Private First Class Robert L. Wilson, USMC (August 4, 1944)

Robert Lee Wilson was born to a farming family in Centralia, Illinois on May 21, 1920. He was working with his father on the farm when he decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps on September 9, 1941.

Wilson was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. 2/6 Marines was part of the 2nd Marine Division, and Wilson was a veteran of 1943’s Battle of Tarawa.

On August 4, 1944, in the final hours of the Battle of Tinian with just the last remaining Japanese resistance to be eliminated, an enemy grenade landed in the midst of Wilson and his comrades. The 24-year old Marine smothered the deadly explosive with his own body, and was later posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (T-Z):

Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor


Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, 2d Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces at Tinian Island, Marianas Group, on 4 August 1944. As 1 of a group of marines advancing through heavy underbrush to neutralize isolated points of resistance, Pfc. Wilson daringly preceded his companions toward a pile of rocks where Japanese troops were supposed to be hiding. Fully aware of the danger involved, he was moving forward while the remainder of the squad, armed with automatic rifles, closed together in the rear when an enemy grenade landed in the midst of the group. Quick to act, Pfc. Wilson cried a warning to the men and unhesitatingly threw himself on the grenade, heroically sacrificing his own life that the others might live and fulfill their mission. His exceptional valor, his courageous loyalty and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of grave peril reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. Wilson and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

The United States Navy‘s USS Robert L. Wilson (DD-847), named in the heroic Marine’s honor, defended America on the high seas from 1946 to 1974 and was sunk as a target in 1980.

2nd Battalion 6th Marines is still a component of the 2nd Marine Division at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Private First Class Robert Lee Wilson rests in peace in the Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, Sandoval, Illinois


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