Commander William K. Harrison, USN, (Retired), (1870-1928)

William Kelly Harrison was born on 30 July 1870 in Waco, Texas. Appointed from that same state to the U.S. Naval Academy, he graduated in October 1899 and reported to USS Atlanta and USS Chicago for his two-year required sea duty. Commissioned an Ensign in July 1891, he received orders to the sloop of war Mohican. After a period leave in February 1895, he was ordered to the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington D.C. Returning to sea in January 1897, he served on board USS Vesuvius then transferred to USS Vicksburg.

In March 1899, Harrison was promoted to Lieutenant. Remaining at sea, he reported to USS Indiana then to USS Marietta. In April 1900, he received orders to the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.  A year later, Harrison returned to USS Indiana then transferred to become the Fleet Gunnery Officer of the South Atlantic Station. After three years in this position, he had special duty as the Assistant Navigator of Target Practice of the North Atlantic Fleet. In July 1905, Harrison was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and received orders to USS Minnesota. In May 1910, he received orders to the Bureau of Navigation in Washington, D.C. where he was promoted to Commander in January 1911.

In December 1912, Harrison assumed command of USS San Francisco and later participated in the intervention at Vera Cruz, Mexico. On 21-22 April 1914, without any navigational or piloting assistance during the night and early morning, he positioned his ship in the inner harbor and used his guns on the enemy to ensure the capture of the city. For his "distinguished conduct in battle" on this occasion, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. That December, he received instruction at the Naval War College, Rhode Island. During this period, he was placed on extended sick leave. On 29 September 1916, he retired and was placed on the retired list. William K. Harrison died on 18 August 1928 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virgina.

This page features the only image we have concerning William K. Harrison.

Photo #: NH 52764

Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island

The Class of 1916 is pictured in order:
1.   Captain William B. Fletcher, USN;
2.   Lieutenant Commander Edward T. Constien, USN;
3.   Rear Admiral Austin M. Knight, USN;
4.   Lieutenant Commander William S. Pye, USN;
5.   Commander Charles T. Vogelgesang, USN;
6.   Captain Herman O. Stickney, USN;
7.   Mr. Terrence R. Cowie;
8.   Rear Admiral Cameron M. Winslow, USN;
9.   Commander Louis A. Kaiser, USN;
10. Captain Nathan C. Twining, USN;
11. Commander William K. Harrison, USN;
12. Mr. William W. Gilbert;
13. Captain Charles P. Plunkett, USN;
14. Captain William L. Howard, USN;
15. Mr. William Evans;
16. Captain Benjamin F. Hutchinson, USN;
17. Captain Thomas P. Magruder, USN;
18. Captain William D. MacDougall, USN;
19. Commander William C. Cole, USN;
20. Commander William W. Phelps, USN;
21. Lieutenant Gordon W. Haines, USN;
22. Commander Walter S. Turpin, USN;
23. Lieutenant Commander Walter R. Sexton, USN;
24. Lieutenant Commander Henry D. Cooke, USN;
25. Captain Edward Simpson, USN;
26. Lieutenant Commander Robert Wallace, USN;
27. Captain Clares S. Williams, USN;
28. Commander Ivan C. Wettengel, USN;
29. Commander Dewitt Blamer, USN;
30. Colonel John Ruckman, USMC;
31. Lieutenant Commander Samuel I. M. Major, USN;
32. Lieutenant Junior Grade Hartwell C. Davis, USN;
33. Mr. William J. Miles;
34. Commander Montgomery M. Taylor, USN;
35. Mr. Horace A. Field;
36. Major George C. Thorpe, USMC;
37. Lieutenant Commander William D. Puleston, USN;
38. Rear Admiral Augustus F. Fechteler, USN;
39. Lieutenant Commander Harry E. Yarnell, USN;
40. Captain John D. McDonald, USN;
41. Commander Thomas T. Craven, USN; and
42. Lieutenant Commander Zachariah H. Madison, USN

Collection of Rear Admiral Clarence S. Williams, USN

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 98KB; 740 x 590 pixels


Medal of Honor citation of Commander William K. Harrison, USN (as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 99):

"For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914. During this period, Commander Harrison brought his ship into the inner harbor during the nights of the 21st and 22d without the assistance of a pilot or navigational lights, and was in a position on the morning of the 22d to use his guns with telling effect at a critical time."

For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions

To the best of our knowledge, the pictures referenced here are all in the Public Domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.

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