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First Name: Hershel

Last Name: Williams

Birthplace: Fairmont, WV, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)



Home of Record: Charleston, WV
Middle Name: Woodrow



Date of Birth: 02 October 1923



Rank: Chief Warrant Officer - 4

Years Served: 1943-45, 1948-49, 1954-69
Hershel Woodrow Williams
'Woody'

   
Engagements:
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)

Biography:

Hershel Woodrow Williams

Chief Warrant Officer 4, U.S. Marine Corps

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War II

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Williams is a retired U.S. Marine who was awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

Hershel Woodrow Williams was born in Fairmont, WV, on 2 October 1923. Williams grew up on a dairy farm in nearby Quiet Dell. He worked a series of odd jobs in the area, including as a truck driver for W. S. Harr Construction Company of Fairmont, and as a taxi driver. After being turned away by the U.S. military once for being too short, he successfully enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in Charleston, WV, on 26 May 1943.

Williams received his recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, CA. Upon completion, he was sent to the Camp Elliott training center in San Diego, where he joined the tank training battalion on 21 August 1943. The following month he was transferred to the training center's infantry battalion for instruction as a demolition man and in the use of flamethrowers.

Williams joined the 32nd Replacement Battalion on 30 October 1943, and left for New Caledonia in the Southwest Pacific on 3 December aboard the M.S. Weltey Reden. In January 1944, he joined the 3rd Marine Division at Guadalcanal. He was attached to the 1st Battalion, 21st Marines, first to Company C and then to Headquarters Company.

During July and August 1944, he participated in action against the Japanese at Guam; in October he rejoined Company C.

His next campaign was at Iwo Jima. Landing on 21 February 1945, Williams, by then a Corporal, distinguished himself two days later when American tanks, trying to open a lane for infantry, encountered a network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands. Williams went forward alone with his 70-pound flamethrower to attempt the reduction of devastating machine gun fire from the unyielding positions.

Covered by only four riflemen, he fought for four hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flame throwers. He returned to the front, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out one position after another. At one point, a wisp of smoke alerted him to the air vent of a Japanese bunker, and he approached close enough to put the nozzle of his flamethrower through the hole, killing the occupants. On another occasion, he charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon.

These actions occurred on the same day as the raising of the U.S. flag on the island's Mount Suribachi, although Williams was not able to witness the event. He fought through the remainder of the five-week-long battle and was wounded on 6 March, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart.

In September 1945, he returned to the U.S. and on 1 October, he joined the Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division.

Place and date: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945.

Citation: 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 machinegun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered only by 4 riflemen, he fought desperately for 4 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 1 position after another. On 1 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. 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.

He was presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on 5 October 1945, at the White House.

On 22 October 1945, he was transferred to the Marine Barracks, Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, MD, for discharge. He was discharged from the Marine Corps Reserve on 6 November 1945. In March 1948, he re-enlisted in the inactive Marine Corps Reserve, but was again discharged on 4 August 1949.

On 20 October 1954, he joined the Organized Marine Reserve when the 98th Special Infantry Company was authorized by Marine Corps Headquarters, Clarksburg, WV. He transferred to the 25th Infantry Company in Huntington, WV, on 9 June 1957. He later became the (Interim) Commanding Officer of that unit as a Warrant Officer on 6 June 1960. He was designated the Mobilization Officer for the 25th Infantry Company and surrounding Huntington area on 11 June 1963.

He was advanced through the warrant officer ranks during his time in the Reserves until reaching his final rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4 (CWO-4). Although CWO-4 Williams technically did not meet retirement requirements, he was honorarily retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in 1969 after approximately 17 years of service.

Post-Military Life

Williams struggled with the after-effects of combat stress until 1962, when he experienced a religious renewal. He later served as chaplain of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society for 35 years.

On 2 February 2011, Williams appeared on an episode of Sons of Guns where his unserviceable flamethrower was refurbished back to working condition. The episode ended with Williams successfully firing the weapon at the age of 87.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart

Honors

• In 1965, Williams received West Virginia's Distinguished Service Medal.

• In 1967, he was honored by the Veteran's Administration with the Vietnam Service Medal for service as a civilian counselor to the armed forces.

• In 1999, he was added to the City of Huntington Foundation's "Wall of Fame."

Named in his honor:

·         West Virginia National Guard Armory in Fairmont, WV

·         Bridge at Barboursville, WV

·         Athletic field at Huntington, WV



Honoree ID: 1716   Created by: MHOH

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