America's Heroes: Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan

By James H. Willbanks | Go to book overview

Harrell, William George

Born: June 26, 1922

Died: August 9, 1964

Home State: Texas

Service: Marine Corps

Conflict: World War II

Age at Time of Award: 21

William G. Harrell was born in Rio Grande, Texas, on June 26, 1922. After graduating from high school in 1939, he worked as a pipe fitter and attended the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (later Texas A&M University) for two years, where he was in the Corps of Cadets. In July 1942, Harrell enlisted in the US Marines and completed basic training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San

William George Harrell, US Marine Corps
(Naval History and Heritage Command).

Diego, California. He then served in the depot’s 1st Guard Company. He was promoted to corporal and transferred to Headquarters and Service, 2nd Battalion, at Camp Elliott in San Diego.

In February 1943, Corporal Harrell went overseas with Company A, 1st Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division. After being promoted to sergeant, he participated in the assault on Saipan in June and July of 1944.

In February and March 1945, Sergeant Harrell took part in the Iwo Jima campaign as an assault group leader. On March 3, 1945, he and another marine were holding a position protecting the company command post. The surrounding area was studded with caves and ravines. During the early hours before dawn, Japanese troops infiltrated Marine lines and attacked. Awakened by the sudden attack, Harrell quickly opened fire with his carbine and killed two of the enemy as they emerged from a ravine. Disregarding the Japanese grenades that were landing near his position, he waged a fierce battle against the attackers until an exploding shell tore off his left hand and fractured his thigh. He was vainly attempting to load his weapon when his fellow marine returned from the command post with another weapon. Wounded again by a Japanese who rushed his foxhole wielding a sword, Sergeant Harrell managed to draw his pistol and kill his opponent. Exhausted and bleeding profusely, he was then locked in contact with two more Japanese soldiers, who charged his position and tossed a grenade in his hole. He killed one man with his pistol and grasped the sputtering grenade with his good right hand, pushing it toward the enemy soldier; the grenade exploded, killing the Japanese soldier, but in the process also severing Harrell’s right hand.

At dawn, Sergeant Harrell was evacuated from his position, which was ringed by the bodies of 12 dead Japanese soldiers, at least 5 of whom he had personally dispatched in his self-sacrificing defense of the command post.

For his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” and “indomitable fighting spirit against almost insurmountable odds,” Harrell received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman at the White House on October 5, 1945.

After completing rehabilitation at Mare Island in California, he was discharged from the Marine Corps in February 1946. Equipped with hooks on both arms, he returned to Mercedes, Texas. In 1949, he moved to San Antonio, where he became the chief of the prosthetics division of the local Veterans Administration. During the night of August 9, 1964, Harrell shot and killed Mr. and Mrs. Ed Zumwalt with a rifle and then killed himself. The cause of the killings is still unknown. Harrell is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.

In May 2010, the family of William Harrell donated his medal to the Sanders Corps of Cadets Center at Texas A&M University. A total of seven former students of Texas A&M have been awarded the Medal of Honor.

James H. Willbanks


Further Reading

Alexander, Joseph H. Closing In: Marines in the Seizure of Iwo Jima. Marines in World War II Commemorative Series. Washington, D.C.: Marine Historical Center, 1994.

Dethloff, Henry C. Texas Aggies Go to War in Service of Their Country. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006.

Miller, Donald L. D-Days in the Pacific. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Neal, Charles M., Jr. Valor across the Lone Star: The Congressional Medal of Honor in Frontier Texas. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 2002.

Woodall, James R. Texas Aggie Medals of Honor: Seven Heroes of World War II. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2010.

