Tag Archives: Medal Of Honor

An American Hero – Hershel “Woody” Williams, Medal of Honor Recipient

On April 21, 2015, I had the privilege of attending a reception at the Parkersburg Country Club for retired United States Marine Hershel “Woody” Williams. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 5, 1945 by President Harry S. Truman for his heroism during the battle of Iwo Jima. Before giving his little talk, he made himself available for pictures. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to have my picture taken with such a true American hero.

Williams’ heroism stems from the four hours he was personally engaged in battle, attacking and destroying seven different Japanese pillboxes with flamethrowers, on the tiny island of Iwo Jima. In the talk he gave regarding that fateful day, I found most fascinating that he remembered nothing of his activities after agreeing to take the mission from his commanding officer. He knew he was given two Marine snipers and two Marines with machine guns, whose jobs were to fire on the pillboxes while he carried out his attack. Several Marines worked behind him, bringing him flamethrowers, as they would run out of fuel after less than twenty minutes of use, so that he could continue his mission. Still, the man has never had any recollection of his actions during those four hours of battle.Silhouette fedora

What had prompted Williams’ act of heroism, as he said, it was “how dug-in the Japanese were on this island.” When the troops landed, they were sitting ducks for the Japanese forces. The men literally conducted battle planning from inside bomb craters on one of the three runways on the eight-square-mile island. Iwo Jima was the bloodiest battle of World War II in the Pacific. The Japanese had 22,000 men dug in with underground tunnels connecting the positions. The Americans had nothing. The battle raged on for five weeks before the US Marines retook the island, which was crucially strategic in the potential bombing or invading of Japan.

Williams had just taken part in an island fight when they were loaded back on boats to go to Iwo Jima. He said they were told they likely wouldn’t even be getting off the boat. They believed the battle to take the island would take just over three days, or at the most, nine days. Sadly, these Marines had no intelligence on the Japanese positions on Iwo Jima.

Woody Williams’ story begins similar to that of Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy; both men were too small by enlistment standards, but found ways around them, so that could serve our country. In July of last year, I wrote a blog article on Audie Murphy, available for you to read at https://www.donkesterson.com/2014/07/04/audie-murphy-world-war-ii-war-hero/.

Williams, who is 92 years young, spoke articulately and with authority, without referring to a single note or using a teleprompter. He said that, until going back to the island last year for a commemoration event, he had never been to the famous Suribachi Memorial, which framed not only the battle for the island, but the battle in the Pacific and the sacrifice of the US Marines. Williams has formed a foundation to help families who have lost loved ones in combat, and you can find out more about it at http://hwwmohfoundation.org/index.html. His foundation represents six core values: courage, sacrifice, patriotism, citizenship, integrity, and commitment. These values are quite fitting, as they are the characteristics this heroic man has exhibited every day of his life.

Audie Murphy, World War II War Hero

Growing up, I heard that Audie Murphy was a great war hero, but I never knew his story. Now I know that Audie Murphy was the most-decorated soldier in World War II. By the end of the War, he had attained the rank of First Lieutenant in the Army and was decorated with thirty-three medals, including three Purple Hearts and one Medal of Honor.Silhouette fedora

At the beginning of the War, it was difficult for Murphy to get into the Military, and the Army, the Navy and Marines rejected him because he was too young—only 16 years old—and too small at 5’5” and 110 pounds. Murphy didn’t let that stop him. He altered his birth certificate, and eventually he was allowed to enlist in the Army, as the war had continued and more soldiers were needed. During his basic training at Camp Wolters, Texas, he passed out, and his company commander almost transferred him to cooking school. Fortunately, Murphy talked the commander out of this transfer.

Murphy was assigned to the Third Platoon, Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in Casablanca, Morocco. In Murphy’s first combat, he participated in the invasion of Sicily, and for his brave actions, he was promoted to corporal, but unfortunately contracted malaria. Next, Murphy was part of the invasion of Italy. While participating in the Italy campaign, the Germans ambushed his night patrol. Due to Murphy’s heroic actions that night, they not only won the battle, but also took some German prisoners. For these measures, Audie Murphy received a promotion to sergeant. Murphy’s division moved forward, and next he participated in the fighting near Anzio, where he earned two Bronze Stars, one for personally destroying a German tank.

Sergeant Audie Murphy was then sent to France. In one particular incident, he witnessed the death of a close friend when a German soldier faked surrender, then killed the man. Murphy went ballistic, and all by himself, he wiped out a German machine gun perch, then grabbed a German weapon, killed a few German soldiers and forced several others to retreat. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for this valiant action.

