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James Elliott Williams

13 November 1930 - 13 October 1999

Skillful battle direction is one of the most important requirements for a leader in the U.S. Navy.  Boatswain's Mate 1st Class James E. Williams, who received the Medal of Honor for his achievements, demonstrated extraordinary bravery and leadership during the Vietnam War.  The petty officer was assigned to the River Patrol Force whose mission was to intercept Viet Cong arms shipments on the waterways of South Vietnam's Mekong Delta.

On 31 October 1966, Williams, patrol commander for his boat, River Patrol Boat 105, and another PBR was searching for Viet Cong guerrillas operating in an isolated area of the Delta.  Suddenly, Communist guerrillas manning two sampans opened fire on the Americans.  When Williams and his men neutralized one boat crew, the other one escaped into a nearby canal.  The PBR sailors gave chase and soon found themselves in a beehive of enemy activity as Viet Cong guerrillas opened up with rocket propelled grenades and small arms against the Americans from fortified river bank positions.  Against overwhelming odds, several times Williams led his PBRs against concentrations of enemy junks and sampans.  He also called for support from the heavily armed UH-1B Huey helicopters of Navy Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron 3, the "Seawolves."  When that help arrived, he kicked off another attack in the failing light, cleverly turning on his boats' searchlights to illuminate enemy forces and positions.  As a result of the three-hour battle, the American naval force killed numerous Viet Cong guerrillas, destroyed over fifty vessels, and disrupted a major enemy logistic operation.  BM1 Williams not only displayed great courage under fire, but a keen understanding of how his Sailors, weapons, and equipment could be used to achieve victory.

Published: Fri Feb 20 07:34:18 EST 2015