Matt Urban

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Matt Louis Urban
Nickname"The Ghost"
Born(1919-08-25)August 25, 1919
Buffalo, New York
DiedMarch 4, 1995(1995-03-04) (aged 75)
Holland, Michigan
Place of burialArlington National Cemetery
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branch United States Army
RankUS-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
Unit
Battles/warsWorld War II
Awards
 
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Matt Louis Urban
Nickname"The Ghost"
Born(1919-08-25)August 25, 1919
Buffalo, New York
DiedMarch 4, 1995(1995-03-04) (aged 75)
Holland, Michigan
Place of burialArlington National Cemetery
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branch United States Army
RankUS-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
Unit
Battles/warsWorld War II
Awards

Matt Louis Urban (August 25, 1919 – March 4, 1995) was a highly decorated United States Army infantry officer who served with distinction in the Mediterranean and European Theater of Operations during World War II. He scouted, led charges upfront, and performed heroically in combat on several occasions despite being wounded. He received over a dozen individual combat decorations from the U.S. Army. In 1980, he received the Medal of Honor and four other decorations belatedly for his combat actions in France and Belgium in 1944. In 1989, the Guinness Book of World Records, considered Urban to be the United States Army's most combat decorated soldier of World War II.[1]

Early years[edit]

Matt Urban was born "Matty Louis Urbanowitz", the son of Stanley and Helen Urbanowitz (Urban), in Buffalo, New York. He was baptized at Corpus Christi Church and attended Buffalo East High School. His father was a plumbing contractor of Polish heritage. He graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and government with a minor in community recreation, in June 1941. While at Cornell University, he was a member of the Kappa Delta Rho Fraternity, track and boxing teams, and the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).[1]

Military service[edit]

U.S. Army[edit]

Urban was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army on May 22, 1941 and entered active duty on July 2, 1941 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He finished his military service as a Lieutenant Colonel and was medically retired from the U.S. Army on February 26, 1946.

World War II[edit]

Urban served as a platoon leader, morale and special services officer, a company executive officer and commander, and a battalion executive officer and commander of the 60th Infantry Regiment of General Manton Eddy's 9th Infantry Division ("Old Reliables") which was awarded twenty-four Distinguished Unit Citations for World War II.[2]Beginning in North Africa, Urban was wounded in action seven times.

Medal of Honor[edit]

In early 1979, a Michigan Disabled American Veterans (DAV) regional service representative who had come to know Urban personally over a long period of time, sent an official Medal of Honor recommendation inquiry to U.S. Army Headquarters. The misplaced recommendation was found and revealed that Urban's battalion commander had initiated a Medal of Honor recommendation for Urban just prior to Urban's commander being killed in action in July 1944. The U.S. Army completed the necessary recommendation process and officially awarded Matt Urban the Medal of Honor in 1980. President Jimmy Carter presented the Medal of Honor to Urban on July 19, 1980 in front of several fellow soldiers and witnesses of Urban's valorous acts.[1]

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Lieutenant Colonel (then Captain) Matt Urban, 112-22-2414, United States Army, who distinguished himself by a series of bold, heroic actions, exemplified by singularly outstanding combat leadership, personal bravery, and tenacious devotion to duty, during the period 14 June to 3 September 1944 while assigned to the 2d Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. On 14 June, Captain Urban's company, attacking at Renouf, France, encountered heavy enemy small arms and tank fire. The enemy tanks were unmercifully raking his unit's positions and inflicting heavy casualties. Captain Urban, realizing that his company was in imminent danger of being decimated, armed himself with a bazooka. He worked his way with an ammo carrier through hedgerows, under a continuing barrage of fire, to a point near the tanks. He brazenly exposed himself to the enemy fire and, firing the bazooka, destroyed both tanks. Responding to Captain Urban's action, his company moved forward and routed the enemy. Later that same day, still in the attack near Orglandes, Captain Urban was wounded in the leg by direct fire from a 37mm tank-gun. He refused evacuation and continued to lead his company until they moved into defensive positions for the night. At 0500 hours the next day, still in the attack near Orglandes, Captain Urban, though badly wounded, directed his company in another attack. One hour later he was again wounded. Suffering from two wounds, one serious, he was evacuated to England.

