July 01 2021
John Hanson | The Political Insider
97-year-old Hershel “Woody” Williams is the oldest-living Medal of Honor recipient. His job in the Marines during World War II? Flamethrower.
And he hasn’t lost a step.
Hershel Woodrow Williams, nickname “Woody,” was born in 1923 in Quiet Dell, West Virginia.
When the war began, young Woody was eager to join the Marines. Why the Marines? Woody liked their blue uniforms the most. He thought the brown Army uniforms were “the ugliest thing in town.”
At just 5’6″ Woody was not accepted at first due to his shortness, but after height regulations became less restrictive in 1943, he was finally able to join the Marines.
His specialty would be as a demolition man, particularly handling flamethrowers.
Woody said the training was minimal and much of it was learning on the go.
“We had to learn that ourselves,” he told The Washington Post in 2020.
Woody’s skill would end up being put to use in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Landing on the beach with the 1st Battalion, 21st Marines, Woody and his platoon had gunfire on all sides. As his fellow American soldiers were being killed, Woody kept going and shoved his flamethrower into the enemy pillbox.
He killed everyone.
He ended up refueling five times and continued obliterating all enemy pillboxes. Woody also witnessed the historic raising of the two flags on Mount Suribachi.
On October 5, 1945, Woody received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman.
Today, he is the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient and the only living recipient from WWII.
During the Military and Veterans Appreciation Picnic in West Virginia recently, Woody showed everyone that he still knows his way around a flamethrower.
The 97-year-old impressed the crowd when he fired off some fully automatic and single-shot rounds over the Ohio River. He was accompanied by flamethrower expert, Charles Hobson.
Woody said the event was “historical” and that “it meant a lot” to him.
It will be a day many won’t soon forget.