b. 27/06/1916 Hillsboro, Texas. d. 07/10/1944 Vagney, France.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 07/10/1944 Vagney, France.
James L. Harris, Medal of Honor recipient, was born to Albert Lee and Bessie Harris at Hillsboro, Texas, in 1916. He attended Bynum High School through the tenth grade and was drafted into military service at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in late 1941. He was assigned to the 756th Tank Battalion and trained with it at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Fort Lewis, Washington, Fort Ord, California, and Camp Pickett, Virginia. After fighting through North Africa he earned a battlefield commission on March 26, 1944, as second lieutenant, at the battle of Cassino in southern Italy. On the night of October 7, 1944, near the village of Vagney, France, his tank command was attacked by a German tank and two platoons of infantry. While leading his tanks on foot, he was wounded. From the ground in front of his tank he ordered it to open fire on the Germans, whose progress was halted until more tanks arrived and forced them to withdraw. Subsequently, Harris’s leg was shot off at the hip. He refused to be evacuated until other wounded members of his crew were removed. He died before he could be given medical attention. Harris was buried at Vagney, France, until 1951, when he was reinterred at Ridge Park Cemetery, Hillsboro.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 7 October 1944, in Vagney, France. At 9 P.M. an enemy raiding party, comprising a tank and two platoons of infantry, infiltrated through the lines under cover of mist and darkness and attacked an infantry battalion command post with hand grenades, retiring a short distance to an ambush position on hearing the approach of the M-4 tank commanded by 2d Lt. Harris. Realizing the need for bold aggressive action, 2d Lt. Harris ordered his tank to halt while he proceeded on foot, fully 10 yards ahead of his six-man patrol and armed only with a service pistol, to probe the darkness for the enemy. Although struck down and mortally wounded by machine-gun bullets which penetrated his solar plexus, he crawled back to his tank, leaving a trail of blood behind him, and, too weak to climb inside it, issued fire orders while lying on the road between the two contending armored vehicles. Although the tank which he commanded was destroyed in the course of the firefight, he stood the enemy off until friendly tanks, preparing to come to his aid, caused the enemy to withdraw and thereby lose an opportunity to kill or capture the entire battalion command personnel. Suffering a second wound, which severed his leg at the hip, in the course of this tank duel, 2d Lt. Harris refused aid until after a wounded member of his crew had been carried to safety. He died before he could be given medical attention.
BURIAL LOCATION: RIDGE PARK CEMETERY, HILLSBORO, TEXAS.
SECTION 30 – HARRIS PLOT.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: TEXAS HERITAGE MUSEUM, HILL COLLEGE, HILLSBORO, TEXAS.