Medal of Honor: Hershel Williams

Marine Corporal Hershel Williams fought through Japanese gunfire, mounted a pillbox and placed a flame thrower in the air vent and then turned up the heat. He was 21 years old and on the island of Iwo Jima. Now he is 86 years old and I ask that you please take a moment to read the citation of a hero.


Rank: Corporal
Organization: U.S. Marine Corps
Division: 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division
Born: 2 October 1923, Quiet Dell, W. Va.
Departed: No
Entered Service At: West Virginia
Place / Date: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945. Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands, Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machinegun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered only by 4 riflemen, he fought desperately for 4 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 1 position after another. On 1 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. His unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective. Cpl. Williams’ aggressive fighting spirit and valiant devotion to duty throughout this fiercely contested action sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.


Thanks to our friends at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society for this citation.

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