Current News – Iwo Jima Remembrance

Hershel “Woody” Williams, Medal of Honor, Iwo Jima

HONOLULU — Seventy-three years ago on the island of Iwo Jima, Hershel “Woody” Williams randomly chose several fellow Marines to give him rifle cover as he made a one-man charge with his flamethrower against a network of Japanese pillboxes.

He spent four hours unleashing flames into the pillboxes that had stymied advance for days, racing back to the Marine Corps lines to refuel the flamethrower, and then running again into battle — all while covered by only four riflemen.

Hershel Williams

Williams was ultimately awarded the Medal of Honor on Feb. 23, 1945, for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty,” as the official citation describes it. He “daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine-gun fire” coming out of reinforced concrete pillboxes, on which bazooka and mortar rounds had no effect.

At one point, Williams mounted a pillbox, stuck the flamethrower’s nozzle through an air vent and killed the enemy within it.  Two of the Marines covering Williams died that day, but he never knew their names, and never knew where their remains rested until just a few months ago.

On Saturday, Williams, with the Medal of Honor hanging around his neck, stood over the Hawaii grave of Charles Fischer, one of those “guardian angels” who helped him survive that day and is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, nicknamed the Punchbowl.  He saluted the Marine, who died a private first class that day, and then slowly bent down and placed a purple lei upon his headstone.

Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams, then and now

“I have always said I’m just the caretaker of it,” Williams said later of the Medal of Honor. “It belongs to them. They sacrificed for it. I didn’t.”
Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to men who fought on Iwo Jima; Williams is the last still alive.
Williams was in Hawaii to dedicate a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe. The monument was initiated by Williams through the organization he founded, the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation. This is the foundation’s 33rd monument to be dedicated; they recognize the sacrifices made by families who have lost loved ones in the service of their country.

Punchbowl Cemetery, Honolulu, HI

After the Saturday morning dedication, the 94-year-old Williams visited the Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu, where the remains of hundreds of servicemembers who died during World War II are interred.  Patrick O’Leary, a foundation board member whom Williams has dubbed his “research guru,” sleuthed the identity of Fischer by poring through hundreds of military documents concerning the Iwo Jima campaign waged in February and March 1945.

Using five witness statements that had been given in the course of recommending Williams for the Medal of Honor, O’Leary was able to reliably pinpoint the company the riflemen were in and found that only a corporal and private first class had been killed that day.  “It just has to be them,” O’Leary said. “Nothing else fits.”

Hershel Williams

Last fall he tracked down Fischer’s gravesite in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The other Marine is buried in Long Island, N.Y.
Williams also visited for the first time the grave of Vernon Waters, a fellow Marine and close friend who died on Iwo Jima.
They had become very close in the lead up to the Iwo Jima campaign, fostering a feeling of devotion in Williams so strong that he ultimately risked court-martial.
While on the island of Guam, Waters and Williams had made a pact that should either of them be killed, the other would return their rings to family members.
William’s girlfriend had given him a ring with a “wee, tiny, little ruby” in it before he left for the Marine Corps.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Personal Request –

Please visit Katrina’s site for honoring our veterans.  My father has been honored there and now a dear old friend.  Thank you.

Sgt Walter “Wally” Morgan Bryant

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Eark Albert – McAlester, OK; US Army Air Corps, WWII, HQ/457th Arty/11th Airborne Division

Edward Cox – Tampa, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea

A soldier from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, the guardians of Arlington National Cemetery, waits amid the gravestones during funeral services for Army Spc. Sean R. Cutsforth, of Radford, Va., a member of the 101st Airborne who was killed in Afghanistan in December, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Frank Fazekas Sr. – Trenton, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Lt., P-47 pilot, KIA

Betty Flowers – Bristol, ENG; British Woman’s Air Force WAAF, WWII

William Morris – Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, WWII, Corpsman

Jack Mullins – Sydney, AUS; RA Air Force, WWII

Stanley Serafin – Surprise, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-29 technician

Jesse Traywick – Ft. Benning, GA; US Army WWII, PTO, Gen. Wainwright’s aide, POW

Donald Wesley Troy – Midland, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO & CBI, P-40 & P-47 pilot / Korea, P-51, Distinguished Flying Cross

John Zucco – Boston, MA; USMC, WWII, PTO, USS Alaska

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on March 29, 2018, in Current News, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 113 Comments.

