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06-22-05, 10:01 PM #1
Death Of General Louis H. Wilson, Jr. 26TH COMMANDANT
Date signed: 06/22/2005 MARADMIN Number: 029/05
Subject: DEATH OF GENERAL LOUIS H. WILSON, JR.
/FORMER COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS
R 221530Z JUN 05
FM CMC WASHINGTON DC(UC)
TO AL ALMAR(UC)
MSGID/GENADMIN/CMC WASHINGTON DC CMC//
SUBJ/DEATH OF GENERAL LOUIS H. WILSON, JR.
/FORMER COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS//
REF/A/DOC/ART 1088 NAVREGS/-//
AMPN/REF A IS NAVY REGULATIONS//
GENTEXT/REMARKS/1. IT IS WITH DEEP REGRET THAT I ANNOUNCE THE DEATH
ON 21 JUNE 2005 OF GENERAL LOUIS H. WILSON, JR. U.S. MARINE CORPS,
RETIRED, FORMER COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS AND MEDAL OF HONOR
2. IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REFERENCE, ALL MARINE CORPS BASES AND
STATIONS WILL HALF-MAST THE NATIONAL ENSIGN UNTIL SUNSET OF THE DATE
OF INTERMENT. MORE INFORMATION WILL FOLLOW.
3. M.W. HAGEE, GENERAL, U.S. MARINE CORPS, COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE
A Little Info on the FORMER COMMANDANT supplied by Mark..aka The Fontman
Rest In Peace
06-22-05, 10:07 PM #2
One helluva Commandant : RIP,Sir!
General Louis H. Wilson, a holder of the Medal of Honor, served as the 26th Commandant of the Marine Corps from July 1, 1975 until July 1, 1979. For his "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 his retirement on July 1, 1979.
Born February 11, 1920, in Brandon, Mississippi, he earned a B.A. 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.
General 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, on July 25 and 26, 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 October 16, 1944.
General 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 a 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, General Wilson had consecutive tours as Dean and Assistant Director, Marine Corps Institute; Aide-de-Camp, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, 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 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, 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 named as Commanding Officer, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division.
In March 1956, General Wilson was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps, serving two years as Head, Operations Section, G-3 Division. He 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), Headquarters Marine Corps. 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 return to the United States in August 1966, General Wilson assumed command of the 6th Marine Corps District, Atlanta, Georgia. Promoted to brigadier general in November 1966, he was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps 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. He assumed command of I Marine Amphibious Force/3d Marine Division on Okinawa, and 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 the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. During that tour, 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 July 1, 1975. General Wilson and his wife, the former Jane Clark of Pearson, Mississippi, have one daughter, Janet.
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, Commanding Rifle Company, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division. Place and date: Fonte Hill, Guam, 25-26 July 1944. Entered service at: Mississippi. Born: 11 February 1920, Brandon, Miss. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of a rifle company attached to the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces at Fonte Hill, Guam, 25-26 July 1944. Ordered to take that portion of the hill within his zone of action, Capt. Wilson initiated his attack in mid-afternoon, pushed up the rugged, open terrain against terrific machinegun 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 1 reinforcing platoon, he organized his night defenses in the face of continuous hostile fire and, although wounded 3 times during this 5-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 50 yards into the open on 1 occasion to rescue a wounded marine lying helpless beyond the frontlines. Fighting fiercely in hand-to-hand encounters, he led his men in furiously waged battle for approximately 10 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 17-man patrol, he immediately advanced upon a strategic slope essential to the security of his position and, boldly defying intense mortar, machinegun, and rifle fire which struck down 13 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 valor in the face of overwhelming odds, Capt. 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 sustains and enhances the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
06-22-05, 10:18 PM #3
The Corps, and the world, is a more empty place today.
The Corps, is stronger from his example, today.
He was Commandant during my watch.
Once again, I raise a glass;
"to fallen brothers"
06-22-05, 10:23 PM #4
Courtesy of Mark aka The Fontman
An email that was sent to him by Colonel Wayne V. Morris, USMC (Ret.)
