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The Day I Held the Medal of Honor
During the course of this mission, he repeatedly crawled towards the enemy, cut loose on them with his flame thrower and explosives, and returned to his ranks to replenish his supplies.
All during this time, Williams was under constant attack.
Four Marines were ordered to give him some rifle covering-fire as Williams carried out his mission. Two of them were killed.
To this day, he will tell you that he wears that Medal in their
As he crawled back and forth from engaging the enemy,
Williams repeatedly felt his body jerk and twitch from the
bullets which were striking the nearly-impenetrable steel
tanks of his flame thrower, bullets which could have killed him had they ricocheted downward.
He also faced a number of Banzai attacks from the enemy, which were often little more than suicide attacks in battle, in which a number of enemy soldiers would rush towards him, seeking to kill Williams with whatever weapons they had at their disposal.
Yet despite these attacks, Woody Williams survived. But his enemies
Banzai attacks don’t turn out well against a man with a flame thrower.
“Didn’t even get a scratch. I often wonder about that,” he said, “why
I survived and others didn’t.
While I was with this outstanding, courageous, and humble man, Williams made me a cup of coffee and he explained to me that the Battle for Iwo Jima was all about capturing an airfield for our long-range bombers to safely reach the Japanese mainland.
We also talked about his childhood, growing up on a farm in Fairmont, WV, and his experiences, before and after the war.
A member of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps before World War II, Williams was stationed at a CCC camp in Whitehall, Montana. He went to Boot Camp in San Diego, California, making him one of the men contemptuously referred to as “Hollywood Marines” by the other leathernecks from Parris Island.
Woody Williams showed
me a small, glass vial,
which contained some of the
black, volcanic sand from the
island of Iwo Jima.
I will never forget that day.
I met one of the greatest
heroes of World War II. And
on the way back home from
our visit, I blew out the transmission on my vehicle and spent several hours stranded next along the highway.
Although I might not have told you so it at the time, it was worth it!
Every bit of it.
My first book, Heroes in Our Midst, which profiled Woody Williams and several others was published in June of 2001. And of course we all know what happened on September 11th of that same year.
In fact, on September 10th, the day before the attacks on the World Trade Center, I was speaking to a Rotary Club gathering in Southeastern Ohio, talking about my book. It was there I made the following statement, which proved to be much more accurate than I could even imagine:
“We are currently living in a time of relative peace and prosperity, but all of that could change in just a single moment.”
The next day, it did.
Fifteen years later, those words still bring chills to me.
#MedalofHonor #patriotism #usa #americanheroes #Godandcountry #Marines
In 2001 I was interviewing World War II veterans for my first book, Heroes in Our Midst.
During that process, I had the rare privilege of meeting some of the finest and most extraordinary men that this world has ever seen.
Today, I’d like to tell you about one of them.
I drove down to the small town of Ona, West Virginia, and entered the home of Hershel Woodrow Williams, West Virginia’s only living Medal of Honor recipient.
And for the next two hours, I was to spend my time with royalty.
Although Woody Williams is a man small in stature, he is clearly a giant in all the qualities that really matter.
Perhaps nobody stood taller on Iwo.
During the battle for Iwo Jima, Williams volunteered for what he then believed to be a suicide mission. And for the next several hours, armed with nothing more than a flame thrower and hand-held explosives, he took out several Japanese pillboxes.
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