Medal of Honor: Harry Harr

Harry Harr, Alto Reste, Altoona

The Medal of Honor symbolizes the ideals of patriotism, courage, sacrifice, and integrity and is the highest award presented for military valor in action. Those recipients have shown bravery in combat, going above and beyond the call of duty, risking – and often sacrificing – their lives for the welfare of others.

First introduced for the Department of the Navy in 1861, the Medal of Honor would be created for the Department of the Army’s Medal of Honor in 1862. The Department of the Air Force, which originally used the same Medal as the Department of the Army, introduced their own Medal of Honor in 1965. Since its inception during the U.S. Civil War, more than 3500 recipients have been honored with the Medal of Honor.

This is the story of a Medal of Honor recipient.


After honoring the bravery and sacrifice of Glenn English, Jr, I crossed the roadway and walked down the hillside to where my father was wandering among the stones of Alto Reste Cemetery. He was searching for the grave of the young man whose sacrifice in World War Two saved his fellow soldiers.

When my father paused and studied a flat marker, I knew from the way he stood that he had found the grave of the fallen soldier and Medal of Honor recipient. I walked over to join him as he stood reverently at the grave of Harry Harr.

Harry Raymond Harr was born February 22, 1921 in Pinecroft, the son of Clement and Izzetta Harr. In 1942, Harr joined the US Army rising to rank of Corporal in Company D, 124 Infantry Regiment, 31 Infantry Division. In 1945, during the final months of the war, Harr’s unit was fighting the Japanese in the Philippines. It was here on June 5, Harr would make the ultimate sacrifice.

The unit had engaged the enemy near Maglamin, Mindanao, in the Philippines. Harr was among a crew in a machine gun emplacement, when the Japanese Army attacked. When in range, the Japanese soldiers began throwing grenades at the machine gun emplacement. One of the grenades exploded beneath the machine gun which put it temporarily out of commission and wounding two of the crew.

As the remaining crew worked to fix the disabled machine gun, another grenade landed in the midst of the men. Without hesitation, Harr – realizing it could not be removed safely – jumped onto the grenade to smother the blast. His brave sacrifice saved the lives of his fellow crew members.

Harr was just twenty-four years old at the time of his death. He was returned to Blair County and buried in the peaceful grounds of Alto Reste Cemetery. He was survived by his wife and son.

Harr was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. On March 26, 1946, his wife, Mary, was presented with the medal. The citation reads: “He displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity. In a fierce counterattack, the Japanese closed in on his machine-gun emplacement, hurling grenades, one of which exploded under the gun, putting it out of action and wounding two of the crew. While the remaining gunners were desperately attempting to repair their weapon, another grenade landed squarely in the emplacement. Quickly realizing he could not safely throw the unexploded missile from the crowded position, Cpl. Harr unhesitatingly covered it with his body to smother the blast. His supremely courageous act, which cost him his life, saved four of his comrades and enabled them to continue their mission.”

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Harr would also receive the Purple Heart. Some of the other military awards Harr received during his time in the service included: the World War II Victory Medal, the Marksmanship Badge, the Army Presidential Unit Citation and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal.

We finished paying our respects to the young man who gave his life for his fellow men. Remembering his ultimate sacrifice, we reverently left the Medal of Honor recipient to slumber beneath the trees of Alto Reste Cemetery.

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