Sergeant Major Henry H. Black
Sergeant Major Henry H. Black, who served as the Seventh Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps from 1975 to 1977, and along the way earned the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart, died Thursday, Aug. 23. He was 83.
Born in Imperial, Pa., he was a 1947 graduate of Findley High School, who enlisted in the Marine Corps on April 12, 1948, and underwent recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. After boot camp, he served with Company C, 1st Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment and Headquarters and Service Company, 6th Marines, Second Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
He earned his first Bronze Star for heroic action during the Korean War with H/3/1, lstMarDiv in 1950 while serving as his commanding officer’s driver. On Nov. 28, 1950, he earned the Silver Star at Hagaru-ri during the Chosin Reservoir campaign.
He returned to the States in May 1951 and was assigned to Security Forces, Marine Barracks Dahlgren, Va. He was then the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge, Recruiting Substation, Allentown, Pa.
SgtMaj Black served as a platoon commander of heavy machine guns with 1/9, 3dMarDiv in the Western Pacific area from 1956 to 1957, and from there he was ordered to MCRD Parris Island to attend Drill Instructor School. He served consecutively as a junior drill instructor, a senior drill instructor and, finally, as a chief drill instructor in the Recruit Training Regiment.
In 1960, he was transferred to Wheeling, W.Va., where he served as NCOIC of the recruiting substation for the next four years. He was back with the infantry as First Sergeant, D/1/8, 2dMarDiv from 1964 to 1965 and landed with the Marines sent to the Dominican Republic during that period.
Ordered to Vietnam in January 1966, he was the First Sergeant of A/1/1, 1stMarDiv until February 1967 when he was ordered to Quantico, Va.
At Marine Corps Base Quantico, he was the First Sergeant of Casual Co and later the Sergeant Major, Headquarters Bn, Marine Corps Development and Education Command.
He returned to Vietnam in 1969 as the senior enlisted Marine with 2/7, 1stMarDiv and was awarded his second and third Bronze Stars.
In 1970, he became the recruiting station sergeant major for RS Richmond, Va., until 1972 when he became Sergeant Major of Marine Barracks Bremerton, Wash.
He was Sergeant Major of Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan, in 1973, followed by assignment as the Sergeant Major, First Marine Aircraft Wing until November 1974, when he returned to MCDEC Quantico and was later selected Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, serving as the Corps’ top enlisted advisor to General Louis H. Wilson, 26th Commandant of the Marine Corps.
SgtMaj Black's personal decorations include the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars with Combat "V," the Purple Heart, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon. In John C. Chapin’s book “Uncommon Men: The Sergeants Major of the Marine Corps,” SgtMaj Black is quoted: “I never asked for anything unless it was a challenge.
“I upset some generals in the Marine Corps. I really did, because I told it like it was.” In later years, he became a friend and advisor to SgtMaj Carlton W. Kent, 16th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps (2007-2011), who often visited SgtMaj Black in his Fredericksburg, Va., home.