PBR Boat Captain Williams MOH
Medal of Honor recepient Boatswain’s Mate First Class James E. Williams, United States Navy:
James was born in Fort Mill, South Carolina, on the 13th of November, 1930. James served on the USS Douglas H Fox off the coast of Korea during the Korean War from November of 1950 to June of 1952. He took part in raiding parties into North Korea from March to June of 1952 on small boats off of the destroyer. Fourteen years later, James was now a Petty Officer First Class, with a rating of Boatswain’s Mate First Class and was deployed to the Republic of Vietnam. He was given the mission of intercept arms shipments, supplies, and personnel on the rivers in South Vietnam and keep the waterways safe from the Viet Cong and People’s Army of Vietnam in May of 1966. He was commanding River Patrol Boat 105 on the 31st of October and it was his actions that would earn him the Medal of Honor. The citation reads:
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.
About a year and a half after these actions, James received the Medal of Honor from President Johnson in a ceremony at the Pentagon on the 14th of May, 1968. He had also retired in 1967 after twenty years of service and would later receive the honorary title of Chief Boatswain’s Mate.
On the 13th of October, 1999, James Elliott Williams suffered a heart attack while visiting family and died at the age of 68. He is buried in the Florence National Cemetery in Florence, South Carolina: Plot F O 177.
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PBR Boat Captain Williams MOH