Lt. Garlin Murl Conner left the U.S. Army as the second-most decorated soldier during World War II, earning four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during 28 straight months in combat.
But despite backing from congressmen, senators, military veterans and historians, he never received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military distinction, awarded for life-risking acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.
Now a federal judge in Kentucky has ended his widow's 17-year quest to see that her husband received the medal.
U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell, in an 11-page opinion issued late Tuesday, said a technicality will prevent Pauline Conner of Albany, Ky., from continuing her campaign on behalf of her husband, who died in 1998. Russell concluded that Pauline Conner waited too long to present new evidence to the U.S. Army Board of Correction of Military Records, which rejected her bid to alter her husband's service record.
Russell praised Conner's "extraordinary courage and patriotic service," but said there was nothing he could do for the family.
"Dismissing this claim as required by technical limitations in no way diminishes Lt. Conner's exemplary service and sacrifice," Russell wrote.
Richard Chilton, a former Green Beret and amateur military historian who has researched Conner's service, said Conner deserves the Medal of Honor. Chilton pledged to get resolutions from lawmakers and veterans' groups in all 50 states in an attempt to get Congress to act on Conner's behalf.
"I want to make sure they can't walk away from this," Chilton told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "He's a man worthy of this."
Roughly 3,400 people have received the Medal of Honor since it was created in 1861, including actor Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. soldier in World War II. Murphy fought in the same areas as Conner and went on to star in dozens of Hollywood films, most of them Westerns and war epics.
Conner served with the 3rd Infantry Division, which fought in France and Europe in 1945.