LOUIS HUGH WILSON JR. GENERAL – From Vegetable Cart to Commandant Marine Corps

Gen Louis H Wilson Jr
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Gen Louis H Wilson Jr

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D.   Wilson was born in Brandon, Mississippi. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1941 from Millsaps CollegeJackson, Mississippi, where he participated in football and track. Wilson was also an active member of the Alpha Iota Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, initiated on February 23, 1939.


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.


Retired General Louis H. Wilson, a Mississippi native and Medal of Honor winner and former commandant of the Marine Corps, died on June 23rd 2005.  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.


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 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.


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.

“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.”


The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of Company F, Second Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces at Fonte Hill, Guam, Marianas Islands, 25 and July 26, 1944. Ordered to take that portion of the hill within his zone of action, Captain Wilson initiated his attack in midafternoon, pushed up the rugged, open terrain against terrific machine-gun and rifle fire for 300 yards and successfully captured the objective. Promptly assuming command of other disorganized units and motorized equipment in addition to his own company and one reinforcing platoon, he organized his night defenses in the face of continuous hostile fire and, although wounded three times during this five-hour period, completed his disposition of men and guns before retiring to the company command post for medical attention. Shortly thereafter, when the enemy launched the first of a series of savage counterattacks lasting all night, he voluntarily rejoined his besieged units and 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, tenaciously holding his line and repelling the fanatically renewed counterthrusts until he succeeded in crushing the last efforts of the hard-pressed Japanese early the following morning. Then, organizing a seventeen-man patrol, he immediately advanced upon a strategic slope essential to the security of his position and, boldly defying intense mortar, machine-gun and rifle fire which struck down thirteen of his men, drove relentlessly forward with the remnants of his patrol to seize the vital ground. By his indomitable leadership, daring combat tactics and dauntless valor in the face of overwhelming odds, Captain Wilson succeeded in capturing and holding the strategic high ground in his regimental sector, thereby contributing essentially to the success of his regimental mission and to the annihilation of 350 Japanese troops. His inspiring conduct throughout the critical periods of this decisive action enhanced and sustained the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.



General Louis Hugh Wilson, Jr. was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on July 19, 2005.


The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.