West Virginia remembers Woody Williams

Hershel "Woody" Williams
Hershel "Woody" Williams(WVVA)
Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 6:37 PM EDT
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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) - In the nearly 77 years since the end of World War II, the country has laid 472 Medal of Honor recipients to rest.

But the 473rd hits close to home.

“Woody Williams is Captain America,” shared West Virginia State Senator Stephen Baldwin. “I mean, he’s like Steve Rogers. He’s the little guy who is small in stature but has the biggest heart, and he did it his whole life long.”

Hershel “Woody” Williams, a West Virginian and the last living World War II Medal of Honor recipient, passed away on Wednesday, June 29.

He was 98.

But his death doesn’t just signify the last of honored war heroes from that time, but the realization that the era of World War II veterans is coming to a close as most have passed away. As of 2021, less than 250,000 out of 16 million Americans who fought in the war were still living.

“I think he represents the era of sacrifice and willingness to fight for freedom that sometimes dims, I think, in this country when we realize what we have,” said United States Senator Shelley Moore Capito. “But for Woody, it never dimmed. His love of country and his love of the military was just infectious.”

Leaders in West Virginia, both at the state and national level, are mourning the loss of a true mountaineer. They say the memory of Williams and the other 16 million Americans who served in World War II should be carried on for generations.

United States Senator Joe Manchin shared his thoughts in a press conference alongside Senator Capito Wednesday morning.

“What we take for granted, what we really don’t know is Woody was a legend. And there’s still tales about him. They talk about him. They study about Woody, and it was unbelievable to hear from these high-ranking officers that came up to me and told me what a treasure we have.”

Williams was recognized for his valor in one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific, the Battle of Iwo Jima, where he served as a United States Marine. He used a flamethrower to take out several enemy machine-gun nests.

He was given the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman in 1945.

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