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First Name: William

Last Name: Harrison

Birthplace: Washington, DC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: TX
Middle Name: Kelly

Date of Birth: 07 September 1895

Date of Death: 25 May 1987

Rank: Lieutenant General

Years Served: 1917 - 1954
William Kelly Harrison, Jr.

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1917

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


William Kelly Harrison, Jr.
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army

William Kelly Harrison, Jr. was born on 7 September 1895 in Washington, DC, the son of William Kelly and Kate Harris Harrison. His father, a Commander in the U.S. Navy, was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1889, and a recipient of the Medal of Honor for the Occupation of Veracruz [Honoree Record ID 2002]. He is also a direct descendant of President William Henry Harrison.

Harrison, Jr. was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, with the Class of 1917 in April 1917.

On 25 July 1944, then-Brigadier General William Kelly Harrison, Jr. was serving as Assistant Division Commander, 30th Infantry Division, Ninth U.S. Army.

On that day, BG Harrison’s 30th Infantry Division was in action against German forces while spear-heading the Saint-Lô, France, break-through of Operation Cobra. The action was intended to break out of the Normandy beachhead and end the stalemate that had occurred. However, on both 24 and 25 July, the 30th Division encountered a devastating friendly fire incident. As part of the effort to break out of the Normandy hedgerows, U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) bombers from England were sent to carpet bomb a 1-by-3 mile corridor of the German defenses opposite the American line. However, USAAF planners, in complete disregard or lack of understanding of their role in supporting the ground attack, loaded the B-24 Liberator and B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers with 500-pound bombs, instead of lighter 100-pound bombs intended as antipersonnel devices against German defenders. The larger bombs destroyed roads and bridges and complicated movement through the corridor. To further complicate the situation, air planners then switched the approach of attack by 90 degrees without informing the ground commanders. As a result, a landmark road that was to serve as a guide to the bombers to the bombing zone was erroneously communicated as the point to begin the bombing run. The start-point confusion was further compounded by red smoke signals that the wind suddenly blew in the wrong direction, causing bombs to begin falling on the heads of the American soldiers. There were over 100 friendly-fire casualties over the 2 days, including Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair, Commander of Army Ground Forces. BG Harrison’s leadership, courageous actions and extraordinary heroism that day earned him the U.S. Army's second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

On 2 September 1944, BG Harrison was Commander of a Task Force composed of elements of the 30th Infantry Division and attached units. The mission was to move from France into Belgium, a distance of about 110 miles. As BG Harrison led his forces, just prior to reaching the objective the leading elements of the Task Force were fired on by enemy tanks located on a sunken road on the left flank of the column. The vehicle in which BG Harrison was riding was struck by a 75mm shell during the initial burst of fire and he was wounded in 3 places. BG Harrison did not mention his wounds and immediately dispatched his aide and driver to contact the next ranking officer in order that he might continue the advance. Then, under constant enemy tank fire, BG Harrison crawled about 600 yards in order to give further instructions for continuing the mission. At this time he collapsed and his wounds were discovered, but he refused to be evacuated until he had contacted his subordinates and instructed them in regard to the continuation of the attack. BG Harrison's brilliant leadership, unselfish devotion to duty and complete disregard for his personal safety ensured the success of the Task Force, which in turn made possible the rapid movement of the 30th Infantry Division from France into Belgium. His courageous actions earned him the U.S. Army's third highest award for valor, the Silver Star Medal.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Distinguished Service Cross
Army Distinguished Service Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star Medal
Legion of Merit
Purple Heart with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Silver Star
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal (Germany)
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal
United Nations Service Medal
Presidential Unit Citation

Distinguished Service Cross Citation (Synopsis)

Brigadier General William Kelly Harrison, Jr. (ASN: 0-5279), United States Army, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Assistant Division Commander, 30th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 25 July 1944, in France. Brigadier General Harrison's intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 30th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.

General Orders: Headquarters, Ninth U.S. Army, General Orders No. 134 (1945)

Death and Burial

Lieutenant General William Kelly Harrison, Jr. died on 25 May 1987. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Arlington County, VA, in Section 2, Lot 1232-A.


Honoree ID: 313622   Created by: MHOH




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