1st marine division structure -
By Matthew J. Seelinger, Chief Historian
In late November 1950, a conclusion to the Korean War appeared to be close at hand. U.S., Republic of Korea (ROK), and various U.N. units had advanced deep into North Korea in an attempt to destroy any remaining North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) units and reunite Korea under one government. Some units had even reached the Yalu River, which separated Korea from Communist China.
But just as U.N. forces launched what was hoped to be the final offensive, hundreds of thousands of Communist Chinese soldiers poured into Korea, overwhelming the U.N. troops and completely changing the nature of the war. Fighting in extreme cold and over rugged terrain, the Americans and their allies were forced to retreat south down the Korean peninsula, suffering heavy casualties along the way.
For one U.S. Army unit, the intervention of Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) resulted in absolute disaster. The 31st Regimental Combat Team, better known as Task Force MacLean (later known as Task Force Faith), comprised of elements of the 7th Infantry Division, was virtually annihilated east of the Chosin Reservoir. The experiences of the American soldiers who fought and died in the frigid cold of the Chosin area proved to be some of the most harrowing and tragic in the history of the U.S. Army.
In late November 1950, Task Force MacLean and the rest of the 7th Infantry Division were part of the U.S. Army’s X Corps, under the command of MG Edward M. Almond. X Corps had been steadily advancing up the eastern side of the Korean peninsula and was pressing on towards the Yalu.
On 24 November, the Eighth Army, under the command of LTG Walton H. Walker, which had been advancing north along the western side of Korea, went on the offensive. GEN Douglas MacArthur, commander of all U.N. forces in Korea, hoped this offensive would finally end the war, hopefully by Christmas. Yet, MacArthur and many on his staff were soon to make one of the worst military intelligence blunders in U.S. Army history. Ignoring reports of contact with CCF troops, MacArthur ordered the Eighth Army and X Corps to push on to the Yalu.
On the night of 25 November, one day after Eighth Army began its offensive, the CCF struck Eighth Army with massive numbers of troops. Thousands of Chinese soldiers, armed with burp guns and grenades, with bugles blaring, swarmed the American positions. Several American units were overrun and destroyed. The CCF onslaught took MacArthur and the U.N. forces completely by surprise and almost instantly changed the tide of the war. Soon, Eighth Army was in full headlong retreat southward.
Despite the CCF attack, the X Corps offensive scheduled for 27 November proceeded according to plan. The offensive called for the corps to strike west towards Mupyong, northeast of Kunu in the CCF rear, cut the Chinese supply lines, and possibly envelop the CCF in front of Eighth Army. The attack would be spearheaded by the 1st Marine Division, under the command of MG O.P. Smith, which would advance up the west side of the Chosin Reservoir, with the 7th Infantry Division (led by Task Force MacLean) along the east side of Chosin and the 3rd Infantry Division guarding the Marines’ flanks.
Task Force MacLean, under the command of COL Allan D. “Mac” MacLean, commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment, had been formed in mid-November to relieve elements of the 1st Marine Division east of the Chosin Reservoir. MacLean, a 1930 graduate of West Point, had served as a staff officer in the European Theater during World War II. After the war, he commanded the 32nd Infantry in Japan. Later assigned to Eighth Army’s G-3 section, MacLean served as Walker’s personal “eyes and ears” during the early days of the Korean War. In early November 1950, he eagerly accepted command of the 31st Infantry, a unit he had served with in the Philippines early in his career.
Task Force MacLean consisted of the following units: the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 31st Infantry (2/31 and 3/31); the 31st Tank Company; the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry (1/32), under the command of LTC Don C. Faith; the 57th Field Artillery Battalion, equipped with 105mm howitzers; and a platoon of eight antiaircraft vehicles (M19s with dual 40mm cannon and M16 quad-.50 halftracks) from D Battery, 15th Antiaircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion. In all, Task Force MacLean numbered about 3,200 men, including 700 ROK soldiers.
On 25 and 26 November, the lead elements of Task Force MacLean, Faith’s 1/32 Infantry, relieved the 5th Marines, which redeployed to join the rest of the 1st Marine Division along the west side of Chosin. However, due to delays with the rest of the task force’s redeployment, the 1/32, which occupied the 5th Marines forwardmost positions, stood alone without artillery support for a full day.
Don Faith, commander of the 1/32 Infantry, was considered one of the most promising officers in the Army. The son of a retired brigadier general, he had been handpicked from the Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning by then MG Matthew B. Ridgway to serve as his aide-de-camp. He served with Ridgway throughout Europe and jumped with the 82nd Airborne Division on D-Day. In battle, Faith was considered a virtual clone of Ridgway: intense, fearless, aggressive, and unforgiving of error or caution.
