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Compatriot Medal of Honor Recipients

Hershel Woodrow Williams

Hershel Woodrow Williams

Hershel Woodrow Williams was born on October 2, 1923, in Quiet Dell, West Virginia. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in West Virginia and served in the Pacific theater during the Second World War. Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 5, 1945 for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, Third Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, on the February 23, 1945.

Quick to volunteer his services when American 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. Covered only by four riflemen, he fought desperately for four hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire. Williams 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 Japanese 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 strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective. 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.

Today, Hershel Williams spends his time very actively promoting the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation that seeks to erect memorials honoring Gold Star families and recognizing the sacrifice of not only the heroes but also of their families. SAR President General Lawrence presented Williams’ foundation the SAR’s Distinguished Patriotism Award in December 2015 along with Williams’ West Virginia SAR membership certificate and a War Service Medal.

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