Louis Hugh Wilson, Jr. was born in Brandon, Mississippi on February 11, 1920. He graduated from Millsaps College (Jackson, MS) with the class of 1941 and immediately enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.
Wilson was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in November of 1941, and at some point in his early service his commission became with the regular Marine Corps. After his initial officer training, he was assigned to the 9th Marine Regiment at San Diego which was being formed between 1942 and 1943 for combat in the Pacific as part of the 3rd Marine Division.
Wilson saw action on Bougainville in late 1943, but it was his service as the Commanding Officer of Company F, 2nd Battalion 9th Marines during the Battle of Guam that saw him decorated with our nation’s highest honor.
On July 25-26, 1944, Wilson’s company first seized and then defended a key hilltop position. Throughout the hours of battle, then-Captain Wilson was ever-present among his Marines and ignored his own wounds while inspiring them to victory.
WILSON, LOUIS HUGH, JR.
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
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 Iying 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.
Wilson’s wounds meant that his wartime combat service was over. He remained in the Marine Corps after the war and served in a variety of staff and training positions until August of 1965 when he deployed for combat service in Vietnam with the headquarters of the 1st Marine Division. Not long after his Vietnam tour he became a General Officer. Later as a Major General, Wilson commanded the 3rd Marine Division. As a Lieutenant General, he commanded the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific.
On July 1, 1975, Wilson was promoted to full General and took his post as the 26th Commandant of the Marine Corps. He became the first Marine Commandant to sit as an equal member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and presided over the Marines’ transformation after Vietnam as an expeditionary-focused organization the results of which we can still find today in the corps’ organization into Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTF) of varying sizes.
General Louis H. Wilson, Jr. – who also twice received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and thrice the Legion of Merit during his career – retired from the Marines on June 30, 1979. He passed away at age 85 on June 21, 2005 and was laid to his rest on July 19, 2005 in Arlington National Cemetery.