Most of the remaining units that comprised Task Force MacLean arrived on the east side of Chosin on 27 November. MacLean was among the first to arrive and immediately jeeped forward to confer with Faith. He confirmed with Faith that the task force would attack north the following day with whatever forces were on hand and that the 1/32 would spearhead the attack.
MacLean positioned forces north to south in their approximate order of arrival: 1/32 Infantry; MacLean’s forward command post (CP); the 31st Heavy Mortar Company; the 3/31 Infantry; A and B Batteries of the 57th FAB; the 57th FAB CP and the eight A/A vehicles; and finally, the 31st Infantry’s headquarters, located in a schoolhouse in the village of Hudong, and the twenty-two tanks of the 31st Tank Company. C Battery, 57th FAB, and the 2/31 Infantry were lagging behind and had not yet left the Pungsan area.
Late in the day MacLean ordered the 31st’s Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon to scout enemy positions. The platoon was ambushed in the hills around Chosin by CCF troops and every soldier was either killed or captured.
That night, MacLean laid out his final plans for the next day’s attack with the 7th ID assistant division commander, BG Hank Hodes. He then went forward to finalize them with Faith.
While MacLean and Faith remained confident, Task Force MacLean already faced serious problems. In addition to the disappearance of the I&R Platoon, communications between the scattered units were poor at best. There was no time to lay landlines and radio communications were virtually nonexistent. Furthermore, the task force was not in radio contact with the 7th ID HQ at Pungsan or the Marines in Hagaru-ri. The scattered units of Task Force MacLean were dangerously isolated, not only from the rest of the 7th ID and the Marines, but also from each other.
Also, unbeknownst to the Marines and Task Force MacLean, massive numbers of CCF troops were preparing to attack the dispersed units of X Corps on the night of the 27th. Three CCF divisions (59th, 79th, and 89th) were to hit the Marines at Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri, along with the 7th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division, and farther south. One division (80th) would attack Task Force MacLean.
On 27 November, the X Corps offensive began with the 5th and 7th Marines attacking from Yudam-ni along the west side of Chosin. In light of the rugged terrain, bitterly cold weather, logistical problems, and the situation facing Eighth Army, the X Corps offensive, in the words of one historian, “ranks as the most ill-advised and unfortunate operation of the Korean War.” The Marines, reluctant to carry out the attack in the first place, advanced only 1,500 yards before they met stiff CCF resistance and suffered heavy casualties.
Later after dark, in zero-degree weather, the CCF divisions struck. Two divisions hit the 5th and 7th Marines frontally while a third cut the road between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri. Elements of another division also struck the 7th Infantry. The situation quickly became desperate for the American forces around Chosin.
East of the Chosin Reservoir, the situation was just as chaotic. During the early evening hours, the CCF 80th Division encircled the unsuspecting units of Task Force MacLean. At about 2200, the division attacked out of the darkness, with CCF soldiers blowing bugles and screaming wildly. The isolated units, cut off from each other, fought for their lives.
Faith’s 1/32 Infantry was hit first along the north side of its perimeter. Marine CPT Edward P. Stamford, a forward air controller assigned to the task force, took command of A Company after its commander was killed and also called in Marine air strikes. While Marine aircraft and the troops of the 1/32 inflicted heavy casualties on the CCF troops, the battalion suffered over one hundred casualties.
Several miles south, the situation was similar. The CCF struck the 3/31 Infantry and two batteries of the 57th FAB, overrunning much of their perimeter. Most of the senior officers were killed or wounded. The battle raged on through the night, with the CCF finally withdrawing at dawn for fear of American air attacks. Like the 1/32, the 3/31 and 57th FAB suffered heavy casualties and one of the A/A vehicles was destroyed. Furthermore, the 31st’s medical company was wiped out. Back at the 31st’s rear CP in Hudong, BG Hodes heard heavy gunfire to the north and immediately ascertained something was wrong. He quickly ordered CPT Robert E. Drake to take two platoons of the 31st Tank Company forward to the 3/31 and 1/32 perimeters. Drake’s rescue column, however, soon ran into trouble. Some tanks skidded out of control on the icy road, while others became hopelessly stuck in mud. The column was then attacked by CCF troops with captured American bazookas. Two tanks were knocked out and a wild fight ensued as Chinese swarmed the tanks and attempted to open the hatches. Two more tanks become mired and had to be abandoned. Drake ordered his remaining twelve tanks back to Hudong. Once the tanks returned, Hodes quickly realized Task Force MacLean was in serious trouble. He borrowed one of the tanks and rode to Hagaru-ri to get help.
At about 1300 hours on 28 November, MG Almond flew into the 1/32 perimeter to confer with MacLean and Faith. Seemingly unaware of the crisis at hand, Almond announced that Task Force MacLean would press on with the attack, claiming that the Chinese facing them were nothing more than the remnants of retreating units. He then added, “We’re going all the way to the Yalu. Don’t let a bunch of Chinese laundrymen stop you.” MacLean made no objection to Almond’s order, despite the fact that the task force was in no position to attack. Both Almond and MacLean would later be criticized for their failure of command east of Chosin. Almond never fully appreciated the enemy’s strength, while MacLean failed to give Almond a clear picture of the situation facing his own task force.
At around midnight on 29 November, the CCF 80th Division attacked Task Force MacLean once again. The fighting was savage, often hand to hand. At around 0200, MacLean, still in the 1/32 perimeter, ordered the battalion to withdraw south in the darkness to the 3/31’s perimeter, taking all weapons and wounded with them. The move was to be a temporary one to consolidate forces before attacking, as ordered by Almond, the following day.
After disabling and abandoning several vehicles and loading the wounded into trucks, MacLean, Faith, and the 1/32 began moving south at 0500. Darkness and falling snow made the maneuver difficult, but fortunately, the CCF did not attack. Along the way, the task force gathered up the 31st Heavy Mortar Company, which was located halfway between the 1/32 and 3/31 and had supported the two battalions during the CCF attacks.
By dawn, the battalion reached the 3/31 perimeter, only to find it under heavy enemy attack. Without communications, attempting to enter the perimeter would be an extremely hazardous operation. Furthermore, the Chinese had created a roadblock at a bridge on the road leading into the perimeter. Faith led a party of men that successfully drove the CCF off the bridge and cleared the block. MacLean then came forward in his jeep. He spotted a column of troops whom he believed were his overdue 2/31. The troops within the 3/31 perimeter, however, began firing on the column, much to the dismay of MacLean. The troops were actually Chinese. MacLean, still believing they were American, ran towards them, shouting, “Those are my boys.” He dashed out onto the frozen reservoir towards the perimeter, attempting to stop what he believed was friendly fire. Suddenly, CCF troops concealed near the bridge fired on MacLean, hitting him several times. MacLean’s men watched in horror as an enemy soldier grabbed him and dragged him into the brush.
Unfortunately, there was no time to attempt a rescue of MacLean. Faith had to focus on getting his men into the 3/31 perimeter. With the men crossing the frozen stream on foot and the vehicles with the wounded dashing across the bridge, most of the column made it into the perimeter.
Once in, Faith surveyed the carnage. Hundreds of American and CCF dead littered the ground. The 3/31 had suffered over 300 casualties and its L company had ceased to exist. With MacLean gone, Faith assumed command and did his best to strengthen the perimeter. Marine air controller CPT Stamford also called in for Marine close air support and an airdrop for desperately needed supplies, especially 40mm and .50 caliber ammunition. Faith then sent out search parties to look for MacLean, with no luck. MacLean was declared missing, but later, an American POW stated that MacLean died of wounds on his fourth day of captivity and was buried by fellow POWs. He was the second and final American regimental commander to die in Korea.
On the morning of the 29th, Drake’s 31st Tank Company made another attempt to reach the 3/31 perimeter, only to be driven back to Hudong by CCF troops dug in on Hill 1221. For the remainder of the day the newly designated Task Force Faith remained in position. With nearly 500 wounded, the force was in no position to carry out the attack ordered by Almond. Yet, Faith had no authority to order a withdrawal. The situation was helped somewhat by Marine close air support and an airdrop of supplies, although the drop lacked 40mm and .50 caliber ammunition. A Marine helicopter also flew out some of the most serious wounded. Task Force Faith’s situation, however, remained desperate, particularly since it had still had not established communications with the Marines or the 7th ID HQ.
MG Dave Barr, commander of the 7th ID, flew in by helicopter to bring Faith more bad news. All the units of X Corps, including Task Force Faith, now under operational command of the Marines, were to withdraw. The Marines would provide Faith with air support, but other than that, the men would be on their own. To make matters worse, the task force was burdened with wounded, which would make their withdrawal even more difficult. Furthermore, the 31st’s CP, the 31st Tank Company, and the HQ Battery, 57th FAB, had evacuated Hudong for Hagaru-ri, further isolating Task Force Faith.
