On Wednesday, August 21st at 11:30 a.m., the Friends of the National World War II Memorial will hold a brief ceremony and wreath presentation to mark the 100th birthday of its late founder, Ambassador F. Haydn Williams. Ambassador Williams was a WWII veteran who played a critical role in the creation of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Ambassador Williams to serve on the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). He was subsequently named chairman of the ABMC’s National WWII Memorial Committee with the primary responsibility for the site and the design of the National WWII Memorial. During the complicated approval process established by law, Ambassador Williams presented and defended ABMC’s recommendations in 22 public hearings over a period of five years. As a major private donor to the Memorial’s capital campaign, Ambassador Williams was also successful in helping raise significant other contributions from corporations, foundations, and personal friends. For his service, Ambassador Williams was awarded the ABMC’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2001. The WWII Memorial was formally dedicated in 2004.
In 2007, Ambassador Williams led the effort to establish the Friends of the National World War II Memorial and became its first chairman. Following his 2009 retirement, he was elected chairman emeritus and remained actively engaged in the organization and its ongoing mission to honor and preserve the national memory of WWII.
From 1941-42, Ambassador Williams served on Midway Island with Pacific Naval Air Base Contractors building runways, seaplane, and a submarine base. On December 7, 1941, he was engaged in a touch football game with friends when the First Bombardment of Midway occurred, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Soon after the bombing, Ambassador Williams was commissioned U.S. Naval Reserve and served on staff of Commander Naval Air Transport Pacific and as an air operations officer in the Central Pacific, the Marianas, and the Occupation of Japan, with the primary mission of air evacuating our prisoners of war. He was discharged from active duty in 1946 as a Lieutenant j.g.
Following the war, he worked as a young assistant professor at the University of Washington followed by six years at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy as an Associate Dean and Associate Professor. While at Fletcher, Ambassador Williams was an advisor to the U.S. Navy and to Naval officers sent to Fletcher for advanced study and degrees. He also participated, as an associate, in Harvard’s Defense Studies Program. During the Eisenhower Administration, he was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and was invited by the Kennedy Administration to continue to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. He also was a lecturer at the Naval War College Newport and at the National War College Ft. McNair.
From 1971-1976, he served as the President’s Personal Representative for the Micronesia and Mariana Future Political Status Negotiations with the rank of Ambassador. These Negotiations ended the US Strategic Trusteeship over the islands taken from Japan during WWII.
Ambassador Williams also served 25 years as the President of The Asia Foundation, the longest tenure of any Foundation President.
After retiring from The Asia Foundation, Ambassador Williams spent the next few years promoting the development of the American Memorial Park Saipan, the scene of ferocious combat in 1944 as American ground and naval forces broke through Imperial Japan’s inner defense rim. Ambassador Williams has been called the father of both the Memorial Park and the American Memorial on Saipan, America’s most western tribute to our war dead in the far Pacific.
Born in Spokane Washington on August 21, 1919, Ambassador Williams earned an A.B. from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.