b. 03/05/1916 Talala, Oklahoma. d. 12/07/1944 Casaglia, Italy.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 12/07/1944 Casaglia, Italy.
Sergeant Roy William “Bill” Woodrow Harmon, US Army, was born on 3 May 1916 in Talala, Oklahoma, raised in Yale, and moved to Pixley, California, in 1939 where he worked on the family farm. He had six brothers and six sisters. He enlisted in the Army on 17 November 1942. His 91st Infantry Division trained for 18 months in the United States and Algeria. On 19 June 1944, the 91st ID arrived in Italy and joined General Mark Clark’s Fifth Army north of Rome.
The 362nd Infantry and SGT Harmon’s first day of WWII combat was 12 July 1944, on which day he was mortally wounded, and awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. At 0430 a platoon was pinned down by three German machinegun positions concealed in haystacks. SGT Harmon’s squad was ordered to rescue the platoon by neutralizing the enemy. Acting Squad Leader Harmon directed his men to stay in their position saying, “I’m going to see what I can do about this.” Armed with white phosphorous grenades and a submachine gun, Harmon assaulted positions 75, 150, and 250 yards away. He destroyed the first position. While assaulting the second, he was wounded, but destroyed the gun and its occupants. As he approached the third, he was mortally wounded.
SGT Harmon rests in the Florence (Italy) American Cemetery.
He was an acting squad leader when heavy machine-gun fire from enemy positions, well dug-in on commanding ground and camouflaged by haystacks, stopped his company’s advance and pinned down one platoon where it was exposed to almost certain annihilation. Ordered to rescue the beleaguered platoon by neutralizing the German automatic fire, he led his squad forward along a draw to the right of the trapped unit against three key positions which poured murderous fire into his helpless comrades. When within range, his squad fired tracer bullets in an attempt to set fire to the three haystacks which were strung out in a loose line directly to the front, 75, 150, and 250 yards away. Realizing that this attack was ineffective, Sgt. Harmon ordered his squad to hold their position and voluntarily began a one-man assault. Carrying white phosphorus grenades and a submachine gun, he skillfully took advantage of what little cover the terrain afforded and crept to within 25 yards of the first position. He set the haystack afire with a grenade, and when two of the enemy attempted to flee from the inferno, he killed them with his submachine gun. Crawling toward the second machine-gun emplacement, he attracted fire and was wounded; but he continued to advance and destroyed the position with hand grenades, killing the occupants. He then attacked the third machine gun, running to a small knoll, then crawling over ground which offered no concealment or cover. About halfway to his objective, he was again wounded. But he struggled ahead until within 20 yards of the machine-gun nest, where he raised himself to his knees to throw a grenade. He was knocked down by direct enemy fire. With a final, magnificent effort, he again arose, hurled the grenade and fell dead, riddled by bullets. His missile fired the third position, destroying it. Sgt. Harmon’s extraordinary heroism, gallantry, and self-sacrifice saved a platoon from being wiped out, and made it possible for his company to advance against powerful enemy resistance.
BURIAL LOCATION: FLORENCE AMERICAN CEMETERY, FLORENCE, ITALY.
PLOT A, ROW 4, GRAVE 37.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.