Woody Williams, the last living WWII vet to receive Medal of Honor, dies at 98

by Seth Udinski

Seth Udinski, FISM News


On Wednesday morning, 98-year-old Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, the last living American serviceman from World War II to receive the Medal of Honor, died in West Virginia.

Williams had served in the United States Marine Corps and received the honor for courage shown in battle for his actions at the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific theatre in 1945.

His foundation released a statement Wednesday saying, “Today at 3:15 a.m., Hershel Woodrow Williams, affectionately known by many as Woody went home to be with the Lord. Woody peacefully joined his beloved wife Ruby while surrounded by his family at the VA Medical Center which bears his name.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said 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 tyranny in the Second World War. 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.”

Originally denied enlistment because his small frame, Williams joined the war in 1943 and became proficient with the use of a flamethrower. He used that weapon of choice brilliantly to aid the key American victory at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

He spoke of the battle many years later with complete humility, saying, “It wasn’t anything outstanding that particular day, February 23, 1945. It was just another day of battle, as far as I was concerned. I was just the guy who was trained to do the flamethrower.”

After the war several months later, Williams received the Medal of Honor at the young age of 22 from President Harry Truman.

Williams stayed in the Marine Corps for two decades. He married his wife Ruby shortly after the war, and the couple enjoyed 62 years together before Ruby’s death in 2007 at the age of 83.

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