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Louis Hugh Wilson, Jr.
General, United States Marine Corps
Mississippi State Flag
WASHINGTON (June 23, 2005) -- Louis H. Wilson, 85, Medal of Honor recipient for heroic actions fighting enemy forces at Fonte Hill, Guam, Mariana Islands, in World War II, and 26th Commandant of the Marine Corps, died June 21, 2005, at his home in Birmingham, Alabama, with his family present.

A hero by any definition, General Wilson was just a young Captain and placed in command of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, when, although wounded several times, he succeeded in capturing and holding the strategic high ground in his regimental sector against a numerically greater force, which contributed significantly to the ultimate victory on Guam.

General Wilson “repeatedly exposed himself to the merciless hail of shrapnel and bullets, dashing fifty yards into the open on one occasion to rescue a wounded Marine lying helpless beyond the front lines. Fighting fiercely in hand-to-hand encounters, he led his men in furiously waged battle for approximately ten hours,” according to his Medal of Honor citation. Because of the wounds he received in the fierce fighting, then Captain Wilson was evacuated to U.S. Naval Hospital San Diego where he remained until October 16, 1944.

President Harry S. Truman personally thanked General Wilson by presenting his award in a special ceremony at the White House in Washington.

Besides earning the nation’s highest honor for heroism in combat, General Wilson served in a variety of command and staff positions, which included service in Korea and command of The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. He graduated from the National War College in June 1962 and after a second tour at Headquarters, he returned to 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California, as the assistant chief of staff, G-3, deploying with the division first to Okinawa, Japan, and then to Vietnam.

This was followed by duty as commanding officer of 6th Marine Corps District in Atlanta.

General Wilson was promoted to Brigadier General in November 1966, and was the legislative assistant to the Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1967 and 1968. This was followed by a tour as Chief of Staff, Fleet Marine Forces, Pacific and Commanding General, I Marine Amphibious Force and 3rd Marine Division on Okinawa. General Wilson became director of the Education Center at MCB Quantico in 1971, and in 1972 he assumed command of Fleet Marine Forces, Pacific. He was appointed Commandant of the Marine Corps July 1, 1975. In October of 1978, General Wilson achieved full membership on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

General Wilson retired June 30, 1979, and will always be remembered as skillfully guiding the Marine Corps through the turbulent and challenging post-Vietnam era. During his tenure as commandant, he laid a firm foundation of high standards and demanding training that ensured that the Marine Corps remained a modern, mobile, general purpose, combined arms force with amphibious expertise prepared for low and high intensity combat against a wide-spectrum of potential foes around the globe.

"The entire Marine Corps family is saddened by the passing of Marine General Louis Hugh Wilson, Jr., our 26th Commandant, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends,” said General Michael W. Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps.

“General Wilson was a forward-thinker who was ahead of his time. As commandant from 1975-1979, he stressed modernization, readiness, expeditionary capabilities and integrated firepower -- areas that we still concentrate on today. His legacy of valor and leadership will live forever in the Marine Corps."

After his military retirement in June of 1979, General Wilson lived in Mississippi and California, and subsequently moved to be near family in Birmingham. During this time he felt privileged to serve on the boards of Merrill Lynch, Burlington Resources and the Fluor Corporation.

General Wilson’s culminating act of public service occurred in October of 1995, when at age 75 he addressed a Joint Meeting of the U.S. Congress commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War II.

General Wilson is survived by his wife, Jane Clark Wilson; daughter, Janet Wilson Taylor; son-in-law Jarred O. Taylor II; and grandsons Jarred O. Taylor III and Louis Wilson Taylor, all of Birmingham, Alabama.

The Wilson family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations in the general's memory be made to the Marine Corps University Foundation of which he was a long-term trustee (P.O. Box 122 Quantico, VA 22134-0122), or other Marine Corps related organization.


