Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class Jack Williams Medal of Honor

In the bloodiest  battle in Marine Corps history, 27 Marines and sailors were awarded the Medal of Honor for action on Iwo Jima. No other campaign surpassed that number.

Jack Williams joined the US Navy in his home state of Arkansas in the summer of 1943. As he boarded a bus to leave home, he told his friends, “I’m just a hillbilly who wants to get away from the hills, maybe fight a few Japanese, and see the world.” He never could have dreamt he would end up on a volcanic island halfway around the world, saving lives instead of taking them.

Assigned to the newly formed 5th Marine Division, Williams, like so many others, landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. A Navy Pharmacist’s Mate, Williams was serving with the 3rd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment as a corpsman. On day 12 of the campaign, the 5th Division was struggling to take Hill 362B. The engagement had started at 7:45 in the morning and Williams had already saved 14 Marines, and was working on another casualty around noon, when a sniper shot him three times in the abdomen and groin. Ignoring his own massive bleeding, he finished bandaging the man he’d been working on when hit. Finishing with one Marine, he turned to another, fighting to stay conscious as he worked on the next man. Knowing he had to get help or all three of them would die, Williams made a run for it, only to be hit in the chest by a sniper’s bullet. Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class Jack Williams was 20 years old.

Medal of Honor Citation 

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3rd Battalion 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division, during the occupation of Iwo Jima Volcano Islands, March 3, 1945. Gallantly going forward on the frontlines under intense enemy small-arms fire to assist a marine wounded in a fierce grenade battle, Williams dragged the man to a shallow depression and was kneeling, using his own body as a screen from the sustained fire as he administered first aid, when struck in the abdomen and groin 3 times by hostile rifle fire. Momentarily stunned, he quickly recovered and completed his ministration before applying battle dressings to his own multiple wounds. Unmindful of his own urgent need for medical attention, he remained in the perilous fire-swept area to care for another marine casualty. Heroically completing his task despite pain and profuse bleeding, he then endeavored to make his way to the rear in search of adequate aid for himself when struck down by a Japanese sniper bullet which caused his collapse. Succumbing later as a result of his self-sacrificing service to others, Williams, by his courageous determination, unwavering fortitude and valiant performance of duty, served as an inspiring example of heroism, in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country."


Medal of Honor Series

Read Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John H. Willis' story next. He received a Medal of Honor for his actions on February 28, 1945. 

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Kali Martin

Kali Martin earned a bachelor's degree in International Studies and German at the University of Miami and a master's degree in Military a...
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