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The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed on a member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes him- or herself "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his [or her] life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States." Because of the nature of its criteria, the medal is often awarded posthumously.
The Third Infantry Division has received 60 medals, more than any other Division in the Army.
Members of all branches of the U.S. military are eligible to receive the medal, and each service has a unique design with the exception of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, which both use the Navy's medal. The Medal of Honor is often presented personally to the recipient or, in the case of posthumous awards, to next of kin, by the President of the United States. Due to its high status, the medal has special protection under U.S. law.
The medal is frequently called the Congressional Medal of Honor, stemming from its award by the Department of Defense "in the name of Congress."
The first formal system for rewarding acts of individual gallantry by American Soldiers was established by George Washington on August 7, 1782, when he created the Badge of Military Merit, designed to recognize "any singularly meritorious action." This decoration is America's first combat award and the second oldest American military decoration of any type, after the Fidelity Medallion. Although the Badge of Military Merit fell into disuse after the American Revolutionary War, the concept of a military award for individual gallantry by members of the U.S. armed forces had been established. In 1847, after the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, a Certificate of Merit was established for Soldiers who distinguished themselves in action. The certificate was later granted medal status as the Certificate of Merit Medal.
Early in the Civil War, a medal for individual valor was proposed by Iowa Senator James W. Grimes to Winfield Scott, the Commanding General of the United States Army. Scott did not approve the proposal, but the medal did come into use in the Navy. Public Resolution 82, containing a provision for a Navy Medal of Valor, was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861. The medal was "to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and Marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war." Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles directed the Philadelphia Mint to design the new decoration. Shortly afterward, a resolution of similar wording was introduced on behalf of the Army and was signed into law on July 12, 1862. This measure provided for awarding a Medal of Honor, as the Navy version also came to be called: "to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other Soldier-like qualities, during the present insurrection."
Although it was created for the Civil War, Congress made the Medal of Honor a permanent decoration in 1863. In total 3,493 medals have been awarded to 3,450 different men and one woman. Nineteen men received a second award: 14 of these received two separate medals for two separate actions, and five received both the Navy and the Army Medals of Honor for the same action. Since the beginning of World War II, 867 Medals of Honor have been awarded, 528 posthumously. In total, 621 had their medals presented posthumously. A total of 2,418 Army members have received Medal of Honor.
3rd Infantry Division's most recent recipient of the Medal of Honor
3rd Infantry Division Soldier Earns Medal of Honor
First Lieutenant Garlin M. Connor
Born 2 June 1919
Died 5 November 1998
On 24 January 1945, while serving as an intelligence officer with 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division, 1LT Conner voluntarily left his position of relative safety to place himself in a better position to direct artillery fire onto the assaulting enemy infantry and armor. He remained in an exposed position which was 30 yards ahead of the defending force for a period of three hours. Despite the enemy coming within five yards of his position and closely impacting friendly artillery shells, he continued to direct the fire of friendly artillery which ultimately resulted in repelling the assaulting enemy elements.
1LT Conner was recognized by award of the Distinguished Service Cross for his action on 10 February 1945. On 22 October 2014, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records directed the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, Awards and Decorations Branch to present 1LT Conner’s widow’s request for reconsideration to the Senior Army Decorations Board for possible upgrade to the Medal of Honor. On 12 April 2017, the Acting Secretary of the Army referred the award to the Secretary of Defense for possible upgrade to the MOH.
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to
First Lieutenant Garlin M. Conner
United States Army
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
First Lieutenant Garlin M. Conner distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity while serving with Company K, 3d Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division. On the morning of January 24, 1945, near the town of Houssen, France, German forces ferociously counterattacked the front left flank of the 7th Infantry Regiment with 600 infantry troops, six Mark VI tanks, and tank destroyers. Lieutenant Conner, having recently returned to his unit after recovering from a wound received in an earlier battle, was working as the Intelligence Officer in the 3rd Battalion Command Post at the time of the attack. Understanding the devastating effect that the advancing enemy armor could have on the Battalion, Lieutenant Conner immediately volunteered to run straight into the heart of the enemy assault to get to a position from which he could direct friendly artillery on the advancing enemy forces. With complete disregard for his own safety, Lieutenant Conner maneuvered 400 yards through enemy artillery fire that destroyed trees in his path and rained shrapnel all around him, while unrolling telephone wire needed to communicate with the Battalion command post. Upon reaching the Battalion’s front line, he continued to move forward under the enemy assault to a position 30 yards in front of the defending U.S. forces where he plunged into a shallow ditch that provided little protection from the advancing enemy’s heavy machine gun and small arms fire. With rounds impacting all around him, Lieutenant Conner calmly directed multiple fire missions, adjusting round after round of artillery from his prone position, until the enemy was forced to halt their advance and seek cover behind a nearby dike. For three hours, he remained in this compromised position, enduring the repeated onslaught of German infantry which, at one point, advanced to within five yards of his position. As German infantry regrouped and began to mass in an overwhelming assault, Lieutenant Conner ordered friendly artillery to concentrate directly on his own position, having resolved to die if necessary to destroy the enemy advance. Ignoring the friendly artillery shells blanketing his position and exploding within mere feet, Lieutenant Conner continued to direct artillery fire on the enemy assault swarming around him until the German attack was finally broken. By his heroism and disregard for his own life, Lieutenant Conner stopped the enemy advance. The artillery he expertly directed while under constant enemy fire, killed approximately fifty German soldiers and wounded an estimated one hundred more, preventing what would have undoubtedly been heavy friendly casualties. His actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3d Infantry Division, and the United States Army.