The last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient, Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, passed away today at 98 years of age.
Woody earned the US military’s highest award for valor at the Battle of Iwo Jima in February of 1945 for maneuvering ahead of his unit and destroying a number of enemy machine gun fighting positions.
CWO4 Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, the last living World War II Medal of Honor recipient, passed away early this morning, June 29, 2022. Woody received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions at Iwo Jima. pic.twitter.com/yLqKUmAGDp
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) June 29, 2022
President Harry Truman presented his with his medal later that year.
The military’s Medal of Honor website describes Woody’s heroism which cleared a route for Infantry and Armor:
“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.”
In 2018, Woody spoke at a Boy Scout recognition ceremony where he said, “For me, receiving the Medal of Honor was actually the lifesaver because it forced me to talk about the experiences that I had, which was a therapy that I didn’t even know I was doing.”
Woody served in the Marine Corps for 20 years before retiring.
West Virginia Governor Gov. Jim Justice said, “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 to our state and our nation.”
Senator Joe Manchin said that Woody “was the embodiment of a true American hero. Americans like Woody answered the call to serve our great nation and their sacrifices allow us to enjoy the freedoms we hold dear.”