, and asked him questions about his uncle and the war, while Conner nodded his answers from his wheelchair.

Chilton learned that Conner had indeed served with his uncle, and that Conner had carried his uncle in his last moments to a medical aid station. Conner, reliving a moment from 50 years prior, began to weep.

Pauline suggested that she could sort through her husband’s old war records to search for documentation of Roberts’ service. She carried her husband’s weathered, military green duffel bag out of the living room closet and pulled out old paperwork, records and medals contained inside a cardboard box.

As Chilton skimmed through the pages, his eyes widened. Chilton saw the decorations: the Purple Hearts and Bronze Star and Silver Stars. The Kentucky native had participated in eight major campaigns and had been wounded in each of the countries he toured.

“My God,” a stunned Chilton said to Pauline. “This man should have been awarded the Medal of Honor.”

Chilton, feeling sudden inspiration, asked Pauline and Garlin if he could pursue an application for the medal on Murl’s behalf. Pauline turned to her husband.

“I looked at [Garlin],” she said. “And he was looking at me so straight with tears in his eyes.”

Conner nodded his head yes. After 50 years, he was finally ready to apply for the honor that he had for so long been reluctant to seek.

Lifetime bond

“He’s my hero,” Pauline said, sitting in the Conner family’s living room, clutching the brown picture frame holding her husband’s black and white service photo. “He always has been.”

Wearing a black blazer and rose-colored blouse, her once-blonde locks have faded into gray. Now 89 years old, her voice wavers when she talks about the life of her late husband. She fondly recalls his humility and his quiet way of voicing his approval.

Finally, she talks about that spring night in 1945, when she and Garlin slipped away from Clinton County in his convertible with nothing but a homemade dress to get married at a courthouse in Rossville, Georgia. They would stop at a neighboring town on the way to Georgia to purchase clothing for Pauline. Pauline said Garlin’s patience and understanding swayed her to marry him after two weeks of dating.

Army veteran Garlin Conner (left) retreated to working on a tobacco farm following his military service in World War II.



Though their early marriage suffered the occasional bumps, Pauline stood by her husband’s side for more than five decades. Conner suffered a heart attack in 1979, after falling ill riding on the tractor. He underwent open heart surgery later that year, and a second surgery 11 years later.

In the years before his death, Garlin had battled numerous illnesses, including kidney failure, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. He suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and no longer able to speak. Pauline took on the role of caretaker, cooking his meals and driving him to his medical appointments. She took a part-time job for additional income.

Conner passed mercifully on a November day in 1998. He was 79.

“The last few years my dad was alive, he wasn’t really alive,” Paul said. “It progressively got worse. I wish I hadn’t have had to see that part of it. But we can’t choose how we’re going to live and how the last days are going to be.”

At the Weldon Haddix Funeral home along Business Route 127 in Albany, hundreds waited in line to view Conner’s remains. In the rectangular, brick building nestled between local businesses on the north side of Albany, farmers, neighbors and veterans paid their respects. Veterans whom Conner had helped approached Pauline to express their gratitude for Conner’s assistance years ago. Neighboring farmers whom Conner helped as president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau also attended. To this day, Pauline said, veterans still greet her.

“They come up and hug me for what I’ve done, for what [Garlin] has done,” Pauline said. “And I always hug them and tell them I love every one of them.”

Conner’s acts left a lasting impression on Ramsey. The two remained in touch for decades through letters and phone calls. Ramsey later retired as a major general and suffered five combat wounds during his time in service. He encouraged Conner to apply for the medal over the years, Pauline said. But each time, Conner declined and the medals and decorations remained mostly untouched inside the duffel bag, in the living room closet.

Ramsey, whose 34-year career spanned three wars, wrote in 2006: “One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve had the privilege of commanding.” The Army medically retired Ramsey in 1974.

A final plea

Chilton continued to press on Conner’s application for the Medal of Honor, writing letters and contacting politicians.

