Matt Urban

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Matt Louis Urban
Nickname(s) "The Ghost"
Born (1919-08-25)August 25, 1919
Buffalo, New York
Died March 4, 1995(1995-03-04) (aged 75)
Holland, Michigan
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1941-1946
Rank Lieutenant colonel US-O5 insignia.svg
Unit 9th Infantry Division
Commands held
Battles/wars World War II

Matt Louis Urban (August 25, 1919 – March 4, 1995) was a highly decorated United States Army combat soldier who served with distinction as an infantry officer 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 retired after World War II as a lieutenant colonel.

Urban received over a dozen individual decorations for combat from the U.S. Army, including seven Purple Hearts. In 1980, he received the Medal of Honor and four other individual decorations for combat belatedly for his actions in France and Belgium in 1944. In Section 7a of the "Prominent Military Figures" portion of Arlington National Cemetery's webpage, there is the statement, "Lt. Col. Matt Urban - World War II infantry officer who earned the distinction as the most decorated soldier in WW II".

Early years[edit]

Matt Urban was born Matthew Louis Urbanowicz in Buffalo, New York. His parents Stanley and Helen Urbanowicz (Urban) were Polish immigrants. Urban was baptized at Corpus Christi Church and attended Buffalo East High School. He had two surviving brothers, Dr. Stanley (Urbanowicz) Urban and Arthur (Urbanowicz) Urban.[1] A younger brother Eugene died in 1927 from appendicitis. His father was a plumbing contractor. The family home was at 1153 Broadway.

In the 1940 Census, he was listed as living at the family home and completed 3 years of college under the name of Matthew Urbanowicz. However, Urban attended and graduated from Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) under the name Matty L. Urbanowitz.[2] He graduated on June 14, 1941 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Government with a minor in Community Recreation. While at Cornell University, he was a member of the track and boxing teams and the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).[1]

US Military service[edit]

U.S. Army[edit]

The names "Matt Urban" and "Matty Louis (L.) Urbanowitz" are used as his name in his U.S. Army service records and in his book.[1][3][4] The name "MATT LOUIS URBAN" was engraved on the front of his white Arlington National Cemetery headstone.[5]His current and private grave monument at Arlington National Cemetery reads, "Matt L. Urban".[6]

Urban was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry in the U.S. Army on May 22, 1941 and entered active duty on July 2, 1941 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He served as a first lieutenant and a captain in six campaigns during World War II and was severely wounded his seventh time in September 1944, in Belgium. He was promoted to major and lieutenant colonel on October 2, 1944 and October 2, 1945 respectively. He was medically retired from the U.S. Army on February 26, 1946.[1]

World War II[edit]

Beginning at Fort Bragg, Urban served as a platoon leader; morale and special services officer; a company executive officer and company commander; a battalion executive officer, and battalion commander of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division ("Old Reliables")[7] Urban first became a combat soldier when he made a beach landing under fire with another soldier on a raft during Operation Torch of the North Africa Campaign during the invasion of North Africa on November 8, 1942.[1] Besides a Purple Heart, one of the first medals he received was a Silver Star.[1][8]

Medal of Honor[edit]

The Medal of Honor was presented to Matt Urban on July 19, 1980:

Medal of Honor

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 MOH recommendation was found and revealed that Major Max L. Wolf, Urban's battalion commander in France, had initiated a Medal of Honor recommendation for Urban just prior to Major Wolf being killed in action in France, in July 1944. The U.S. Army then completed the necessary recommendation process to award Urban the Medal of Honor.

In 1980, by the direction of the President, the Department of the Army awarded Matt Urban the Medal of Honor, in the name of the Congress.[9] On July 18, 1980, he was presented the Bronze Star Medal (second oak leaf cluster), the Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart (sixth oak leaf cluster) by the U.S. Army and the Croix de guerre with silver-gilt star by a representative from France during a special ceremony at the Pentagon. On July 19, President Jimmy Carter presented to Matt Urban the Medal of Honor in front of several hundreds of quests which included fellow 9th Division veterans who witnessed Urban's actions in combat:[1][10]

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress presents the




For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty: Lieutenant Colonel (then Captain) Matt Urban, 112-22-2414, United States Army, 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, 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.

