The last WWII Medal of Honor recipient to lie on Capitol Hill


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.

Speaking at a Sunday memorial in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin said Williams « never stopped giving back. » 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.

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. »

Manchin announced during his remarks that Williams would lie in state at the Rotunda, but Pelosi and Schumer said he would lie in honor. The distinction, according to the Capitol’s architect, who oversees the building, is that government officials and military officers lie in state while private citizens lie in honor.

There were 472 World War II Medal of Honor recipients among the millions of Americans who served in uniform during that war, in addition to the Unknown Soldier buried at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

Among the best known were General Douglas MacArthur; airmen Pappy Boyington and Jimmy Doolittle; Brig. General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., son of the former president; Army Second Lieutenant Audie Murphy, who became a Hollywood star; and Army Second Lieutenant Daniel Inouye, who served from 1963 to 2012 in the US Senate.


Back to top button