July 10, 2005 by

Louis H. Wilson Jr.


Categories: Business, Military

lwilson.jpgGen. Louis Hugh Wilson Jr., the 26th commandant of the Marine Corps and a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, died on June 21. Cause of death was not released. He was 85.
The Mississippi native studied economics at Millsaps College, where he played football and ran track. In 1941, a Marine Corps recruiter persuaded him to enlist in the service after graduation. This decision would forever alter the course of his life.
During World War II, Wilson served with the 9th Marines in the Pacific theatre. He was the commanding officer of Company F, 2d Battalion, in 1944 when he helped launch the two-day incursion on Fonte Ridge, Guam. In a daylight attack against Japanese machine gunners and riflemen, Wilson led his men across 300 yards of open terrain and captured a heavily defended hill containing an opposition command post. That night, he ordered the troops to fortify the post’s defenses and spent 10 hours under enemy fire.
Wilson was wounded three times during the battle; he briefly received medical treatment then returned to the front to help his men fight the Japanese counterattacks. At one point, he even ran through flying shrapnel and bullets to save a wounded Marine beyond front lines. For taking and holding a key position, and for “exceptionally distinguished service,” Wilson received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for heroism in combat, from President Harry S. Truman on Oct. 5, 1945.
After the war, Wilson took on recruiting and command assignments on both coasts and in Korea, and continued to rise through the ranks. He taught at the Marine Corps Schools in Quantico, graduated from the National War College and served as assistant chief of staff to the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam. There he earned the Legion of Merit and the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with a Gold Star.
As a lieutenant general, Wilson assumed command of the Fleet Marine Force in the Pacific. For his service, he earned a second Legion of Merit, the Korean Order of National Security Merit, a GUK-SEON Medal, 2d Class and the Philippine Legion of Honor. Wilson received his third Legion of Merit for commanding the I Marine Amphibious Force, 3d Marine Division on Okinawa.
In 1975, Wilson was promoted to a full general and became the 26th commandant of the Marine Corps. In this position, he renewed emphasis on combat readiness, increased academic enlistment standards, addressed disciplinary problems within the ranks and toughened weight requirements. Today, 98 percent of enlistees are high school graduates.
Wilson’s achievements caught the eye of Sen. John Stennis (D-Miss.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Stennis successfully campaigned on his behalf, and in 1978, Wilson was given full membership on the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Wilson retired in 1979 and spent his later years serving on the corporate boards of Merrill Lynch and Fluor Corp. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

7 Responses to Louis H. Wilson Jr.

  1. Larry Thompson

    He was the CG 3dMarDiv (MGen) at Okinawa when I worked as a clerk/typist to the Division Inspector in ’69, ’70. One day my colonel (James Sloan, Jr.) gave me some papers to deliver to him. Entering his office vestibule there was no one else around, but I could see him at his desk.
    I waltzed right on in, stood in front of his desk, awaiting acknowledgement. He asked, “May I help you?”, as his aide was by then rushing in behind me, apologizing to the general that I had entered without permission. General Wilson calmly waved off the aide, saying, “The man has something to give to me. Let him do it.”

  2. Wade Tyrrell

    As an E-5 stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay Hawaii, I had an opportunity to meet this man as the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Larger than life – genuine – strong. I had the opportunity to work on the Inspector General FMF Pacific tour and have a letter signed by him thanking me for my participation. Just an amazing guy.

  3. Dave

    On the day of General Wilson’s retirement in front of the Navy Annex in Arlington, VA….he gave everyone the rest of the day off! Of course, MajGen Fitch decided to work into the evening and insisted I stay on. I very much appreciated the gesture Gen Wilson!

  4. Jim

    I had the fortunate pleasure of working for then Lt.Gen Wilson when he was the CG FMFPac in Hawaii. He was truly a Marine’s Marine. God bless you General Lou. I know the Good Lord has a very special place for you in Heaven. Semper Fi.

  5. MSgt W. Lisk, USMC, Ret.

    General Wilson, was CGFMFPAC,@ Camp H.M.Smith. My 1st duty station of my 27+yrs Marine Corps career. I was a Pvt-Sgt,June 73-76 working for the Adj, in the Mail & Files section. My duties required me to deliver mail to the Staff Sec. office. General Wilson office was on the 4th floor also. During 1 of my many visits to the 4th floor. One time I was pushing my mail cart & almost hit General Wilson.
    I would see General Wilson during honors, I for was on the FMFPac honor guard. I would also see him when he departed the bldg & returned into bldg because the Mail & Files office was right at the main entrance of the bldg. He was a Great Marine, standing 6’5″ a commanding man of Honor.
    Semper Fi Sir. Thank You for all you did for our country & the Marine Corps.
    W. L. Lisk

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