  1. our family friend is RV Burgin who wrote islands of the damned it was later turned into the HBO series the Pacific, i admire the vets there and they inspire me , but more than that hes helped so many vets of my own generation, it is a blessing to know him

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. Just getting to know one veteran of that generation can inspire so many!! The Pacific was a fantastic series, but wished there was more about the Army, Navy and Coast Guard. The Marines received the most media attention during the war, there should be a balance.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A powerful post.
    Reading about Woody’s hour hours of work with that flamethrower was stunning. Can you imagine? Reading about his devotion to his brothers in arms was inspiring. What a tribute and thank you so much for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another moving post, GP. Have a beautiful Easter!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a touching reminder of the importance of all those “nameless” ones who served valiantly, without recognition or fame. It’s wonderful that Mr. Williams was able to trace those who protected him, and that he honored them as he did. We truly are losing those great men, one at a time. I’m so glad that people are making the effort to commit their stories to print (well, and digital, I suppose). And people like you, who pass on the results of the research, are just as important!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Another great story about our heroes of the greatest generation!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such courage and sacrifice. It almost defies words.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. History comes alive with your posts gp, Hershel Williams is one hero among’st many during those times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In my mind, his mission was like the rest of them – one big team effort. That’s why I include as much as I can from the other countries as well. It was a giant effort on the part of so many!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for this story, GP. We need to hear the stories of Williams and other brave heroes.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What an incredible demonstration of bravery. He seems like a very humble person and being sure that the other four who ensured his safety were remembered too.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Such a sad, yet beautiful story of bravery and integrity. 🇺🇸❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on Truth Troubles.

    Like

  12. What a wonderful story, I am going to reblog this one for you Sir.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I really enjoy this post and am learning so much history I did not know about and which is not really taught in Britain. It’s an enlightening story of war heroism and integrity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your school systems are pretty much like ours. They feel that the war in Europe held the most interest because people of our countries could relate to it better. The Pacific Theater was larger, lasted longer and presented more problems. The CBI Theater has pretty much been ignore altogether!!
      I am thrilled you are finding these episodes interesting. It is unfortunate that I too need to actually skim over so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Merci beaucoup GP Cox pour mon ami russe!
    J’apprécie votre geste.
    Et félicitations pour votre blog.
    Vanina

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wonderful that these wartime heroes are still remembered.

    Liked by 1 person

    • With all the new DNA ancestry going on, people have a renewed interest in it all and then they realize that we are about to lose each one of them – more and more sharing is going on – and I love it!

      Like

  16. They were all of a great generation. I do not like the term “Greatest Generation” coined by Brokaw, who did not serve. Can you not say the young men who answered the call to duty for Vietnam were not from a great generation? Nice write up…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think the “Greatest” refers to just the men who served, for if that were true – anyone who went into the military during Nam was either extremely brave or nuts. That place was a hell hole. I believe it covers the entire generation who immediately backed the military, became Rosies,grew victory gardens, and saved scrap metal. During the JFK & LBJ years we had people doing the exact opposite, spitting on soldiers,etc.
      It’s always good to see you, Koji. I hope you have an outstanding weekend. Say HI to the family for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Only mistake he made was when he said that he was only the caretaker of the medal, They all deserved it, 5 very gallant young men

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is very nice of you. When I hear someone say something to that effect, I think some survivor’s guilt might be showing through. But you’re right – 5 very gallant men!

      Like

      • What gets me is that actions like this are all done spontaneously, with no thought for their own safety or well being just that there’s a job needs doing and that they’ll do it with no thought of failure.
        The 1920s & 30’s bred an extraordinary breed of men, the like, I doubt, the word will ever see again

        Liked by 1 person

        • I believe they were given to this world to set an example of strength, endurance,character and so many other qualities. Unfortunately their lessons are being forgotten. So, yes Beari, I sadly agree with you.

          Liked by 1 person

  18. “I’m just the caretaker of it…” So moving. Another great story GP! 🙂 (And more military humor that gave me the giggles)

    Liked by 1 person

  19. One time maybe, but to do it again and again… that’s heroism. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Isn’t it about time we posted about something really important—like the English prince and the American actress, or whether Ms Trump wears frilly underwear? And anyway, the BNTAPL (Be Nice to All Peoples League*) will send that nasty man a strongly worded letter—you can achieve so very much more with kindness, don’t you know? (He should have raised a white flag, put his weapon down and strolled over there to explain to the occupants the folly of their ways).

