Biography of Lieutenant Colonel Matt Urban
Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Matt Urban is recognized at Arlington National Cemetery as “America’s most highly decorated infantry officer of World War II”. The son of Polish immigrants, he was born on August 25, 1919 in Buffalo, New York; graduated from Cornell University in 1941; and entered the U.S. Army on July 2, 1941 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Ninth Infantry Division.
“The greatest soldier in American history” is how President Jimmy Carter, in emotional words, described him as he presented Matt Urban with the Medal of Honor on Saturday July 19, 1980. The citation reads in part “exemplified by singularly outstanding combat leadership, personal bravery, and tenacious devotion to duty, during the period 14 June to 3 September 1944”. He had waited almost 35 years before receiving the Medal of Honor and other appropriate military awards.
The July 19, 1980 presentation event was significant as it was attended by over 1000 individuals including generals, admirals, all ranks of commissioned and non-commissioned officers, veterans of the 9th Infantry Division and their wives. The event also included high ranking civilians and personal friends. The national media coverage was extensive.
On July 18, 1980 at an event held at the Pentagon, then Army Chief of Staff, General Edward C. Meyers “pinned” Urban with the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with ‘V’ device and his seventh Purple Heart. He also received the Croix de Guerre from the French Ambassador, L.F. De Laboulaye. These were awards which had been lost in the bureaucratic shuffling at the end of World War II. Among his prior awards is the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster.
What is most remarkable about LTC Matt Urban was his devotion to the men under his command. In several instances he refused evacuation even though seriously wounded. The last time was in Belgium on September 3, 1944 with a near fatal wound to the throat.
In two instances, while in England recovering from serious wounds and on his own initiative, returned to the battlefields in France and Germany. The first time was July 25, 1944 when he arrived at St. Lo France in time to lead his men who were in a difficult situation in an extremely critical action. The second time was in December 1944 when he returned to his unit’s Bivouac area in Germany for assignment. Still recovering from the throat wound received on September 3, 1944 and unable to speak, his commanding officers prevailed upon him to return to the hospital in England. Because of his often demonstrated concern for his men LTC Matt Urban is known as a “soldiers’ soldier.”
At the commemorative ceremony, to be held in Arlington National Cemetery , on August 23, 2014 there will be high level representatives of the Defense Attachés from England, France, Poland, Canada and Belgium – allied nations who participated in the Normandy Campaign.
LTC Matt Urban, notwithstanding his remarkable record of 29 military awards, is not readily recognized by the American public. One of the goals of the Matt Urban Memorial Committee is to change that awareness through publicity and inclusion of his gravesite on the “List of Notables” for Arlington National Cemetery.
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