New evidence had been uncovered by Congressman Ed Whitfield’s office in the National Archives in Washington, including three eyewitness accounts written by fellow soldiers who fought on the front lines with Conner. The three affidavits painted in vivid detail accounts of Conner’s acts in January 1945. But even the affidavits would not be enough.

The Army Board for Correction of Military Records rejected Chilton’s original application for Conner’s eligibility for the medal. Haddix assembled a legal team, headed by Dennis Shepherd of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs as lead trial counsel, and included Luther Conner, who also serves as the Conner family’s lawyer, to begin work on a lawsuit which was filed in federal court. That lawsuit would obtain a ruling ordering the Board to grant Pauline a new hearing and to consider the new evidence.

In 2014, U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell ruled that the statute of limitations to correct Conner’s military record had expired and that the family could no longer continue to seek the award.

Garlin Conner took joy taking care of animals and working on his farm in southern Kentucky.


After the judge dismissed Pauline’s case in 2014, she said she had lost hope. She returned to Albany and resigned herself to the idea that her husband’s decorated service record would remain as it was, without the addition of the honor that Conner’s family and friends felt he deserved. Despite the backing of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, several generals and Congressman Ed Whitfield, Conner’s chances for the Medal dimmed.

But then, on March 2, 2015, Conner’s case reached a turning point at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. During the appeal for Conner’s Medal of Honor bid, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill was assigned to represent the government’s stance against Conner’s case. For 15 minutes, Hill defended the Army’s previous stance during the proceedings, saying the case should be left alone.

But then, in a closing moment of abject candor, Hill revealed her true feelings.

Hill broke into tears, as she discussed her father’s service as an officer in the same unit as Conner during World War II. She said her father suffered a severe leg injury on Jan. 25, 1945, one day after Conner’s heroic acts.

“For all I know,” she said. “Garlin Conner may have … helped save his life.”

Hill’s words, according to an Associated Press report, convinced the panel to submit Conner’s case to a federal mediator. The mediator then directed the ABCMR to grant a new hearing and to consider all evidence, including the recently discovered eyewitness accounts. The following October, the Board granted “full relief” to Pauline’s request to upgrade Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.

Still, Conner’s bid for the medal needed further approval from the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of Defense, and the president.

Last March, Pauline received a call from a military officer at the Pentagon who told her to expect an important phone call from a high-ranking DOD official regarding her husband. Could this be the phone call she had been waiting for? It must be a trick, Pauline thought, and she called Luther Conner, the family’s attorney, to confirm its validity. When Luther gave his assurances, Pauline still asked Luther, and his wife Susan, to sit with her for the important call.

Garlin Conner’s grave sits in Memorial Hill Cemetery in Albany, Kentucky.


The following Monday the phone rang.

“Is this Lyda Conner?” asked a man with a gruff, New York accent.

“I go by Pauline,” she said.

“You sound just like an old country gal,” the man said.

“I am,” Pauline said, soon realizing the caller was the president.

“It’s a beautiful place down there where you live,” President Trump said.

“Yes it is,” Pauline said, as she sat in the family’s tidy living room, amid family photos of Conner, her son, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Outside, redbirds chirped in the cool spring air.

“You are the widow of Lieutenant Garlin Conner?” Trump asked.

“I am,” she confirmed.

After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Trump said, “Well I’ve got some good news for you. He has a wonderful military record — one of the best I’ve ever seen. I am going to award him the Medal of Honor.”

The news soon spread to the rest of the Conner family, Conner’s legal team and Clinton County’s residents. Chilton, who spent much of his own time and money on Conner’s journey, could breathe a sigh of relief. Chilton traveled across the country in his quest to bring the Medal of Honor to the Conner family. He’d conducted dozens of interviews with former veterans who knew Conner. Nearly all have since passed. Chilton also penned what he said could be hundreds of hand-written letters to congressmen and to the Army.

