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James E. Williams
Boatswains Mate Chief USN(Ret)
Died 13 October 1999 Florence S.C. at the age of 68
Boats Williams was a Boatswains Mate I knew when we both served on the USS Little Rock CLG-4 (1959-1962). He was a BM2 at the time. Our closest contact was during general quarters -- we were both assigned to Damage Control Central. He was a sound-powered phone talker and I was the emergency electrical co-ordinator. I remember him as a stocky man with a gravelly voice. A no nonsense kind of sailor.

The next time I heard about him was when I saw him featured on the cover of ALL HANDS magazine, probably sometime in 1967.

It seems like only yesterday.

Sailor rest your oar.

Sid Harrison

BMC James E. Williams Memorial Page
BMC James E. Williams --- Research
Official Web site of the PBR Forces Veterans Association, Inc.
[Copy] CHARLESTON SOUTH CAROLINA --- Post and Courier Newspaper Article
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 Carolina.

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-

Information below  copied from the US Army MEDAL OF HONOR website.

Rank and organization: Boatswain's Mate First Class (PO1c.), U.S. Navy, River Section 531, My Tho, RVN

Place and date: Mekong River, Republic of Vietnam, 31 October 1966.

Entered service at: Columbia, S.C. Born: 13 June 1930, Rock Hill, S.C.

Citation: 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 2 enemy sampans. PO1c. 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, PO1c. 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, 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 7 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 PO 1c. 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.