Hershel Williams, the closing survivor a number of the 472 servicemen who have been awarded the Medal of Honor for bizarre bravery in International Conflict II and the oldest residing recipient of the medal, died on Wednesday in Huntington, W.Va. He used to be 98.

His loss of life, on the Huntington Veterans Affairs Clinical Middle, used to be introduced by way of the Woody Williams Basis.

Corporal Williams used to be mendacity susceptible at the black volcanic ash of Iwo Jima the morning of Feb. 23, 1945, when he used to be startled by way of the sounds of cheering. “, the Marines round me beginning leaping up and down, firing their guns within the air,” he instructed the Marine Corps Historical past Department lengthy in a while. “My head used to be buried within the sand. Then I regarded up and noticed Outdated Glory on best of Mount Suribachi.”

The elevating of a big American flag by way of six Marines atop Iwo Jima, photographed by way of Joe Rosenthal of The Related Press, turned into a long-lasting symbol of the American preventing guy in International Conflict II.

However the battle for the Jap-administered island and its airfields some 750 miles south of Tokyo, wanted by way of the Military Air Forces to toughen long-range bombing missions over Japan, used to be best in its 5th day when the flag went up. The fight used to be simply starting for Corporal Williams, a 21-year-old Marine from West Virginia.

That afternoon, Corporal Williams burnt up seven Jap pillboxes with flamethrowers, opening an opening that enabled Marine tanks and workforce carriers to damage throughout the enemy defenses. He scurried from one pillbox to any other, miraculously untouched by way of the serious Jap machine-gun fireplace that bounced off his apparatus — sounding, as he instructed it, like a jackhammer.

All over his four-hour foray, by which he gained supporting fireplace from a number of fellow Marines, two of whom have been killed all through the undertaking, he returned 5 instances to his headquarters to get new flamethrowers when his provide of diesel gasoline and high-octane fuel ran out.

He gained the Medal of Honor, the country’s very best award for valor, from President Harry S. Truman in October 1945. The quotation mentioned that his “unyielding resolution and bizarre heroism within the face of ruthless enemy resistance have been at once instrumental in neutralizing one of the crucial fanatically defended Jap robust issues encountered by way of his regiment.”

A complete of 27 Marines and Army servicemen gained the medal, 14 of them posthumously, for heroism within the 36-day fight for Iwo Jima.

A long time after International Conflict II, the Medal of Honor used to be awarded to greater than two dozen African American and Asian American servicemen who had engaged in bizarre fight feats within the conflict however were handed over for it, probably a results of racial prejudice, bringing the whole of recipients to 472.

The Medal of Honor used to be additionally accorded to an unidentified serviceman killed in International Conflict II and any other who died within the Korean Conflict when their stays have been reburied on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Nationwide Cemetery in 1958, becoming a member of an unidentified International Conflict I serviceman.

Hershel Woodrow Williams, referred to as Woody, used to be born on Oct. 2, 1923, within the tiny neighborhood of Quiet Dell, W.Va., the youngest of eleven kids of Lloyd and Lurenna Williams. Six of his brothers and sisters had died all through the 1918-19 flu pandemic.

He helped his oldsters run their small dairy farm; after his father died of a center assault when Woody used to be 11, his brother Lloyd Jr. took over the farm with lend a hand from the opposite kids. He later surrender highschool to enroll in the Melancholy-era Civilian Conservation Corps, operating on initiatives in Montana.

As a teen, he were inspired by way of the dress-blue uniforms and the bearing of a few fatherland boys on furloughs from the Marine Corps. He enlisted within the Marines in Would possibly 1943. He used to be best 5 ft 6 inches tall, the carrier’s minimal top requirement, and weighed simply 135 kilos, however he used to be neatly muscled from his farm paintings.

He noticed fight on Guam a yr later, then arrived on Iwo Jima with the twenty first Marines of the 3rd Marine Department. When Marine armored cars turned into slowed down of their try to penetrate the community of Jap protection positions, his commander requested him if he may do one thing to toughen them.

Thus started his one-man flame-throwing foray.

He instructed Larry Smith for the oral historical past “Iwo Jima” (2008) that “you needed to get inside 20 yards of a pillbox, with machine-gun bullets kicking up.”

“One time, the boys in a single pillbox got here out,” he recalled. “As they got here working towards me with their rifles and bayonets poised, they ran immediately into the hearth from my flamethrower. As though in gradual movement, they simply fell down.”

Corporal Williams incurred a leg wound from shrapnel 11 days later, however he remained on Iwo Jima till the fight ended.

Iwo Jima used to be the midway level for the Military Air Forces’ B-29 bombers that set out from their bases at the Marianas Islands to bomb Japan. The seize of its airstrips gave the US a base for fighter planes escorting the bombers and supplied emergency touchdown websites for crippled B-29s coming back from their missions.

However the seizing of that eight-square-mile spit of volcanic particles used to be exceedingly expensive. A couple of-third of the 70,000 Marines who invaded Iwo Jima, from the 3rd, Fourth and 5th Marine Divisions, have been killed or wounded. All however one thousand or so of the 20,000 Jap defenders died within the fight.

Mr. Williams left lively army carrier in November 1945 and returned to his local West Virginia, the place he used to be a counselor for the Veterans Management. He remained within the Marine Corps as a reservist and retired as a primary warrant officer in 1969. His basis raises cash to offer scholarships for youngsters who had misplaced a mother or father in conflict.

In March 2020, he attended a rite in Norfolk, Va., for the commissioning of the warship Hershel “Woody” Williams.

Mr. Williams’s spouse, Ruby (Meredith) Williams, whom he married in 1945, died in 2007. That they had two daughters, Travie Jane and Tracie Jean, in addition to grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Whole knowledge on survivors used to be now not instantly to be had.

In February 2011, Mr. Williams spoke aboard the amphibious attack send Iwo Jima at Norfolk at the 66th anniversary of the fight. “I declare to be best the caretaker of the medal,” he mentioned. “There have been 27 medals awarded, however there have been numerous others who did as a lot, if now not extra.”

Supply hyperlink