Sergeant Roy W. Harmon, USA (July 12, 1944)

Roy W. Harmon was born in 1915 (or 1916) in Talala, Oklahoma. He possessed a grade-school education and was working as a farmhand in Pixley, California when he was drafted into the United States Army on November 17, 1942.

Harmon was an infantryman with the 1st Battalion, 362nd Infantry Regiment of the 91st Infantry Division. The 91st served in Europe during the Italian Campaign, entering combat on January 22, 1944.

Seventy years ago today – July 12, 1944 – near Casaglia, then-Sergeant Roy Harmon was an acting squad leader. When his company’s advance became bogged down by Nazi German strong points and machine guns and threatened the very survival of one of the platoons, Harmon advanced alone with his submachine gun and grenades to clear the path.

His lone charge destroyed the Nazi guns and opened the way forward, but at the cost of his own life. It was later deemed worthy of our nation’s highest recognition: the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (G-L):


Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor


Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company C, 362d Infantry, 91st Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Casaglia, Italy, 12 July 1944. Entered service at: Pixley, Calif. G.O. No.: 83, 2 October 1945

Citation: He was an acting squad leader when heavy machinegun fire from enemy positions, well dug in on commanding ground and camouflaged by haystacks, stopped his company’s advance and pinned down 1 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 3 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 3 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 1-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 2 of the enemy attempted to flee from the inferno, he killed them with his submachine gun. Crawling toward the second machinegun 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 machinegun, 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 machinegun 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.

Roy Harmon rests near where he fell in battle in the Florence American Cemetery, Tavarnuzze, Italy. The descendent of the World War II division, the 91st Training Division, is currently an administrative formation of the United States Army Reserve. The 362nd Infantry is inactive.


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