Death of General Louis H. Wilson, Jr. - 26th Commandant of the Marine Corps
It is with deep regret that I announce the death last night, 21 June 2005, of General Louis H. Wilson, Jr. U.S. Marine Corps, Retired, our 26th Commandant of the Marine Corps who received the Medal of Honor for heroism during the battle of Guam on 25-26 July 1944. He passed away peacefully at his home in Birmingham, Alabama.
In accordance with Article 1288 of Navy Regulations, all ships and stations of the Department of the Navy are required to half-mast the national ensign from the time of General Wilson's death, as a former CMC, until sunset of the date of interment. The Article also provides information for joint installations and commands, and I direct your attention to it.
Funeral plans have not yet been completed. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in the General's memory to the Marine Corps University Foundation or other Marine Corps related charity.
Per MCO 5360.10A, the Officer in Charge of the funeral staff is MajGen Bradley M. (Mark) Lott. He is responsible for planning, coordinating, and ensuring proper execution of the funeral and burial ceremony. Colonel Nathan Webster is assisting him and coordinating all family-related issues.
Point of Contact Information: Funeral Staff: Col Webster, (703) 692-5411; firstname.lastname@example.org
Today's Marines owe a tremendous debt to General Wilson. His heroic actions as a Captain leading "F" Company, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines in repelling 11 determined counterattacks by a superior enemy force attempting to retake the key terrain of Fonte Hill during the amphibious assault on Guam in July 1944 are part of our Corps' rich heritage that continues to inspire all Marines. But, his professionalism, leadership, and judgment as our 26th Commandant is an equally important and perhaps more lasting legacy. He skillfully guided this institution through the crises and numerous tests of the post-Vietnam era - lack of public confidence in the military, the fall out from the transition of DoD to an all-volunteer force, discipline and leadership challenges within our Corps, chronic budgetary shortfalls, and a vigorous public debate over the Marine Corps' mission, force structure, and operational focus. We often cite the renewed emphasis on maneuver warfare during the 1980's for the Marine Corps' tactical successes in operations like Desert Storm in 1991 and Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The commitment, however, to professional education and warfighting excellence during that period and into the present was built squarely on the firm foundation that General Wilson laid. All of our later achievements would not have been possible without his strong moral leadership and his uncompromising personnel standards during the turbulent 1970s. General Wilson's emphasis on the readiness and modernization of our Corps as a well-trained 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 continues to define who we are. His compelling articulation within the policy development and political processes concerning the Marine Corps' value and role in our national security was masterful, and it quickly restored faith in our institution. The dramatic improvements to recruiting Marines and recruit training methods set a standard for quality from which the Marine Corps continues to profit with intelligent, adaptable Marines. His vision for demanding, combined arms training resulted in the facilities and exercises at 29 Palms and elsewhere that we have inherited and from which we continue to improve our tactical and operational agility and flexibility. He defined commitment to warfighting excellence that remains today our main effort. I believe that Col David H. White, Jr. USMCR (Ret) - in Allan Millett and Jack Shulimson's Commandants of the Marine Corps - very accurately pinpoints that the success of General Wilson during his watch as Commandant was due to the fact that "he personified the best institutional characteristics of his Corps." This is perhaps the most fitting and highest tribute any of us can hope for. Thankfully, General Wilson's presence will continue to be felt throughout our Corps for many years. I ask all on active duty to share the legacy of General Wilson with your Marines. I also ask all to keep Jane and her family in your prayers.
06-22-05, 11:12 PM #5
06-22-05, 11:27 PM #6
06-23-05, 12:10 AM #7
World War II Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient
General Louis Hugh Wilson Jr., USMC
06-23-05, 01:37 AM #8
Rest in Peace General Wilson. I was honored to serve under your Command.
06-23-05, 08:08 AM #9
Giants of the Corps
GENERAL LOUIS H. WILSON JR.
By Cyril J. O'Brien
Four hundred miles inland in Afghanistan, a Marine task force descended suddenly and overwhelmingly on a disputed airstrip and its external field works and executed the Corps' traditional role of projecting American power from the sea.
