Hero of Iwo Jima dies: Famed WWII Medal of Honor recipient Hershel 'Woody' Williams was 98
Corporal Williams received the Medal of Honor from then-President Harry Truman on October 5, 1945, at the White House for his bravery during the battle of Iwo Jima
The last living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, a former Marine corporal who earned the military’s highest decoration for his bravery in the Battle of Iwo Jima, died peacefully at a veterans medical center at the age of 98, according to The Woody Williams Foundation. Williams spent his final days with family at a hospital in his home state of West Virginia. Family members called on Americans to pray for him on Tuesday, June 29. "As he lives out his last days, we welcome and appreciate any additional prayers lifted up on behalf of Woody and his family," his family said in a statement on his condition at the time.
The Woody Williams Foundation released a statement announcing Williams's death. “Today at 3:15 am, 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,” the statement read. "Williams's family would like to express their gratitude for all of the love and support," the statement further read.
Woody Williams Foundation shared the statement on Williams's death on Twitter and wrote, "The Cause Is Greater Than I...-Woody Williams."
"The Cause Is Greater Than I..."-Woody Williams pic.twitter.com/NBo3JYSu7m— Woody Williams Foundation (@WWFoundation) June 29, 2022
"Hershel “Woody” Williams, America’s last living WWII #MedalofHonor recipient, passed away this morning at 98. Woody exemplified a life of service through his bravery during the Battle of Iwo Jima, as an advocate for veterans & through the @WWFoundation serving Gold Star Families," the National Medal Of Honor Museum wrote on Twitter in honor of Williams.
Hershel “Woody” Williams, America’s last living WWII #MedalofHonor recipient, passed away this morning at 98. Woody exemplified a life of service through his bravery during the Battle of Iwo Jima, as an advocate for veterans & through the @WWFoundation serving Gold Star Families. pic.twitter.com/ydZzuy171V— National Medal Of Honor Museum (@MohMuseum) June 29, 2022
US Marines also paid tribute to Williams and wrote, "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."
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
A week ago, Williams was hospitalized in a West Virginia hospital for his deteriorating health condition. The family did not offer details about Williams' condition but they released a statement. "At this time, Woody is not accepting visitors and his family appreciates everyone respecting his privacy. As he lives out his last days, we welcome and appreciate any additional prayers lifted up on behalf of Woody and his family," his family said in a statement.
Why was Hershel 'Woody' Williams called Iwo Jima hero?
Williams served as a flamethrower operator on Iwo Jima and was credited with destroying multiple Japanese pillboxes and other gun emplacements while virtually unaided and at great danger to himself. As all of the men in Williams’ company perished, he kept pushing forward at one point shoving a flamethrower nozzle into one of the small concrete boxes and killing the enemies inside.
Williams received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman for heroism during the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.
In 1943, he enlisted in the Marines, where he honed his skills with a flamethrower, according to his biography. “It wasn’t anything outstanding that particular day, February 23, 1945,” Williams told WSAZ in a previous report. “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,” he added.
In 2010, Williams established the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation to support Gold Star families and the legacy of their loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice. In March 2020, a military vessel was named the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams in his honor.
Williams got married in 1945 to Ruby Meredith. They lived together until Meredith’s death in 2007. Williams and his wife Meredith have two kids, Travie Ross and Tracie.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said on Wednesday that he will sign a proclamation to lower all state and national flags to half-staff statewide this week in honor of Williams.
“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,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. “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," he added.