Posts made in November, 2015

William G. Harrell

Posted on Nov 15, 2015

William G HarrellWilliam George Harrell (June 16, 1922 – August 9, 1964) was a United States Marine who was awarded his nation’s highest military honor – the Medal of Honor – for his heroic actions in the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Early years

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

Marine Corps service

Completing his recruit 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, 2nd 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 armored. He first served in Hawaii, and 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 both hands and several saber cuts on his legs. On March 3, 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, October 5, 1945. Sgt Harrell was discharged from the Marine Corps at his present rank in February 1946 because of disability resulting from his wounds. Sgt. Harrell and Joe Hector Garza became best friends.

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

Final days

After the war, Harrell worked for the Veteran’s Administration. He specialized in helping other amputees. He married and had children. Sergeant Harrell died on August 9, 1964 in San Antonio , Texas, and was laid to rest in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio .

The tragic circumstances surrounding Harrell’s death remain a mystery. On the evening of August 8, 1964, Harrell had been at a party with friends. Sometime after midnight on August 9, in his own residence, Harrell shot and killed his friends, Edward and Geraldine Zumwalt, and then turned the gun on himself. The bodies were discovered the following morning by Harrell’s family when they returned from an out-of-town trip. The motivation for the killings was never determined

Medal of Honor citation

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Leader of an Assault Group, serving with the First Battalion, Twenty-Eight Marines, Fifth Marine Division, during hand- to-hand combat with enemy Japanese at Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, on March 3, 1945. Standing watch alternately with another Marine in a terrain studded with caves and ravines, Sergeant 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 attempting to reload the carbine when his companion returned from the command post with another weapon. Wounded again by Japanese who rushed the foxhole wielding a saber in the darkness, Sergeant 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 Sergeant Harrell was evacuated from a position hedged by the bodies of twelve 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 United States Naval Service.


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Elbert L. Kinser

Posted on Nov 1, 2015

Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser

Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser

Sergeant Elbert Luther Kinser (October 21, 1922 – May 4, 1945) was a United States Marine who sacrificed his life at the Battle of Okinawa during World War II. He threw himself on a grenade, absorbing the explosion with his body and protecting his men, for which received the Medal of Honor. It was presented to his parents on July 4, 1946 in Greeneville, Tennessee.

Early years

Elbert Kinser was born in Greeneville, Tennessee on October 21, 1922. He worked on his father’s farm prior to joining the Marine Corps.

Marine Corps service

Kinser enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in December, 1942, and received his recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.

He sailed from the United States in March, 1943, and joined the 7th Replacement Battalion in Pago Pago, Tutuila, American Samoa. Later, that battalion joined the 1st Marine Division in Melbourne, Australia, and Sgt Kinser was assigned to Company I, 1st Marines.

Action with the 1st Marines followed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain in Operation Cartwheel, and later at Battle of Peleliu in Peleliu, Palau Islands.

On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, Sgt Kinser landed with his unit on the Japanese island Okinawa. There Sergeant Kinser, acting as a leader of a rifle platoon, served with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, and was subsequently killed in action on May 4, 1945. During a hand grenade battle, a Japanese grenade landed in the immediate vicinity. Kinser unhesitatingly threw himself on the deadly missile, absorbing the full charge of the shattering explosion in his own body and thereby protecting his men from serious injury and possible death. This won him the nation’s highest military decoration.

Sergeant Kinser was buried in the 1st Marine Division Cemetery on Okinawa and his remains were returned to the United States in early 1949 for burial. His final resting place is the Solomon Lutheran Cemetery in Greeneville, Tennessee.


The Medal of Honor was presented to Sgt Kinser’s parents by Maj Gen Clifton B. Cates (future Commandant of the Marine Corps) on July 4, 1946 in Greeneville, Tennessee. In addition, Sgt Kinser was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart; Presidential Unit Citation; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal of Honor citation

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to SERGEANT ELBERT L. KINSER UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE for service as set forth in the following citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while acting as Leader of a Rifle Platoon, serving with Company I, Third Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division, in action against Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain, May 4, 1945. Taken under sudden, close attack by hostile troops entrenched on the reverse slope while moving up a strategic ridge along which his platoon was holding newly won positions, Sergeant Kinser engaged the enemy in a fierce hand grenade battle. Quick to act when a Japanese grenade landed in the immediate vicinity, Sergeant Kinser unhesitatingly threw himself on the deadly missile, absorbing the full charge of the shattering explosion in his own body and thereby protecting his men from serious injury and possible death. Stouthearted and indomitable, he had yielded his own chance of survival that his comrades might live to carry on the relentless battle against a fanatic enemy. His courage, cool decision, and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.


Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser Memorial

Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser Memorial


In Kinser’s home county of Greene County, Tennessee several things are named in his honor. Downtown Greeneville, Tennessee has a historical marker about Kinser, south of Greeneville is Kinser Park and in the city of Tusculum a bridge over the Nolichucky River on Tennessee State Route 107 is named in his honor. Camp Kinser, a Marine Corps installation at Urasoe on Okinawa Island was named after him.

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