Hershel Woodrow Williams, the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient, dies at 98

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ODVA honors and remembers the heroic legacy of Hershel Woodrow Williams, the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient, who died early Wednesday morning, according to the Woody Williams Foundation. He was 98 years old.


Affectionately known as “Woody,” Williams earned his Congressional Medal of Honor during the Battle of Iwo Jima for displaying “valiant devotion to duty.” It was presented to him by President Harry Truman in a ceremony at the White House on October 5, 1945. In 2017, a military vessel was also named in his honor.

Born on a dairy farm in Quiet Dell, West Virginia, in 1923, Williams served 20 years in the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserves, according to the foundation.

In the early days of World War II, Williams delivered telegrams informing Gold Star families that their loved one had died — an experience Williams said helped him appreciate life and better understand the “difference in death in the normal world as expected in life, and those lost serving in the military for their country.”

After the war, Williams worked for 33 years in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He also created the Woody Williams Foundation to support and advocate on behalf of Gold Star Families after his time as a Marine.

“Woody captured the warfighting spirit of all Marines,” said Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger. “[He was] a combat-proven leader whose lifelong dedication to all service members and Gold Star families began with his heroic actions on Iwo Jima. His legacy as a warrior and an advocate for veterans will live on.”

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