Hershel "Woody" Williams, the last surviving World War II veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, will lie in honor July 14, 2022, at the US Capitol. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexa M. Hernandez.
The nation will pay its respects to Marine Corps veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams Thursday, July 14, as he lies in honor at the US Capitol Rotunda. Williams was the last living World War II Medal of Honor recipient; he died June 29 at age 98.
“Woody lived every day as if he were given a second chance, and we are all so much better for it,” Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said Wednesday evening ahead of the ceremony.
Williams died June 29 in his home state of West Virginia, leaving behind a legacy of bravery, heroism, and love of country.
Williams earned the Medal of Honor for a desperate, four-hour fight on Feb. 23, 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The last Marine left standing from his six-man demolition team, Williams used a flamethrower to take out seven Japanese pillboxes, dodging small-arms fire all the while.
“His unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strongpoints encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective,” his Medal of Honor citation reads.
Williams spent two decades in the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve, advancing to the rank of chief warrant officer before retiring. He worked as a veterans service representative with the Department of Veterans Affairs for 33 years. He also served as the commandant of the Veterans Nursing Home in Barboursville, West Virginia, and as the chaplain for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
West Virginia Sen. Shelley Capito, a Republican, called Williams a member of the greatest generation who never forgot his fellow veterans.
“What would set Woody apart I think more than those acts of valor on the battlefield, was what he did after that,” Capito said in a speech from the Senate floor. “How he carried himself in the more than 75 years since the second World War.”
Retired Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of WWII, died June 29, 2022, at the age of 98. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexa M. Hernandez.
To support Gold Star Families, Williams founded the Woody Williams Foundation, a nonprofit that has established more than 100 monuments across the country so far, with more than 70 additional monuments underway, according to the Woody Williams Foundation.
Williams wished to lie in honor at the US Capitol to represent all Medal of Honor recipients from World War II, Manchin said.
“Woody can rest in peace knowing his mission is complete,” Manchin said Wednesday.
A ceremonial arrival for Williams’ casket is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at the Capitol. Members of Congress are expected to make remarks at 11 a.m. and viewing will be open to the public from noon to 3 p.m. Williams’ remains will depart the Capitol at 3:30 p.m. and there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at 4 p.m. at the World War II Memorial.
You can watch the proceedings from the Capitol Rotunda live on YouTube.
Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear gassed during the 2020-2021 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.
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