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Following demise, WWII Iwo Jima hero Woody Williams lies in Capitol

WASHINGTON D.C.: The U.S. Congress this week honored Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, described as a 5-foot-6 “force of nature” during the battle of Iwo Jima and the last remaining Medal of Honor recipient from World War II.

Williams died last month at the age of 98 and was placed to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, a tribute reserved for the nation’s most distinguished citizens.

Williams was 21 years-old when he served as a U.S. Marine corporal when he took part in the landing on Iwo Jima in early 1945.

Official records noted that Williams moved ahead of his unit and destroyed a number of Japanese machine gun positions. In the face of small-arms fire, he continued fighting for four hours, repeatedly returning to the front lines to put in place demolition charges and obtain flamethrowers.

President Harry Truman awarded Williams the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest decoration, later that year.

During a Congressional ceremony, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “With Woody’s passing, we have lost a deeply selfless American and a vital link to our nation’s greatest generation.”

Williams wanted this week’s ceremony as a way to recognize every Medal of Honor recipient from that war, said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Throughout the week, lawmakers have lauded Williams and marveled at his youth during his actions at Iwo Jima.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell recalled meeting Williams at a ceremony in Owensboro, Kentucky, stating, “By that point, he’d been giving back to his beloved country for 77 years. So, needless to say, Woody’s service leaves us a rich legacy.”

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Well known in his native West Virginia, a Huntington medical center was renamed in honor of Williams, and the U.S. Navy commissioned a vessel in his name in 2020.

This week, two U.S. Senator took the Senate floor to commemorate Williams. Democrat Joe Manchin called him the “greatest of the greatest generation,” while Republican Shelley Moore Capito recalled his humility.

“That shows you the kind of man that Woody Williams was, always putting his country and his comrades first and never concerned with who got the credit,” Capito said.