Long Time Coming: Third Army Soldier Honored for WWII Bravery
June 22, 2007
ATLANTA (Army News Service, June 22, 2007) - Murray County's highest decorated World War II veteran received his due June 15 when Third U.S. Army Commander Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb and community members proclaimed June 15 as Glenn Martin Day at the Murray County Courthouse in Chatsworth, Ga.
"I came here to honor a Soldier, a Third Army Soldier from 1944 who answered the call of his country," Lt. Gen. Whitcomb said. "It is appropriate that the City of Chatsworth honor the memory of Private Glenn Martin - one of your own, a hero, one of only 291 Soldiers of the Third Army during World War II to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross - by declaring this day Glenn Martin Day."
Sixty-three years ago, while serving with the Third Army's Company C, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, on June 8, 1944, near Chau De Fontenay, France, Pvt. Martin's company found itself cut off from friendly forces by an infiltrating enemy. According to Robert Babcock, a Vietnam veteran with the 22nd Inf. Reg. and author of "War Stories - Utah Beach to Pleiku," and Chaplain Bill Boice's "History for the 22nd Infantry Regiment in WWII," the attack took place two days after D-Day.
Lt. John Ward, a forward observer, realized the only way to ward off the enemy was to call for artillery on his own position. After Lt. Ward notified his men, Pvt. Martin and a few others elected to stay and fight. Shrapnel from the firefight hit the lieutenant and, ignoring the impeding dangers, Pvt. Martin carried Lt. Ward to safety.
This act of selfless service earned Pvt. Martin the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for heroism.
"He likely didn't have any lofty thoughts of defending democracy or fighting tyranny that day, but I suspect he understood that he was part of something larger than himself," Lt. Gen. Whitcomb said.
"It wouldn't surprise me that he did that (save a life)," said William Leonard, Pvt. Martin's childhood friend. "This is the highest award given to anyone in Murray County and (there are) only a few of them in the State of Georgia. He had that much courage ... that much good in him."
Mr. Leonard and Pvt. Martin grew up together and were both drafted into the Army to fight in World War II. However, both went to different parts of the world - Mr. Leonard to the Pacific and Pvt. Martin to Europe.
"We never knew what his awards were for," Mr. Leonard said. "He didn't want to talk about it."
Pvt. Martin died in January this year from heart failure, but was formally presented the decoration in a small, private ceremony last year. His nieces and nephews attended Friday's dedication.
"I didn't know Mr. Martin, but I have known some men like him," Lt. Gen. Whitcomb said. "Ordinary men who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, in the worst of conditions, doing what our nation has asked them to do ... and then doing something more."
According to another childhood friend, Zeke Hufstetler, Pvt. Martin was the son of a disabled World War I veteran. He was reared on a farm and worked at the local saw mill. Pvt. Martin was drafted into the Army in November 1942 as a wireman in the Signal Corps. The winter of his heroic effort, he developed frostbite and was sent home to Georgia with an honorable discharge.
Since he did not discuss his military service, few Murray County residents were aware of the extent of his accolades.
Vietnam veteran Bruce Kendrick said, "A couple of years ago, a few of us local vets started talking about Glenn Martin and his accomplishments in World War II."
Curiosity led Mr. Kendrick to start an investigation of Pvt. Martin's achievements. With the help of Georgia Congressman Nathan Deal, they were able to discover the extent of Lt. Martin's heroism through old Defense Department personnel records.
"He's a farm kid from Chatsworth, Georgia," Mr. Kendrick said. "And he received the Distinguished Service Cross!"
Mr. Kendrick said what made this more remarkable was that Pvt. Martin "wasn't pretentious and didn't brag about it."
"I can't tell you what motivated Private Glenn Martin to do what he did that Thursday 63 years and one week ago," Lt. Gen. Whitcomb said. "Perhaps no one can. I can tell you that because of him, and because of millions like him who served during World War II, tyranny was defeated and that the world is a better place."
(Staff Sgt. Reeba Critser writes for the Third U.S. Army/U.S. Army Central Public Affairs Office.)