Sep 2 2020
The last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, Hershel “Woody” Williams, a Cabell County resident, was with President Donald Trump in two cities Wednesday to honor the 75th anniversary of V-J Day, marking the end of World War II.
Trump and Williams departed Washington, D.C., to visit Wilmington, North Carolina, to designate it as the first American World War II Heritage City, where the president noted the “fearless courage” Williams showed as a Marine during the war.
“He’s 97! I said, ‘Man, you are something, and physically in great shape,’” Trump said before sharing Williams’ story. “He braved a torrent of hostile fire while destroying one enemy machine gun position after another — knocked them out, one after one. For his daring actions, President Truman — think of that — awarded Woody the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest in our land. Woody, congratulations. You inspire us all.”
Williams will turn 97 on Oct. 2.
“I had promised him, you know, maybe two years ago — I said, ‘I’ll take you on Air Force One.’ He came up. He’s very aggressive. He said, ‘I’d like to fly on Air Force One.’ I said I’ll do it, and today we did it,” Trump said.
On Sept. 2, 1945, formal surrender documents were signed aboard the USS Missouri, designating the day as the official Victory over Japan Day.
West Virginia reported the fifth-highest percentage of servicemen during the war, with 218,665 West Virginians serving in the armed forces. A total of 5,830 West Virginians were killed in World War II.
Eleven West Virginians were awarded Medals of Honor for their service. Williams is the last remaining Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced during a press briefing Wednesday that churches across the state would ring their bells at 7 p.m. to mark the occasion.
“This is such a precious day for us,” Justice said. “I would hope and pray that every West Virginian, no matter where you are or what’s on your mind, would just take a moment at 7 o’clock to remember all the brave men and women who gave us our continued freedom.”
West Virginia National Guard adjutant general Maj. Gen. James Hoyer also provided remarks in commemoration of the anniversary.
“On Memorial Day of this year, less than 325,000 of the 16 million men and women who served in the United States military during World War II are still with us today,” Hoyer said. “Because of the sacrifices that generation made, we coined them the greatest generation. We owe so much to them, our Korea veterans, our Vietnam veterans, for the sacrifices they made.”