Lt. Col. Matt Urban began his active duty Army service on July 2, 1941 when he reported to the 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, then at Fort Bragg, N.C. He served with this regiment during six campaigns in the Mediterranean and European theaters of operation during World War II, rising to the position of battalion commander before he was severely wounded Sept. 3, 1944.
The day after Urban was medically evacuated, his battalion sustained severe casualties and many of his soldiers were taken prisoner by the German Army. One of these prisoners was Staff Sgt. Earl G. Evans, who had served with Urban during much of his battalion's wartime service in Europe and Africa.
When Evans was repatriated to the United States in July 1945, he prepared a letter recommending Urban for the Medal of Honor. This letter was sent to the adjutant general of the Army and from there was forwarded to the commanding general of the 9th Infantry Division, which was still in Europe at that time.
Evan's letter apparently never arrived at the 9th Infantry Division, as a records search some 35 years later failed to turn up a clue as to any action that had ever been taken on the recommendation that Urban be awarded at the Medal of Honor. A copy of the letter was filed in Urban's official records, however, and remained there until Urban submitted a request for information on the award in June 1978 to Department of the Army.
After Urban's request for information and his official file were reviewed by the Army Military Awards Branch, the original recommendation was found and a lengthy process was begun to reconstruct the events described in Evans' recommendation.
Since the Medal of Honor is the nation's highest decoration for valor, detailed evidence of the performance of the act or acts is essential. Eyewitness statements or affidavits, as well as other documents from official records, must supply this evidence that the act or acts justify the Medal of Honor. In Urban's case, this task was made considerably more difficult than would ordinarily be the case since the recommendation involved heroism performed more that 35 years before.
As the pieces of the puzzle were assembled by the Army Awards Branch, a most dramatic picture of Urban emerged. He had clearly established himself as an outstanding combat leader who was fearless and highly esteemed by his men.
The eyewitness statements, even though they were prepared many years after the fact, show a remarkable consistency in what they describe. In each case, Urban's fearlessness is related in detail, but his concern for the welfare and safety of his men and his ability to inspire them to their best efforts are just as clearly demonstrated.
Although Urban received two Silver Stars for actions in Africa, his valorous actions in France and Belgium in 1944 had not been recognized with a military decoration for heroism except for a Bronze Star Medal he received for action on June 14, 1944.
From a legal standpoint, the recommendation on Urban meets all requirements of the law. Public Law (Title 10, USC) stipulates that a Medal of Honor may be awarded if a statement setting forth the act to be recognized is made within two years of the act and that records indicate the individual is entitled to the award. This same Public Law permits consideration of a recommendation for award of the Medal of Honor if the secretary of the Army determines that a statement was made within two years of the act to be recognized and no award was made because the statement was lost or through inadvertence, the recommendation was not acted upon.
Awards and Decorations
- Medal of Honor
- Silver Star with one oak leaf cluster
- Legion of Merit
- Bronze Star Medal with 'V' (valor) device, two oak-leaf clusters
- Purple Heart with six oak-leaf clusters
- American Defense Service Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- European - African - Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with six service stars)
- World War II Victory Medal
- Combat Infantryman Badge
- Presidential Unit Citation
- Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star (individual award from the government of France)
- Croix de Guerre (unit award from the government of France)
- Belgian Fourragere (unit award from the government of Belgium)