The Marine Corps Medal of Honor Recipients
Featuring Marine Medal of Honor Recipients From WWII-Korea-Viet Nam And Iraqi Freedom
CORPORAL HERSHEL W. WILLIAMS
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call
of duty as Demolition Sergeant serving with the First Battalion, Twenty-First Marines, Third
Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Island, 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, Corporal Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction
of devastating machine-gun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered only by four riflemen,
he fought desperately for four hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly
returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flame throwers,
struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out one position after
another. On one occasion he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flame
thrower through the air vent, kill the occupants and silence 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 in enabling
his company to reach its' objective. Corporal Williams' aggressive fighting spirit and valiant
devotion to duty throughout this fiercely contested action sustain and enhance the highest
traditions of the United States Naval Service.
HARRY S. TRUMAN
Hershel W. Williams, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Fairmont, West Virginia, on 2 October 1923. Prior to his enlistment in the Marine Corps Reserve in Charleston, West Virginia, on 26 May 1943, the young man was employed as a truck driver for the W.S. Harr Construction Company of Fairmont. He had also been a taxi driver and worked at other odd jobs.
Private Williams received his recruit training at the Marine Corps Base, San Diego, California, upon completion of which he was sent to the Training Center, Camp Elliott, San Diego, where he joined the Tank Battalion on 21 August 1943.
The following month he was transferred to the Infantry Battalion at the Training Center, for training as a demolition man and in the use of the flame thrower. On 30 October he joined the 32d Replacement Battalion. He left the United States on board the M.S. Weltey Reden on 3 December 1943 for New Caledonia. In January 1944 he joined the 3d Marine Division at Guadalcanal. He was first attached to Company C, 1st Battalion, 21st Marines, and then to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 21st Marines.
During July and August 1944 he participated in action against the Japanese at Guam, and in October he rejoined Company C. His next campaign was at Iwo Jima where he earned the Medal of Honor.
Landing on 21 February 1945, Cpl Williams became a distinguished fighting man three days later. Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through a network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands, Cpl Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine gun fire from the unyielding positions.
Covered by only four riflemen, he fought desperately for four hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flame throwers, struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out one position after another.
One occasion saw him daringly mounted on a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flame thrower through the air vent, killing the occupants and silencing the gun. On another, he grimly charged enemy rifleman who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon.
He was wounded in action during the campaign on 6 March 1945, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart.
In September 1945, he returned to the United States, and on the first day of the next month joined Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington. He was presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on 5 October 1945 at the White House.
On 22 October 1945 he was transferred to the Marine Barracks, Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, Maryland, for discharge. He was discharged from the Marine Corps Reserve on 6 November 1945. In March 1948 he reenlisted in the inactive Marine Corps Reserve, but was again discharged on 4 August 1949.
On 20 October 1954, he joined the Organized Marine Reserve when the 98th Special Infantry Company was authorized by Marine Corps Headquarters, Clarksburg, West Virginia. He transferred to the 25th Infantry Company in Huntington, West Virginia, on 9 June 1957. He later became the (Interim) Commanding Officer of that unit as a warrant officer on 6 June 1960. He was designated the Mobilization Officer for the 25th Infantry Company and surrounding Huntington area on 11 June 1963.
He was advanced through the enlisted ranks during his time in the reserves until reaching his final rank of chief warrant officer 4. Although CWO4 Williams technically did not meet retirement requirements, he was honorarily retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in 1969 after approximately 17 years of service.