A quarter century earlier the 26th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Louis H. "Lou" Wilson Jr. (1975-79), promised the United States as long as it had a Marine Corps that need would be met.
During that time the Senate Armed Services Committee and other leaders of Congress were putting the entire military of the United States under close scrutiny. The review was an aftermath of an unpopular war. As in times past, Congress challenged the Marine Corps to explain its role, both present and future.
In its own bicentennial year (1975), the Corps was under attack. According to J. Robert Moskin in his book "The U.S. Marine Corps Story," Gen Wilson made it clear to the Senate committee: "I am not concerned about the future of the Marine Corps as long as we have ready forces ... because I am convinced that when the call comes, they [the country] have my telephone number, and I do expect a call."
Gen Wilson did not want a big army, "just a force and equipment," he told them, "for high mobility and high-intensity combat." The Corps' role as ever would be to "provide air and ground forces with a ready capability to take those arms ashore."
Hearings and questions took days and days in both the House and Senate. They heard Gen Wilson's concept of integrated air-ground units "ready to deploy against the widest range of possible foes" at a place and time of the United States' choosing.
By 1976 a friendly press noted how this new Commandant was expanding "fast and forcefully." Troops were jazzing up mechanized debarkation, sophisticated amphibious support, absorbing in-service education, computer complexities and on and on.
CMC Wilson accelerated development at Marine Corps Base, Twentynine Palms, Calif., as a site to train with zeal and realism. War-fighting readiness was ratcheted up, and combined air-ground arms enveloped even young "boots." Some 300 miles inland from San Diego, Twentynine Palms sported the Buillion Mountains, 112-degree temperatures, sand in faces, fire and movement skirmishes that tore up the deck, the sky and confidence. Twentynine Palms had everything but comfort, and the general wanted it that way. Base historian Colonel Verle E. Ludwig, USMC (Ret) called it a "combined-arms-exercise college."
The general also set up an aviation weapons and tactics squadron commissioned in Yuma, Ariz., to extract the most from man and machine, state-of-the-art tactics and technology. The goal: totally integrated, top-drawer air-ground operations.
However, in his book "Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps," historian Allan R. Millett notes there were rocks and shoals in the Corps' aviation status. Defining and maintaining its air arm was half the battle. The Commandant had to bid hard for his own combat aircraft.
Before Gen Wilson became Commandant, the Navy had advised the Marines how much it favored its F-14 "Tomcat." The Tomcat was good, but it was strictly a carrier fighter. At the Navy's urging, the pre-Wilson Marine Corps headquarters decided to adopt it.
Lieutenant General William R. Maloney, USMC (Ret), holder of the Silver Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the commander of a squadron, an air group and three aircraft wings, explained how CMC Wilson decided to cancel the F-14 acquisition for the Marine Corps. Quite simply, it wouldn't fit into the Corps' expeditionary role.
Carriers wouldn't be around always, and Marine expeditionary units needed expeditionary aircraft. CMC Wilson would stick with the F-4 "Phantom" until the more modern F/A-18 "Hornet," capable and moderately fast with a mix of weapons, could join the Marine aircraft wings. Marine aviators vouched that the F/A-18 could devastate and operate exceptionally well in hazardous tree-top altitudes, just above the troops.
For all its promises, said Gen Wilson, technology was still an adjunct to the "essential element of the Marine Corps," the individual Marine. As he took command, Gen Wilson embraced the Marine majority of "matchless devotion," but there were too many in the Corps who were "marginal, substandard, unwilling to subordinate themselves to the Corps."
CMC Wilson explained: "The draft laws had been gerrymandered so that only the poor, the blacks and disadvantaged were really drafted. A great many fine young men came in. But many draftees, thrown in with them, were the dregs of society [and] many with continuing dissatisfaction with the war. They were also spilling into all the services. The Marine Corps as well!"
There were personal and social conflicts, poor grooming, drug-alcohol involvement, disrespect; only 45 of 100 Marines were high school graduates. Society's discontent invaded the military.
"It is not like the old days," he said, "when you could leave your wallet on your sack."
