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by Chief Johnny

 

STORIES OF THE MEN

William  Kelley  Harrison

WILLIAM KELLY HARRISON (1870 ~ 1928). Medal of Honor Recipient William Kelly Harrison was born on July 30, 1870, in Waco, Texas. On May 23, 1885, he received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. After completing four years of coursework and serving for more than a year on three different ships, he graduated on June 30, 1891.

Harrison served on three ships in the Pacific before being transferred to the U.S.S. Vesuvius in the Atlantic on January 12, 1897. He then transferred to the U.S.S. Vicksburg on September 12, 1898, and was promoted to Lieutenant on March 3, 1899. Harrison was stationed on the U.S.S. Buffalo in the Pacific shortly before being sent to the U.S.S. Indiana (the United States' first battleship) on June 24, 1899, in the Atlantic. He was stationed on one more ship in the Atlantic before returning to the Pacific Fleet in January of 1900.

Lieutenant Harrison became an instructor on the U.S.S. Indiana, now a training ship, before being sent to the South Atlantic Station to become Fleet Gunnery Officer in 1903. After returning to the North Atlantic in 1904, he served on the U.S.S. Newark for its annual target practice and was stationed with the Bureau of Navigation. In 1905, Harrison became Assistant to the Inspector of Target Practice of the North Atlantic Fleet.

On July 1, 1905, Harrison was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. He received instruction in navigation from the Bureau of Equipment's Compass Office, and served as Navigator for the U.S.S. Minnesota, part of the Great White Fleet, during its 1907-1909 circumnavigation of the globe. Harrison was promoted to Commander on January 14, 1911, and on November 7, 1912, was given command of the U.S.S. San Francisco.

The U.S.S. San Francisco was one of 41 ships sent to Vera Cruz in 1914 as part of the United States' involvement in the Mexican Revolution. On the morning of April 21, bombardment of the port city began, followed by the landing of U.S. troops by 11:30 a.m., which prompted the Mexican soldiers stationed there to retreat.

Besides small pockets of resistance throughout the city, the main opposition to U.S. forces was the cadets of the Naval Academy, who had taken it upon themselves to fight off the invasion. The U.S.S. Prairie began bombarding the Naval Academy on the afternoon of the 21st. On the morning of the 22nd, the continuing bombardment was carried out by the U.S.S. San Francisco and the U.S.S. Chester. By April 24, all fighting around the city of Vera Cruz stopped.

Harrison and Commander William Moffett of the U.S.S. Chester both received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their actions on April 21st and 22nd, having taken their ships into the inner harbor of Vera Cruz at night without the benefit of navigation lights to begin bombardment the morning of the attack. However, on Commander Harrison's citation, it is listed that he was in command of the U.S.S. Chester, not the U.S.S. San Francisco.

After Vera Cruz, Harrison served with the Bureau of Navigation and attended the Naval War College before he was admitted to a hospital in October of 1915 and spending most of 1916 on sick leave. He served on Courts Martial in Guam, San Diego, and San Francisco until his retirement from the Navy on May 22, 1919.

Harrison died in San Diego, California, on August 15, 1928, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Bibliography: "Above and Beyond: The Medal of Honor in Texas.: Capitol Visitors Center, State Preservation Board of Texas; Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, University of Texas, http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles; Official U.S. Military Records, National Personnel Records Center, National Archives and Records Administration; "William Kelly Harrison." Arlington National Cemetery, http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/wkharrison.htm.

 

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