With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

A farm boy became a fearsome warrior at Iwo Jima. And he did it with a flamethrower.

The Japanese soldiers came out of their concrete “pill box” with bayonets fixed, determined to get the Marine who had been killing them all afternoon with a flamethrower.

Their target was Hershel Williams. He was 5-foot-6, the youngest of the 11 children of a dairy farmer from Quiet Dell, W.Va. He had a nice smile, and a girl back home named Ruby whom he planned to marry when the war was over.

He was 21, and known as “Woody.”

But 75 years ago this month, on a Godforsaken volcanic island in the Pacific called Iwo Jima, he was a terrifying destroyer of the Japanese, incinerating men in their hideouts with jets of blazing diesel fuel and high octane gasoline.

They had to stop him.

But he saw them coming, and pulled the two triggers on his fearsome weapon.

He still remembers how they slowed down and fell, their clothes ablaze.

Read entire article at Washington Post