    * We have them here in New Zealand too, and they do sterling work with international relationships. Win/win, no more loud bangs …

    Like

  21. Great story. Obviously Woody is a man to admire.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. He was a handsome young man, wasn’t he? But ultimately, more courageous than good-looking. I wish him a long, long life, he deserves it.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I’ve followed Mr. Williams on Twitter. He’s very active for his age! I’m hoping to interview him via computer at some point. I’ve now interviewed 215 WWII vets (men/women) and am looking for more for an upcoming book. If anyone knows of a WWII vet who is willing/able to answer questions about their military service, please contact me. I don’t think GP will mind as he follows me on my blog which is dedicated to this work. http://www.KayleenReusser.com. Thanks to every vet who reads this.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Not only a brave man, but a good man.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. What a wonderful story!!! So few WWII heroes left to tell their stories- every one is a gem!
    Thank you so much for the shout out! My blog is relatively new, but my hope is that we remember all the sacrifices, the big and the small. That we remember those who signed up, willing to serve, and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice! Please feel free to email submissions to me- family, friends, even yourself. My email is Katrina@operationvetsupport.org if you have a submission or any questions. Thank you again for the support GP Cox.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You do a wonderful service for those who served, Katrina. You’ll be hearing from me again, I hope my readers contribute as well! I’ve made your comment to be in Bold lettering so that hopefully more will notice.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. What a heart-warming story. Such bravery. RT

    Liked by 2 people

  27. What an amazing person, stunning story.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Williams’ unselfishness is a lost trait in today’s generation …

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Another amazing story coming from the Pacific Theater of World War 2! Hershel “Woody” Williams was truly a hero. But he also gave credit to the ones who provided cover for his heroic action, which is truly the mark of a great man.

    Liked by 3 people

  30. Another great story GP. Such bravery deserves the Medal of Honor. I love him said, “I have always said I’m just the caretaker of it. It belongs to them. They sacrificed for it. I didn’t.” Typical of those who served. I applaud him for what he did at Iwo Jima and his works later to honor the fallen heroes in their service to our country. I visited Katrina’s website and followed it. She has interesting stuffs there.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Another little tear from over the pond here.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. I like his attitude toward the medal. It takes a support team to make a plan work. Still, running back and forth like that took a brave man.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Another powerful story. I’ve also had a quick flick at Katrina’s site to which I will return. Slightly confrontational but those personal stories are a reminder that we must not forget those who gave so very much. The Australian War Memorial recently implemented within their daily Closing Ceremony a special tribute to a specific fallen soldier. Descendants can nominate, dates are diarised, and family members from all parts of the world can be present along with the general public. It is quite personal, which again makes the history all that more real. Touching stuff. Thankyou

    Liked by 2 people

    • Katrina does have a wonderful site, I wish she could acquire a larger following. The service members deserve it! I’m glad the Australian Memorial is doing something similar – they sacrificed for us!

      Liked by 1 person

  34. A great story,Mr GP Cox. I am generally not taken by memories of war. It was the horror of having been born shortly after WW2 started and my birth city of Rotterdam had been flattened.
    But, as you continuously point out, we are indebted so much to the action of so many brave men such as Mr Williams that I am here today.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. These amazing stories keep on coming

    Liked by 2 people

  36. GP, I searched for Whalen on your blog and did not find it. Here is a link to the Naval History Heritage and Command article on Howard G. Whalen. My dad served under him on the Sunborn. Lt. Commander Whalen took color photos of the Iwo Jima battle. https://www.history.navy.mil/our-collections/photography/us-people/w/whalen-howard-w.html
    Dad’s observations and some of Lt. C. Whalen’s photos are here:
    http://jbmagersfamily.weebly.com/iwo-jima-battle-photos.html

    Liked by 1 person

  37. what a beautiful story in the end

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Great story about a humble man who gave so much in war, then gave so much back for the rest of his life.
    On the Farewell Salutes, I think what I like best is that they include veterans from all over the world. It’s good that you acknowledge every country’s veterans.

    Liked by 5 people

  39. Lest we forget……the old soldiers never do forget those they served with.

    Liked by 4 people

  40. Have had the great pleasure of meeting Mr. Williams and hearing him speak several times. It is such a blessing for us that he has had such a long life and has made such an effort to make himself available to people all over the United States.

    Liked by 4 people

  41. What a touching and moving story of Mr Williams, and his tribute to those unknown comrades who died protecting him.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

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