Jack Williams just had to help the wounded man.
A 20-year-old Navy corpsman, Williams had already assisted 14 other wounded Marines, but the 15th man was his former tent-mate, Jim Naughton.
Though intense enemy fire raged around him there on that small island of Iwo Jima, Williams held no regard for his own safety. Williams managed to reach Naughton and dragged him to a shallow depression. There he kneeled over the wounded Marine, using his own body as a shield and administering first aid.
Williams was then struck three times in the stomach and groin by enemy bullets. Williams was momentarily stunned, but quickly recovered to continue ministering to Naughton before applying battle dressings to his own wounds.
Ignoring his own need for immediate medical care, Williams remained in the area to help another wounded man. Completing the task under heavy enemy fire, and despite intense pain and heavy bleeding, Williams then attempted to make his way to the rear to seek medical aid for himself. It was then that he was struck by sniper fire.
Williams died later that day.
It was for his selfless service to others at the battle for Iwo Jima that Pharmacist Mate Third Class Jack Williams, a 1943 Harrison High School graduate, was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
On September 19, 1981, Williams was honored again. The United States Ship Jack Williams (FFG24) was commissioned at the Naval Air Station in Brunswick, Maine. The Jack Williams was a U.S. Navy guided missile frigate. It was one of a new generation of versatile ships designed for defense against submarines, surface ships and aircraft. It was powered by twin gas turbines and was 445 feet long. The ship’s motto was “Guardez Bien” or “guard well.” The Jack Williams’ nickname was The Arky.
Williams’ mother, Dorothy, was still living in Harrison, but was unable to attend the commissioning due to illness. Her daughter, Fern Williams Carr, two sisters, a brother-in-law and several grandchildren were able to attend.
Also in attendance were members of the Fifth Division Marines Association. On Iwo Jima, Williams had served with the Third Battalion, Twenty-eighth Marines, Fifth Marine Division. His mother was a lifetime member of the Fifth Division Marines Association.
In a poignant account of the commissioning, the Harrison Daily Times said, “Young Williams graduated from Harrison High School in 1943 and reported for Navy service in June following graduation – and his mother never saw him again.”
The official launching of the Jack Williams came in August, 1980, at the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. Fern Williams Carr and her daughter, Dana, co-sponsored the ship, with both breaking traditional bottles of champagne against the bow.
Harrison mayor William Gregg proclaimed September 19 as Jack Williams Day.
The USS Jack Williams was decommissioned in 1996. The ship’s bell is now displayed at the Boone County Courthouse.
Williams was initially buried on Iwo Jima. His body was later buried at Springfield National Cemetery.
This is article is part of a series about Boone County history and provided by the Boone County Heritage Museum. The museum is located at 124 South Cherry in Harrison. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Closed on Sunday and Wednesday. For more information on the museum, call 741-3312 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.