McKillin'It Entertainment / YouTube |(right)Official USMC Photograph / Public Domain
To kick off the Super Bowl 2018 between the Eagles and Patriots, a starting side had to be selected. This year, the lineup (not the players) was spectacular incredibly special as 16 soldiers who received the Medal of Honor stood at the helm of the teams. The man chosen for the coin toss was none other than Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams. If that name rings a bell, it should, because his actions are tied to something we all know all too well.
Born in 1923 in West Virginia, Woody tried enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1942 when he was 19 but was denied as he was too short at 5′ 6″. In 1943 however, the Marine Corps lowered their height requirements and was assigned to the Third Marine Division and was sent to Guam.
Just a year later, he found himself in Iwo Jima.
On February 23rd, 1945, Woody made his mark in the Marine Corps which earned him the Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart. He and four other riflemen were held down by seven Japanese pillboxes (pictured below) making for a dire situation.
Here’s the official citation from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society about the events of that day:
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.
At the end of the fight, Woody recalls all the Marines jumping up with joy in glee stating he didn’t know what was happening. Turning around, he saw a few Marines hoisting up the American flag on a hilltop, an image we’re assuming all of you are very familiar with.
Now, he was also injured halfway through his heroic act. He was hit by shrapnel in the leg yet continued on fighting. In other words, he should have been dead multiple times but persevered and by any standards should not have even seen this Super Bowl.
They don’t make them like that anymore.