A 22-year quest for a man who left everything on the battlefield had finally ended. Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony June 26.

“It gets you kind of numb, you know?” Chilton said. “It sinks in and you understand it. You realize how long you’ve been after it and how long you’ve been doing it. I was just kind of numb … I felt good for him. I felt good for his wife; she suffered through all this stuff. I felt good for (Paul). They’ll all know this forever: (he’s) a hero.”

Pauline was asked what she thought her husband would say if he was still alive. Pauline thought for a moment. And she recalled how her husband might not want the honor, and might brush it aside once more. He might defer credit to the men he fought alongside. But Pauline said she sensed her husband’s attitude toward the honor had changed during his waning years. She remembered his regret in the 1996 meeting with Chilton.

Maybe, Conner might just tip his cap, and smile.

“More than anything I miss him,” Pauline said wistfully. “And I wish he was here so he could go get the Medal himself. Because I think he would have been proud of it. I know he would have.”

“I always kept thinking he didn’t want it in his younger days. And he didn’t really. … When he got older, he wished he had.”

The story of Garlin Conner doesn’t lie in his heroic acts or in his courage under the grimmest of odds. His family says it lies in his unending desire to help others, whether guiding soldiers on the battlefields of Western Europe, or helping veterans in the rolling hills of Clinton County, Kentucky.

Chilton, a military veteran of 20 years, traveled the world with both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army during Desert Storm. Perhaps the Wisconsin resident put it best.

“I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve seen a lot,” Chilton said. “But I’ve never met anyone like Garlin Conner.”

Editor’s note: Garlin Murl Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House June 26, 2018. President Trump will present the Medal to Conner’s widow, Pauline, at the ceremony.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Anyone who’s ever deployed can tell you there’s more to worry about in the field than just the enemy. While of course the North Vietnamese were the primary concern of American troops in the Vietnam War, just being in the jungle presented an entirely unexpected series of its own challenges – like giant centipedes.


Rumors persisted about things like fragging, rampant drug use, and even the appearance of Bigfoot in Vietnam. But when US troops weren’t earning the Medal of Honor while completely stoned, they were fighting off things that only previously appeared in their nightmares.

Related: This is the story of US troops who think they saw Bigfoot in Vietnam

Bring on the flamethrower.

Giant insects

As seen in the cover photo of this post, the creepy crawlers of the jungle have the space and the food necessary to grow to an insane level. That guy in the photo is Scolopendra subspinipes, also known as the Vietnamese centipede, Chinese redhead, or Jungle Centipede. It’s extremely aggressive, and its venomous bite hurts like hell, sources say. But the fun doesn’t stop with centipedes, giant scorpions were also known to bother American troops in bivouac.

Weaver ants

Imagine you’re in some kind of tank or armored vehicle, busting down trees in the jungle when suddenly, you bust down the wrong tree, one filled with a nest of red ants. These buggers were reportedly immune to the issued bug spray and, given the choice between NVA small arms fire and dealing with red ants in the tank, tank crews would either bail on the tank or man the vehicle completely naked. They were often referred to as “communist ants” because they were red in color and never seemed to attack the Vietnamese.

Very pretty, but also what the KGB used to kill dissidents.

Debilitating plants

Troops in Vietnam were sometimes lifted right up out of troop carriers and other vehicles by low-hanging vines that seemed innocent at first, but as soon as they were touched, constricted around an unsuspecting driver, grabbing them by the arms or neck. They became known as the “wait-a-minute” vines. But that’s just the beginning.

Vietnam’s most beautiful trees and flowers are also its deadliest. Heartbreak Grass, Flame Lillies, Twisted Cord Flowers, and Bark Cloth Trees are all powerful enough to kill a human or cause blindness upon contact or accidental ingestion, which is more common than one might think.

Bring that flamethrower back over here.

