Medal of Honor Citation

William George Harrell was born in Rio Grande City, Texas, on 26 June 1922 and later moved to Mercedes, Texas. He attended high school in Mercedes, graduating in 1939, and then went on to Texas Agricultural and Mechanical Institute for two years prior to his enlistment in the Marine Corps on 3 July 1942 in Harlingen, Texas.

Completing his basic training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, he was temporarily in the 1st Guard Company at that base, prior to his transfer to Headquarters and Service Company, 2d Battalion, Camp Elliott, San Diego, California, in September, 1942. He was promoted to private first class upon his arrival at Camp Elliott, and while there was later advanced to corporal.

Following completion of the Basic Rocket Course, Cpl Harrell departed for overseas duty in February 1943 with Company A, 1st Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division, as an armorer. He first served in Hawaii, then went on to Saipan then to Iwo Jima. Sgt Harrell earned the Medal of Honor during the Iwo Jima campaign for continuing to halt a Japanese advance toward his Command Post although suffering from the loss of one hand and several saber cuts on his legs.

On 3 March 1945, Sgt Harrell and another man dug in for the night in a long narrow two-man foxhole on Iwo Jima, on a little ridge 20 yards forward of the depression where the company command post was established. Beyond the foxhole the ridge fell off into a ravine which was in Japanese territory. Because of their nearness to the enemy, the two men took turns standing one-hour watches throughout the night while the other slept.

An attack by the Japanese was repulsed, but the other Marine's weapon jammed and he returned to the command post to obtain another. While he was gone, the enemy managed to get a grenade in the foxhole, which exploded, blowing off Sgt Harrell's left hand.

The second Marine returned just as the Japanese were swarming up the foxhole and together he and Sgt Harrell drove them off. Thinking he was dying due to the severity of his wounds and saber cuts suffered in the last repulse, Sgt Harrell ordered his companion to retire to safety.

His friend left, but only to get another rifle. During his absence, two Japanese charged the foxhole, setting off another grenade. As Sgt Harrell attempted to push it out of the hole it exploded, tearing off his right hand. He was evacuated and treated at various field hospitals prior to his arrival in the United States. He was a patient at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland, while awaiting the presentation of the Medal of Honor.

He was presented the nation's highest military decoration by President Harry S. Truman at the White House on Friday, 5 October 1945. Sgt Harrell was discharged from the Marine Corps at his present rank in February 1946 because of disability resulting from his wounds.

Sergeant Harrell died on 9 August 1964 in San Antonio, Texas, and was laid to rest in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Sgt Harrell was awarded the Purple Heart; Presidential Unit Citation; Good Conduct Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze star; American Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.

World War II 1941-1945 Medal of Honor

Marine Corps University