The Commandant meant business the minute he came aboard. During the first meeting of the first duty day, he called the appearance of Headquarters "deplorable" and said that it looked like a "rat's nest." Obesity, haircut and uniform problems were reflected in the unfavorable report from the inspector general on his inspection of Headquarters Battalion.
"If I see a fat Marine," the new Commandant said, "he's in trouble, and so is his commanding officer." Obesity would vanish, and every action of every Marine would be characterized by quality. Marines who had been in six or eight years who didn't shape up would go. "I didn't come here to save them. It is not a goal; it is imperative. I will not relax standards if faced with the choice between quantity and quality." Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger told of "an old 'Gunny' " who lost 13 pounds just by keeping the Commandant's picture on the fridge.
To add impact, Gen Wilson brought aboard LtGen Robert H. Barrow (later to become the 27th Commandant) as Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower. A redoubtable field officer, he wore a Navy Cross from the Korean War and had commanded a regiment in Vietnam. LtGen Barrow sparked an all-out attack on substandard Marines.
Gen Wilson let Corps, country and Congress know that he would seek intelligence. Seventy-five percent of future Marines would be high school graduates, "who've already proved they can stick it through."
Each year about 50,000 recruits would be transported to Marine Corps recruit depots at Parris Island, S.C., or San Diego and made into dedicated Marines. The Commandant asked Congress for 192,000 total strength by fiscal year 1978.
Soon the press saw this "hard-charging new Commandant" demanding quality enlistments, keeping good Marines in the Corps and upgrading physical fitness. Disciplinary problems were easing, and 69 percent of recruits were high school grads by 1977.
That same year, a still-adamant Commandant said: "Today's Marines are as good or better than any who have served in uniform: smarter, well-motivated, well-led. ... For years I have heard, they said this and they want that. Well, now I'm they, and it will be done. Marines are feeling better, looking better, acting better," but he'd keep their feet to the fire.
Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, Director Emeritus of Marine Corps History, said, "The Corps had weathered yet another testing with a fresh, new spirit and confidence."
During foreign exercises in various climes, environments, wet and dry, with the best troops of our allies, the Marine Corps was demonstrating what was expected: traditional superiority, polish, respect and élan.
Gen Wilson had a presence that evoked authority, said his senior aide for two years, retired Marine Col Warren H. Wiedhahn Jr. of Alexandria, Va. "His presence was enough; he didn't have to raise his voice, and his words belied his presence: soft spoken, personal, reserved."
Retired Marine Col Conrad M. "Bulley" Fowler was in the Sixth Reserve Officer Class at Quantico, Va., in 1941 with Wilson. He recalled: "He never had pretensions in any way, even when he was on the top; [he] had all the intrinsic qualities of the model Marine, even-tempered, assured with a command presence."
These were handy qualities on Capitol Hill. However, before he bearded the Capitol tribunals as Commandant, he had served as the Corps' legislative assistant. Wilson had gained experience as the Corps' congressional liaison for former Commandants Wallace M. Greene Jr. and Leonard F. Chapman Jr.
"This was the best preparation I had for one of the most difficult jobs of being Commandant," Gen Wilson told BGen Simmons. "I felt comfortable on the Hill: knew a great many of the senators and congressmen from days as legislative assistant [1967-68]. I really enjoyed discussing ... did not mind testifying."
G. V. "Sonny" Montgomery (D-Miss.), former House Armed Services Committee member and chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, called Wilson "one of our great Commandants. He always came in so quietly, trim, impressive. ... Never obvious as Commandant or holder of the Medal of Honor. A great listener, always well prepared. When asked a question he simply took it from there. You could always see he was proud to be a Marine. I never had to defend him even though he was from my own home state. He knew his way on the Hill, never said too much, knew when to push and when not to do so."
Gen Carl E. Mundy Jr., 30th Commandant, emphasized how Gen Wilson had made quality the keystone, instilled case-hardened discipline and invigorated and expanded training.
