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State Senator

Mae Flexer

Representing Brooklyn, Canterbury, Killingly, Mansfield, Putnam, Scotland, Thompson & Windham

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Flexer Leads Passage of Bill Honoring Connecticut’s Only Two National Guard Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients

photo of Senator Medal of Honor Recipients.

Colonel Robert Burton Nett (left) and First Lieutenant Lee R. Hartell (right)

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Senator Mae Flexer (D-Danielson) led final passage of a bill to honor Colonel Robert B. Nett and First Lieutenant Lee R. Hartell, the only two members of the Connecticut National Guard ever awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor—the nation’s highest military award.

The bill is a request from the Connecticut Military Department to rename two military facilities.

“For several years, the state’s veteran’s community has been working to honor these Connecticut heroes in this special way. It gives me great pleasure to see their efforts come to fruition,” Sen. Flexer, co-chair of the Veteran’s Committee, said. “Both Col. Nett and Lt. Hartell deserve our recognition for their service and sacrifice. Today we honor them and all those who’ve served by passing this bill which celebrates Connecticut’s military heritage.”

The state military training facility in Niantic would be called Camp Nett at Niantic in honor of Connecticut Army National Guard Colonel Robert B. Nett of New Haven, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on December 14, 1944, during World War II. Until 2010, Camp Niantic was named after the sitting governor, but legislation passed that year made “permanent” the name change to Camp Niantic.

The state military training facility in Windsor Locks would be named Camp Hartell in honor of Connecticut Army National Guard First Lieutenant Lee R. Hartell of Danbury, recipient of the congressional medal of honor for his actions on August 27, 1951, during the Korean hostilities.

Col. Robert B. Nett

Colonel Nett, a New Haven native who enlisted in the Connecticut National Guard in 1940, was sent into combat on Christmas Island shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was soon sent to Fort Benning and graduated from Officer Candidate School in 1942. Then-Lieutenant Nett was a company commander in December 1944 when he led an assault on a Japanese stronghold. He was seriously wounded three times during the attack but killed seven enemy soldiers with his rifle and bayonet. He later rejoined his unit and fought on Okinawa. Colonel Nett helped train South Korean soldiers during the Korean War and was an adviser to Vietnamese troops during the Vietnam War. After 33 years of military service, Colonel Nett retired and spent 17 years as a teacher. He was inducted into the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame in 2007, and the leadership hall at Camp Niantic, built in 2004, bears his name. Col. Nett died in 2008 at the age of 86.

1st Lt. Lee R. Hartell

First Lt. Hartell, a member of Battery A, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an armed enemy of the United Nations. During the darkness of early morning, the enemy launched a ruthless attack against friendly positions on a rugged mountainous ridge. 1st Lt. Hartell, attached to Company B, 9th Infantry Regiment, as forward observer, quickly moved his radio to an exposed vantage on the ridgeline to adjust defensive fires. Realizing the tactical advantage of illuminating the area of approach, he called for flares and then directed crippling fire into the onrushing assailants. At this juncture a large force of hostile troops swarmed up the slope in banzai charge and came within 10 yards of 1st Lt. Hartell’s position. 1st Lt. Hartell sustained a severe hand wound in the ensuing encounter, but grasped the microphone with his other hand and maintained his magnificent stand until the front and left flank of the company were protected by a close-in wall of withering fire, causing the fanatical foe to disperse and fall back momentarily. After the numerically superior enemy overran an outpost and was closing on his position, 1st Lt. Hartell, in a final radio call, urged the friendly elements to fire both batteries continuously. Although mortally wounded, 1st Lt. Hartell’s intrepid actions contributed significantly to stemming the onslaught and enabled his company to maintain the strategic strongpoint. His consummate valor and unwavering devotion to duty reflect lasting glory on himself and uphold the noble traditions of the military service.

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