Venomous snakes

You know what kinds of animals love a hot, humid place with lots of shade? Reptiles and amphibians, both of which Vietnam has in droves. Vietnam has so many snakes, American troops were advised to just assume they were all deadly – because most of them are. The country is filled with Cobras, Kraits, Vipers, and more. The snakes that weren’t venomous were all giant constrictors, still very capable of murdering you in your jungle sleep.

Yes, troops were mauled by tigers.

Large wildlife

Since we’re talking about giant jungle snakes, we should discuss the other giant creatures that inhabit the wilds of Vietnam. Southeast Asia is also home to aggressive tiger species, leopards, and bears. Those are just the traditional predators. There are also elephants, water buffaloes, and gaurs, giant cows, who will go on a murder rampage that an M-16 isn’t likely to stop.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The tense near-collision in the South China Sea

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) reportedly took on the US Navy in a South China Sea showdown on Sept. 30, 2018, during a freedom-of-navigation operation involving the USS Decatur.

A Chinese Luyang-class destroyer steered within 45 yards of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer near the Spratly Islands this in a confrontational exchange that US officials deemed “unsafe,” CNN first reported. The US Navy ship was forced to maneuver to prevent a collision.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” engaging in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for the Decatur to depart,” Pacific Fleet said in a statement.


“US Navy ships and aircraft operate throughout the Indo-Pacific routinely, including in the South China Sea,” the US military explained, adding, “As we have for decades, our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The incident comes as tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing over a wide range of issues, including, trade, Taiwan, sanctions, and increased American military activity in an area Beijing perceives being its sphere of influence.

US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers flew through both the East and South China Sea late September 2018. Beijing called the flights “provocative” and warned that it would take “necessary measures” to defend its national interests.

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.

China conducted “live-fire shooting drills” in the South China Sea over the weekend in a show of force in the contested region.

The recent showdown between the Chinese military and a US warship follows a similarly tense incident in the South China Sea involving a British warship.

The UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion challenged China’s excessive claims to the contested waterway by sailing near the Paracel Islands. In response, the Chinese PLAN dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to confront the British ship.

The Chinese military has also repeatedly issued warnings to US and other foreign aircraft that venture to close to its territorial holdings in the region, many of which have been armed with anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, among other weapons systems.

China has canceled two high-level security meetings with US defense officials in late September 2018 as tensions between the US and China rise.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here are all the famous people who died at the Alamo

A lot of people died at the Alamo, especially considering it was a fortification that wasn’t supposed to be manned at all. It was only when Col. James Bowie arrived at the Alamo to remove the guns did they realize its strategic importance. Sadly, this didn’t translate into Gen. Sam Houston providing any reinforcements. Some volunteers arrived, however, and among them were some famous names.

But it would not be enough, as the garrison was heavily outgunned and outnumbered and the Mexican Army was not taking prisoners.


William B. Travis

The original artist of the now-famous “Line in the Sand,” Travis straight-up told the defenders of the Alamo that they were all that stood between Santa Anna and the rest of Texas. After telling the Alamo’s men no reinforcements were forthcoming, he drew the line with his sword and told those who were willing to stay to step over it. All but two did so. Travis was supposedly hit in the head by a Mexican round early in the assault on the Alamo.

Davy Crockett

The legendary frontiersman and former U.S. Congressman departed the United States for Texas because of his direct opposition to many of then-President Andrew Jackson’s Indian policies. His presence at the Alamo was a good morale boost for the outnumbered Texians, but it would not be enough to prevent them from being overwhelmed. During the assault on the Alamo, Crockett and his marksmen were too far from the barracks to retreat there, and were left to their own devices as Mexican soldiers swarmed around them.

Jim Bowie

Bowie was a legend among Americans and Texians long before he started fighting for Texas independence. He had already led Texian forces on two occasions before coming to the Alamo. During the siege, Bowie was actually bedridden with fever and likely died in his bed, fighting Mexicans with his pistols.

