Major Lloyd W. Williams

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Major Lloyd W. Williams
Second Lieutenant Lloyd W. Williams, 1909 (18733657413).jpg
Lloyd W. Williams, circa 1909
Born(1887-01-05)January 5, 1887
Berryville, Virginia
DiedJune 12, 1918(1918-06-12) (aged 31)
Chateau-Thierry, France
Place of burial
Green Hill Cemetery, Berryville, Virginia
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Unit2nd Battalion 5th Marines
Battles/warsWorld War I
AwardsSilver Star (3)
Purple Heart

Lloyd W. Williams (June 5, 1887 – June 12, 1918) was an officer in the United States Marine Corps who served and died in World War I.

Early life and education[edit]

Lloyd W. Williams was born on June 5, 1887, in Berryville, Virginia.[1] While very young, his family moved to Washington, DC.[1] Williams attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) and graduated in 1907, as the captain of Alpha Company in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.[1][2] After graduating, he became a second lieutenant of the United States Marine Corps on December 11, 1909.[2]

World War One[edit]

During World War One, Captain Williams was assigned to command the division's 51st Company in the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment.

On June 3, 1918, a division of Marines was sent to support the French army at the Battle of Belleau Wood. Lloyd Williams was serving as a company commander of 51st Company, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines. As the Marines arrived, they found French troops retreating. When advised to withdraw by a French colonel at the defensive line just north of the village of Lucy-le-Bocage, Williams bluntly replied: "Retreat, Hell! We just got here!" [3]

On June 11, 1918, Williams led an assault that routed the German defenders at Belleau Wood near Chateau-Thierry, France. Only 1 of the 10 officers and 16 of the 250 enlisted men survived or escaped injury. According to a French Major's report, after he ordered Williams to withdraw, Williams told him to "go to hell." Later, when Williams had been gassed and injured by shrapnel and lay wounded on the battlefield, he told the approaching medics, "Don't bother with me. Take care of my good men." He later died from a shell explosion as he was being evacuated.[3][4]


Major Williams Hall
Major Williams Hall at Virginia Tech
Lloyd W. Williams c.1918


  • Major Williams is considered to be the first known Virginian to die in World War I.
  • The U. S. Marine Corps' 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment adopted the motto: "Retreat, hell!", in honor of Major Williams. Fighting since 1914, the 2/5 marines is the most highly decorated battalion in marine history.[6]
  • On September 12, 1919, a new American Legion post in Berryville, Virginia was named in Williams' honor.[3]
  • In 1957, a new campus building at Lloyd's Alma Mater, Virginia Tech was named Major Williams Hall (a.k.a. "Major Bill") in his honor. The new building was a combination of 2 older barracks and originally functioned as both a corps and civilian student dormitory. In 1995, it was renovated and converted to academic offices for the history department in the College of Arts and Sciences.


  1. ^ a b c Clark, page 1.
  2. ^ a b Clark, page 2.
  3. ^ a b c Ferrebee, Robert A. (December 11, 2014). ""Retreat, hell! We just got here."". The American Legion. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  4. ^ Crocker(2006): 261.
  5. ^ Clark, page 17.
  6. ^ Szoldra, Paul (January 13, 2015). "The 9 Most Intense Unit Mottoes In The Marine Corps". Retrieved February 5, 2017.