HARRELL, WILLIAM GEORGE
HARRELL, WILLIAM GEORGE (1922–1964). William George Harrell, Medal of Honor recipient, was born on June 26, 1922, to Hazel Harrell at Rio Grande City, Texas. He attended the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (later Texas A&M University) for two years. He was refused entry into the United States Air Force because of color-blindness but was accepted in the marines. On March 3, 1945, Sergeant Harrell was a member of the First Marine Battalion, Twenty-eighth Marines, Fifth Marine Division, at Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands. He and another marine were holding a position around the company command post. The Japanese infiltrated American lines in the darkness of the early morning hours. Harrell opened fire with his carbine and killed two of the enemy, but an exploding grenade tore off his left hand and fractured his thigh. After being wounded again by another Japanese wielding a saber, he drew his pistol and killed his opponent. Two more enemy troops placed a grenade by his head, but he killed one with his pistol and grasped the armed grenade with his right hand, pushing it toward the remaining assailant. The enemy was destroyed, but Harrell lost his right hand, too. When he was evacuated at dawn from the position, he was surrounded by the bodies of twelve Japanese, at least five of whom he had killed. After rehabilitation at Mare Island, he was discharged in February 1946 and returned to Mercedes, Texas. He moved to San Antonio in 1949 and at the time of his death was chief of the prosthetics division of the local Veterans Administration. He was married to Olive Harrell, and they had four children.
During the night of August 9, 1964, Harrell shot and killed Mr. and Mrs. Ed Zumwalt with a rifle and then killed himself. He was equipped with hooks on both arms and was an expert marksman. The cause of the killings is unknown. Harrell is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio.
San Antonio Express, August 10, 11, 1964. Committee on Veterans' Affairs, United States Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863–1973 (Washington: GPO, 1973).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Art Leatherwood, "HARRELL, WILLIAM GEORGE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhadx), accessed May 19, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.