General Louis Hugh Wilson, Jr., a World War II recipient of the Medal of Honor and 26th Commandant of the Marine Corps, was born 11 February 1920 in Brandon, Mississippi. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1941 from Millsaps College, Jackson, Mississippi, where he participated in football and track. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in May 1941 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in November of that year. After attending officers’ basic training, he was assigned to the 9th Marine Regiment at Marine Corps Base, San Diego, California.

Lieutenant Wilson went overseas with the 9th Marines in February 1943, making stops at Guadalcanal, Efate, and Bougainville. He was promoted to captain in April 1943. During the assault on Guam, 25-26 July 1944, while commanding Company F, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, he earned the nation’s highest honor for heroism in combat when he and his company repelled and destroyed a numerically superior enemy force. Because of wounds received he was evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital, San Diego, where he remained until 16 October 1944.

Captain Wilson returned to duty as Commanding Officer, Company D, Marine Barracks, Camp Pendleton, California. In December 1944, he was transferred to Washington, D.C., where he served as Detachment Commander at the Marine Barracks. While in Washington he was presented the Medal of Honor by President Truman. He was promoted to major in March 1945.

From June 1946 until August 1951, Maj Wilson had consecutive tours as Dean and Assistant Director, Marine Corps Institute; Aide-de-Camp, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force (FMF), Pacific; and Officer in Charge, District Headquarters Recruiting Station, New York City.

Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in November 1951, while stationed at Quantico, Virginia, he served consecutively as Commanding Officer of The Basic School’s 1st Training Battalion; Commanding Officer of Camp Barrett; and Executive Office of The Basic School. He completed the Officer’s Senior Course in August 1954.

After a brief tour as a Senior School Instructor, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, he departed for Korea to serve as Assistant G-3, 1st Marine Division. In August 1955, he returned to the United States with the 1st Division, and was appointed Commanding Officer, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division.

In March 1956, Lieutenant Colonel Wilson was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC), serving two years as Head, Operations Section, G-3 Division. He then returned to Quantico, first as Commanding Officer of the Test and Training Regiment, and later as Commanding Officer of The Basic School.

In June 1962, after graduation from the National War College, he was assigned as Joint Plans Coordinator to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Plans and Programs), HQMC. He transferred to the 1st Marine Division and deployed with the Division in August 1965, stopping at Okinawa before going to Vietnam. As Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, 1st Marine Division, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star.

Upon his return to the United States in August 1966, Colonel Wilson assumed command of the 6th Marine Corps District, Atlanta, Georgia. Promoted to Brigadier General in November 1966, he was assigned to HQMC in January 1967, as Legislative Assistant to the Commandant of the Marine Corps until July 1968. He then served as Chief of Staff, Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, until March 1970, earning a second Legion of Merit.

He was advanced to the grade of Major General in March 1970 and assumed command of I Marine Amphibious Force, 3d Marine Division on Okinawa, where he was awarded a third Legion of Merit for his service.

In April 1971, he returned to Quantico for duty as Deputy for Education/Director, Education Center, Marine Corps Development and Education Command. He was promoted to lieutenant general in August 1972 and on 1 September 1972 assumed command of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. During that tour, Lieutenant General Wilson was presented the Korean Order of National Security Merit, GUK-SEON Medal, 2d Class and the Philippine Legion of Honor (Degree of Commander) for his service to those countries.

He was promoted to General on 1 July 1975, when he assumed the office of Commandant of the Marine Corps. As Commandant, General Wilson repeatedly stressed modernization of the post-Vietnam Marine Corps. He insisted on force readiness, responsiveness, and mobility by maintaining fast-moving, hard-hitting expeditionary units, each consisting of a single integrated system of modern ground- and air-delivered firepower, tactical mobility, and electronic countermeasures.

General Wilson retired on 30 June 1979 and returned to his home in Mississippi. For “exceptionally distinguished service” during his four-year tenure as Commandant, and his contributions as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster), upon retirement.

General Wilson passed away peacefully at his home in Birmingham, Alabama, on 21 June 2005.


