Harrell, George, born 26-06-1922, in Rio Grande City, Texas,
son of Roy Eugene Harrell
and Hazel Marion (Culver) Harrell,
His father served in the cavalry in World War I, worked as a ranch hand, and patrolled the Mexican border as an employee of the Bureau of Immigration. After the death of Roy Harrell in 1931, Hazel Harrell was left to support William, his older brother Dick, and his sister Virginia. As a youngster, Harrell attended school in Rio Grande City and in Mercedes. In junior high school, he was a member of the Boy Scouts. Like his father, Harrell developed a love for horses. He also enjoyed camping and hunting and spent much of his time boating at a local lake. He worked in the summer at various jobs including a stint on a ranch. In 1939 Harrell graduated from Mercedes High School and enrolled at Texas A&M University.
In September 1939 Harrell arrived at Texas A&M and remained there for four semesters. With an interest in the scientific breeding of horses and cattle, he selected animal husbandry as his field of study and selected the cavalry as his military science requirement. An aunt provided some financial support, but Harrell understood that he had to finance his own way. After two years in College Station, he decided to seek employment in order to pay for his the rest of his education. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor,
he sought to join the military. After being rejected twice by the United States Army Air Corps due to color blindness and once by the United States Navy, Harrell enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in July 1942. He took basic training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and received training as an armorer at Camp Elliott. After completing the basic rocket course, Harrell was assigned to Company A, Twenty-eighth Marine Regiment, Fifth Marine Division in early 1943.
, under command of Major General Keller Emrick Rockey
. After additional training in Hawaii and then Saipan, Sergeant Harrell hit the beach on Iwo Jima with the Twenty-eighth in the early hours of 19-02-1945. During the battles in the early morning of March 3, Harrell and fellow Texan PFC Andrew J. Carter of Paducah manned a foxhole in a perimeter defense about twenty yards in front of the company command post. At about 5:00 A.M., the enemy attacked. Carter shot first and killed four Japanese moving toward him. Sergeant Harrell rapidly fired his carbine and killed two Japanese that had emerged from a ravine. After Carter’s rifle jammed, Harrell ordered him to the rear to secure another one. Fighting alone and ignoring the dangers of enemy grenades landing near him, Harrell fought the Japanese and took enemy fire that shot off his left hand and fractured his thigh. After securing a rifle, Carter returned to aid Harrell. Unable to reload his rifle, Harrell drew a pistol with his right hand to kill a Japanese officer who slashed Carter’s hand with a samurai sword. Convinced his comrade might bleed to death, Harrell ordered him to the command post. Although exhausted and injured, Harrell found the strength to kill two more Japanese charging him; one with pistol fire and the other with a grenade that exploded and tore off his (Harrell’s) right hand. After the fighting, medics found Harrell and twelve dead Japanese by him.
Harrell’s commander called the position the “two-man Alamo.” For their heroics, Harrell received the Medal of Honor, and Carter received the Navy Cross. For gallantry in the face of the enemy, he was also awarded the Purple Heart Medal, Presidential Unit Citation and Medal of Honor presented by President Harry Shipp Truman
at the White House on 05-10-1945
Casualties of the 5th Marine Division, killed in action/died of wounds/missing in action, 2,501 and wounded in action, 5,948. Fifteen Marines and 2 Navy corpsmen assigned to the 5th Marine Division were awarded the Medal of Honor for World War II (Iwo Jima). Twelve were posthumously awarded.
Harrell met Larena Anderson, a clerical worker at the local naval base. They married on February 16-02-1946. Their son William Carter was born in 1947 and daughter Linda Gail in 1948. This first marriage ended in divorce. In 1951 he married Olive Cortese; they had two children, Christie Lee and Gary Douglas. William Harrell death came suddenly as he used a rifle to kill Ed and Geraldine Zumwalt and then himself in the early morning hours of 09-08-1964 at his home in San Antonio. Geraldine was found shot in the kitchen and Edward in the driveway at Harrell’s home. They were discovered when Mrs Harrell and her children returned home from their trip. Ed Eldon Zumwalt, who had lost part of his leg during the Korean War, had known Harrell for about a year. The couple knew Harrell socially and had been at a party with him recently while his family was out of town at the Worlds’ Fair. Friends of Harrell and the Zumwalts knew of no friction between them. Dr. Ruben Santos, the medical examiner, stated a motive “probably never will be established.”