b. 24/05/1921 Centralia, Illinois. d. 03/08/1944 Tinian Island.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 03/08/1944 Tinian Island.
Robert Lee Wilson was born on May 21, 1920 in Centralia, Illinois. One of eight children, Wilson was considered his father's right-hand man around the farm, before enlisting in the Marine Corps in the fall of 1941. "He was one of the best workers I ever saw," the boy's father said when speaking of his 23-year-old son. "None of my boys believed in waiting for the draft. They volunteered," he added. Wilson enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on September 9, 1941. He went to Chicago then to San Diego, California, for recruit training.
He fought in practically every major engagement in the Pacific until the day of his death. A Presidential Unit Citation signed by Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, dated February 4, 1943, was awarded him as a member of the 1st Marine Division (Reinforced), in the Solomons in August 1942.
Serving with the 2nd Marine Division (Reinforced), Wilson received a second Presidential Unit Citation signed by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal "for outstanding performance of duty in combat during the seizure and occupation of the Japanese held Atoll of Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, 20-November 24, 1943." In addition, Wilson received the Purple Heart with one gold star. At the time of his death, Wilson was serving with Company D, 2nd Pioneer Battalion, 18th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. The Medal of Honor was presented to his mother at a ceremony held on July 26, 1945, at the American Legion cottage in Centralia.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Second Battalion, Sixth Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Tinian Island, Marianas Group, on August 3, 1944. As one of a group of Marines advancing through heavy underbrush to neutralize isolated points of resistance, Private First Class 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, Private First Class Wilson cried a warning to the men and unhesitatingly threw himself on the grenade, heroically sacrificing his own life so that the others might live and fulfill their mission. His exceptional valor, courageous loyalty and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of grave peril reflect the highest credit upon Private First Class Wilson and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
BURIAL LOCATION: HILLCREST MEMORIAL PARK, CENTRALIA, ILLINOIS.
Section 1, Lot 351
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