The last living Medal of Honor winner from WWII has passed away.
Hershel “Woody” Williams, who won the military’s highest honor fighting in the Battle of Iwo Jima, died at the age of 98 Wednesday morning, according to a statement from his foundation. He was the final living Medal of Honor from America’s largest foreign war. (RELATED: Medal Of Honor Winner Edward Byers Talks About Fighting The Taliban In Hand-To-Hand Combat During Hostage Rescue Mission)
“Woody’s family would like to express their sincere gratitude for all the love and support,” the statement read in part. You can read the full statement below.
“The Cause Is Greater Than I…”-Woody Williams pic.twitter.com/NBo3JYSu7m
— Woody Williams Foundation (@WWFoundation) June 29, 2022
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945. 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. 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 strongpoints encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective. Cpl. 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.
To put it as bluntly as possible, Williams was a grade-A American badass, and when it was time to take the fight to the enemy, he did what had to be done against overwhelmingly horrible odds.
He rushed the enemy with a flamethrower! Stop and think about the guts you have to have to do what he did. I’d like to say most people would do the same to protect their teammates, but deep down, I think we all know it takes a man cut from a different cloth.
— alex kershaw (@kershaw_alex) June 29, 2022
The fact he’s also the final WWII Medal of Honor winner to die is an unfortunate reminder that America’s greatest generation is quickly leaving us.
There aren’t too many WWII veterans left. In theory, if you were 18 at the end of the war, you’d be right around 95 years old today. If you were older when the war happened, you could easily be in your 100s by now.
Today, West Virginia lost one of its proudest sons, Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving WWII Medal of Honor recipient.
Woody is a hero in every sense of the word, and I was proud to call him a friend.
My prayers are with his family & loved ones. Rest in peace, Woody 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/bPaJ8LrWyK
— Shelley Moore Capito (@SenCapito) June 29, 2022
For the sake of the generations that will follow, meet some WWII veterans while you still have the opportunity, learn their stories and pass those stories down. Those men saw horror the rest of us can’t imagine, and their legacies deserve to be preserved forever.