CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, the last World War II Medal of Honor recipient, will be in state at the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin announced Sunday during a a memorial where Williams is remembered for his courage, humility and selflessness.
“He never stopped giving back,” Manchin said. This included raising money for Gold Star Families – the immediate family members of fallen service members – with an annual motorcycle ride.
“It raised hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Manchin said. He joked that “it’s not going to stop, because Woody would come after me in a heartbeat.”
Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said he will miss Williams’ phone calls, noting that Williams will always give him instructions and to-do lists.
“I will miss him telling me how I am supposed to vote. And when I didn’t, how did I make a mistake,” Manchin said.
Williams, who died Wednesday at 98, was a legend in his native West Virginia for his heroism under fire for several crucial hours during the Battle of Iwo Jima. As a young Marine corporal, Williams got ahead of his unit in February 1945 and took out a series of Japanese machine gun positions. Facing small-arms fire, Williams fought for four hours, returning repeatedly to prepare demolition charges and obtain flamethrowers.
Later that year, the 22-year-old Williams received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman. The Medal of Honor is the highest national honor for military bravery.
Gen. David H. Berger, commandant of the United States Marine Corps, said at the memorial that Williams had always objected to the idea that he had accomplished the feat alone. He always recognized the other men on his team, some of whom never returned home.
“Woody is perhaps the most genuine person I’ve ever met,” Berger said, noting his unique combination of humility and humor. “He might make you laugh. He could endear you. It was his gift. »
Williams remained in the Marines after the war, serving a total of 20 years, before working for the Veterans Administration for 33 years as a veterans service representative. In 2018, the Huntington VA Medical Center was renamed in his honor and the Navy commissioned a Mobile Base Sea Vessel in his name in 2020.
“He left an indelible mark on our Marine Corps,” Berger said. “As long as there are Marines, his legacy will live on.”