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October 10, 2002



Medal Of Honor Recipient Speaks at Dinner


Hershel Woodrow Williams would have every right to brag about his World War II record.

After all, he is the lone surviving Medal of Honor recipient from West Virginia. But Williams, 79, is modest about his heroism during the war, calling it merely his "duty."

"The main reason I am here tonight is patriotism," Williams of Ona said. "These folks (CAPS) have worked to restore the Ohio National Guard Armory, and they are truly a unique group of patriotic people. I am just doing a job now that I guess I was preserved to do."

Williams, a Marine veteran, was the honored guest and speaker in Marietta Wednesday at a commemorative dinner sponsored by the Citizens Armory Preservation Society.

Williams said he has wondered why he survived during the war while so many of his buddies didn't.

"I have never been able to truly answer that question, but it will be one of the first questions I am going to ask the Lord when I get up there," he said. "I make sure every speech that I make, I always tell people that the medal I wear really does not belong to me; it belongs to those Marines that didn't get to come home and especially to two Marines who gave their lives on Feb. 23, 1945, protecting mine. I owe them big time."

After World War II, Williams worked as a Veterans Service officer with the U. S. Veterans Administration and retired in 1978 after 33 years of serving veterans. He also retired as a commissioned warrant officer in the Marine Corps Reserve.

Williams continues his work helping other people by speaking at functions such as the armory dinner each year.

"Any opportunity I have, I make it a point to speak to young people," he said. "We have to teach our youth the history and important things that have happened that make their life what it is today."

Williams served in the U.S. Marines from 1943 to 1945 and was in combat in Guam and Iwo Jima. It was during battle on the island of Iwo Jima that Williams was issued the Congressional Medal of Honor citation for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February, 1945."

Williams was issued his citation on Oct. 5, 1945 in Washington, D.C., by President Harry S. Truman.

According to the citation, "Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine gun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered by only four riflemen, Williams 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 wipe out one enemy position after another."

CAPS president Mike McCarthy said the dinner is not a fund-raiser for the armory.

"The purpose of this event tonight is educational and to get in touch with what the Ohio National Guard Armory represents to our area," he said. "It is not just the bricks and the concrete, but an opportunity to get reacquainted with our fundamental values."

The dinner is one of many events in the coming months with a patriotic theme, McCarthy said.


2002, by The Parkersburg News/Sentinel

Medal winner backs armory

By Brad Bauer, Special to The Times


More than 100 members and supporters of an organization fighting to preserve Marietta's armory met Wednesday evening to hear Medal of Honor recipient Hershel Woodrow Williams, of Onan, W.Va.

He was the featured speaker at the second annual Citizens Armory Preservation Society commemorative dinner.

CAPS member Bob Newman, of Marietta, said the organization was fortunate to have the opportunity to hear Williams speak. Williams is nationally known for his efforts to protect and preserve historic symbols of American military significance.

"My main purpose for coming here is not only to support the preservation and restoration of the armory," Williams said, "but to try to keep this feeling of patriotism America experienced after the (Sept. 11, 2001) attacks alive."

Williams said he has noticed the level of patriotism and pride expressed by Americans steadily decline after peaking last year.

"We're going back to where we were Sept. 10," he said.

As for the armory, Williams said he was delighted to see a community organizing to fight for a piece of its history.

John Chepes, of Parkersburg, is a CAPS supporter because he couldn't stand the thought of losing the armory, he said.

"It's a part of our heritage," Chepes said. "There's a lot of people around here who remember going to the armory to be processed and shipped to foreign soils. We're just burning and tearing down too much of our history."

CAPS President Michael McCarthy, of Marietta, said the organization hasn't won the war to save the armory - but has been winning some pretty significant battles.

One of those recent victories came at a Marietta City Council meeting when a resolution was approved to permit the organization to erect a historical marker at the armory site at 241 Front St.

Supporters say the resolution shows CAPS is gaining some strength in local government that may help save the 88-year-old structure.

"You kind of get the feeling that they wouldn't let us put up a marker if they had it in mind to tear it down," said CAPS member Mary Ann Sandstrom. "We definitely feel like we're gaining support."

McCarthy said it was only fitting the armory be fitted with an appropriate marker.

"Over the years the armory has affected or influenced more lives in one way or another than any other building in this area," he said.

Echoing a portion of Williams' speech, McCarthy said older generations have failed to educate their children to be patriotic. That has led to the armory becoming vulnerable to destruction, he said.

"We still feel like we're going to win this battle," McCarthy said.

Cost estimates for renovating the 21,000-square-foot armory are between $1.2 million and $1.4 million.

The Ohio National Guard vacated the armory in 1991. The city then bought the property from the state six years later. Ideas for the property have included a community center to razing the building for a parking lot and park.


Medal facts

The Medal of Honor is the highest medal awarded by the United States. It has been awarded 3,459 times in the nation's history.

Criteria for eligibility of the Medal of Honor include deeds of personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous that they clearly distinguish a soldier above his comrades - at great risk to his own life - above and beyond the call of duty, while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.

Hershel Woodrow Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions Feb. 23, 1945, at Iwo Jima.


2002, by The Marietta Times


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