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: