One of the remarkable stories of the
war is the battle odyssey of Private William Guy Harrell of
Hyattsville, Maryland, a 20-year-old paratrooper who was knocked
unconscious while fighting in France and woke up 34 days later in a
New York hospital.
Private Harrell, the son of an Army chaplain, grinned as he related
his unique experience recently at Walter Reed General Hospital,
Washington, D.C. where he is well on the way to recovery.
"Boy, that was a thrill when a nurse told me I was back in the
United States and that I was going to get better," he exclaimed, "I
couldn't believe her at first."
The young doughboy, who fought with the 101st Airborne Division was
dropped behind the German lines on the Cherbourg peninsula the night
before D-Day. He saw 15 days of the fiercest kind of combat in
"That's the kind of fighting we Paratroopers like," he said
proudly, "the tougher the better. One of the main missions of
my outfit was knocking out enemy artillery batteries. The day I was
wounded my outfit had knocked out a German 'Long Tom' nest and we
were headed for another when they sent some medium tanks against
The Hyattsville doughboy was armed only with an M1 rifle and some
hand grenades. A machinegun which he had mounted on the hood
of a Jeep flown in by glider, had been put out of action.
"That's not much defense against a tank," he said, "but I was using
armor-piercing ammunition, which helped a lot. If you get an
armor-piercing bullet into the belly or through the front slit of a
tank, it ricochets around and frequently knocks out everyone
"I figured I got in a lucky shot when a German medium tank which
was heading in my direction suddenly swerved and stopped.
However, when I moved up closer to finish
her off with a hand grenade, the tank lunged forward again, right at
Private Harrell was knocked into a
foxhole seriously wounded with head and leg injuries.
"That foxhole saved my life,: he said. "If it hadn't been there I
would have been run over. I was shaken up plenty, but managed
to grab my rifle and god off one round at a Heinie who poked his
head out of the tank to take a look back. That accounted for him.
Then one of our machineguns went to work and the tank nosed over and
stopped for keeps just as I felt myself passing out."
The Maryland Doughboy was taken to a hospital in England,
where he underwent an operation, laxer was returned to the
United States --- still unconscious. Om July 25th, 34 days
after the tank struck him, he woke up in Halloran General Hospital,
Long Island, New York.
"I thought I was dreaming when they told me I was back in the
United States," he said, "It didn't seem possible, for the last
thing I remember was firing at that Heinie in the tank and seeing
our machinegun put it out of business."
"When the nurse assured me I was really home I told her it as like
one of those stories you read about people being flown place on a
magic carpet. Then Mother and Dad were there and I knew it
couldn't be a dream. Let me tell you, I was one happy
Paratrooper Harrell, whose home is at 4205 Tuckerman street,
Hyattsville, received his basic training at Camp Blanding, Florida
before going overseas. His father, Lieutenant Colonel Leighton E.
Harrell, an Army chaplain stationed at the War Department in
Washington, was a Methodist minister in Madison and Amherst,
Virginia, for a number of years before joining the Chaplain Corps.