By October of 1944, he had been promoted to second lieutenant. Later that month, Murphy was wounded in the hip while leading his platoon into battle, causing him to recover in the infirmary for ten weeks. On January 25, 1945, just after returning to his platoon as a company commander, he was impaled with shrapnel from an exploding mortar round. Despite this wound, he did not leave the battle field. The next day as he led his men into battle, they came under far-superior enemy fire. He ordered his platoon to fall back, and while they followed his orders, Murphy didn’t. Instead, he stayed in position and provided cover so that his platoon could be pulled back safely. Eventually he ran out of ammunition, but still he didn’t fall back. He mounted a burning M10 Army tank and used its .50-caliber machine gun to force the Germans to hold their position. Again, Murphy received a leg wound, but for one hour, he maintained his position until his men could regroup and counterattack with air support. Murphy’s men succeeded in removing the Germans from their position. For this gallant feat, he received the Medal of Honor on June 2, 1945.

After the war, Audie Murphy was invited to Hollywood by James Cagney. Cagney talked Murphy into playing himself in a movie based on his autobiography. Murphy went on to play in forty-five movies in twenty-five years. Next, Audie Murphy began to write country music.

Despite his bravery and patriotic deeds, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following the war. Audie Murphey died in a tragic plane crash near Catawba, Virginia, on May 28, 1971.

Have you ever seen any of Audie Murphy’s movies, or have you heard his country songs? Were you aware of his distinguished service before reading this post?

A True Fighting Gamecock at the University of South Carolina

I don’t personally know Kyle Carpenter, but I imagine he did what most normal college young men did this past semester at the University of South Carolina. He probably worked hard to be the good student that he is, but I’m guessing he also played video games, watched sports on TV, discussed classes and what he might do this weekend with friends. He might even be watching our Gamecock baseball team or be thinking about next year’s football and basketball teams.

Kyle Carpenter continuously tries to pass himself off as just a regular student at the University of South Carolina. But last week, Kyle Carpenter visited the White House–not on a tour, but as an invited guest of President Barack Obama. You see, Kyle Carpenter really isn’t your average USC student. He is the retired Marine Corporal Kyle Carpenter, and he was at the White House to receive the Medal of Honor from President Obama. Kyle is the eighth living recipient and the second Marine recipient of this great honor since the start of the war against terrorism in Afghanistan.

Why did President Obama honor this twenty-four-year-old man? Kyle Carpenter’s story is anything but ordinary. On November 21, 2010, Kyle and his best friend Lance Corporal Nicholas Eufrazio stood guard on a rooftop in the Marjah District of the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, taking fire from the Taliban, when a grenade landed on the roof. What this young Marine did in the next few seconds changed the lives of both his best friend and him.

He dove toward the grenade.Silhouette fedora

His action saves his best friend’s life, and miraculously, Kyle survived the blast.

Kyle remained conscious for a few seconds after the blast, feeling his life’s blood pour out of him. According to his personal accounts, in those second that Kyle remained conscience, he asked if his best friend Nicholas Eufrazio survived, and he accepted Christ in his life so that he could go to Heaven. Plus he was upset, thinking about his family he wouldn’t see, as he was certain he was going to die there on the rooftop in Afghanistan?

In the critical minutes that passed, Carpenter went through three revivals of flat-line cardiac arrest. By the grace of God, the medics, paramedics and doctors didn’t give up on Kyle, and Kyle’s intestinal fortitude refused to give up. The next thing this heroic young man remembers is waking up at Walter Reed Army Hospital, following a coma that lasted more than five weeks.

Over the next two years, Marine Corporal William “Kyle” Carpenter underwent almost forty surgeries to repair the loss of a right eye, a blown right ear drum, a fractured nose, destroyed lower jaw and cheek bones, plus a right arm broken into more than thirty pieces. And those weren’t the worst injuries–he also had shrapnel in his brain. During two years of recovery, this native of Mississippi and resident of Gilbert, South Carolina strived to return to normal.

In a recent interview with a local TV station, he talked about going back to Afghanistan to the very rooftop where the horrific incident occurred, for nothing else but closure on that fateful moment—that moment when he did what he claims all Marines would proudly do: dive on a grenade to protect his fellow Marines.

Kyle’s recovery has been nothing short of miraculous, and he is now doing things that none of his doctors would have predicted. Kyle is even contemplating running the Marine Corp Marathon in the future.