Last WWII Medal of Honor Recipient, Flamethrowing Hershel “Woody” Williams, Dies at Age 98

Last summer, we reported that 97-year-old World War II veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams was still a flamethrower expert. And sadly, today, Williams has passed. He was the last surviving WWII Medal of Honor recipient.

“Today at 3:15am, Hershel Woodrow Williams, affectionately known by many as Woody went home to be with the Lord. Woody peacefully joined his beloved wife Ruby while surrounded by his family,” reads a statement from the Woody Williams Foundation.

For his service during the Battle of Iwo Jima, Williams was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman in October of 1945.

Hershel “Woody” Williams

Hershel Woodrow Williams, called Woody, was born in 1923 in Quiet Dell, West Virginia. The war broke out when Woody was a young man and instantly he wanted to enlist in the Marines… though not for the patriotic reasons you might think. In fact, Woody was fixated by the Marines’ distinct blue uniforms. Reportedly, he thought the brown Army garb was “the ugliest thing in town” and decided to wait until he was be accepted by those navy-donning Devil Dogs. At just 5’6″ Woody was initially too short to enlist but made it in once height regulations were loosened in 1943.

In the Marines, Woody was trained as a demolition man, specializing in the use of flamethrowers. However, that training was not very hands-on; the veteran has described learning about the technicalities of a flamethrower — diesel tanks, and aviation gas, and compressed air — but as for physically operating the weapon? “We had to learn that ourselves,” he told The Washington Post in 2020.

But it was at the Battle of Iwo Jima that those deadly skills came into play. Landing on the beach with the 1st Battalion, 21st Marines, Woody, and his fellow Americans were surrounded by machine gunfire. As every man with Woody became a casualty, he soldiered on and shoved his trusty flamethrower into the enemy pillbox… and killed everyone. Woody then refueled five times and moved ahead with the total destruction of all enemy pillboxes. From one thousand yards away that day, the survivor was able to witness the historic raising of the two flags on Mount Suribachi.

Woody Flexes Flamethrower Skills at Age 97

Rest in peace to the ultimate badass.

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