…from the Managing Editor

Woody Williams and VT share a not so obvious overlapping theme. Sure, he went down in history on the third day of the battle of Iwo Jima, when the Marines were at an impasse in taking the mid island airport to cut the island in half.

The interlocking pill box network protecting it had left the battlefield covered with burning tank hulks with dead and dying Marines. Williams’ citation is below.

My VT tie in is that our service to the country after our combat period, plus those in the non-uniform trades, often far exceeds what many did during their formal service period.

Woody – America’s WWII grandpa, or great grandpa

Basically the war never stopped, just changed forms, one morphing into a new one with new threats and challenges. We slog through this here on a daily basis and often get asked, “Why do you keep doing it?”

In Woody’s case, the answer is well known, for those who did not come back, a pledge that he has honored all his life. With VT it is a bit more nuanced.

Yes we honor our dead, and if you go to our In Memoriam section by clicking on the ‘board and staff’ link at the top of the front page and scroll down to the bottom, you will see those that can be publicly acknowledged.

You might say we travel the roads less traveled, looking for the tales of those who were restricted from telling, truths that we feel the American people have a full right to know.

While Memorial Day Weekend is usually a slower weekend for us, it is a busy one for Woody. His Medal of Honor Foundation work keeps his team running constantly.

I got an email update from Cindy last night that they had done another Gold Star Family monument dedication in Idaho on Friday, and then one in North Carolina on Saturday, pushing the number of completed ones to 78. And of course, today will be a full day of memorial events.

My last visit to Arlington was to bury my mother. The superintendent and I were alumni of Berkshire School, in Sheffield, Mass…She was Arlinton’s first female superintendent.

With a little more digging, I found today’s feature image from a ceremony held earlier this month at Arlington Cemetery’s Iwo Jima monument. I had never seen a photo of Woody in a dress uniform. He looks pretty good as the last living Medal of Honor recipient of WWII. The Honor Guard must have had goose bumps for their chance to share the day with him.

We cannot attend a Woody event today, but we can do the next best thing. I have sifted through some of his YouTube videos for a special pick, so you can hear him tell his story. It is a gem!

His people skills are off the charts. No one can count the events he has done. After 70 years of doing them, I guess one would get good at it. We also feel we are caretakers of the stories that have been hidden, stolen from the American people. And here it is:

“I am just the caretaker” – Woody Williams


Woody’s Gold Star Family Memorial Monuments project is his last gift to America, and a lasting one it will be, correcting a slight he had spotted that we all missed, there never being any recognition for the loss families experienced as an extended unit.

I think his goal has been for 250 of these monuments before he hits 100 years. Anyone can form a group to do a project. I am scouting locations here in Michigan for two, and then one back in my home Berkshire County in western Massachusetts.

Woody’s foundation has experienced talent of those who have done memorials, and are willing to help those wanting to build one for their communities without having to start from scratch.

Below is an prospective Berkshire County example I found this week via Google Earth, a quaint WWII memorial and its historic clock tower between two villages in the center of the tourist area, and just across the street from an historic cemetery.

It’s within two miles of the famed Norman Rockwell Museum; Chesterwood, home and studio of the Lincoln monument sculptor, Daniel Chester French; and the Botanical Gardens. The whole area exudes Americana.

Anyone with interest to look into organizing one of these monument projects can reach me at jimwdean@aol.com.

At VT we have tried to help organizations when we can, sometimes spotting things that could help their effort that had been missed with their hands being full dealing with their daily operations. This got me thinking that maybe a really good theme song could add to their efforts.

But it needed to be something really special. So far, Springsteen’s No Surrender seems to fit the mood of Woody’s project via the symbolism of all the young lives and dreams that were swallowed up by the death march of the endless wars.

I inserted the original version from Toronto first where he describes his motivation for doing the song. I had not heard it in a long time, and it was a ‘bingo’ moment. The second is the official release which is crisper, but missing the intro…hence you get both.

Enjoy your Memorial day. Give me a holler if you might want to join the Woody brigade. Woody’s citation is after the videos below… Jim W. Dean ]

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Official Citation

Hershel “Woody” Williams was born on a dairy farm in 1923 in Quiet Dell, West Virginia. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in the Pacific Theatre during WWII and would see combat on the islands Guam and Iwo Jima. He served with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division.

During the Battle of Iwo Jima, Mr. Williams displayed “valiant devotion to duty” and service above self as he “enabled his company to reach its objective”. Mr. Williams’ actions, commitment to his fellow service members, and heroism were recognized on October 5, 1945, when he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman at the White House. Mr. Williams is the sole surviving Marine from WWII, to wear the Medal of Honor.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945.

Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands, Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machinegun fire from the unyielding positions.

Covered only by 4 riflemen, he fought desperately for 4 hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers, struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out 1 position after another.

On 1 occasion, he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants and silencing the gun; on another he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon.

His unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective.

Cpl. Williams’ aggressive fighting spirit and valiant devotion to duty throughout this fiercely contested action sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

*This record version is more crisp than the one above but without his introduction…JD



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  1. We know that Memorial Day is always a slow read day. We try to fix that by republishing when folks have more time, like on rainy weekends later. I was checking out events in Holland Michigan yesterday and found their American Legion there only had 20 members. The ‘forever war’ vets don’t seem to be joining.

  2. Jim, this is a wonderful article with an excellent editorial, and I’m a bit ticked that nobody has made a comment yet. Yesterday, my husband and I drove up and down I-70 after lunch, looking at all the flags at half staff at the businesses we passed. A few businesses had promptly raised the flag back up at noon, but most had not and I appreciated that. I-70 was full on our return eastbound, full of people coming back to St Louis from their cabins at Lake of the Ozarks, and they needed to see those flags down.

    I applaud all Gold Star efforts. My own family did not have a Gold Star, but no White feathers either. My dad, due to his flat feet, was not sent overseas in WWII when he volunteered for the Canadian Army. He guarded prisoners of war. He wanted to stay in the Army, but was forced out the next year by poisoning, and the Army hid the truth from him all his life. He got 10% disability that should have been 100%. Yes, our family suffered forevermore. Canada offered nothing to WWII veterans.

    Canada is still screwing the veterans, as I see every day in the papers. Massive backlog of veterans’ disability claims. Before I forget to say it, the Canadian government can go to hell.

    • The only solution is retribution at the polls, theoretically. But even the then candidates will just say they support it and the slow pedal any reforms to a snail’s pace. Hell, the American Legion had to be formed before veterans got anything other than “thanks for stopping in”. My dad had the GI bill insurance which at least covered him, but not the family. And he used it when it stuck has hand into some saw mill machinery where he had left the safety covers off so he would retweek it quicker. The Agent Orange scandal on Nam vets should have been a war crime, but the war machine was not about to open that door.

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