At about 2000, the CCF launched another attack. While killing large numbers of Chinese, Task Force Faith suffered another 100 casualties. Faith soon concluded his force could not survive another major attack. He summoned his remaining officers and told them to prepare to move out at 1200. The task force, after destroying its artillery, mortars and other equipment, began to move south, carrying 600 wounded in thirty trucks.
With a twin 40mm gun vehicle leading the way, the column began to move at around 1300 hours. It immediately came under fire. Stamford called in Marine air support, but the lead plane’s napalm canisters hit the front of the column, engulfing several soldiers and creating panic throughout the task force.
The situation quickly grew worse. Heavy fire from the flanks killed many of the wounded in the trucks. The fire grew more intense as the column reached Hill 1221, which dominated the surrounding area. At the north base of the hill, the CCF had blown a bridge, forcing a two-hour delay as the lead A/A vehicle had to winch the thirty trucks across a stream. A roadblock then held up the task force, while the CCF troops on the hill kept up their heavy fire. There was only one way to break through: take Hill 1221. Several hundred men charged up the hill, including many of the wounded, some of whom said they preferred to die on the attack than while waiting in the trucks. Despite heavy casualties, the men drove the CCF off most of the hill. Many, however, simply kept going over the hill and down the other side, venturing out onto the frozen reservoir and walking towards Hagaru-ri.
The task force then ran into another block at a hairpin turn. Faith led an assault that cleared the enemy from it. However, he was struck by enemy grenade fragments and mortally wounded. Once Faith was lost the command structure of Task Force Faith collapsed. As the 1/32’s S-1, Robert Jones, described it, “When Faith was hit, the task force ceased to exist.” Faith would later be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
While some such as Jones and Stamford tried to provide leadership, Task Force Faith quickly fell apart. Another roadblock, this one comprised of disabled tanks from the 31st Tank Company and other vehicles, furthered delayed the column. At Twiggae, the CCF had blown another bridge, forcing the column to attempt a risky crossing of a railroad trestle. All the while, the vehicles were under fire. Many men left the trucks to hide or tried to escape over the reservoir. Many died from wounds and exposure, or were captured.
Just north of Hudong, the task force ran into yet another roadblock. This spelled the end for Task Force Faith. The CCF brought heavy fire to bear on the column. CCF troops lobbed grenades and fired rifles into the trucks, killing masses of wounded. Those who could escape ventured out onto the reservoir and began the arduous march to the Marine lines at Hagaru-ri.
During the night of 1-2 December, survivors straggled into the Marine lines. Many came through a sector held by the Marine 1st Motor Transport Battalion. LTC Olin L. Beall, commander of the battalion, led a rescue mission across the ice by jeep, picking up over 300 survivors, many suffering from wounds, frostbite, and shock. In all just over 1,000 survivors reached the Marine lines, and of those, only 385 could be considered able-bodied. The survivors, along with other 7th ID soldiers, were organized into a provisional battalion and attached to the 7th Marines. Known as the 31/7, the battalion participated in the 1st Marine Division’s breakout from Hagaru-ri to the coast beginning on 6 December.
For years afterward, the saga of Task Force MacLean/Faith had been largely ignored. Many believed that the collapse and panic that engulfed the task force had brought great shame to the Army. Upon closer examination, the task force’s role in the Chosin battle proved to be much more noteworthy. Many historians now agree that Task Force MacLean blocked the Chinese drive along the eastern side of Chosin for five days and allowed the Marines along the west side to withdraw into Hagaru-ri. Furthermore, the task force destroyed the CCF 80th Division. In recognition of their bravery, Task Force MacLean/Faith was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation in September 1999.
For additional information on Task Force MacLean/Faith, please read: Roy E. Appelman, East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in Korea; Clay Blair, The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953; and Anthony Garrett, “Task Force Faith at the Chosin Reservoir,” in Infantry, (September-December 1999).
Center for Strategic & International Studies
October 10, 2019
Part of U.S. Military Forces in FY2020: The Struggle to Align Forces with Strategy
The Marine Corps focuses on developing capabilities for great power conflict after two decades of conducting counterinsurgency ashore. End strength holds steady in FY 2020, with no significant growth in the foreseeable future, requiring tradeoffs of legacy capabilities to create new capabilities and potentially causing stress on the force as it continues to meet high day-to-day deployment demands.
