The last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II passed away on Wednesday, the National Medal of Honor Museum announced.
Hershel “Woody” Williams passed away at 98 during the early morning hours Wednesday morning, his foundation (The Woody Williams Foundation) tweeted out. He was one of 473 award recipients from World War II, according to the World War II Museum.
Williams spent his final days with family at a hospital in his home state of West Virginia. Family members called for prayers on Tuesday, FOX News reported. “As he lives out his last days, we welcome and appreciate any additional prayers lifted up on behalf of Woody and his family,” his family said earlier this week.
President Harry Truman awarded Williams the Medal of Honor for heroism during the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima. Williams operated a flamethrower during that battle, taking out multiple troop and gun emplacements throughout the small island. He worked primarily by himself over the course of a four-hour operation, and FOX News says he only returned to American lines for refueling.
There are 63 living Medal of Honor recipients, and together they released a statement to FOX News honoring the memory of Williams.
“Friends and family of Woody Williams knew him as a West Virginia farmer’s son and the youngest of 11 children who dutifully supported his family after his father died,” they wrote in a statement. “Fellow Marines knew him as the corporal who volunteered for a mission on Iwo Jima to clear a lane through enemy pillboxes that were destroying American tanks.”
“Veterans in West Virginia knew him as their advocate through his work as a Veterans Service Representative. Gold Star families knew Woody through his work raising money for scholarships and other programs through the Woody Williams Foundation,” they continued. “We, his fellow Medal of Honor Recipients, knew him as our friend and one of our heroes. We will miss him greatly.”
Williams’ last public appearance came at a Memorial Day ceremony in his home state of West Virginia last month. He told local affiliate WSAZ that the event gave him hope for renewed patriotism in the United States.
“I’ve been at this probably 25 to 30 times, but I believe today we had more honor wreaths than we’ve ever had before, and that’s encouraging,” Williams told WSAZ. “It gives me encouragement that we’re coming back and that we will again be that United States of America that had so much patriotism and love of country.”
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday that Williams will be the first inductee into the state’s new Military Hall of Fame after it is built.