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Last WW2 Medal Of Honor Recipient Passes

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Last WW2 Medal Of Honor Recipient Passes

American Pride: Last WW2 Medal Of Honor Recipient Passes

At the height of World War II, 18-year-old Hershel "Woody" Williams attempted to join the U.S. Marine Corps, though a recruiter explained the 5-foot-6 dairy farmer: "Go home, you're too short."


The height requirement soon changed, according to a foundation named for Williams, who joined the Marines and went on to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor after single-handedly taking out a series of Japanese positions in the most bloodstained battles on Iwo Jima. Williams passed Wednesday at 98 years old.

Williams, the final surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War Two, passed at a hospital in his home state of West Virginia, according to the U.S. military and the Woody Williams Foundation, nonprofit serving military families.

In 2017, the U.S. Navy christened the USS Hershel "Woody" Williams, an expeditionary mobile base.

The 1945 battle for the strategic island of Iwo Jima took the lives of 7,000 Marines. When he hit Iwo Jima's black sands, Williams crawled through piles of dead Marines wrapped in their ponchos and the wreckage of destroyed U.S. tanks to discover his company meeting the enemy with nothing though bomb craters for cover, according to a 2021 profile of Williams in the Tennessean newspaper.


“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,” the citation reads, “Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine-gun fire from the unyielding positions.”


“On one occasion,” according to the citation, “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.”



Mr. Williams was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman in October 1945, months after the Japanese surrender that ended World War II.


Mr. Williams, who attained the rank of chief warrant officer 4, later pursued a career with what is now the Department of Veterans Affairs and ran a horse farm.


“It’s one of those things that you put in the recess of your mind,” Mr. Williams told The Washington Post in 2020, reflecting 75 years later on his service at Iwo Jima. “You were fulfilling an obligation that you swore to do, to defend your country. Any time you take a life … there’s always some aftermath to that if you’ve got any heart at all.”


Facing small-arms fire, Williams fought for four hours, repeatedly returning to prepare demolition charges and obtain flamethrowers.


"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."


Williams relied on his fiancée, Ruby, to get him through the often anxious times during the war, stating he had to get back to the girl in Fairmont that he was going to marry.

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

After the war he worked for what is now the Department of Veterans Affairs for more than 30 years and later established his foundation. He further ran a horse farm in West Virginia.


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