Hero: James E. Williams

By | June 10, 2018

[June 10, 2018]  I don’t highlight heroes enough on my leadership blog.  What we can learn from them is beyond the value I could ever state but I wanted to draw attention to U.S. Navy Boatswain’s Mate First Class James E. Williams who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam.

James E. Williams is considered one of the most decorated enlisted men in the history of the U.S. Navy.  Of course, being on the pages of theLeaderMaker.com, one would expect him to be extraordinary and he was.  He enlisted when he was only 16 years old and serving in both the Korean War and Vietnam War.

“When I was 16, I convinced the country clerk to alter my birth certificate so I could come into the Navy.  I thought there was nothing better than servin’ my country and getting’ paid for it.” – James E. Williams

Williams never intended to be a hero; he just wanted to be a Sailor.  He said that the proudest day of his life was when the Navy made him a “patrol officer” which is only held by Navy chiefs and officers.  It showed him the trust the Navy had in him and that he could do the job in combat.

On his first day as a patrol officer, October 31, 1966, he was to spend a relaxing day doing lazy patrols along the Mekong River.  What happened was that he and his boats ran into a Viet Cong staging area.  What Williams knew was that bold and decisive decisions in combat gives a huge advantage.  After enemy contact, his two boats sank 65 enemy boats and eliminated 1,200 enemy troops.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for that action.1

James E. Williams is a hero.  But he admonished those who talked about his medals.  Williams knew that you’ve got to think team; it takes a team to win any battle, not an individual.  We salute him for his bravery.

He understood what leading from the front was all about.  The U.S. Navy named a ship after him; DDG 95 “Lead from the front.”2


  1. http://navylog.navymemorial.org/williams-james-12
  2. http://www.public.navy.mil/surflant/ddg95/Pages/default.aspx
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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

15 thoughts on “Hero: James E. Williams

  1. Max Foster

    I’m just getting around to reading up on https://www.theleadermaker.com for the past couple of days. Been out of town but I do like it when I can relax a few minutes and get online to read Gen Satterfield’s great leadership blog. Thank you for keeping us on point.

  2. Kenny Foster

    Good one, Gen Satterfield, keep ’em coming.

  3. Bryan Lee

    Excellent. It is always good to hear about a hero.

  4. Bill Sanders, Jr.

    A real hero is hard to find. Thank you Gen Satterfield for your series on heroes.

  5. Tony B. Custer

    Where I grew up, in the Big City, there were no heroes. Thanks for making my day, today.

  6. Andrew Dooley

    Very nice article on a U.S. Navy hero from the Korean and Vietnam wars. I was able to look him up and see that his Medal of Honor citation was absolutely amazing. I’m sure what he did was much more than the narrative; as typical.

  7. Janna Faulkner

    Great hero US Navy Williams. Good to read about him this morning.

  8. Army Captain

    It is always a pleasure to read up on “heroes” that have made our place safer in society. I am aware that moral courage is more rare than physical courage but still great to read about it.

  9. Georgie M.

    It is good to see your hero series back. Thank you Gen Satterfield.

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