Micajah Autrie

Autry was a War of 1812 Veteran who fought the British in the Southern United States. He roamed the new country for a while, finally settling in Louisiana after quitting farming to become a lawyer. When the Texas Revolution started, he raised a contingent of men from Tennessee to march to the Alamo from Louisiana.

James Bonham

Bonham came to the Alamo with Jim Bowie because of his growing discontent with U.S. President Andrew Jackson’s policies. Bonham himself raised a troop of Alabama militia to join the Texian revolutionaries. It was Bonham who rode out of the Alamo to look for more men and material to support the defense of the fort. Three days after he returned, he was slaughtered with the rest of the defenders.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This ‘exascale’ computer could be the most powerful processor in the world

Intel said on March 18, 2019, that it would build the US’s most powerful supercomputer, so fast that it could process 1 quintillion — 1 billion times 1 billion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 — calculations per second.

To put that in perspective: If every person on Earth did one calculation (say, a math problem involving algebra) per second, it would take everyone over four years to do all the calculations Aurora could do in one second.


Intel and the US Department of Energy said Aurora would be the US’s first exascale supercomputer, with a performance of 1 exaflop, when it’s completed in 2021.

That kind of number-crunching brawn, the computer’s creators hope, will enable great leaps in everything from cancer research to renewable-energy development.

Aurora, set to be developed by Intel and its subcontractor Cray at the Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, would far surpass the abilities of supercomputers today. It’s likely to be the most powerful supercomputer in not just the US but the world, though Rick Stevens, an associate laboratory director at Argonne, said that other countries might also be working on exascale supercomputers.

Rajeeb Hazra, a corporate vice president and general manager at Intel.

(Intel)

The effort marks a “transformational” moment in the evolution of high-performance computing, Rajeeb Hazra, an Intel corporate vice president and general manager of its enterprise and government group, told Business Insider.

What Aurora could do

A computer that powerful is no small thing. Though Intel didn’t unveil the technical details of the system, supercomputers typically cover thousands of square feet and have thousands of nodes.

When it’s finished, this supercomputer should be able to do space simulations, drug discovery, and more. The government said it planned to use it to develop applications in science, energy, and defense. Aurora could also be used by universities and national labs.

For example, it could be used to safely simulate and test weapons — without actually setting them off or endangering people — or design better batteries, wind-power systems, or nuclear reactors. It could also be used to better understand earthquake hazards and model the risks of climate change.

U.S. Department of Energy and Intel to Deliver First Exascale Supercomputer

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It could even be used for research on cancer, cardiac issues, traumatic brain injuries, and suicide prevention, especially among veterans. The supercomputer is designed to apply large-scale data analytics and machine learning to understand the risk factors for these kinds of physical and mental health problems to help prevent them.

Intel, which says it helps power over 460 of the top 500 supercomputers, has worked with the Department of Energy for about two decades. It said Aurora would be five times as fast as the most powerful supercomputer, IBM’s Summit.

The Department of Energy’s contract with Intel and Cray is worth over 0 million to build Aurora, which Secretary of Energy Rick Perry authorized in 2017. The department also plans to build additional exascale supercomputers to start working between 2021 and 2023.

“The biggest challenge is also probably the most exciting part: to envision and create technologies that have never been created before,” Hazra said. “Because this machine requires a level of capability we haven’t seen before, the biggest risk is we’re inventing something new — but to us, that’s also the most exciting part.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 countries where you can still become a knight

The fantasy genre has captured the imagination of millions around the world. The middle ages are romanticized with images of knights bending the knee to serve their King or Queen on and off the battlefield. Historically, the rank came with the privileges of land, title, and wealth. Militarily, knights had to be trained from an early age to become feared instruments of warfare. Dawning their Coat of Arms they fearlessly charged the battlefield in the name of God, King, and Country.


