James Phillip Connor MOH

b. 12/01/1919 Wilmington, Delaware. d. 27/07/1994 Wilmington, Delaware.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 15/08/1944 Cape Cavalaire, France.

James P Connor MOH

Connor was born on Jan. 12, 1919, in Wilmington, Delaware. His mother died when he was 3, according to Wilmington’s The News Journal newspaper; he and his sister, Dorothy, went to live with their aunt for several years. Connor, who’s sister said his nickname was Smiles, went to St. Mary’s Parochial School and was a star basketball player, as well as quarterback of the football team. However, he left school after eighth grade to work for a hometown leather company for several years before being drafted into the Army in January 1941.

According to The News Journal, Connor was supposed to be discharged around the end of the year, but the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, canceled that. Instead, the young private continued his training and was sent overseas in November 1942. Over the next two years, he took part in the invasions of Africa, Sicily and Italy.

On Aug. 15, 1944, Sgt. Connor was on battle patrol with the 7th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division during Operation Anvil/Dragoon, a major amphibious assault that would give the Allies a foothold on southern France. He and his platoon landed on Red Beach and were tasked with a daunting mission: to quickly destroy entrenched enemy positions on Cape Cavalaire, a peninsula that gave the heavily armed enemy a great view of the Allied landings.

Almost immediately, Connor and his platoon lieutenant were knocked down by an exploding shell. Connor suffered serious neck wounds, and the lieutenant was killed. Instead of looking for medical help, Connor “practically carried the platoon across several-thousand yards of mine-saturated beach through intense fire,” his citation said. During the push, Connor shot and killed two of those snipers. After his platoon’s sergeant was killed, Connor took over as the unit’s leader. In a later interview with The News Journal, he said he knew that if they hadn’t moved from where they were located quickly, they would be slaughtered, so he forced his men forward, even though they wanted to wait for help.

During that push, Connor was wounded a second time, but he again refused medical help. He reassured his men and kept prodding them forward through a minefield of mortars until they got to a group of buildings teeming with enemy snipers and machine gun nests. Connor was injured a third time in the leg and had to relinquish command after he tried to stand but couldn’t. However, he continued to give orders and direct his platoon. There weren’t many of them left — only about a dozen out of 36 men — but Connor’s determination inspired them. They rushed the enemy with such enthusiasm that they killed seven enemy soldiers and captured 40 others. The remaining platoon members seized three machine guns and several other enemy items.

Their actions knocked out the enemy threat, which ensured the forces that followed would be able to land safely and uninterrupted on the nearby beaches. It was a high cost for their platoon, though; of the original 36 men who began the mission, only nine survived. After the battle, an injured Connor was sent to an Italian hospital to recover, then he was moved back to a camp in France to rest. He later told a News Journal reporter that “going back to the outfit after I had been hospitalized and seeing what happened to many of my buddies was the hardest thing I could take.”

Connor said he was sent back into combat for a few days after he’d been told he could go home. Fortunately, that mistake was corrected within a week, according to The News Journal. Connor was still in France in March 1945 when he received the Medal of Honor from Lt. Gen. Alexander Patch, who led Operation Anvil/Dragoon. He was sent home and discharged from the Army soon afterward. On May 7, 1945, Connor traveled to the White House to be honored by President Harry S. Truman. It was the same day that Germany surrendered.

Connor returned to Wilmington, where he received a key to the city. In February 1946, he married Elizabeth “Betty” Chlyciak. They went on to have four sons: James Jr., Donald, Jeffrey and Michael.

Connor worked for what was then called the Veterans Administration for 34 years before retiring in the 1970s. According to U.S. Rep. Michael Castle of Delaware, Connor was active in helping ensure other vets from his state were remembered. Connor lived the rest of his life in the Wilmington area. He died of heart failure at age 75 on July 27, 1994, and was buried at Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in the township of Bear, where a small memorial was dedicated to him in 2002. The Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, has a collection that includes Connor’s dog tags, his Medal of Honor certificate and his key to the city of Wilmington.



On 15 August 1944, Sgt. Connor, through sheer grit and determination, led his platoon in clearing an enemy vastly superior in numbers and firepower from strongly entrenched positions on Cape Cavalaire, removing a grave enemy threat to his division during the amphibious landing in southern France, and thereby insured safe and uninterrupted landings for the huge volume of men and materiel which followed. His battle patrol landed on “Red Beach” with the mission of destroying the strongly fortified enemy positions on Cape Cavalaire with utmost speed. From the peninsula the enemy had commanding observation and seriously menaced the vast landing operations taking place. Though knocked down and seriously wounded in the neck by a hanging mine which killed his platoon lieutenant, Sgt. Connor refused medical aid and with his driving spirit practically carried the platoon across several thousand yards of mine-saturated beach through intense fire from mortars, 20-mm. flak guns, machineguns, and snipers. En route to the Cape he personally shot and killed 2 snipers. The platoon sergeant was killed and Sgt. Connor became platoon leader. Receiving a second wound, which lacerated his shoulder and back, he again refused evacuation, expressing determination to carry on until physically unable to continue. He reassured and prodded the hesitating men of his decimated platoon forward through almost impregnable mortar concentrations. Again emphasizing the prevalent urgency of their mission, he impelled his men toward a group of buildings honeycombed with enemy snipers and machineguns. Here he received his third grave wound, this time in the leg, felling him in his tracks. Still resolved to carry on, he relinquished command only after his attempts proved that it was physically impossible to stand. Nevertheless, from his prone position, he gave the orders and directed his men in assaulting the enemy. Infused with Sgt. Connor’s dogged determination, the platoon, though reduced to less than one-third of its original 36 men, outflanked and rushed the enemy with such furiousness that they killed 7, captured 40, seized 3 machineguns and considerable other materiel, and took all their assigned objectives, successfully completing their mission.