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'A genuine hero': The last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient has died

Hershel “Woody” Williams received the Medal of Honor for his actions above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

ARLINGTON, Texas — America’s last living World War II Medal of Honor recipient has passed away. 

Hershel “Woody” Williams, 98, died early Wednesday morning in West Virginia, according to a press release from the National Medal of Honor Museum, which is being built in Arlington.

Williams enlisted into the Marine Corps Reserve in Charleston, W.Va., in 1943 and was trained to use a flamethrower. He received the Medal of Honor for actions above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Iwo Jima, when he "repeatedly exposed himself to fire over several hours while singlehandedly destroying enemy pillboxes with his flamethrower to clear the way for American tanks and infantry."

The President and CEO of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, Chris Cassidy, released this statement regarding Williams' death: 

“Our nation has lost a genuine hero with the passing of Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams. An American treasure and an extraordinary man both on and off the fields of battle, he left an enduring legacy of service to his country with his many initiatives on behalf of veterans and Gold Star families. We were blessed to have had him join us for the National Medal of Honor Museum groundbreaking ceremony on March 25th - his final Medal of Honor Day. His enduring legacy of selfless service will continue to inspire generations to come as it is experienced by all who visit the Museum. We join his family, friends, and all Americans in mourning this exceptional loss.  As a recipient of our country’s highest honor and a member of the greatest generation, Woody was truly one of the greatest of the greats!”

Credit: Woody Williams Foundation
President Truman presented Hershel "Woody" Williams with the Congressional Medal of Honor on October 5, 1945.

In order to recognize and serve Gold Star families (spouses, children, parents, siblings or others whose loved one died in service to our nation), Williams created the Woody Williams Foundation, a nonprofit which works to establish permanent Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments in communities across the United States. 

Credit: Woody Williams Foundation

In June of 2021, Williams attended his grandson's Marine boot camp graduation in South Carolina. Later that same year, in November, the AutoZone Liberty Bowl honored Williams and over 250 Gold Star Family members from across the country.

Williams advanced to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer during his career as a Marine and honorarily retired from the Corps in 1969.  


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