W.Va. Medal of Honor recipient among those featured on new stamp series
The Charleston Gazette, W.Va.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Medal of Honor recipient Hershel "Woody" Williams is among 12 Medal of Honor winners from World War II whose likeness will be included in a new memorial stamp series issued by the U.S. Postal Service.
The "Medal of Honor" Forever stamps will go on sale Monday, Veterans Day, and commemorate the 464 soldiers, sailors and air crew members who received the Medal of Honor during the war.
According to postal officials, Williams is among 12 Medal of Honor recipients whose photograph is included with the package of special stamps.
At the time of their design, they were the last 12 Medal of Honor recipients from World War II still living; three of the 12 men featured in the stamp series have since died.
Williams, 90, of Ona, was serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. He then joined the U.S. Marine Corps, and took part in the hard-fought battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.
On Feb. 23, 1945, Williams was asked to knock out a series of Japanese pillboxes that were holding up the advance of the Marines. Heavily reinforced by steel, the concrete pillboxes had proved impervious to bombs and shells from ships offshore.
Armed with a flamethrower, Williams went forward in the company of four riflemen and went after the pillboxes, attempting to burn out their occupants. At one point, he climbed on top of one of the enemy emplacements to try to fire down an airshaft.
"Don't ask me how I did it," Williams said in an interview for the Medal of Honor Foundation. "I don't know how I did it. But in four hours I knocked out seven of those things."
Williams was presented with the Medal of Honor, the country's highest award, by President Harry Truman. He later spoke with Gen. Alexander Archer Vandergrift, commandant of the Marine Corps and himself a Medal of Honor recipient.
"That medal doesn't belong to you," the general told Williams. "He said, 'It belongs to all the Marines who did not get to come home. And don't do anything that would tarnish that medal.'"
Williams said the Medal of Honor represents the sacrifice of U.S. soldiers who fought for their country.
"On the day I was born ... I was handed a gem that is absolutely impossible to buy," Williams said.
"That was my freedom."