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The Night Watch of Sergeant Harrell and Private First Class Andrew Carter on Iwo Jima

Night Watch of Sergeant

Night Watch of Sergeant

On March 3, 1945, Night Watch of Sergeant Harrell and Private First Class Andrew Carter found themselves stationed on the treacherous battleground of Iwo Jima during World War II. As they settled in for the night, they sought refuge in a long, narrow two-man foxhole, strategically positioned on a little ridge approximately 20 yards ahead of the depression where their company’s command post was established.

Gary’s grandfather joined the U.S. Border Patrol about 1920. Here his grandad’s unit and their trucks are being inspected. Photo provided

Their location presented a formidable challenge, as the foxhole was perilously close to enemy territory. Just beyond the ridge lay a deep ravine, firmly under Japanese control. This proximity to the enemy necessitated heightened vigilance and precautionary measures to ensure their survival. Recognizing the inherent danger of their situation, Sergeant Harrell and Private First Class Andrew Carter wisely devised a plan to safeguard themselves through the night. They decided to alternate standing one-hour watches, taking turns to keep a lookout for any signs of impending danger.

Harrell is pictured using his hooks to fire a revolver during target practice after he became chief of prosthetics for the Veterans Administration in Texas after the war. Judging from the bullet holes in the target, he was still a good shot without his hands. Photo provided

As darkness enveloped the battlefield, the sounds of war slowly subsided, but an eerie tension still hung in the air. Both men remained acutely aware of the significance of their duty and the lives that depended on their attentiveness. With each passing moment, the weight of their responsibility pressed upon them, and yet they remained resolute in their commitment to each other and to the mission at hand. The night wore on, with the relentless sounds of battle echoing in the distance. The biting cold and fatigue tried to wear down their spirits, but their dedication and camaraderie provided the strength to persevere. They exchanged encouraging words and brief conversations during the changing of the guard, finding solace in the shared determination to protect their fellow soldiers and secure their position.

After returning from WW I, Roy Harrell, Willam’s father, served as a Texas Ranger for a short time in 1920. He is pictured as a Ranger astride his horse near his home in Mercedes, Texas.

In the midst of the darkness, the stars above shimmered with an almost surreal beauty, providing a glimpse of hope in the midst of the chaos. Yet, the serenity of the night sky only served as a stark contrast to the relentless reality of war that surrounded them. As the first light of dawn began to break on the horizon, relief washed over the weary soldiers. They had successfully endured the night, demonstrating not only their valor but also their commitment to the greater cause – to defend their country and preserve the freedoms they held dear.

Sergeant Harrell and Private First Class Andrew Carter’s unwavering determination and vigilance throughout that fateful night exemplified the unbreakable spirit of the brave men who fought in World War II. Their courageous actions on that cold March night in the foxhole on Iwo Jima became a testament to the sacrifices made by countless soldiers during one of the most pivotal battles in history. Their story stands as a reminder of the selflessness and bravery displayed by those who served, ensuring that their legacy will forever be etched in the annals of history.

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