- The Marine Corps’ end strength remains largely constant, holding at roughly 186,000 after expanding during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Despite a continuing high operational tempo, the Marine Corps is choosing to pursue modernization over expanding force structure.
- New capabilities will therefore require offsets from legacy capabilities.
- General Berger’s new guidance aims to restore the Marine Corps to its naval roots after two decades of operations ashore, invest in capabilities focused on great power conflict in the Pacific, and enhance individual fighting prowess.
- Marine Corps aviation continues to upgrade its platforms at a steady rate, leading to a newer and younger fleet. Although the Marine Corps procures three MQ-9 Reapers in FY 2020, it lags the other services in fielding UAVs.
- As part of General Berger’s guidance, the Marine Corps is looking into smaller, more affordable amphibious ships and alternative platforms for amphibious operations.
Unique among the services, the Marine Corps comes out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan larger than it went in (186,100 today versus 172,600 in 1999). That growth has allowed it to maintain its traditional ground and aviation units and create new units for cyber and information warfare. Nevertheless, unlike the other three services, it grows little through FY 2024 and does not attempt to attain its previous goal of 194,000. That creates a tension in the future between creating additional new capabilities and maintaining traditional capabilities.
The National Defense Strategy (NDS) creates two further tensions. The first is the direction to create new capabilities for great power conflict, sacrificing force structure as necessary, while at the same time meeting demands to provide continuing high levels of forward deployments for global engagement and crisis response. The other tension is between preparing units for these day-to-day forward deployments or for great power conflict, the training and equipment being different for each.
The FY 2020 budget looks like a continuation of the existing Marine Corps’ strategy, but guidance set by the new commandant, General David H. Berger, directs the Marine Corps to march off in a different direction, with important future changes to forces and equipment.
Force Structure in FY 2020
Table 1: Marine Corps – Active, Reserve, and Civilians
The FY 2020 Marine Corps budget increases active duty end strength by only 100. In the past, the Marine Corps had talked about expanding the active force to about 194,000, but the FY 2020 budget projects only a small increase to 186,400 through FY 2024.1 This lack of growth makes the Marine Corps unusual in that the other three services all plan to add at least some end strength, but it reflects the broader priorities of the NDS: fix readiness, then focus on modernization to prepare for a great power conflict; force structure comes last. General Berger doubles down on this budget strategy, saying: “If provided the opportunity to secure additional modernization dollars in exchange for force structure, I am prepared to do so.”2
Source: Highlights of The Department of the Navy FY 2020 Budget (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, 2019), https://www.secnav.navy.mil/fmc/fmb/Documents/20pres/Budget%20Highlights%20Book.pdf; Active End Strength data in Figure 2.5, 2-8; Reserve End Strength data in figure 2.7, 2-10; Civilian data in Figure 2.10, 2-13.
Despite a lack of end strength growth, the Marine Corps, alone among the services, is coming out of the wars at a higher level (186,000) than it went in (172,600). Thus, despite the Marine Corps’ long-standing concern (sometimes called paranoia) about maintaining its standing among the other services, it has been gaining ground over the long term.3
Marine Corps Reserve end strength stays level at 38,500, where it has been for many years. On the one hand, the retention and recruitment challenges of expanding are too great. (The Marine reserves got into some trouble in the past when they tried to expand over 40,000). On the other hand, the demands of maintaining a full division-wing structure prevent it from getting much smaller. General Berger’s guidance hints at some flexibility here in the future: “We will explore the efficacy of fully integrating our reserve units within the Active Component, as well as other organizational options.”4
Marine Corps civilians increase, as with DOD civilians overall, a reflection of the focus on rebuilding readiness and the substitution of civilians for military personnel in support activities.
The budget maintains the three active-duty Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEFs): I and II MEFs located in the continental United States (California and North Carolina, respectively) and III MEF on Hawaii, Okinawa, and mainland Japan. It also maintains the reserve division-wing team, headquartered in New Orleans but spread over the entire country. (The reserve division-wing team lacks the headquarters to make it a MEF. Since the reserves are employed at lower unit levels, such a headquarters is not needed.) There is, however, some change at lower unit levels, as described below.
The Tension in Meeting Day-to-day Deployment Demands.The previous commandant, General Robert Neller, appeared to downplay the stress of deployments. In previous years, his posture statement listed all the many deployments and exercises the Marine Corps participated in. The FY 2020 posture statement skiped that. General Neller did note that the Marines remain at a 1:2 deployment-to-dwell ratio when the goal is 1:3. In previous posture statements, he called this level of operational tempo “unsustainable.” This year he called it “challenging.” Neller called maintaining this ratio “a conscious, short-term decision” that entailed risk in a major contingency. It could only be remedied by a large increase in end strength or a decrease in commitments, neither of which he foresaw.5 This is the first major tension about Marine Corps force structure: how to meet continuing high levels of day-to-day deployment requirements with limited forces.
