Last surviving MOH recipient from WWII -famous for his ‘thousand-yard stare’- passes away at 98

Marine Corps photos

Greg Jordan

Bluefield Daily Telegraph, W.Va.


Jun. 29—Flags across West Virginia were being lowered to half staff Wednesday after authorities were informed that West Virginia native Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient in the nation, had passed away.

Gov. Jim Justice issued a statement about Williams early Wednesday morning.

“I ask all West Virginians to join Cathy and I in praying for Woody, his family, friends, loved ones, and the entire military community across West Virginia and the United States of America,” Justice said. “Pray that, while the weight of this loss is profound, we all will be able to take solace in the fact that Woody’s contributions to our nation inspired generations, cultivated similar bravery, and saved lives. Woody Williams will go down in history as one of the greatest West Virginians who ever lived, and we salute him for everything he gave to our state and our nation.”

Justice has offered for Williams to lie in state in the Capitol, and has also offered a State funeral to be held for Williams at the State Capitol. Additional details regarding these arrangements will be announced soon pending confirmation from the family.

The governor will also be signing a proclamation to lower all United States and West Virginia flags to half-staff statewide in Williams honor. The proclamation will be issued once the date of his funeral is announced.

Woody Williams was born on a dairy farm in 1923 in Quiet Dell, W.Va. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in the Battle of Iwo Jima with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division. During the battle, Williams displayed “valiant devotion to duty” and service above self as he “enabled his company to reach its objective.” Williams’ actions, commitment to his fellow service members, and heroism were recognized on October 5, 1945, when he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman at the White House.

To date, Woody Williams and his foundation are responsible for establishing 102 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments across the United States with more than 73 additional monuments underway in 50 states and one U.S. Territory. One is located in Princeton. The first was dedicated in the Donnel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Institute. The monument at the West Virginia State Capitol is the largest.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D- W.Va. also released the following statement on the passing of Woody Williams.

” Woody Williams was the embodiment of a true American hero. Americans like Woody answered the call to serve our great nation and their sacrifices allow us to enjoy the freedoms we hold dear,” Manchin said. “Gayle and I are devastated by the loss of our dear friend who meant so much to so many across our great state and entire nation. We join all West Virginians in praying for Woody’s family, friends and loved ones during this difficult time.”

“Last Sunday, I was honored to visit with Woody one last time. We called VA Secretary Denis McDonough so he could thank Woody directly for his unparalleled service to our nation,” Manchin said. “In true Woody fashion, he wanted to discuss the importance of completing the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Dunbar — his most recent Veterans project — to ensure that the families of our fallen soldiers and veterans have a safe place to lay their loved ones to rest, protected from the weather throughout the year. I am determined to carry on the legacy of my dear friend by getting the shelter built.”

“Woody was a tireless advocate for all veterans and their family members. Over the years, my staff and I worked with Woody on too many issues to name, including for Gold Star Families, improving our veterans hospitals and healthcare, and recognizing the contributions of our service members,” Manchin stated. “I will miss riding with Woody during our annual motorcycle ride for Gold Star Families; he was always my wingman. One of my most cherished memories with Woody is traveling to California and Virginia with him when his ship was commissioned and christened. During those moments, Woody showed the world the true nature of being a West Virginian with his humility and grace. As the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Woody represented the last of the Greatest Generation. With the passing of Woody, their legacies and honor are laid to rest.”


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