-130-

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America's Heroes: Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Entries ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Preface xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Adams, Lucian 1
  • Baca, John P. 2
  • Bacon, Nicky Daniel 4
  • Baker, Vernon 6
  • Baldwin, Frank D. 8
  • Ballard, Donald E. 11
  • Barfoot, Van T. 13
  • Barnum, Harvey C., Jr 14
  • Barrett, Carlton W. 16
  • Basilone, John 18
  • Benavidez, Roy P. 20
  • Birkhimer, William E. 22
  • Blake, Robert 24
  • Bleak, David B. 25
  • Boyington, Gregory 27
  • Brady, Patrick Henry 29
  • Britt, Maurice L. 30
  • Brown, Bobbie E. 32
  • Bucha, Paul William 34
  • Burke, Lloyd L. 36
  • Bush, Robert Eugene 38
  • Butler, Smedley Darlington 40
  • Butterfield, Daniel 42
  • Cafferata, Hector a., Jr 43
  • Carney, William H. 45
  • Cavaiani, Jon R. 48
  • Chamberlain, Joshua L. 49
  • Childers, Ernest 51
  • Cody, William F. 53
  • Cohn, Abraham 55
  • Cole, Robert G. 57
  • Craft, Clarence B. 59
  • Crandall, Bruce P. 61
  • Custer, Thomas W. 63
  • Dahlgren, John Olof 65
  • Daly, Daniel Joseph 67
  • Davila, Rudolph B. 69
  • Davis, Charles W. 70
  • Davis, Raymond G. 73
  • Davis, Sammy L. 74
  • Day, George E. 76
  • Dean, William F. 78
  • Deblanc, Jefferson Joseph 79
  • Dix, Drew Dennis 81
  • Donlon, Roger Hugh C. 84
  • Donovan, William Joseph 85
  • Doolittle, James H. 87
  • Doss, Desmond T. 88
  • Dunham, Jason L. 90
  • Dunham, Russell E. 91
  • Dyess, Aquilla James 93
  • Ehlers, Walter D. 96
  • Evans, Ernest Edwin 98
  • Faith, Don C., Jr 100
  • Finn, John William 102
  • Fletcher, Frank Jack 104
  • Fluckey, Eugene Bennett 105
  • Foley, Robert F. 107
  • Foss, Joseph Jacob 109
  • Fox, John Robert 112
  • Freeman, Ed W. 113
  • Funston, Frederick 115
  • Galer, Robert Edward 117
  • García, Macario 119
  • Gonsalves, Harold 121
  • Gonzalez, Alfredo 123
  • Gordon, Gary I. 125
  • Hagemeister, Charles Chris 126
  • Harmon, Roy W. 128
  • Harrell, William George 130
  • Hatch, John P. 131
  • Hayashi, Shizuya 133
  • Hayes, Webb C. 134
  • Heard, John W. 137
  • Hendrix, James R. 139
  • Hernández, Rodolfo P. 140
  • Herrera, Silvestre S. 142
  • Hooper, Joe R. 144
  • Howard, Oliver O. 146
  • Howard, Robert L. 148
  • Inouye, Daniel K. 150
  • Irwin, Bernard J. D. 154
  • Izac, Edouard Victor Michel 155
  • Jackson, Joe M. 158
  • Jacobs, Jack H. 160
  • Joel, Lawrence 162
  • Kaufman, Benjamin 164
  • Keeble, Woodrow W. 166
  • Kelly, Charles E. 167
  • Kerrey, Joseph R. 169
  • Kisters, Gerry H. 171
  • Kouma, Ernest R. 173
  • Lang, George C. 175
  • Lemon, Peter C. 177
  • Levitow, John L. 178
  • Liteky, Angelo J. 181
  • Livingston, James E. 182
  • Lopez, Jose M. 184
  • Lucas, Jacklyn Harold 186
  • Luke, Frank, Jr 189
  • Mabry, George L., Jr 191
  • Macarthur, Arthur, Jr 193
  • Macarthur, Douglas 195
  • Mackie, John F. 198
  • Mallon, George H. 200
  • Marm, Walter Joseph, Jr 201
  • Martinez, Joe P. 203
  • McCool, Richard Miles, Jr 204
  • McGinnis, Ross A. 206
  • McGinty, John J., III 207
  • McKinney, John R. 209
  • Merli, Gino J. 211
  • Miles, L. Wardlaw 213
  • Miles, Nelson A. 214
  • Millett, Lewis L. 218
  • Miyamura, Hiroshi H. 220
  • Mize, Ola L. 223
  • Moffett, William A. 225
  • Monsoor, Michael A. 226
  • Monti, Jared C. 227
  • Munemori, Sadao S. 229
  • Munro, Douglas Albert 231
  • Murphy, Audie L. 233
  • Murphy, Michael P. 235
  • Murphy, Raymond G. 236
  • Norris, Thomas R. 238
  • Novosel, Michael J. 240
  • O’Hare, Edward Henry 243
  • O’Kane, Richard Hetherington 245
  • Okubo, James K. 246
  • Olive, Milton L., III 248
  • O’Neill, Richard W. 249
  • Page, John U. D. 251
  • Paige, Mitchell 254
  • Parker, Samuel I. 256
  • Pennypacker, Galusha 258
  • Penry, Richard A. 260
  • Pitsenbarger, William H. 262
  • Pittman, John A. 264
  • Pittman, Richard A. 265
  • Pope, Everett Parker 267
  • Pope, Thomas A. 269
  • Rascon, Alfred V. 271
  • Ray, Ronald Eric 273
  • Red Cloud, Mitchell, Jr 275
  • Rickenbacker, Edward V. 278
  • Roberts, Gordon R. 279
  • Rocco, Louis R. 281
  • Rodriguez, Joseph C. 283
  • Roosevelt, Theodore 285
  • Rosser, Ronald E. 287
  • Rubin, Tibor 289
  • Rudolph, Donald E. 291
  • Ruiz, Alejandro R. Renteria 293
  • Sakato, George T. 294
  • Salomon, Ben L. 296
  • Sandlin, Willie 298
  • Sasser, Clarence Eugene 300
  • Schofield, John M. 302
  • Shafter, William R. 303
  • Shoup, David Monroe 305
  • Shughart, Randall D. 307
  • Sickles, Daniel E. 310
  • Sijan, Lance P. 312
  • Simanek, Robert E. 313
  • Sitter, Carl L. 315
  • Smith, Andrew Jackson 317
  • Smith, Paul R. 319
  • Spurrier, Junior J. 320
  • Stockdale, James B. 322
  • Stone, James L. 324
  • Stowers, Freddie 326
  • Thornton, Michael Edwin 327
  • Thorsness, Leo K. 329
  • Titus, Calvin Pearl 332
  • Turner, George B. 333
  • Urban, Matt 335
  • Vandegrift, Alexander Archer 337
  • Vargas, Jay R. 339
  • Versace, Humbert R. 341
  • Wahlen, George Edward 343
  • Wai, Francis B. 345
  • Wainwright, Jonathan M. 347
  • Walker, Dr. Mary E. 349
  • Ware, Keith L. 350
  • Warren, Francis E. 352
  • Watson, George 353
  • Watters, Charles Joseph 354
  • Webb, Alexander S. 358
  • Wetzel, Gary George 360
  • Whiteley, Eli 362
  • Whittington, Hulon B. 363
  • Williams, Hershel Woodrow 365
  • Wilson, Louis Hugh, Jr. 367
  • Wood, Leonard 369
  • Woodfill, Samuel 372
  • York, Alvin C. 373
  • Young, Rodger W. 375
  • Zabitosky, Fred William 377
  • Zeamer, Jay, Jr. 379
  • Recipients of the Medal of Honor 381
  • Double Award Recipients 487
  • Medals of Honor Awarded by Conflict and Service 489
  • Bibliography 493
  • Index 511
  • About the Editor 529
  • Contributors 531
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