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Wilbur Bestwick
November 27, 1911(1911-11-27) – July 10, 1972 (aged 60)
Bestwick hi-res USMC.jpeg   USMC-E9-SGMMC.svg
1st Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps (1957-1959)
Place of birth Sabetha, Kansas
Place of death Palo Alto, California
Place of burial Skylawn Memorial Park[1]
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1934-1959
Rank USMC-E9-SGMMC.svg Sergeant Major
Unit 3rd Marine Division
Mare Island Shipyard
Marine Corps Depot of Supplies
MCRD Parris Island
1st Marine Division
1st Air Delivery Company
Commands held Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
Battles/wars World War II
*Battle of Bougainville
*Battle of Guam
Korean War
Awards Navy Commendation Medal

Sergeant Major Wilbur Bestwick was the first Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. He served in the post of senior enlisted U.S. Marine from 1957 to 1959.



Bestwick was born on November 27, 1911, in Sabetha, Kansas, and graduated from high school there in 1932. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1934 and received his basic training at San Diego, California.


Military career

Bestwick saw pre-World War II duty at sea aboard the USS Louisville, and served at Marine posts in Bremerton, Washington; San Diego, and Camp Elliott, California. Appointed a Sergeant Major in 1943, he saw World War II combat while serving in this capacity with the 3rd Marine Division in the Bougainville and Guam campaigns.

On his return to the States, in December 1944, Bestwick served as Sergeant Major of the Mare Island (California) Shipyard. He was transferred to San Francisco in 1945, and completed a four-year tour of duty there as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Depot of Supplies. In 1949, he became Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

During the Korean conflict, he joined the 1st Marine Division in Korea in October 1952 as Division Sergeant Major, and after a year overseas returned to the States. For excellent service in Korea he was awarded the Navy Commendation Ribbon with Combat "V". In 1954, he began a two-year assignment as Sergeant Major, Inspector and Instructor Staff, 1st Air Delivery Company, San Jose, California.

Transferred to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., in June 1956, Sergeant Major Bestwick served as Sergeant Major to the Secretary of the General Staff until May 23, 1957, when he assumed the newly-established post of Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.

Retirement & death

Bestwick served as the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps until he retired from active duty on September 1, 1959. He died July 10, 1972, at Stanford University Hospital and according to official records, was interred at the Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto, California. However, this was later revealed to be a mistake, and was found to be buried at Skylawn Memorial Park in San Mateo, California.[1]


His personal decorations include:

Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal w/ valor device Navy Unit Commendation Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal w/ 6 service stars
American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 3 service stars World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal Korean Service Medal w/ 3 service stars Korean Presidential Unit Citation United Nations Korea Medal

See also



 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
Military offices
Preceded by
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
Succeeded by
Francis D. Rauber


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