Wilbur Bestwick

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Wilbur Bestwick
Bestwick hi-res USMC.jpeg USMC-E9-SGMMC.svg
1st Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps (1957-1959)
Born(1911-11-27)November 27, 1911
Sabetha, Kansas
DiedJuly 10, 1972(1972-07-10) (aged 60)
Palo Alto, California
Place of burial
AllegianceUnited States United States of America
Service/branchSeal of the United States Marine Corps.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service1934-1959
RankUSMC-E9-SGMMC.svg Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
Unit3rd Marine Division
Mare Island Shipyard
Marine Corps Depot of Supplies
MCRD Parris Island
1st Marine Division
1st Air Delivery Company
Commands heldSergeant Major of the Marine Corps
Battles/warsWorld War II Korean War
AwardsNavy Commendation Medal

Sergeant Major Wilbur Bestwick (November 27, 1911 – July 10, 1972) was the first Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. He served in the post of senior enlisted U.S. Marine from 1957 to 1959.[2]

Early life[edit]

Bestwick was born on November 27, 1911, in Sabetha, Kansas, and graduated from high school there in 1932.

Military career[edit]

He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1934 and received his basic training at San Diego, California.[2]

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 with the 3rd Marine Division in the Bougainville and Guam campaigns.[2]

On his return to the United 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.[2]

During the Korean War, 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 Medal 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.[2]

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 until he retired from active duty on September 1, 1959.[2]

Civilian life[edit]

He worked at Varian Associates a number of years after his service in the Marine Corps.

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 he was found to have been buried at Skylawn Memorial Park in San Mateo, California.[1][3]


His military decorations include:[4] [5]

Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal w/ valor device Navy Unit Commendation Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal w/ 7 service stars American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 4 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 Republic of Korea War Service Medal

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Zimmerman, Gunnery Sgt. F.B. (2009-03-10). "Marines use resources to locate, properly honor first sergeant major of the Marine Corps". Headquarters Marine Corps. United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 2013-03-11. Retrieved 2012-12-23.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Wilbur Bestwick: 1st Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps". Headquarters Marine Corps.
  3. ^ FindAGrave, Wilbur Bestwick - with headstone photo
  4. ^ Chapin, John (1993). Uncommon Men - The Sergeants Major of the Marine Corps (1 ed.). Shippensburg, Pennsylvania 17257-0152 USA: Burd Street Press. p. 335. ISBN 0-942597-45-1.
  5. ^ "Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal". Air Force's Personnel Center. U.S. Air Force. Retrieved 9 October 2018.


 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