Volume 33, Issue 1 The TMCA News Page 7
In March of 1945, Mrs. Willis received a telegram that would change her life. With an infant child to raise, she had just learned that her husband, PM1C John Willis was Killed in Action on Iwo Jima. Soon after she would also learned that he was to receive …….the,
Medal of Honor
What was her initial reaction to the medal? “Great, how is that going to help a country girl like me, raise and educate an infant child” She would soon learn to survive and then to cherish the award and the patriotism that comes with the Medal of Honor. The medal kept her attached to a man she truly loved and tragically lost at such a young age. They were childhood sweethearts forever, both local natives of Columbia Tennessee. PM1C John Willis was a hometown hero to all of us.
John’s original medal was fully engraved with his name and citation on the rear, so detailed that it took a magnifier to read it. In 1965, the family loaned it out for a display at the Nashville Fairgrounds and it was subsequently destroyed in a terrible fire along with John’s uniform and several other items. Later that same year, a replacement was sent to the family.
Pictured here are photos of the 1965 replacement award. Note, that in was not engraved with John’s name, in fact the word “DISPLAY” is engraved on the back in the center. Another point of interest is the three hooks on the rear, under the broach; this is not common for most Medal of Honors. It is made to carry the Air Force, Army or Navy Medal. The award is unmarked; however the name FULLER is embossed inside the issue case.
The Original Award citation is very basic in design, just a 7 x 9 inch letter sent from the White House and signed by President Truman. Fortunately it was not in the fire, and is in a safe and secure location today.
In 1956, Mrs. Willis christened the Destroyer Escort USS John H. Willis, named in honor of her late husband. DE1027 - USS John H. Willis, Commissioned 1956—Stricken 1972.
Below is a photo, showing the Medal of Honor being presented to Mrs. Willis and her infant son.