The Navy commissioned Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB-4) during a ceremony in Norfolk on Saturday.
The ESB is named for Medal of Honor recipient Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Four Hershel “Woody” Williams, who in 1945 was recognized for heroism at the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“This ship honors a man who dedicated his life to service—heroic service as a Marine, and continued service to his fellow veterans,” said a statement from Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly. “This dedication will live on in USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams as the ship is deployed around the world, bringing additional capability to our growing fleet. The ceremony on Saturday will also represent the dedication to service demonstrated by the men and women who worked tirelessly to build this ship and their commitment to quality and innovation.”
“Woody” Williams was delivered to the Navy two years ago but was owned and operated by the Military Sealift Command. In January, the Navy announced it would commission the entire class of Expeditionary Sea Base ships.
Initially, the Navy planned for the MSC to run the ships, and if needed, the Navy could temporarily commission them. However, after the first ESB USS Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller (ESB-3) deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet in 2017, the Navy decided the expected missions in the region meant it was appropriate to commission the ship.
“Woody” Williams is a 784ft.-long vessel with a 52,000 square-foot flight deck, fuel and equipment storage, repair spaces, magazines, and mission-planning spaces. Up to 250 personnel can be housed on the ship, which can support multiple missions, including air mine countermeasures, counter-piracy operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief missions and crisis response operations.
On Feb. 23, 1945, Williams used his flame thrower to neutralize seven Japanese pillboxes in about four hours, according to the Department of Defense. The 96-year-old West Virginia-native is one of the last living World War II Medal of Honor recipients. His daughters, Travie Jane Ross and Tracie Jean Ross, are the ship’s sponsors