Congressional Medal of Honor Society

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World War II - U.S. Marine Corps

William George Harrell

Details
  • Rank: Sergeant
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    Company A, 1st Battalion, 28th Marines,
    5th Marine Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Marine Corps
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: March 3, 1945
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands
Citation
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as leader of an assault group attached to the 1st Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division during hand-to-hand combat with enemy Japanese at Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands on 3 March 1945. Standing watch alternately with another marine in a terrain studded with caves and ravines, Sgt. Harrell was holding a position in a perimeter defense around the company command post when Japanese troops infiltrated our lines in the early hours of dawn. Awakened by a sudden attack, he quickly opened fire with his carbine and killed two of the enemy as they emerged from a ravine in the light of a star shell burst. Unmindful of his danger as hostile grenades fell closer, he waged a fierce lone battle until an exploding missile tore off his left hand and fractured his thigh. He was vainly attempting to reload the carbine when his companion returned from the command post with another weapon. Wounded again by a Japanese who rushed the foxhole wielding a saber in the darkness, Sgt. Harrell succeeded in drawing his pistol and killing his opponent and then ordered his wounded companion to a place of safety. Exhausted by profuse bleeding but still unbeaten, he fearlessly met the challenge of two more enemy troops who charged his position and placed a grenade near his head. Killing one man with his pistol, he grasped the sputtering grenade with his good right hand, and, pushing it painfully toward the crouching soldier, saw his remaining assailant destroyed but his own hand severed in the explosion. At dawn Sgt. Harrell was evacuated from a position hedged by the bodies of 12 dead Japanese, at least five of whom he had personally destroyed in his self-sacrificing defense of the command post. His grim fortitude, exceptional valor, and indomitable fighting spirit against almost insurmountable odds reflect the highest credit upon himself and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Medal of Honor Recipient William G. Harrell
Medal of Honor Recipient William G. Harrell
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Mercedes, Hidalgo County, Texas
  • Awarded Posthumously: No
  • Presentation Date & Details: October 5, 1945
    The White House, presented by Pres. Harry S. Truman
  • Born: June 26, 1922, Rio Grande City, Starr County, TX, United States
  • Died: August 9, 1964, San Antonio, TX, United States
  • Buried: Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery (MH) (W-3247), San Antonio, TX, United States
  • Location of Medal: Memorial Student Center, Texas A&M University (duplicate Medal), College Station, TX
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