Jack Williams (1924–1943)
Jack Williams was a U.S. Navy corpsman from Harrison (Boone County) who received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in ministering to wounded U.S. Marines during the fighting on Iwo Jima in 1945.
Jack Williams was born on October 18, 1924, in Harrison, the son of blacksmith and machinist William O. Williams and Dorothy Lee Williams. He had a younger sister, Fern. The Williams family lived at 420 North Second Street in Harrison, and Jack Williams worked at the Lyric Theater. He attended Harrison High School, where he was a member of the Future Farmers of America. He graduated in 1943.
Eighteen-year-old Williams registered for the World War II draft on December 23, 1942. He did not wait to be drafted, enlisting instead in the U.S. Naval Reserves. After training in San Diego, California, he was sent to hospital school for corpsman training, graduating as a Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class on November 1, 1943.
He was serving with the Third Battalion, Twenty-Eighth Marines, Fifth Marine Division when the United States attacked the Japanese stronghold on Iwo Jima. He had already assisted fourteen wounded marines on March 3, 1945, when his former tent-mate Jim Naughton was injured in a grenade battle with Japanese troops. According to the Medal of Honor citation, Williams moved forward under “intense enemy small-arms fire” to help Naughton. Dragging the wounded Marine to a depression, Williams was shielding him with his own body when he was “struck in the abdomen and groin 3 times by hostile rifle fire.” Williams finished helping Naughton before tending to his own wounds, then went to help another injured Marine. The citation states, “Heroically completing this 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 sniper bullet which caused his collapse.” Williams died of his injuries.
Williams’s mother received his Medal of Honor in a ceremony at Harrison in March 1946, and he is buried in Springfield, Missouri, National Cemetery. A guided missile frigate, the USS Jack Williams, was commissioned in 1980 in a ceremony attended by his sister. When the Jack Williams completed its service, the ship’s bell was removed and placed in the lobby of the Boone County Courthouse in Harrison.
For additional information:
“Just Who Was Jack Williams?” Harrison Daily Times, March 1, 2015. Online at http://harrisondaily.com/just-who-was-jack-williams/article_9da9b908-becf-11e4-a1e8-5bac06066e1f.html (accessed March 2, 2018).
Medal of Honor Recipients 1863–1978, Prepared for the Committee on Veterans Affairs United States Senate, February 14, 1979. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1979.
Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated: 02/19/2020