Sergeant Major Thomas J. McHugh

Carl | May 2, 2013 

Sergeant Major Thomas J. McHugh served as the 3rd Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps from 29 June 1962 until 16 July 1965.

Sergeant Major McHugh was born 23 December 1919 in New York City, the son of the late Peter and Bridget Porter McHugh, immigrants from Scotland and Ireland, respectively. He grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he received his education, and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on 3 October 1938. He was called to extended active duty 7 November 1940, and integrated into the regular Marine Corps in May 1943.

Following his entry into service, Sergeant Major McHugh served at the Philadelphia Navy Yard; the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia; the Training Center, New River (later Camp Lejeune), North Carolina; and the Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina. Promoted to sergeant in March 1942, he joined Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and that June sailed aboard the USS Barnett from San Francisco for the Pacific area.

During World War II, he was attached to the 1st Marine Division with his unit, taking part in the Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, and Peleliu campaigns, and rose to platoon sergeant and gunnery sergeant prior to his return to the United States in November 1944. He was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in the Peleliu operation.

On his return to the United States, Sergeant Major McHugh served as Noncommissioned Officer-in-Change of the Rifle Range, Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point. In July 1945, he was ordered back to Camp Lejeune where he served as Company First Sergeant and Company Gunnery Sergeant with the Infantry Training Regiment, with the 1st Infantry Battalion of the 1st Special Marine Brigade, and with the 2d Battalion, 8th Marines. He was redesignated a technical sergeant in December 1946 and remained at Camp Lejeune until September 1948.

Transferred to the West Coast, he embarked in November 1948 for Guam, where he joined the 5th Marines, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, Fleet Marine Force, as Company First Sergeant and Company Gunnery Sergeant. Upon the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, he took part in combat operations with the 1st Marine Brigade and, subsequently, the 1st Marine Division as First Sergeant, Company H, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines during the Pusan Perimeter, Inchon, Seoul, and Chosin Reservoir campaigns. He was promoted to master sergeant in Korea in December 1950, and returned to the States in March 1951.


That summer he was assigned briefly as Assistant Battalion Sergeant Major of the Officer Candidate Class Battalion, Special Training Regiment, Parris Island, South Carolina. In August 1951, he began a 3-year tour of duty with the U.S. Naval Reserve Officer’s Training Corps unit at Yale University. He served there as Assistant Marine Officer Instructor, and Noncommissioned Officer-in-Charge of Recruiting and enrolling candidates for the Officer Candidate Class and Platoon Leader Class programs.

Sergeant Major McHugh returned to Camp Lejeune in August 1954, and served briefly as Acting Sergeant Major of the 2d Engineer Battalion, 2d Marine Division before filling the billet of Division Field Sergeant Major. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant major, 31 December 1955.

In July 1957, he again embarked for duty overseas with the 1st Marine Brigade, Fleet Marine Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. During his three years there, he served consecutively as Sergeant Major of the 1st Marine Brigade, the 2d Battalion, and the 4th Marine Regiment (Reinforced).

In July 1960, he was assigned as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Landing Force Development Center, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. The following May, he became Sergeant Major of Marine Corps Air Station, Quantico. While serving in this capacity, he was selected for the Corps top enlisted billet, and assumed his new duties as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps on 29 June 1962.

Following his tour as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, he was ordered to Okinawa, Japan, for duty as Sergeant Major of Camp Smedley D. Butler, serving in that capacity until September 1966.

Upon his return to the United States, Sergeant Major McHugh became Sergeant Major, Marine Corps Schools Quantico, Virginia. Upon redesignation of that command, he was Sergeant Major of Marine Corps Development and Education Command. Transferred to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in May 1968, he served as Sergeant Major, Force Troops, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic until April 1969, when he was ordered to the Republic of Vietnam.

In February 1970, he was transferred to Okinawa, Japan, and assumed his new duties as 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Sergeant Major until his retirement on 1 December 1970.

Sergeant Major McHugh’s personal decorations include: the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”, the Purple Heart, and the Navy Achievement Medal.

Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps 29 June 1962 through 16 July 1965

Re-printed with the authorization of the United States Marine Corps History Division


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