Howell T. Heflin was with Wilson and Conrad Fowler in the Ninth Marine Regiment on Bougainville in World War II. Heflin, later a U.S. senator, earned the Silver Star there and was also on Guam when a long-legged Marine captain named Lou Wilson was nailed by the Japanese on the second hill.
"Oh, he did a tremendous job in transforming the Marine Corps back to its great, esteemed and legendary status," the senator said. "He turned the whole Marine Corps around, was a tremendous Commandant."
Senator John C. Stennis, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee, was influential in Gen Wilson's elevation to full membership on the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October 1978. It was late in Wilson's tenure, and the general, used to the ebbs of the Chiefs, concluded that the interests of the Corps and national security "would be better served if his successors were full members of [the] Joint Chiefs."
06-23-05, 08:08 AM #10
Aided by President Harry S. Truman's 1948 unnecessary imbroglio with the Marines (which the Marines won), the Commandant was allowed by Congress to sit with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but only when Marine Corps matters were on the table. Gen Wilson's recommendation that the Commandant have full status as a member of the Joint Chiefs had support from members of the House and Senate, Marine veterans and other admirers. The clause, which would have the Commandant as a member of the Joint Chiefs, was written hastily into the Defense Authorization Bill. The leadership of Senator Stennis quenched unfriendly fire or lingering prejudices. According to Senator Heflin, Stennis encouraged President Jimmy Carter, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, to select Gen Wilson as Commandant.
Full membership on the JCS had been a longtime goal of the Marine Corps. Gen Wilson achieved it.
Retired LtGen Victor H. "Brute" Kulak wrote in "First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps" that full membership in the Joint Chiefs was a victory that was "a tribute to the resourceful courage of Commandant Wilson."
Louis Wilson retired from the Marines after 38 years on 1 July 1979. When it was all over, he fondly tossed four stars to his daughter, Janet. Then the Commandant went home to Jackson, Miss. Only 59, the retired Marine bristled with energy and so accepted membership on several boards of national establishments. Gen Lou Wilson will remain forever a giant of the Corps.
When it comes to courage, few people appreciate Lou Wilson's true grit more than the citizens of Guam.
In February 1943 as commanding officer, Wilson took Company F, 2d Battalion, Ninth Marine Regiment overseas. Then he led them into the Third Marine Division's baptism of fire on 1 Nov. 1944 at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville and in the British Solomon Islands. Empress Augusta Bay was a gauntlet in rain, swamp and a jungle so dense it took a day to go a mile. Guam was next, and his "Fox" Co addressed Chonito Ridge and Fonte Ridge on the crest. There he earned the Medal of Honor for blunting wild and mindless enemy counterattacks and then attacking to break the Japanese in his sector. Wilson gained experience in commanding troops, barracks duty, training assignments and formal education.
The battle for Fonte Ridge, 25-26 July 1944, was for the strategic high ground and the Japanese line. It also held the enemy's island command post.
Intense, sometimes hand to hand, usually in hand-grenade range with Japanese bodies stacked as sandbags, the fighting was so fierce in Wilson's sector that ammunition was running out. The captain of Co F, 2d Bn, 9th Marines considered resorting to bayonets. Three times wounded, the 24-year-old "skipper" held the defense through the night and much of the day, braving a fire storm to rescue a Marine from beyond the lines, then attacking through a fire screen with 17 defiant Co F leathernecks to take the high ground.
The Japanese screamed, flung grenades and packaged explosives and slashed tanks with swords and bayonets as the fight spread across the whole division front.
In 11 counterattacks on Co F, the Japanese lost 807 men; Fox Co, 62 dead, 107 wounded. Actually, the combat on Guam was put on the back burner by the press at the time, upstaged by the early thrusts of the Normandy invasion.
Guam's Liberation Day, 21 July 1944, is when the 3dMarDiv, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and 77th Army Division struck to liberate the island from the Japanese. On Guam, the date is tantamount to the Fourth of July in the United States. As a prominent liberator, Gen Wilson was awarded the Guam Medal of Valor by Governor Joseph Ada in 1990.
