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First Name: William

Last Name: Wooldridge

Birthplace: Shawnee, OK, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Fort Worth, TX
Middle Name: O.

Date of Birth: 12 August 1922

Date of Death: 05 March 2012

Rank: Sergeant Major of the Army

Years Served: 1940 - 1972
William O. Wooldridge

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


William O. Wooldridge
1st Sergeant Major of the Army

William O. Wooldridge was born on 12 August 1922 in Shawnee, OK.

He entered the U.S. Army on 11 November 1940, at Fort Worth, TX. His early assignments were with the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division and detached service with British forces in Iceland in 1941 and 1942. In 1942 he was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division in Europe and participated in the North Africa and Sicily Campaigns and the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944. In October 1944 he was wounded during the battle for the fortress city of Aachen and was awarded the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action. He received his second Silver Star in the Battle of the Bulge Campaign in December 1944. Upon his return to the U. S. in May 1945, Wooldridge was assigned to numerous posts. He then served a brief tour with Post Headquarters at Schofield Barracks, HI, and in 1947 was assigned to Japan, where he served with Headquarters, Eighth U.S. Army. Wooldridge was again assigned to the 1st Infantry Division in July 1949, as First Sergeant of Company K, 26th Infantry Regiment, then stationed in Germany.

Returning to the U.S. in May 1954, he was assigned as 1SG of Company G, 3rd Infantry at Fort McNair, Washington, DC. He returned to the "Big Red One" as 1SG of Company D, 26th Infantry, at Fort Riley, KS, in December 1955. He was appointed Sergeant Major of the 3rd Battalion, 26th Infantry, on 20 December 1956. In 1957 he became Sergeant Major of the 2nd Battle Group, 28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley. In December 1958, he was assigned with the 2nd Battle Group, 28th Infantry, to the 24th Infantry Division in Germany. He became the 24th Infantry Division sergeant major in March 1963. Wooldridge returned once again to the 1st Infantry Division as SGM of the 1st Brigade, Fort Riley, in January 1965. He was appointed Division Sergeant Major in June 1965 and was deployed to Vietnam with the division in August 1965.

Wooldridge was sworn in as the first Sergeant Major of the Army on 11 July 1966 and served until his term ended in August 1968.

Upon completion of his term as Sergeant Major of the Army in 1968, he returned once again to Vietnam as Sergeant Major of the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam. He is the only SMA to return to field duty after serving in the top enlisted position.

Upon his return stateside, he was assigned to the White Sands Missile Range in the fall of 1969, and after 30 years and ten months of service retired at Fort MacArthur, CA, on 1 February 1972.

Medals, Awards & Badges

Silver Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
Army Good Conduct Medal (6th Award)
American Defense Service Medal
European - African - Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army Occupation Medal (Germany and Japan)
Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal
Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal with Service Star
Belgian Croix de Guerre
Vietnam Service Medal
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Combat Infantry Badge with Star (2nd Award)

He is also authorized to wear unit decorations from the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and the Republic of Vietnam.


In 1969, while Command Sergeant Major of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MAC-V), Wooldridge was accused in a congressional inquiry of fraud and corruption related to the military club system. This resulted in Wooldridge being tried in the court of public opinion. In 1973 the Department of Justice and Wooldridge reached an agreement whereby Wooldridge pleaded guilty to accepting stock equity from a corporation engaged in providing merchandise to the non-commissioned officers' clubs in Vietnam. The government did not find any wrongdoing on his part while serving as the Sergeant Major of the Army. "Although the investigation tarnished the final years of Wooldridge's career, it could not diminish his heroic wartime exploits or his arduous labors on behalf of enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers as the first Sergeant Major of the Army." He was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal, but it was withdrawn following this episode. In Robin Moore's novel Khaki Mafia, a fictional character in a criminal cartel is based on Woolridge in Vietnam.

Death and Burial

Sergeant Major William O. Wooldridge died in El Paso, TX, on 5 March 2012. He is buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, TX.

Honoree ID: 227026   Created by: MHOH




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