23 June 2005:

Retired General Louis H. Wilson.. A native of Brandon and former Commandant of the Marines Corps has died at the age of 85. 

Wilson attended Milsaps College in Jackson before enlisting in the Marines in 1941. He won the Medal of Honor after being wounded three times in hand to hand fighting during the battle of Guam in the South Pacific. Wilson died Tuesday at his home just outside Birmingham, Alabama. He will buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


23 June 2005:

HOMEWOOD, Alabama - Retired General Louis H. Wilson, a Mississippi native and Medal of Honor winner and former commandant of the Marine Corps, has died. He was 85.

Wilson, who had battled a degenerative disorder of the nervous system for several years, died Tuesday at his home in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood, said his daughter, Janet Taylor of Vestavia Hills.

Wilson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in the South Pacific during World War II. According to the award citation, he organized night defenses throughout continuous enemy fire and, though wounded three times, coordinated hand-to-hand fighting for 10 hours to hold his unit's position.

He later became the Marine Corps' 26th commandant, holding the position from 1975 to 1979.

"The members of the Howlin' Mad Smith Detachment of the Marine Corps League join our fellow Marines around the world in mourning the passing of General Wilson," said Bob Arnwine, commander of the Birmingham unit. "His leadership, courage and valor will forever be a part of the legacy of our Corps."

A native of Brandon, Mississippi, Wilson moved to Alabama from California in 2000 to be near his daughter.

Wilson is also survived by his wife, Jane.

Taylor said Wilson will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


July 22, 2005
Medal of Honor recipient buried at Arlington
by Dennis Ryan
Courtesy of the Pentagram

The Marine Corps said goodbye Tuesday to a former commandant and Medal of Honor recipient, General Louis H. Wilson. A Marine honor guard and the Marine Band led the general's casket to his final resting spot through the sylvan glades of Arlington National Cemetery.

Wilson became the 26th Commandant of the Marine Corps on July 1, 1976 and was the first Commandant to serve fulltime on the Joint Chiefs of Staff according to a recent Washington Post obituary.

Marine Corps Commandants would only attend meetings of the Joint Chiefs when Marine business was to be discussed before Wilson's tenure. This gave the Marines more influence in the Department of Defense.

The commandant was born on February 11, 1920 in Brandon, Mississippi. Wilson lost his father at five and sold vegetables from a cart as a youth. He attended Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. While there, he ran track and played football. He joined the Marines after graduating in 1941.

The young officer participated in landings on Guadalcanal, Efate and Guam, but it was Font Hill Guam, July 25 and 26, 1944 where Wilson earned this nation's highest medal for valor. He was a captain in charge of a rifle company.

Wilson led his unit in a daylight attack across 300 yards of open terrain to capture part of a hill, the Medal of Honor citation reads. He took command of other scattered units and motorized equipment and prepared defensive positions that night all the while exposing himself to enemy fire.

The captain was wounded three times and went to the company command post for medical attention, but returned to his besieged position. At one point Wilson ran 50 yards through intense fire to rescue a wounded comrade beyond the front lines.

Wilson led his men in sometimes fierce hand-to-hand encounters in a 10-hour battle. He then organized "a 17-man patrol to advance upon a strategic slope.... And boldly defying intense mortar, machine gun and rifle fire which struck down 13 of his men, drove relentlessly forward with the remnants of his patrol to seize the vital ground."

Wilson and his unit's actions led to the annihilation of 350 enemy troops. President Harry Truman presented the Medal of Honor to him on October 5, 1945.

As Marine commandant, he is credited with increasing the academic standards for enlistment. Wilson wanted 75 percent of recruits to have high school diplomas and ordered the discharge of thousands of Marines with discipline problems and ordered stricter physical fitness standards.

Wilson retired in 1979 and went on to serve on a number of corporate boards.


Posted: 23 June 2005  Updated: 26 July 2005 Updated: 27 November 2005
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