06-23-05, 04:57 PM #11
Medal of Honor recipient, former commandant dies at 85
Submitted by: Headquarters Marine Corps
Story Identification #: 200562312489
Story by - Headquarters Marine Corps
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 at his home in Birmingham, Ala., with his family present.
A hero by any definition, Gen. 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.
Gen. 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 Capt. Wilson was evacuated to U.S. Naval Hospital San Diego where he remained until Oct. 16, 1944.
President Harry S. Truman personally thanked Gen. 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, Gen. 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, Va. 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, Calif., 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.
Gen. 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. Gen. 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, Gen. Wilson achieved full membership on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Gen. 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 Gen. 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, Gen. 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.
Gen. 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.
Gen. 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.
Gen. Wilson’s full biography is available at www.usmc.mil.
Gen. 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 at his home in Birmingham, Ala., with his family present. Photo by: Official Marine Corps photo
06-23-05, 05:18 PM #12
Gen. Louis Wilson, `Giant of Corps,' dies at 85
Thursday, June 23, 2005
News staff writer
Retired Gen. Louis H. Wilson, Medal of Honor winner and commandant of the Marine Corps from 1975 to 1979, died Tuesday at home in Homewood. He was 85.
His daughter, Janet Taylor of Vestavia Hills, said burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington. Funeral plans were incomplete Wednesday, but no local service is planned.
"The members of the Howlin' Mad Smith Detachment of the Marine Corps League (in Birmingham) join our fellow Marines around the world in mourning the passing of Gen. Wilson," said Bob Arnwine, commander of the unit. "His leadership, courage and valor will forever be a part of the legacy of our Corps."
Gen. Wilson, a Medal of Honor winner in the South Pacific during World War II, is best remembered for revamping the Corps, which he served for 38 years. The April 2003 issue of Leatherneck, a Marine publication, described him as a "Giant of the Corps."
After becoming the Corps' 26th commandant, he insisted that Marines be in physical condition, respect authority and exhibit proper grooming.
"If I see a fat Marine, he's in trouble, and so is his commanding officer," the Leatherneck article quoted him saying. "I will not relax standards if faced with the choice between quantity and quality."
Two Alabamians who served with Wilson in the 9th Marine Regiment of the 3rd Marine Division in 1944 said he made a lasting impression.
Former Shelby County Probate Judge Conrad M. Fowler, who now lives in Tuscaloosa, met Wilson in the summer of 1941 on a train taking them to officers training at Quantico, Va.
"He had a great vocabulary and a good sense of humor," Fowler recalled in a phone interview two years ago.
The two were in the 6th Reserve Officer Class at Quantico. About six months later, on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor was attacked, marking American's entry into World War II.
Three years later as a company commander on Guam, his unit seized high ground overlooking a landing beach.
The citation for his Medal of Honor said Gen. Wilson organized night defenses in the face of continuous enemy fire. Though wounded three times, he coordinated hand-to-hand fighting during the next 10 hours to hold the position.
"I heard the fighting and saw some of it," Fowler said.
The late Sen. Howell Heflin, Fowler and Wilson had trained together in New Zealand prior to the invasion of Guam. Heflin was wounded in the first day of fighting.
The three Marines stuck together because of their Southern roots. Heflin was a Birmingham-Southern College graduate, and Gen. Wilson was a graduate of Millsaps College in Mississippi.
Heflin said in an interview in 2003 that he and Fowler left active duty when the war ended in 1945 to attend the University of Alabama Law School. But he was not surprised that Wilson remained in the Marines and built a career there.
"Having won the Medal of Honor, he could see a big future" in the Marines, Heflin said.
They renewed friendships in the 1970s when Heflin went to Washington as a senator and Wilson served as the Corps' congressional liaison.
Gen. Wilson was a native of Brandon, Miss., near Jackson. He moved to Homewood from California in 2000 to be near his daughter, and had been living at Somerby at University Park. He died after battling neuropathy, a degenerative disorder of the nervous system, for several years, Taylor said.
Gen. Wilson also is survived by his wife, Jane. Memorials may be made to any Marine Corps-affiliated organization.