/S/ JIMMY CARTER[11][12]

Decorations and awards[edit]

Matt Urban's military awards include fourteen individual decorations for combat he received from the U.S. Army: the Medal of Honor, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Star Medals, and seven Purple Hearts.[13] This appears to be the most number of individual decorations for combat awarded to an infantryman by the U.S. Army for World War II. Five of the individual decorations from the US Army are for valor.

Urban 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
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
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 and Palm [14]
French Liberation Medal
Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm
(Unit Award)
Belgian Fourragère

Post World War II[edit]

Urban was a staff writer and editor for Liberty Magazine (Veterans' View Bulletin) for two years since October 1945. In the meantime, he changed his name to Matt Urban. He was the Recreation Director in Port Huron, Michigan from 1949 to 1956. He took a job as Director of the Monroe, Michigan, Community Center from 1956 to 1972. He remained at the community center as coach for basketball, baseball, and football programs. At Monroe he also trained several young men who became national Golden Gloves Champions. He was appointed chair of the Michigan Olympic Boxing Committee. Later, Matt Urban as part of the Chicago Olympic Committee was one of three trainers who accompanied Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) to the San Francisco Olympic tryouts.

Matt Urban was also Director of the Recreation Department of Holland, Michigan from 1972 to 1989. He served there with distinction until his retirement in 1989. He started and became a Camp Director for under-privileged children, Boys Club director, and a Cub Scout Master. He was also involved in other activities and organizations like the Red Cross, the Amateur Softball Association, and Boy Scouts, as chairman, board member, committee member, and coach. He was inducted into the Hall of Honor at the Softball Hall of Fame.

In 1989, Urban retired to complete his World War II biography, The Matt Urban Story, Life And World War II Experiences.[1]


Matt Urban died on March 4, 1995 in Holland, Michigan. The cause of death was from a collapsed lung, supposedly due to his war injuries. He is buried in Plot: Section 7a, Grave 40 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Personal awards and honors[edit]

Urban's personal awards and honors include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h The Matt Urban Story, by Matt Urban and Charles Conrad, 1989, ISBN 0-9624621-0-1.
  2. ^ Cornell Alumni News issues, 1939-1941, "Matty L. Urbanowitz, 41"; December 15, 1943, Vol. 46, #12, p. 233, "Captain Matty L. Urbanowitz", two Silver Stars.
  3. ^ [1] US Army Silver Star index, 1943, WWII; two Silver Stars, Urbanowitz, Matty L.
  4. ^ GO# 10, 18 September 1980, Lieutenant Colonel (then Captain) "Matt Urban". National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO.
  5. ^ [2] Arlington National Cemetery Website, government headstone information
  6. ^ [3] Arlington National Cemtery Website, Find a Gravesite
  7. ^ 9th Infantry Division History
  8. ^ [4] MilitaryTimes, Hall of Valor, Matty Urbanowitz, Silver Star and by searching Matt Urban at the same site you will find two Silver Star awards which are not linked to Matty Urbanowitz. This potentially creates the false impression that Matt Urban received three Silver Stars which is not accurate. The Military Times ought to resolve this potential source of confusion..
  9. ^ General Orders No. 10, 18 September 1980, Citation (Corrected Copy).
  10. ^ [5] The American Presidency Project. Jimmy Carter- Congressional Medal of Honor Remarks on Presenting the Medal to Lt. Col. Matt Urban, US Army Retired
  11. ^ General Orders No. 10, 18 September 1980, Citation (Corrected Copy)
  12. ^ "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. 
  13. ^ [6] Army Regulation 600-8-22, Military Awards, 11 Dec. 2006: U.S. Army Individual Decorations, p. 36-37, Chapter 3, 3-2 / Section II, Individual DOD Decorations (Purple Heart), p. 20, 2-8
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ "Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA)". 1995-03-04. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  16. ^ [7] Veterans Service Agency. Lt. Col. Matt "The Ghost" Urban
  17. ^ [8] PLAV Post 164
  18. ^ "LT. Col Matt "The Ghost" Urban | Buffalo Veterans Boxers Association". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  • Urban, Matt; Conrad, Charles. The Matt Urban Story, Life And World War II Experiences, By Lieutenant Colonel Matt Urban, Our Most Combat Decorated Soldier, 1989. ISBN 978-0-9624621-0-8. 
  • Urban, Matt. The Hero - We Nearly Forgot, 1990. ASIN B002GJ1CA0. 

External links[edit]