General Berger has indicated privately that he intends to “say no” to some missions to keep operating tempo down. This would allow the Marine Corps to achieve its desired 1:3 deployment-to-dwell ratio within existing end strength, but COCOM demands for forces and presidential priorities can make this unachievable.
Figure 1: Marine Corps Active Duty End Strength 1999-2024 (000s)
The McKenzie Group of 2013 (named for its leader, then-Lieutenant General Kenneth F. McKenzie, now General McKenzie, commander of CENTCOM) argued that forward presence and crisis response were the Corps’ primary force drivers.6 This was not a new argument since forward deployments had long put strain on the Marine Corps, which maintained Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) in the Middle East/Indian Ocean and Pacific, as well as unit deployments to Okinawa and Australia and special purpose Marine Air- Ground Task Forces (SP-MAGTFs) globally.
Source: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), National Defense Budget Estimates for FY 2020 (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, May 2019), Table 7-5: Department of Defense Manpower, p. 260-262, https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2020/FY20_Green_Book.pdf; Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), PB 20 Budget Roll Out Brief (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, March 2019), p. 12., https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2020/fy2020_Budget_Request.pdf.
Nevertheless, the Marine Corps did not ask for additional end strength in its budget or its $2.1 billion unfunded requirements list.7 The new commandant’s guidance implicitly rejects this argument and is explicit that force structure might shrink in order to build capability for great power conflicts. Thus, this tension will continue.
New Force Structure
General Berger’s guidance had three major themes: to reestablish the Marine Corps’ naval roots after years of operations ashore in Iraq and Afghanistan; to build structure and weapons for great power conflict, particularly in the Pacific; and to maintain a high level of individual warfighting prowess. These themes expand on the Marine Corps force structure assessment of 2016-2017, called Marine Corps Force 2025, and appear in Marine Corps/Navy doctrinal publications Marine Operating Concept, Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations.8 These concepts are consistent with the NDS. They foresee a shift to distributed operations and the Marine Corps contributing to sea control in a naval campaign through shore-based aircraft and fires, not just projecting power ashore. How much force structure change these new concepts will involve will not be known until the Marine Corps conducts a future force structure assessment.
However, high-end capabilities have not been traditional Marine Corps strengths because the Marine Corps has typically focused on regional conflicts and small wars. Indeed, difficulty in recruiting enough cyber Marines caused the corps to create a “Marine Corps Cyber Auxiliary” to bring outside cyber expertise into the Marine Corps. These auxiliaries would be volunteers who would mentor and train Marines but would not participate in actual operations or wear the coveted eagle, globe, and anchor. Time will tell whether such a voluntary organization will be successful.9
Dakota Wood, a retired Marine officer and senior analyst with the Heritage Foundation, proposed eliminating specialties that do not relate directly to the Marine Corps’ core mission in amphibious operations. That would mean pulling Marines out of cyber and special operations.10 General Berger’s guidance barely mentions cyber and special operations, which may be a signal that these capabilities are not central to his new concept for the Marine Corps.
There is also a tension in training between the needs of routine forward deployment of Marine air ground task forces (e.g., low-intensity conflict; crisis response; peacekeeping operations; partner training) and the needs of a great power conflict (e.g., full-spectrum combat in a high threat environment; massive, long- range firepower). Having units switch back and forth is difficult for equipment and personnel. One Marine general noted that this might require two different kinds of units, but that would require a lot of force structure.11 General Berger’s guidance rejects specialized units (“We cannot afford to build multiple forces optimized for specific contingency”), so this tension will remain.
Table 2: Marine Corps Ground Force Structure
At the macro level, Marine Corps force structure does not show any changes. However, several important changes are occurring at lower levels of organization, driven by Marine Corps 2025 concepts to prepare for major wars. For the ground forces, these changes are enhancing cyber and information warfare and restructuring the infantry squad by adding a drone operator (with InstantEye mini-drone) and an assistant squad leader. The idea is to leverage emerging technology and provide more depth of leadership as infantry tasks become more complex.
Source: Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller), Defense Budget Overview: Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, March 2019), Appendix A, Table A-4, A-2, https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2020/fy2020_Budget_Request.pdf.