Modern day knights may participate in wars in the name of the realm, without the suits of armor. Foreigners may also be invested as honorary knights contingent on customs and contributions to the realm. The Grand Master of a Knight Order is usually the Monarch, President, or Prime Minister of the country the Order resides in. There are several countries that still have Knight Orders that we, not born a noble birth, can ascend to by completing extraordinary achievements.

There is, however, a country that you can become a knight of today. As in right now, today.

Americans and Briton Who Thwarted Train Attack Get France’s Top Honor | Mashable News

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France – Order of the Legion of Honor

The Ordre National de la Légion d’honneur was founded in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. The purpose of this award was to unify France after the French Revolution and award his soldiers for bravery in combat. It is a 216-year-old Order of merit that can be awarded through high civil or military conduct.

To enter as the first rank of Chevalier or Knight, one must have served a minimum of 20 years of public service or 25 years of exceptional professional distinction. However, foreign individuals who perform acts of valor on French soil are also eligible for membership.

Three Americans, two of which are Air Force and Army service members, received the award in 2016. The President of France personally awarded our brothers in arms France’s highest honor after foiling a terrorist attack.

The image is used to identify the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, a subject of public interest.

Italy – Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity

Stella della Solidarietà Italiana was founded by Enrico De Nicola in 1947 in pursuit of the reconstruction of Italy. This knighthood was created specifically for foreigners and expats who made an outstanding contribution to the reconstruction of Italy after World War II.

Giorgio Napolitano, the 11th President of Italy, refocused the scope of the award to promote friendly relations with other countries and improve ties with Italy. If you do something that is a positive reflection of Italy and promotes Italian culture, you too may become a Knight or Dame of this Order.

Mida d’aquesta previsualització

The United kingdom – Order of the British Empire

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was founded in 1917 by King Geroge V to reward civilian and military service members for meritorious service to the United Kingdom. This Order also selects members who contribute artistically to British culture, like most knighthood orders, men and women are conferred the title equally. A member’s ascension to the two highest ranks grants the member a knighthood and the right to the title of ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame.’

Appointments are made on the recommendation of the British Secretary of State for Defense and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Foreigners may be granted an Honorary knighthood but do not have the right to place ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ as a prefix to their name.

Presidentfranciscop

Spain – Order of the Golden Fleece

The Distinguished Order of the Golden Fleece, Insigne Orden del Toisón de Oro in Spanish, was founded in 1430 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. It has stood for over 589 years, and it is currently constituted and active. This order has two Grandmasters, the King of Spain Felipe VI and Archduke Karl of Austria. This knighthood order is the most prestigious and exclusive in the world with as few as 1,200 members since its founding.

This knighthood is only granted for the lifetime of the recipient and the collar, the symbol of your status, must be returned to the ruling monarch after one’s death. To become a member one must either be of a royal bloodline tied to Spain or be an exceptional individual in either politics or academics. For example, Víctor García de la Concha, who is a Philologist that became the Director of the Royal Spanish Academy, is one of the 17 living members of this Order.

I’m now Sir Ruddy Cano Hernandez, first of his name and lord of a square foot tile. Bow ya sh*ts.

Sealandgov.org

The Principality of Sealand – The Knights of the Sovereign Military Order of Sealand

There is good news for the impatient!

You can become a knight of Sealand right now. There are add-ons that you may include with your purchase such as a Sealand ID card and a square foot ‘plot’ of land that will total £154.96 or 0.01 at the writing of this article. Technically Sealand isn’t a country because it is not recognized by the majority of other countries.

However, there is a case that technically allows it to be considered a country without recognition from England. The Prince of Sealand declared Sealand’s independence from the UK on September 2,1967.