In mid-July, while recovering from his wounds, he learned of his unit's severe losses in the hedgerows of Normandy. Realizing his unit's need for battle-tested leaders, he voluntarily left the hospital and hitchhiked his way back to his unit hear St. Lo, France. Arriving at the 2d Battalion Command Post at 1130 hours, 25 July, he found that his unit had jumped-off at 1100 hours in the first attack of Operation Cobra." Still limping from his leg wound, Captain Urban made his way forward to retake command of his company. He found his company held up by strong enemy opposition. Two supporting tanks had been destroyed and another, intact but with no tank commander or gunner, was not moving. He located a lieutenant in charge of the support tanks and directed a plan of attack to eliminate the enemy strong-point. The lieutenant and a sergeant were immediately killed by the heavy enemy fire when they tried to mount the tank. Captain Urban, though physically hampered by his leg wound and knowing quick action had to be taken, dashed through the scathing fire and mounted the tank. With enemy bullets ricocheting from the tank, Captain Urban ordered the tank forward and, completely exposed to the enemy fire, manned the machine gun and placed devastating fire on the enemy. His action, in the face of enemy fire, galvanized the battalion into action and they attacked and destroyed the enemy position. On 2 August, Captain Urban was wounded in the chest by shell fragments and, disregarding the recommendation of the Battalion Surgeon, again refused evacuation. On 6 August, Captain Urban became the commander of the 2d Battalion. On 15 August, he was again wounded but remained with his unit.

On 3 September, the 2d Battalion was given the mission of establishing a crossing-point on the Meuse River near Heer, Belgium. The enemy planned to stop the advance of the allied Army by concentrating heavy forces at the Meuse. The 2d Battalion, attacking toward the crossing-point, encountered fierce enemy artillery, small arms and mortar fire which stopped the attack. Captain Urban quickly moved from his command post to the lead position of the battalion. Reorganizing the attacking elements, he personally led a charge toward the enemy's strong-point. As the charge moved across the open terrain, Captain Urban was seriously wounded in the neck. Although unable to talk above a whisper from the paralyzing neck wound, and in danger of losing his life, he refused to be evacuated until the enemy was routed and his battalion had secured the crossing-point on the Meuse River. Captain Urban's personal leadership, limitless bravery, and repeated extraordinary exposure to enemy fire served as an inspiration to his entire battalion. His valorous and intrepid actions reflect the utmost credit on him and uphold the noble traditions of the United States Army.[3]

Military decorations and awards[edit]

Matt Urban's military awards include fourteen individual combat decorations (five for valor) he received from the U.S. Army. This would be the most number of individual combat decorations awarded to a combat infantry soldier by the U.S. Army for World War II. He received the following military awards:

Combat Infantry Badge.svg  Combat Infantryman Badge

Medal of Honor
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver Star with One Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Legion of Merit
V
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star with Two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters and "V" Device
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart with One Silver and One Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Presidential Unit Citation with One Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Arrowhead
Silver star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with One Silver and One Bronze Campaign Star and Arrowhead Device
World War II Victory Medal
French Croix de Guerre with One Silver Gilt Star, One Bronze Star, and Palm [4]
French Liberation Medal
Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm
Belgian Fourragère

Post World War II[edit]

Matt Urban was the Recreation Director in Port Huron, Michigan from 1949 to 1956, the Director of the Monroe, Michigan, Community Center from 1956 to 1972, and the Director of the Recreation Department of Holland, Michigan from 1972 to 1989. Urban started and became a Camp Director for under-privileged children, Boys Club director, a Cub Scout Master and was involved in other activities and organizations like the Red Cross and Boy Scouts, as chairman, board member, committee member, and coach. In 1989, he retired to complete his World War II biography, The Matt Urban Story, Life And World War II Experiences.

Death

Urban died in Holland, Michigan, and is buried in Section 7A at Arlington National Cemetery.[1]

Personal awards and honors[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d The Matt Urban Story by Matt Urban, 1989, ISBN 0-9624621-0-1.
  2. ^ 9th Infantry Division History [1]
  3. ^ "Medal of Honor Recipients - World War II (T–Z)". Medal of Honor Citations. United States Army Center of Military History. December 3, 2010. Retrieved May 17, 2011. 
  4. ^ Boven, Robert W. (2000). Most decorated soldier in World War II: Matt Urban. Canada: Trafford Publishing. p. 230. ISBN 1-55212-528-9. Retrieved 3 March 2012. 

External links[edit]