The last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient has died. Hershel “Woody” Williams was 98 years old.
Williams served in the Battle of Iwo Jima. As a Marine corporal, he went ahead of his unit in February of 1945 and took out a series of Japanese machine gun positions. He earned the highest honor for military valor by President Harry Truman later that year for his heroics.
Williams’ foundation announced the news via social media on Wednesday.
“Today, America lost not just a valiant Marine and a Medal of Honor recipient, but an important link to our Nation’s fight against tyrannyin the Second World War,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a statement. “I hope every American will pause to reflect on his service and that of an entire generation that sacrificed so much to defend the cause of freedom and democracy.”
Williams passed at the Veterans Affairs medical center, which is named in his honor, near his home in Huntington, WV.
The Medal of Honor website recalls Woody’s service. Williams was “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. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine gun fire from the unyielding positions.”
The fight continued for four hours.
“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 strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective.”
Medal of Honor Recipient’s Legacy
Williams served the Marines for 20 more years. He then moved to the Veterans Administration and worked for 33 years as a veterans service representative.
Williams and 14 other Medal of Honor recipients were honored before the 2018 Super Bowl. His native West Virginia remains proud of its hero.
“Woody Williams will go down in history as one of the greatest West Virginians who ever lived and we salute him for everything he gave our state and our nation,” West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said in a statement.
One of the state’s U.S. senators also paid respects to the native hero.
“[Williams] was the embodiment of a true American hero,” Senator Joe Manchin said. “Americans like Woody answered the call to serve our great nation and their sacrifices allow us to enjoy the freedoms we hold dear.”
West Virginia is proud of its hero. The National Medal of Honor Museum will certainly remember Woody Williams. The new museum broke ground in Arlington, Tex. this March. In the history of the honor, 3,511 veterans have received the honor.