This memorial commemorates Danbury’s Lee R. Hartell, who was killed in battle in 1951 during the Korean War. For his bravery and courage, First Lieutenant Hartell was posthumously awarded The Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military recognition. He was the first and only Danbury Veteran to receive this prestigious award in the post-Civil War era.
During the darkness of early morning on August 27, 1951, the North Koreans launched a ruthless attack against Hartell’s Company B of the 9th infantry Regiment on a rugged mountainous ridge near Kobangsan-ni. As a forward observer, Hartell directed crippling fire into the onrushing assailants. A large force of hostile troops swarmed up the slope in a banzai charge, advancing within ten yards of Hartell’s position. Despite sustaining a severe hand wound in the encounter, the vastly outnumbered Hartell maintained his position and made radio contact with his Company. As the enemy advanced further, Hartell’s final radio call relayed the position and size of the attack to the just moments before he was mortally wounded. The bravery and devotion that cost Hartell his life allowed Company B to stem the onslaught.
When Hartell’s remains were returned to Danbury, the entire city observed a memorial hour. Schools and businesses were closed, flags were flown at half mast, and citizens paused in a respectful tribute. The memorial was originally placed on White Street’s connector to Crosby Street, which was renamed Lee Hartell Drive. In 1997, with the permission of Hartell’s widow, the memorial was moved to its place between the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials. Additionally, there is a photograph of Hartell prominently displayed in the lobby of the War Memorial building.