© 2005 The Birmingham New
06-25-05, 05:15 AM #13
Retired general, Medal of Honor winner Wilson dies at 85
HOMEWOOD, Ala. - Retired Gen. 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 Gen. 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, Miss., 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.
06-25-05, 07:46 AM #14
Gen. Louis Wilson, 85; Led Marine Corps' Transition to Volunteer Force
By Valerie J. Nelson
Times Staff Writer
June 25, 2005
Gen. Louis Hugh Wilson, a Medal of Honor recipient in World War II who was commandant of the Marine Corps in the post-Vietnam era — and made it harder to join and remain in the Corps — has died. He was 85.
Wilson died Tuesday at his home in Birmingham, Ala., the Marine Corps announced.
Moments after becoming their new leader June 30, 1975, Wilson said, "I call on all Marines to get in step and do so smartly."
He planned to raise the requirements to join — he wanted at least 75% of enlistees to be high school graduates, because they had "already proved they can stick it through" — and required dropouts to earn the equivalent of an A on qualifying tests. In 1975, less than 50% of Marines had high school diplomas; by 1977 the portion was 69%.
When other branches of the military were letting hair creep toward the collar and allowing sideburns, Wilson would have none of it. He placed renewed emphasis on combat readiness, discipline and personal bearing.
"If I see a fat Marine, he's got a problem, and so does his commanding officers," a fit 55-year-old Wilson told Associated Press a month after being named commandant.
Even Marines who had served for years would be forced out if they didn't shape up.
Then-Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger told of an old "gunny" who lost 13 pounds just by keeping the commandant's picture on the refrigerator door, according to a 2003 article on Wilson in Leatherneck magazine.
The rededication to what Wilson called the fundamentals of military training and deportment when the Marines were making a transition to an all-volunteer force is still felt within today's Corps, in which 98% of enlistees are high school graduates.
"Gen. Wilson was a forward-thinker who was ahead of his time," said Gen. Michael W. Hagee, present commandant of the Corps, in a statement released Wednesday. "He stressed modernization, readiness, expeditionary capabilities and integrated firepower — areas that we still concentrate on today."
Late in his tenure, Wilson became the first Marine to serve as a full member of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Wilson had a genteel manner and a Mississippi drawl that he joked was lightened by a stint recruiting Marines in New York. Yet his reserved presence evoked authority, said Marines who worked with him, and his reputation as a judicious, firm commander helped him get the top job.
As a 24-year-old Marine captain during World War II, Wilson led his company through a bloody assault on Guam in July 1944.
On the fourth day of fierce fighting, he led a successful attack to seize a heavily defended hill. Wounded three times, he continued to lead his men throughout the night.
He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Truman.
The citation recounted the "furiously waged" 10-hour battle and said Wilson "repeatedly exposed himself to the merciless hail of shrapnel and bullets, dashing 50 yards into the open on one occasion to rescue a wounded Marine lying helpless beyond the front lines."
When morning came, Wilson organized 17 men for an assault on another strategic slope. He was one of only four men who made it to the top.
His battalion commander was Robert E. Cushman Jr., the general he would succeed as commandant.
Wilson was born Feb. 11, 1920, in Brandon, Miss., to Louis and Bertha Wilson.
He earned a bachelor's degree in 1941 from Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., where he played football and competed in track. He married Jane Clark, his college sweetheart, in 1944.
Wilson enlisted when recruiters came to the college. As he climbed up the Marine Corps ladder after World War II, he alternated between staff jobs and field assignments, serving in Korea and Vietnam.
In 1972, he was named commander of forces in the Pacific. Those forces eventually helped evacuate Saigon and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and rescued the captured crew of the American freighter Mayaguez.
After retiring in 1979, Wilson served on the boards of Merrill Lynch, Burlington Resources and Fluor Corp.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Janet Wilson Taylor, and two grandsons, all of Birmingham.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Marine Corps University Foundation, Box 122, Quantico, VA 22134; or other Marine Corps-related organizations.
