Friday, March 1, 2024

A US warship was commissioned in Hampton Roads in honor of this Iwo Jima hero, who attended the event

Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (WYDaily photo/Courtesy of the Navy)
Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (WYDaily photo/Courtesy of the Navy)

A 96-year-old war hero looked on as military officials commissioned a U.S. Navy warship in honor of the veteran, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams was commissioned Saturday in Norfolk, with the World War II veteran present.

The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is an Expeditionary Sea Base ship that was built and launched in 2017. With its commissioning, the vessel’s designation changed from a support ship (USNS) to a warship, and command transferred from the Military Sealift Command to Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

Williams described the commissioning as “a moment in history that is beyond my comprehension.”

“May all those who serve aboard this ship that bears my name be safe and proud. May she have God’s blessings for a long life of service to America, the greatest country on Earth,” he said.

Williams joined the Marine Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor and, after serving in Guadalcanal and Guam, he joined the campaign in Iwo Jima, according to the Navy.

Two days after arriving on the island, Williams picked up a 70-pound flamethrower and walked ahead of his infantry’s tanks for four hours clearing their path of enemy machine gun fire. His actions resulted in President Harry S. Truman awarding him the Medal of Honor two years later, the Navy said.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin delivered the principal address at Saturday’s ceremony, praising his fellow West Virginian as “West Virginia strong through and through.”

“I have never had a more prestigious honor to be able to be here with a person who is truly an American hero,” Manchin said.

Williams toured the then USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams for the first time Aug. 6, 2018 during is visit to Norfolk. (Story continues below the video).

The 784 foot-long vessel features a 52,000 square-foot flight deck, fuel and equipment storage, repair spaces, magazines, and mission-planning spaces.

Able to accommodate up to 250 personnel, USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams supported multiple missions, such as air mine counter measures, counter-piracy operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions and crisis response operations.

The ship has hybrid-manned crew with a combination of military personnel and civilian mariners, according to the Navy.

Here’s the full video of the event:

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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