The Inscription for the Medal Reads as Follows:
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 resistence 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.
There he stood, Corporal Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams at the podium in front of me and hundreds of others giving a speech at the 2018 US Marine Corps Birthday Ball in Plano, Texas. This man is a hero and a living legend at the age of 95 who helped our country win one of WWII’s greatest battles – The Battle of Iwo Jima.
American forces invaded Iwo Jima island on February 19th, 1945. The battle lasted for five weeks and resulted in some of the bloodiest fighting of World War II, and it’s believed that all but 200 or so of the 21,000 Japanese forces on the island were killed, as were almost 7,000 Marines.
As I watched him speak, I thought, “you hear about the kind of people who have done great things, who’ve accomplished incredible feats and many who do what Corporal Hershel Williams did on that day don’t make it home to receive a hero’s welcome, but there he was, larger than life, and I, Noe DeLeon was about to interview him.
The moments leading up to the interview were a little unnerving not knowing what to expect, seriously though, it’s not every day you meet one of America’s greats so I made sure I was as prepared on my side as I could be for the meeting. One more check to make sure I looked spot-on and off to the meeting I went.
We sat for our meeting and it was apparent that Woody (as I was invited to call him) was a pro. Throughout the entire interview he was polite, charismatic, patriotic and on point! He treated me as a brother and I was happy to be in the family!
Not only did we get a great interviewed, we interviewed a great person! Watch the full interview here:
After the Interview
We parted with a handshake and as he turned to leave, I knew that my life had been profoundly impacted from our meeting.
Now I have work to do, and we’ll have posts and news coming in the near future about our area’s Gold Star Families Memorial Monument to honor Gold Star Families and preserve the memory of those who have fallen.
Read on to find out more about Woody and the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument.
(Taken directly from Corporal William's website: http://hwwmohf.org/index.html)
WHe was so kind and treated me as a brother. He talked about the moment where it all happened and knowing he experienced that and that he was just sitting across from me was inspiring. illiams’ devotion to duty, service members, veterans and their families began long before that battle and before he entered the Corps. As World War II began, Woody came into direct contact with families in his own community when he delivered Western Union telegrams informing the Gold Star families of the death of their loved one. Woody says that those experiences gave him a “greater appreciation for life and an understanding of a difference in death in the normal world as expected in life, and those lost serving in the military for their country”. He noted that “consideration and recognition of the families of those lost in war was very inadequate.” This observation and his personal commitment to veterans and their families led him to help create the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation in 2012.
The activities of this foundation allow Mr. Williams to continue his devotion and commitment to those who have served and the Gold Star families who have lost loved ones to that service above self. His foundation is focused on honoring Gold Star Families and their fallen Heroes by establishing Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments in communities in all 50 states, offering scholarships to Gold Star Children, sponsoring outreach programs and events, and educating communities about Gold Star Families and the sacrifice they have endured.
To date, Woody and his foundation are responsible for establishing 44 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments across the United States with 50 other monuments underway in 39 states. The Foundation continues to grow its reach by being involved in multiple initiatives across the country from Manchester, NH to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Mr. Williams began his military career with a commitment to country, service members, veterans and families. He continues that commitment through his active engagement with local communities in recognizing and commemorating the service and devotion to duty of our service men and women.
Some facts about Woody:
Following the war, Woody worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for 33 years as a Veterans Service Representative, allowing him to continue serving veterans and their families.
Woody retired after serving 20 years in the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserves.
He served as the Commandant of the Veterans Nursing Home in Barboursville, WV for nearly 10 years, helping veterans who were often in their last years of life.
Still today, Woody serves on the Governor’s Military Advisory Board in the State of West Virginia.