06-26-05, 05:59 PM #15
Marines' top general made storied Corps leaner and meaner
Gen. Louis H. Wilson Jr., a World War II Medal of Honor recipient and later commandant, dies at 85
Sunday, June 26, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Gen. Louis H. Wilson Jr., who received the Medal of Honor for taking and holding a key position on Guam during World War II and later served as commandant of the Marine Corps, died June 21 at his home in Birmingham, Ala. He had a degenerative nerve disorder. He was 85.
On July 1, 1975, Wilson became the 26th commandant of the Marine Corps. He was the first commandant to serve full time on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, providing the Corps with a greater say on defense matters.
During his four-year tenure, he was credited with shaping a post-Vietnam Corps of strong expeditionary units ready for "high mobility and high-intensity combat." He made personnel changes to raise morale and address disciplinary problems.
He increased academic enlistment standards (he wanted 75 percent of recruits to have high school diplomas); ordered the discharge of thousands of Marines with discipline problems; and offered tougher directives on weight requirements. "Obesity must vanish," he said, and set for himself a daily jogging regimen.
As commandant, he had a reputation for being blunt, thoughtful and refreshing. He publicly acknowledged the brutal treatment of recruits by some drill instructors and tried to change the policies that granted drill instructors what he felt was too much autonomy.
In 1975, he told an interviewer that the Vietnam War had been fought in vain from a military viewpoint.
He also castigated draft laws that "had been gerrymandered so that only the poor, the blacks and disadvantaged were really drafted. A great many fine young men came in. But many draftees, thrown in with them, were the dregs of society (and) many with continuing dissatisfaction with the war."
"It's not like the old days," he added, "when you could leave your wallet on your sack."
The Mississippi native was an effective witness on Capitol Hill, prepared and authoritative in his bearing. Earlier, he had been a Corps liaison to Congress. He was a favorite of then-Sen. John Stennis, D-Miss., head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who became his advocate for full membership on the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October 1978.
Previously, Marine Corps commandants attended meetings of the Joint Chiefs only when there was business of pressing concern to the Corps.
Louis Hugh Wilson Jr. was born Feb. 11, 1920, in Brandon, Miss. His father was a farmer and died when Louis was 5. He was raised by his mother, and her large, extended family helped them through the Depression.
As a young man, he sold vegetables from a goat cart. He later studied economics at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., where he played football and was on the track team. A Marine Corps recruiter who came to campus persuaded him to enter the service after his graduation in 1941.
He landed at Guadalcanal, Efate and Bougainville and received the Medal of Honor, the military's highest award for valor, while fighting Japanese forces at Fonte Hill, Guam, on July 25 and 26, 1944. At the time, he was a captain and the commanding officer of a rifle company.
Launching a daylight attack against massive machine gun resistance, he pushed his men 300 yards across open terrain and captured a portion of a hill that contained the enemy command post. That night, he took command of other disorganized units and motorized equipment and fortified defenses while risking exposure to enemy fire.
Wounded three times within five hours, he briefly sought treatment before volunteering to return to duty to defend against counterattacks that lasted through the night.
At one point, he dashed 50 yards through flying shrapnel and bullets to rescue a wounded Marine beyond the front lines. That was followed by hand-to-hand fighting over a 10-hour span, repelling Japanese troops that sought to overrun the Allied lines through 11 full-fledged attacks.
His Medal of Honor citation continued: "Then organizing a 17-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 13 of his men, drove relentlessly forward with the remnants of his patrol to seize the vital ground."
He was credited with a pivotal role in the victory, which included the deaths of 350 Japanese troops. President Harry S. Truman presented him with the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945.
After the war, he held recruiting and command assignments, graduated from the National War College and served as assistant chief of staff to the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam during the war there.
He was promoted to brigadier general in 1966 and, after being appointed lieutenant general in 1972, assumed command of the Marine force in the Pacific. His decorations included three awards of the Legion of Merit.
After retiring from the military in 1979, he served on the corporate boards of such businesses as Merrill Lynch, the financial services company, and Fluor Corp., an engineering and construction company.
Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Jane Clark Wilson, and a daughter, Janet Taylor, both of Birmingham; and two grandsons.
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