Bob Powell Published

February 23, 1945: Woody Williams Risks Life to Neutralize Japanese in WWII


On February 23, 1945, Marine Corporal Herschel “Woody” Williams perilously risked his life to neutralize Japanese positions during World II.

At the time, American tanks were struggling to open a lane for infantry forces on Iwo Jima. With only four riflemen covering his movements, Williams repeatedly prepared demolition charges and rushed enemy lines.

Armed with a flamethrower, he destroyed seven Japanese pillboxes, one by one, over a four-hour period. This act of individual heroism earned Williams the Medal of Honor. Eleven days later, he was wounded by shrapnel and earned a Purple Heart.

The Fairmont native had grown up in Harrison County. He almost didn’t make it into the military. At the beginning of World War II, he’d tried to enlist in the Marines. But, at five feet six inches, he was considered too short to serve. He finally enlisted in May 1943 after the military changed its height requirement.

After the war, Woody Williams returned to West Virginia, where he served in the Marine Corps Reserve, worked for the Veterans Administration, and ran a boarding and training barn for horses in Cabell County.