|October 1999 copied from
THE NAVY NEWS SERVICE
The Navy's most decorated living Sailor,
Boatswain's Mate Chief James E. Williams, passed away Oct. 13 in Florence,
South Carolina. His remains will be laid to rest in Florence National Cemetary
in Florence, S.C. on Saturday, Oct. 16. He was 68 years old.
Williams joined the Navy at age 16 and
received many awards, including the Congressional Medal of Honor, which
was presented to him by then-president Lyndon B. Johnson in a ceremony
at the Pentagon. Williams earned so many awards during his distinguished
career that he became known as the Navy's "most decorated enlisted man."
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jay
L. Johnson spoke about Williams with fond memories. "'Boats' Williams was
a true American hero and a great Navy man," said Adm. Johnson. "I am lucky
to have known him and call him my friend. We are forever grateful for his
service to our Nation. We will miss him."
Williams received the Congressional
Medal of Honor for his service on the Mekong River in Vietnam on Oct. 31,
1966, while serving as Boat Captain and Patrol Officer aboard River Patrol
Boat (PBR) 105.
His boat and another PBR were on patrol
looking for contraband when someone spotted two fast speed-boats crossing
ahead. The speed-boats split up, with Williams pursuing and sinking one.
He then turned his boat around and went after the second, which hid in
an eight-foot-canal in front of a rice paddy. He knew his boat wouldn't
fit in the canal, but after checking a map, he found he could pass through
a wider canal and intercept the enemy craft.
However, after exiting the canal, Williams
found himself and his crew in a hostile staging area where they came under
fire from boats and heavy fire support from the shore. Williams and his
crew shot back, waging a battle against multiple enemy boats.
U.S. helicopter support finally arrived,
and PBR 105 moved to another enemy boat staging area. After a fierce battle
and more than three hours of fighting, Williams' patrol had accounted for
the destruction or loss of 65 enemy boats and more than 1,000 enemy troops.
Williams retired from the Navy in 1967
and returned to South Carolina where he found another way to serve his
country. In 1969, he was appointed U.S. Marshal for the District of South
Although his exploits in Vietnam were
legendary, he was quick to admonish anyone who wanted to talk about his
awards. "You gotta stop and think about your shipmates," he said in an
interview with the Navy's All Hands magazine in 1998. "That's what makes
you a great person and a great leader - taking care of each other."
Williams' many awards include three
Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the
Navy and Marine Corps Medal, two Silver Stars, the Navy Cross, and the
Congressional Medal of Honor. -USN-