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Woody Williams, Medal of Honor and a Promise Kept

Chris Hauff Aug 01, 2020

Miss Clark’s Truly Historic Blog! August 7, 2020

August 14, 1945, the news of Japan’s surrender was announced, and Americans and our other Allies began to celebrate the coming end of the war. The official celebration would not occur until the formal surrender documents were signed on board the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945, which this year is the 75th Anniversary of that truly historic event.

Sadly, the day was bittersweet in light of the war’s destructiveness and the many who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our Allies and us here at home. More than 400,000 Americans—and an estimated 65 million people worldwide—died in the conflict. Even more than ever before, we learned that “Freedom wasn’t free then, and is still not free today.”

Hershel W. Williams

This week’s salute is to Hershel “Woody” Williams. Not only is he a hero of WWII but also a recipient of our country’s highest medal for valor, the Medal of Honor. It has been my great privilege to meet him and share our common faith in God and Country. He is such a humble man but one who shares his story to encourage others to love this land we call America.

Though he was not part of the iconic flag-raising photo, he truly helped clear the way to raise our flag that day. He was at Iwo Jima with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division. Mr. Williams is the sole surviving Marine from WWII to wear the Medal of Honor from that battle. In his own words, this is how he describes that battle: “Our job was to take the first airfield, secure it, and then keep going north,” “There was no protection on the airfield. All we had were some shell craters. When my company commander asked if I could do something about the concrete-fortified pillboxes, I strapped on the

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima is an iconic photograph of six United States Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in the final stages of the Pacific War.

flamethrower to go take out some pillboxes.”

He took out seven enemy pillboxes with six different flamethrowers as the fighting continued on Iwo Jima. Though he doesn’t quite remember how he kept fighting, his actions on Iwo Jima made him a living legend among Marines.

Pictured below is a pillbox – a type of blockhouse, 

or concrete dug-in guard post, generally equipped with holes through which to fire weapons. Now you get the idea of how miraculous it was to take out seven in one day and survive!!!

He lost many friends in WWII and one in particular whom he had made a special promise. Though his friend did not come home from combat, Woody set out to keep his promise. The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Foundation, which he helped establish, is a direct result of that promise. As of this writing, Woody Williams and his foundation’s goal is to place a Monument in every state. We are very honored to have one of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments onshore overlooking our ship the USS Yorktown

Each of the Gold Star Memorial Monuments serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made and is meant to comfort families who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Each year we have families who gather on special days, such as their loved ones’ birthday, just to meet and remember. Part of the inscription states, “Who sacrificed a loved one for our freedom.” Next time you visit, please take a few minutes to pay respect and remember the cost of freedom represented. Be sure to look at both sides of the monument to understand the full story. Go to the link to learn more about the Gold Star Memorial Monuments Foundation. http://www.hwwmohf.org/monument-projects.html

I am very grateful to be an American and to have met so many of our heroes like Hershel “Woody” Williams. Not only did he give many years of his life as a Marine, but he now does his part to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice like his friend he made and kept his promise too.

Thank you for reading, and perhaps his story will encourage you to read more of our Greatest Generation. I am currently reading a new book that may interest you, so check it out if you are so inclined. The author was simply trying to learn some family history, and the book came from all she learned. Perhaps there’s a book yet to be written by you? 

The clue for Week 3—We had Wings (Not the title of a book…yet…LOL)

Have a truly historic weekend.



History Education Program Coordinator Cindy Clark (Miss Clark) comes out of the brig aboard the USS Yorktown.

Getting To Know Miss Clark:

My name is Cindy Clark, but most of my life as a teacher I’ve been known as Miss Clark. For more than 24 years, I was blessed to teach in a traditional classroom full of students who often taught me more than I taught them. Then, I left the classroom and boarded a truly historic ship – the USS Yorktown. I spent more than 10 years educating students from across the country about history, honor, and patriotism as part of the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum’s education department.  As of August 14, 2020, I officially retired, and looking back, I feel so blessed to have had an impact on so many young lives!

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