Louis Wilson Jr

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Louis Hugh Wilson Jr (born February 11, 1920 in Brandon, Mississippi; died June 21, 2005 in Birmingham) was the 26th Commandant of the Marine Corps and a recipient of the Medal of Honor for heroism in combat during his service during the assault on Guam in World War II.

Wilson earned a bachelor of arts in 1941 at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, where he participated in football and track. Wilson was also an active member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. 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.

Wilson was deployed to the Pacific theater with the 9th Marines in February 1943, making stops at Guadalcanal, Efate, and Bougainville. He was promoted to Captain in April. During the assault on Guam July 25-26, 1944 he commanded Company F, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, which repelled and destroyed a numerically superior enemy force. His "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty," led to his being awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman.

Wilson was wounded in the battle and evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital, San Diego, where he remained until October 16, 1944. He returned to duty as Commanding Officer, Company D, Marine Barracks at Camp Pendleton, Californi]. In December 1944, he was transferred to Washington, D.C., where he served as Detachment Commander at the Marine Barracks. He was promoted to major in March 1945.

From June 1946 to August 1951, Wilson served consecutive tours as Dean and Assistant Director of the Marine Corps Institute; Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General of the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific; and Officer in Charge of the District Headquarters Recruiting Station in New York City.

He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in November 1951, while stationed at Quantico, Virginia, and served consecutively as Commanding Officer of The Basic School's 1st Training Battalion, as Commanding Officer of Camp Barrett, and as Executive Officer 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, Wilson departed for Korea to serve as Assistant G-3, 1st Marine Division. In August 1955, he returned to the U.S. and was appointed Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. The following March, he 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, Wilson was assigned as Joint Plans Coordinator to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Plans and Programs), HQMC. During the Vietnam War, Wilson was transferred to the 1st Marine Division and deployed to Vietnam in August 1965. 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.

Wilson returned to the United States in August 1966 and assumed command of the 6th Marine Corps District, Atlanta, Georgia. He was promoted to brigadier general in November and 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.

Wilson was advanced to the grade of Major General in March 1970 and assumed command of I Marine Amphibious Force, 3rd 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 September 1, 1972 assumed command of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. During that tour, 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.

Wilson was promoted to General on July 1, 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 was the first Marine Corps Commandant to serve full-time on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Wilson retired on June 30, 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.

He later moved to Birmingham and died here in 2005. All ships and stations of the Department of the Navy flew the national flag at half-mast from the time of his death until sunset of the date of interment, with full military honors, in Arlington National Cemetery. Wilson Boulevard and Wilson Gate at Camp Lejeune in Pendleton, North Carolina are named in his honor, as is Wilson Hall, the headquarters building for Marine Corps Officer Candidates School, in Quantico, Virginia.

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