Hershel “Woody” Williams, Last WWII Medal of Honor Recipient in the Hospital

Faye Higbee
hershel woody williams

US Marine veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams is the last surviving WWII Medal of Honor recipient for his actions on Iwo Jima. He is now in the hospital, and his family says he is living out his last days. He had the honor of having a Navy ship named after him, the USS Hershel Woody Williams, a ship which was completed in 2018.

Update: Woody passed on Wednesday at the age of 98.

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February 23, 1945 Cpl Hershel “Woody” Williams

Cpl Hershel “Woody” Williams

On Feb. 23, 1945, it wasn’t my job to know how a flamethrower works. My job was to make sure those guys had the gear and fuel they needed. But when it got around to me, there was no one left and I had to do it. That couldn’t have been planned, but if I didn’t know how to work it, I wouldn’t be here talking with you today.

Hershel “Woody” Williams

His MOH Citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945. Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands, Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine-gun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered only by four riflemen, he fought desperately for four hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers, struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out one position after another. On one occasion, he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants, and silencing the gun; on another he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon. His unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strongpoints encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective. Cpl. Williams’ aggressive fighting spirit and valiant devotion to duty throughout this fiercely contested action sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Medal of Honor citation

His highest rank achieved was Chief Warrant Officer 4. For many years, he spoke at events, the latest of which was on Memorial Day 2022. A native of West Virginia, his patriotism was strong. He once said he hoped that the United States would once again become the patriotic country he knew and loved.

“I’ve been at this probably 25 to 30 times, but I believe today we had more honor wreaths than we’ve ever had before, and that’s encouraging,” Williams told WSAZ. “It gives me encouragement that we’re coming back and that we will again be that United States of America that had so much patriotism and love of country.”

Hershel Woody Williams, Memorial Day, 2022

Thank you, Hershel “Woody” Williams, for being the epitome of the United States Marine Corps both on Iwo Jima and in your life thereafter.

*****

Featured screenshot of Hershel Williams and the USS Hershel Woody Williams (composite)

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