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Military

Medal Of Honor Recipient From Battle Of Iwo Jima Speaks In San Diego

Hershel "Woody" Williams waves at spectators lining the street as he rides in a car in the July 4th, 1,000 veterans' march in Frostburg, Maryland, July 4, 2006.
Associated Press
Hershel "Woody" Williams waves at spectators lining the street as he rides in a car in the July 4th, 1,000 veterans' march in Frostburg, Maryland, July 4, 2006.

The last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima on Tuesday spoke at a keel-laying ceremony in San Diego for a ship named for him.

Hershel "Woody" Williams earned the decoration by repeatedly setting demolition charges against Japanese fortifications while under enemy fire on the island in February 1945.

The ceremony was for the second Expeditionary Sea Base constructed at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego. The 784-foot-long USNS Hershel "Woody" Williams will serve as a flexible platform to support a variety of missions, including air mine countermeasures, counter-piracy operations, maritime security and humanitarian missions, according to the company.

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The 92-year-old West Virginian attended the ceremony with his two daughters, Tracie Ross and Travie Ross, who welded their initials into a plate that will be affixed to the ship.

Shipyard officials said the long-retired Marine is the last survivor of 27 Medal of Honor winners from the bloody battle, in which 6,800 Americans and roughly 18,000 Japanese defenders died.

The vessel will accommodate up to 250 personnel, have a 52,000-square-foot flight deck, and include storage space for fuel and equipment. The ship will also support MH-53 and MH-60 helicopters, and MV-22 "Osprey" tilt-rotor aircraft, according to NASSCO.

Corrected: February 4, 2023 at 9:26 PM PST
CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly said the day of the ceremony.