This Heroic Sailor Enlisted At 16 And Ultimately Became The Most Decorated In U.S. Naval History

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Image: US Navy
Image: US Navy

It’s Halloween 1966, but Boatswain’s Mate First Class James Elliott “Willy” Williams and his buddies aboard River Patrol Boat 105 have no time for celebrations. And as the Vietnam War rages, they’re cruising waterways in the Mekong Delta, searching for Viet Cong sampans. Then they spot two enemy craft and an explosion of gunfire shatters the evening peace, marking the start of a grueling battle.

Image: RSL IMAGES
Image: RSL IMAGES

We’ll come back to the lethal drama of that October 1966 engagement later, but first let’s get to know Williams a little better. Born on November 13, 1930, he was a Native American Cherokee and his first home was in Fort Mill, South Carolina. However, just two months after his birth, his family moved to Darlington, also in South Carolina.

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Image: Google Maps
Image: Google Maps

Williams spent the remainder of his childhood and his early teen years in Darlington and attended St. John’s High School. But it seems he had no intention of spending any more time in the backwoods of South Carolina than he had to. And at the age of 16 he decided it was time for a move.

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