Cuero in DeWitt County, Texas — The American South (West South Central)
Leonard Roy Harmon
Born in Cuero, Leonard Roy Harmon enlisted in the U.S. Navy in Houston in June 1939. After training in Norfolk, Virginia, he reported for duty on the cruiser “U.S.S. San Francisco” and advanced to Mess Attendant First Class.
During the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal on November 12, 1942, a Japanese plane crashed into the radar and fire control station of the “San Francisco” causing 50 casualties. The following day, November 13, as the naval battle continued, several officers on the bridge were struck by enemy gunfire. Harmon rushed to help evacuate the wounded to a dressing station. He was killed as he shielded an injured shipmate from gunfire. For this act of extraordinary heroism, he was awarded the Navy Cross.
On May 21, 1943, Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, announced the naming of a navy vessel in Harmon’s honor. The first U.S. warship named for a black man, the destroyer escort “U.S.S. Harmon” was christened by Mrs. Naunita Harmon Carroll, Harmon’s mother, and launched on July 26, 1943. The vessel received three battle stars for service in the Pacific during World War II.
Erected 1977 by Texas Historical Commission. (Marker Number 3072.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • War, World II • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Distinguished Service Cross/Navy Cross/Air Force Cross Recipients series list. A significant historical date for this entry is May 21, 1943.
Location. 29° 5.168′ N, 97° 16.475′ W. Marker is in Cuero, Texas, in DeWitt County. Marker is on Leonard Roy Harmon Drive 0.1 miles south of East Broadway Street (U.S. 87), in the median. Marker is in Cuero Municipal Park, one block south of E. Broadway and Park Heights Drive. It is east of the park golf course by the flag pole in front of the swimming pool building. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 201 Leonard Roy Harmon Drive, Cuero TX 77954, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. James Norman Smith (approx. 0.8 miles away); First Presbyterian Church of Cuero (approx. 0.8 miles away); St. Michael's Catholic Church (approx. 0.9 miles away); First United Methodist Church of Cuero (approx. 0.9 miles away); Cuero Land and Immigration CompanyBrayton Flying Field (approx. 0.9 miles away); Early Texas Bandstands (approx. 0.9 miles away); De Witt County Courthouse (approx. one mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Cuero.
Also see . . . The Messman Chronicles - African Americans in the U.S. Navy, 1932 to 1943 (pg. 265). Mess Attendant L. R. Harmon’s general quarters assignment on San Francisco, was that of stretcher bearer, teamed on the night of 12-13 November 1942 with a White hospital corpsman, Pharmacist’s Mate Lynford L. Bondsteel. The pair was observing the action topside, standing at a blackout curtain over an open ladderway, when both saw a “fiery red ball” streaking directly toward their position. Harmon could have jumped into the ladderway and relative safety. Instead, he grabbed the hesitant Bondsteel and pushed him through the hatch. The corpsman was wounded, but he carried on - his medical skills preserved to save the lives of others that night. However, no one had skills enough the save his Black assistant. The big Texan was caught, half in and half out of the hatch, and the exploding shell riddled him with shrapnel. Harmon was one of three messmen killed among the 81 dead and missing on San Francisco at the “Third Battle of Savo Island” a.k.a. the "First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal." Bondsteel related the story of the messman's self-sacrifice, and Harmon became the second Black sailor to receive the Navy Cross for heroism. (Submitted on August 20, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Additional keywords. messman; Third Battle of Savo Island; First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal; Battle of Friday the 13th; Lynford L. Bondsteel;
Credits. This page was last revised on August 27, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 20, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,061 times since then and 18 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on August 20, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 3. submitted on August 22, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.