The Marine Corps’ ground modernization effort consists of a collection of small programs, from rifles to radios to engineer equipment and trucks. The largest by total program cost are the JLTV, a light armored truck developed jointly with the Army, and the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), the corps’ third attempt to replace the 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles. Both are conventional and evolutionary and, as a result, are moving ahead smoothly.
The Marine Corps has a lot of concepts for future technology, such as antiaircraft and anti-cruise missile defenses and long-range precision missiles for the artillery. It has initiated a series of experiments called “Sea Dragon” and has been using one battalion (3rd Battalion, 5th Marines) to test new equipment and concepts. However, none of these capabilities are yet being procured in the budget.
Aviation Forces and Challenges
Table 3: Marine Corps Aviation Force Structure
Source: Fixed-wing squadrons include F-35B, F/A-18 A++/C, F/A-18D, F/A-18A++, AB-8B, KC-130J, and KC-130T. Rotary Wing includes MV-22B Osprey, AH-1Z, AH-1W, UH-1Y, and CH-35E. Unmanned Aircraft are squadrons of RQ-21A. Does not include Fleet Replacement Squadrons. Data based on current force PPA squadrons from the respective aircraft plans, including active and reserve components, 2019 Marine Aviation Plan (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2019), https://www.aviation.marines.mil/Portals/11/2019%20AvPlan.pdf.
Marine aviation continues to upgrade platforms and incorporate new systems.12 The KC-130J, AH-1Z, and, finally, the F-35B are all in serial production. Funding for the MV-22 acquisition target of 360 aircraft has been completed, though deliveries will continue for the next few years. As noted in the Navy section, the CH-53K is in initial production, after experiencing development problems and some delays. The last EA-6B electronic countermeasures aircraft have retired, replaced by the organic capabilities in the F-35. The good news is that Marine aviation will have a lot of new aircraft in its inventory. The bad news is that there will be half a dozen squadrons in transition at any given time.
Figure 2: Marine Corps Aircraft Inventory by Type
Source: Data from successive editions of International Institute for Strategic Studies, Military Balance (London, UK: Routledge, 1999-2019), https://www.iiss.org/publications/the-military-balance.
Aircraft inventories remain relatively stable with some growth in tiltrotor (as MV-22 deliveries continue) and unmanned aircraft. The rotary-wing fleet has mostly been recapitalized with the MV-22 and UH/AH-1 procurements so that it is modern and relatively young. The CH-53K program will complete that recapitalization. The fixed-wing fleet is in the process of recapitalization with the F-35. So, despite the high cost of contemporary aircraft, Marine aviation, unlike the Air Force, is in pretty good shape.
Nevertheless, questions arise about the structure of Marine aviation. General Berger raised the key issue: “It is unlikely that exquisite manned platforms represent a complete answer to our needs in future warfare.”
Lag in Fielding UAVs
One approach to meeting General Berger’s guidance would be to field lower-cost UAVs. However, the Marine Corps, having led the way on UAVs in the 1980s, now lags the other services in fielding UAVs. Fielding of the RQ-21 Blackjack UAV will be completed in FY 2019 to 4 operational squadrons, having experienced difficulties in development and a reduction in planned quantities to 38.13 Located at regiment/MEU level, it will be capable of operating both ashore and from L-class ships. It performs reconnaissance and surveillance functions but has no attack capability.
The corps also fields a wide variety of smaller UAVs (RQ-11, -12, -20) for tactical reconnaissance and targeting and is experimenting aggressively with integrating such capabilities into small unit operations. None of these systems have attack capabilities, however.
Larger (group 4 and 5) UAVs for division/MEF level operations are still conceptual. To fill the gap in Afghanistan, the Marine Corps has contracted with General Atomics for a single orbit of Reaper (MQ-1) coverage. The Marine Corps requests three MQ-9 Reapers in the FY 2020 budget and another three in FY 2021, but the MQ-9 is not yet an official program of record and conflicts with the conceptual UAVs.14 General Berger vows to change this, saying that, “starting with POM-22 [the Marine Corps will] develop a much broader family of unmanned systems.”
Figure 3: Marine Corps v. Air Force Armed UAVs in FY2020
Source: Highlights of The Department of the Navy FY 2020 Budget (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, 2019), 4-5, https://www.secnav.navy. mil/fmc/fmb/Documents/20pres/Budget%20 Highlights%20Book.pdf; Budget United States Air Force Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Overview (Washington, DC: Department of the Air Force, March 2019), 38, https://www.saffm.hq.af.mil/ Portals/84/documents/FY20/FY2020%20Air%20 Force%20Budget%20Overview%20Book%20 Final%20v3.pdf?ver=2019-03-13-082653-843.
