Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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Vietnam War - U.S. Navy

James Elliott Williams

  • Rank: Boatswain's Mate First Class
  • Conflict/Era: Vietnam War
  • Unit/Command:
    River Patrol Boat 105, River Section 531, My Tho,
    U.S. Navy
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Navy
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: October 31, 1966
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: Mekong River, Republic of Vietnam
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. PO1c. 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 two enemy sampans. PO1c. Williams immediately ordered the fire returned, killing the crew of one 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 two enemy junks and eight sampans augmented by heavy automatic-weapons fire from ashore. In the savage battle that ensued, PO1c. Williams, with utter disregard for his safety, exposed himself to the withering hail of enemy fire to direct counterfire and inspire the actions of his patrol. Recognizing the overwhelming strength of the enemy force, PO1c. 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 seven junks. This phase of the action completed, and with the arrival of the armed helicopters, PO1c. Williams directed the attack on the remaining enemy force. Now virtually dark, and although PO1c. 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 PO1c. Williams who demonstrated unusual professional skill and indomitable courage throughout the three-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.
Medal of Honor Recipient James E. Williams
Medal of Honor Recipient James E. Williams
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina
  • Awarded Posthumously: No
  • Presentation Date & Details: May 14, 1968
    The Pentagon (Inner Courtyard), Hall of Heroes, presented by Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Born: June 13, 1930, Rock Hill, York County, SC, United States
  • Died: October 12, 1999, Palm Coast, FL, United States
  • Buried: Florence National Cemetery (MH) (F-177) , Florence, SC, United States

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