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Hershel W. “Woody” Williams: A West Virginia legend who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima died at the age of 98

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, the last remaining Medal of Honor recipient from World War II whose exploits under fire during several pivotal hours in the Battle of Iwo Jima made him a legend in his western native Virginia, died Wednesday . He was 98.

Williams’ foundation announced on Twitter and Facebook that he died at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center that bore his name in Huntington.

“America lost today not only a brave Marine and a Medal of Honor recipient, but also a vital link in our nation’s fight against tyranny in World War II,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement. “I hope every American will pause to reflect on their service and that of a generation that has sacrificed so much to defend the cause of freedom and democracy.”

As a young Marine Corporal in February 1945, Williams went ahead of his unit and eliminated a number of Japanese machine gun positions.

Later that year, at the age of 22, Williams received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military bravery, from President Harry Truman at the White House.

“For me, receiving the Medal of Honor was actually the lifesaver because I was forced to talk about my experience, which was therapy I didn’t even know I was doing,” Williams said during a Boy Scouts interview. Recognition 2018 ceremony in Fairmont, according to the Times West Virginian.

Iwo Jima was where Marines raised the American flag atop Mount Suribachi, a moment captured in one of the most iconic wartime photographs in history. Williams said he saw the flag from afar after it went up as troops celebrated around him.

William’s actions in combat to clear the way for American tanks and infantry were detailed on the military’s Medal of Honor website: He was “quick to volunteer his services when our tanks maneuvered in vain to give the infantry a trail.” through the network of reinforced tanks to open concrete bunkers, buried mines and black volcanic sand. Williams boldly went it alone to try to reduce the devastating machine gun fire from the relentless positions.

Williams fought handguns for four hours, returning again and again to prepare demolition charges and obtain flamethrowers.

“His unyielding determination and exceptional heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese bases his regiment encountered and was instrumental in enabling his company to reach its objective,” reads it on the site.

Williams remained in the Marines after the war, serving a total of 20 years before serving as a Veterans Service Representative for the Veterans Administration for 33 years.

In 2018, the Huntington VA Medical Center was renamed in his honor, and the Navy commissioned a mobile base seagoing vessel in his name in 2020. In February 2018, Williams was joined by 14 other Medal of Honor recipients honored by the NFL and the nation at the pre-Super Bowl coin toss in Minneapolis.

Williams may not have garnered as much national attention as Air Force Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, the flamboyant World War II fighter pilot ace and West Virginia native who became the first human to fly faster than sound in 1947. Yeager passed away in December 2020. Still, Williams was a household name in his home state.

“Woody Williams will be remembered in history as one of the greatest West Virginians who ever lived, and we honor him for all he gave to our state and nation,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a statement.

US Senator Joe Manchin said Williams was “the embodiment of a true American hero.

Williams was born on October 2, 1923, the youngest of a family of eleven on a dairy farm in the township of Quiet Dell in northern West Virginia. Before joining the military, he served in the Civilian Conservation Corps and worked as a teenage cab driver in Fairmont, sometimes delivering Western Union telegrams to the families of fallen soldiers.

It was this passion that later led Williams and his Louisville, Kentucky-based charitable foundation to raise money and erect more than 100 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments in recognition of relatives of lost service members across the United States, according to his website.

Although his two older brothers served in the Army, Williams wanted to pursue a different path. He knew some Marines from his area and would admire their blue uniforms whenever they came home. But at 5ft 6, Williams was turned down because of his height when he tried to join in 1942. A year later, the Marines admitted him at the age of 19.

Williams relied on his fiancé, Ruby, to get him through the often anxious times during the war and said he needed to get back to the Fairmont girl he was going to marry.

Their marriage lasted 62 years. Ruby Williams died in 2007 at the age of 83. The couple had two daughters and five grandchildren.

Sunday services are at 4:00 p.m. at the State Cultural Center in Charleston. Visitations are conducted on Saturdays and before Sunday services at the nearby Capitol Rotunda.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://abc13.com/wwii-medal-of-honor-hershel-w-woody-williams-west-virginia-legends/12006204/ Hershel W. “Woody” Williams: A West Virginia legend who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima died at the age of 98

Dais Johnston

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