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, LtCol 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, Col 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, LtGen 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, Gen 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. He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
World War II 1941-1945 Medal of Honor