Hershel "Woody" Williams, America's Last WWII Medal of Honor Recipient, Dies at 98

"Woody peacefully joined his beloved wife Ruby while surrounded by his family at the VA Medical Center which bears his name."

Medal of Honor Recipient "Woody" Williams visits Oahu
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brendan Custer

Hershel "Woody" Williams, the last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient, died on Wednesday at the age of 98.

Woody was reportedly surrounded by his family at the Hershel "Woody" Williams VA Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia—the hospital named after him in 2018.

"Today at 3:15am, Hershel Woodrow Williams, affectionately known by many as Woody went home to be with the Lord," the Woody Williams Foundation announced on Facebook. "Woody peacefully joined his beloved wife Ruby while surrounded by his family at the VA Medical Center which bears his name."

The youngest of 11 children, Woody was born on a dairy farm in Quiet Dell, West Virginia, on October 2, 1923. He served in the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1969, retiring after 17 years of service with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4.

During WWII, Woody served in New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, and Guam before landing in Iwo Jima where his "valiant devotion to duty" earned him the Medal of Honor. It was presented to him by President Harry Truman in a ceremony at the White House on October 5, 1945.

According to the National WWII museum, 473 American service members received a Medal of Honor in WWII.

Hershel Williams Medal of Honor
Courtesy Photo

Following his service in WWII, Woody worked for 33 years in the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also created the Woody Williams Foundation to support and advocate on behalf of Gold Star Families. The Navy named the USS Hershel "Woody" Williams after him in 2020.

"On behalf of all Marines, Sgt. Maj. Black and I are heartbroken to learn of Woody's passing. From his actions on Iwo Jima to his lifelong service to our Gold Star Families, Woody has left an indelible mark on the legacy of our Corps," General David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, said in a news release. "As the last of America's 'Greatest Generation' to receive the Medal of Honor, we will forever carry with us the memory of his selfless dedication to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to our great Nation. The Marine Corps is fortunate to have many heroes, but there is only one Woody Williams. Semper Fidelis, Marine."

Woody is survived by two daughters, Travie and Tracie, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His family shared that "Woody's wish is that people continue to carry on his mission."

Rest in peace, Woody, and thank you for your service.

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