b. 13/11/1930 Rock Hill, South Carolina. d. 13/10/1999 Florence, South Carolina.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 31/10/1966 Mekong River, Vietnam.
Vietnam War Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. Boatswain’s Mate First Class, U.S. Navy. On the night of 31 October 1966 BM1 Williams was overseeing patrols on the Mekong River, Vietnam when his two-boat patrol was attacked by two sampans. He ordered return fire that killed the crew of one enemy boat and sent the other fleeing to an inlet. In the counterattack, he exposed himself to fire from snipers along the river bank and from a large concentration of enemy boats that joined the battle. He moved his boats close to shore to press the attack. The two American boats destroyed 65 enemy boats and inflicted many casualties in a battle that lasted three hours and left Williams with a wound near his right kidney. In addition to the Medal of Honor, BM1 Williams also was awarded the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Stars, and the Navy Commendation Medal. He also received three Purple Hearts and was twice awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for rescue operations under fire. James E. Williams is one of the most highly decorated sailors in Navy history.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. BM1 Williams was serving as Boat Captain and Patrol Officer aboard River Patrol Boat (PBR) 105 accompanied by another patrol boat when the patrol was suddenly taken under fire by 2 enemy sampans. BM1 Williams immediately ordered the fire returned, killing the crew of 1 enemy boat and causing the other sampan to take refuge in a nearby river inlet. Pursuing the fleeing sampan, the U.S. patrol encountered a heavy volume of small-arms fire from enemy forces, at close range, occupying well-concealed positions along the river bank. Maneuvering through this fire, the patrol confronted a numerically superior enemy force aboard 2 enemy junks and 8 sampans augmented by heavy automatic weapons fire from ashore. In the savage battle that ensued, BM1 Williams, with utter disregard for his safety exposed himself to the withering hail of enemy fire to direct counter-fire and inspire the actions of his patrol. Recognizing the overwhelming strength of the enemy force, BM1 Williams deployed his patrol to await the arrival of armed helicopters. In the course of his movement he discovered an even larger concentration of enemy boats. Not waiting for the arrival of the armed helicopters, he displayed great initiative and boldly led the patrol through the intense enemy fire and damaged or destroyed 50 enemy sampans and 7 junks. This phase of the action completed, and with the arrival of the armed helicopters, BM1 Williams directed the attack on the remaining enemy force. Now virtually dark, and although BM1 Williams was aware that his boats would become even better targets, he ordered the patrol boats' search lights turned on to better illuminate the area and moved the patrol perilously close to shore to press the attack. Despite a waning supply of ammunition the patrol successfully engaged the enemy ashore and completed the rout of the enemy force. Under the leadership of BM1 Williams, who demonstrated unusual professional skill and indomitable courage throughout the 3 hour battle, the patrol accounted for the destruction or loss of 65 enemy boats and inflicted numerous casualties on the enemy personnel. His extraordinary heroism and exemplary fighting spirit in the face of grave risks inspired the efforts of his men to defeat a larger enemy force, and are in keeping with the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
BURIAL LOCATION: FLORENCE NATIONAL CEMETERY, FLORENCE, SOUTH CAROLINA.
Section F, Site 177RH
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