Bryan Mark Rigg: Flamethrower: Iwo Jima Medal of Honor Recipient and U.S. Marine Woody Williams and His Controversial Award, Japan’s Holocaust and the Pacific War

Late in the Pacific War, as Americans were fighting their way to the home islands of the Japanese

Empire, one of the fiercest battles of World War II was raging. The Japanese had created perhaps the best defended area anywhere on an island called Iwo Jima. Days into the bloody battle, casualties were high on both sides. United States Marines were taking an awful pounding out in the open from enemy fortified positions.

Imperial Japanese soldiers in pillboxes and bunkers knew that the greatest danger they faced was from a flamethrower if it could get near enough to hit them. Imagine a little guy strapping on a highly flammable 70-pound weapon, instantly drawing heavy enemy fire as he maneuvered close enough with a small team of Leathernecks to destroy a pillbox. Woody Williams did just that on the hellishly hot and sulfurous, volcanic island of Iwo Jima, destroying Japanese emplacements against dire odds. He, along with numerous comrades, did it again and again, taking out hundreds of fortifications which had stalled their regiment’s advance to secure the islands airfields.

The capture of Iwo Jima helped the powerful new B-29s have P-51 fighter-plane escorts to help the bombers pound Japan into submission. Iwo actually was a backup landing zone for the Enola Gay if she had difficulties delivering her atomic bomb on 6 August 1945 at Hiroshima, a bomb American leaders hoped would bring Hirohito to his knees begging for surrender terms so World War II would stop. Accomplished military historian, Bryan Mark Rigg, reconstructs Woody Williams’s remarkable story, from his youth on a dairy farm in West Virginia to his experiences as a Marine on Guadalcanal, on Guam and on Iwo Jima.

Rigg tells Williams’ story vividly, and objectively, and places it in the context of the broader Pacific theater of World War II. Using never-before-seen documents and interviews, Rigg brings out new information about the Pacific War unknown until now. As he explores Woody’s life, Rigg enables the reader to better appreciate the brave Marines and their heroics. Moreover, Rigg explores the numerous problems with Woody and his narrative. As a result, this book also documents Woody’s controversial Medal of Honor process, one of the most controversial Medal of Honor stories to come out of World War II.

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