In support of the Principality of Sealand’s sovereignty, Prince Roy fired warning shots at a buoy repair boat that came close to Sealand. The Prince was charged by the British government with unlawful possession and discharge of a firearm. The Essex court proclaimed that they didn’t have jurisdiction over the tower and the British government chose to drop the case due to mockery by the media. – ThoughtCo.com

If you wanted to become a knight and do not want to do anything more than buy your way in, that’s now an option. I don’t think you’ll be receiving any invitations to a royal ball, though.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US will no longer track how much of Afghanistan it controls

In the middle of a war, the most crucial information is just how much of the enemy’s territory is captured by the other side. But the United States isn’t engaged in the kind of war that has a front, a rear, and can be delineated on a map somewhere. Even in the counterinsurgency kind of war, one might think it’s still important to track which areas are more or less under control. According to U.S. military commanders, they would be wrong.

For years, the U.S. military was happy to tell the American public just how much of Afghanistan it controlled and how much fell to the Taliban.

Not anymore.


“Just shoot in any direction, I guess.”

For years, the government provided data on how much of the country is under control of the Afghan government and the ISAF mission, and how much is under the control of the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Between 2015 and November 2018, the percentage controlled by the Taliban is up. Way up.

In 2015, the Afghan government controlled 72 percent of the country. Since then the resurgent insurgency has fought back, causing that number to dwindle to 54 percent in October 2018.

An Afghan security force personnel fires during an ongoing an operation against Islamic State.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction; the body designated by Congress to monitor American spending in Afghanistan reported that the NATO-led mission, Resolute Support, “formally notified SIGAR that it is no longer assessing district-level insurgent or government control or influence.” The United States military in Afghanistan backed SIGAR on the move, saying district stability data “was of limited decision-making value to the commander.”

The report from SIGAR that announced the decision was released on May 1, 2019, and did not explain why the data was of no use to the commander. The only clue is that the United States has long questioned the accuracy of the models produced by SIGAR and is only based on unclassified data, which is not what the U.S. military is likely to use.

U.S. Army soldiers from the 1-320 Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, watch helicopters at Combat Outpost Terra Nova

John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told Morning Edition:

“The enemy knows what districts they control, the enemy knows what the situation is. The Afghan military knows what the situation is. The only people who don’t know what’s going on are the people who are paying for it, and that’s the American taxpayer.”
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why classic planes stay around so long in Latin America

If you’ve been on the internet, you probably at some point have seen pitches for retirement in Latin America. Believe it or not, those advertisements probably would have been just as applicable to many classic war planes in addition to people.

The P-51 Mustang, for instance, was in front-line service with the Dominican Republic almost four decades after it took control of the skies from Nazi Germany and Japan. The North American F-86F Saber was defending the skies over Bolivia until 1993 – 40 years after the end of the Korean War where it made a name for itself. The F-5A that first flew in 1959 stayed in service with Venezuela well after 2000.


Argentina called F-86 Sabers back into service during the Falklands War.

(Photo by Aeroprints.com)

In some ways, it shouldn’t be a surprise. But why did Latin America become a way for some classic planes to avoid the scrapyard or become a target drone?

Five decades after it first flew, the F-5A was still serving with Venezuela.

(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)

Well, drug cartel violence aside, there isn’t a lot of risk for a major conflict in Latin America. The last major war involving a Latin American country was the Falklands War in 1982. Before that, there was the Soccer War. The drug cartels and guerrilla movements haven’t been able to get their own air forces.

Mustangs had their best days in the 1940s, but they were all the Dominican Republic could afford to operate through the 1980s.

(Photo by Chipo)

In short, most of those countries have no need for the latest and greatest fighters, which are not only expensive to buy but also expensive to operate. Here’s the sad truth about those countries: Their economic situation doesn’t exactly allow for them to really buy the latest planes. Older, simpler classics have been the way to go, until they get replaced by other classics.

Today, four decades after blasting commies in Vietnam, the A-37 is still going strong in Latin America.

(Photo by Chris Lofting)

Today, Latin America is a place where the A-37 Dragonfly, best known for its service in Vietnam, is still going strong. Other classics, like the F-5 Tiger, are also sticking around in small numbers. In short, these planes will protect Central and South America for a long time — even after their glory days.