Patriots Point to hold memorial service for last-surviving WWII Medal of Honor recipient

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - The last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient will be remembered at a memorial service in Mount Pleasant Friday, just days after his death earlier this week.

Hershel “Woody” Williams died Wednesday in Huntington, West Virginia at age 98.

The Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society is hosting the service in front of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument landside of the USS Yorktown at 10:30 a.m.

The event is free to attend. Parking at Patriots Point for the event will also be free between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Williams received the honor for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” while he served as a demolition seargent serving with the 21st Marines, third Marine Division while fighting Japanese forces on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945.

His Medal of Honor citation states Williams daringly went alone to try to reduce machine-gun fire.

“Covered only by four riflemen, he fought desperately for four hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers, struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out one position after another,” the citation states. “On one occasion, he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants, and silencing the gun; on another he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon.”

The citation praised his “unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance.”

Williams has a lasting connection to South Carolina and Patriots Point through the Gold Star Families Memorial. The Woody Williams Foundation built the monument to recognize and honor South Carolina Gold Star families.

“Every year, hundreds of thousands of people stop at the memorial to learn how the ultimate sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes affect their loved ones,” Patriots Point Interim Executive Director Mac Burdette said. “Woody’s valor and heroism during World War II is an inspiration; his commitment to support Gold Star Families will have an impact for generations.”

A Gold Star Family has sacrificed a loved one to support America’s freedom in times of conflict since World War I.

Williams spoke at the dedication ceremony in 2018.

South Carolina is also home to the headquarters of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which is the membership organization of living Medal of Honor Recipients and the caretaker of the legacies of all 3,511 Medal of Honor Recipients.

Williams served as the long-time Chaplain of the Society.

The memorial ceremony will include remarks from Congressional Medal of Honor Society Executive Vice President John Falkenbury.

It will conclude with the playing of TAPS.

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Patrick Phillips

Patrick joined the Live 5 News team in October 2006.