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First Name: Matt

Last Name: Urban

Birthplace: Buffalo, NY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Louis

Date of Birth: 25 August 1919

Date of Death: 04 March 1995

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Years Served:
Matt Louis Urban

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Matt Urban
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Lieutenant Colonel Matt Louis Urban was a U.S. Army officer who served with distinction in World War II. He was belatedly awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, in 1980 for repeated acts of heroism in combat in France and Belgium in 1944. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, he is the most decorated American serviceman, although that accolade is disputed.

Matt Louis Urban was born Matty Louis Urbanowicz, son of Stanley and Helen Urbanowicz, on 25 August 1919 in Buffalo, NY. Urban was baptized at Corpus Christi Church and attended Buffalo Public School #57. His father was a plumbing contractor of Polish heritage. Urban was appointed a Second Lieutenant, Infantry Reserve, in July 1941 at Fort Benning, GA, following graduation from Cornell University with a degree in History and Government, where he was in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. While at Cornell, he became a member of Kappa Delta Rho Fraternity.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel (then Captain), 2d Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, World War II.

Place and date: Renouf, France, 14 June to 3 September 1944.

Citation: Lieutenant Colonel (then Captain) Matt Urban, l 12-22-2414, 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.

He was retired as a Lieutenant Colonel by reason of medical disability due to wounds received in 1947.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Medal of Honor
Silver Star Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal with Combat Valor Device and 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Purple Heart with Silver and Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Medal with 4 Bronze Campaign Stars
World War II Victory Medal
Croix de guerre avec Etoile Vermeil
Presidential Unit Citation
Combat Infantryman Badge

Audie Murphy is often cited as America's most decorated war veteran. However, the Guinness Book of World Records lists Urban as "the Most Combat-Decorated Soldier in American History."

However, while Urban's 29 awards may exceed Murphy's number of awards, he did not receive the Distinguished Service Cross, America's second-highest award for valor. It could be argued, however, that Murphy was equaled, if not surpassed, in combat awards (especially when they were awarded for separate actions) by Lieutenant Robert L. Howard, the U.S.'s most highly-decorated soldier of the Vietnam War.

Death and Burial

Lieutenant Colonel Matt Louis Urban died on 4 March 1995 at his home in Holland, MI. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 7A, Grave 40.

Honoree ID: 69   Created by: MHOH




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