Guam and Pacific Force StationingThe Marine Corps is engaged in a long-term effort to ease the burden of its force footprint on Okinawa. What was once a rural and sparsely inhabited island has become crowded and developed. One element of this effort is moving forces off Okinawa, mainly to Guam, though also to mainland Japan, Hawaii, and the mainland United States. The current plan is for the number of Marines Okinawa to be halved, to 11,500, by 2027.15
The government of Japan is paying for much of the massive facility construction on Guam, but this construction has proved to be more expensive, complicated, and politically controversial than expected. Work moves forward, though, with more contracts awarded, and sections of the Marine Corps base are expected to be completed this year.16 The current target is for 4,000 Marines to be on Guam by 2024, though that timeline has slipped repeatedly.17
The re-stationing effort also involves building a new air facility—called the Futenma replacement facility— in the less inhabited northern area of Okinawa at Camp Schwab. This project continues to move forward (slowly) despite opposition from local politicians, who complain that Okinawa bears too much of the burden of stationing U.S. forces. The project’s completion date was pushed to 2022, but recent reports about soil instability and potentially expensive fixes have cast doubt about the entire endeavor.18
The entire re-stationing effort is a cautionary tale to those seeking to move U.S. forces around the Pacific. Although there are strong strategic reasons for such posture changes, actually executing them can be extremely challenging in the real world of local politics, regional tensions, and the inevitable difficulties involved with large-scale construction projects.
By contrast to the slow and controversial moves on Okinawa and Guam, the Marine Corps’ rotational deployments to Darwin, Australia continue into their ninth year without controversy, with six-month rotations on the ground. This year the rotational force reached the target of 2,500 Marines originally set by President Obama in 2011.19 The rotations establish a U.S. presence in Southeast Asia and provide opportunities to train with the Australian defense forces. The rotations have continued through changes of administration in both Australia and the United States, so the politics look settled. The disadvantage is that the forces are a great distance from any likely conflict (2,500 miles from the South China Sea).
Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Forces (SP-MAGTFs)Although not new, SP-MAGTF units represent a different capability for the Marine Corps. Traditionally, the smallest unit that the Marine Corps deployed was a MEU with about 2,200 Marines.20 To provide rapid response and persistent presence in AFRICOM and CENTCOM and periodic theater engagement in SOUTHCOM, the Marine Corps established these land-based, special-purpose units, which are smaller than the MEU. That made them both more agile and easier to deploy, though at the cost of logistics and firepower. Last year, the Marine Corps appeared to be backing away from SP-MAGTFs in order to use the assets elsewhere. Although there is no indication of such a shift this year, General Berger’s desired alignment with the Navy raises questions about whether these land-based units will continue.
Amphibious Ships and Alternative PlatformsAs noted in the Navy section, a major headline coming out of General Berger’s guidance was the change in how the Marine Corps would think about amphibious ships. For many years, the Marine Corps had sized the amphibious requirement as the ability to carry two Marine Expeditionary Brigades in a wartime operation (34 ships), with 10 percent additional to cover ships in long-term maintenance (total requirement 38 ships).21 The Navy’s 355-ship target included 38 amphibs, and the FY 2019 30-year shipbuilding plan achieved this level in the future, although as noted earlier, there is risk in the plan’s affordability.
However, General Berger, like many others, noted that this approach produced a small number of very expensive, though very capable, ships. The resulting amphibious fleet was well suited for day-to-day forward deployments and regional conflicts but not well suited for distributed operations or operations in the highly contested environment that the NDS foresaw. Thus, General Berger’s vision opens the possibility of building a different kind of amphibious ship (“smaller, low signature, affordable platforms”), perhaps LST size (about 5,000 tons versus 25,000 tons for the proposed LPD Flight II class).
The Navy and Marine Corps may also use non-amphibious ships, such as Maritime Prepositioning Force ships (TAK-Es), high-speed vessels (Expeditionary Fast Transports, EPFs), and mobile landing platforms/afloat forward staging bases (now called Expeditionary Sea Base, ESB and Expeditionary Transfer Dock, ESD).
General Neller mentioned experiments with such ships in his posture statement, and they are included explicitly in General Berger’s guidance.22 In the past, the Marine Corps argued that such ships lack the survivability needed for high-intensity conflict. Nevertheless, they do provide cargo storage, flight decks, and personnel berthing that could be used for training and engagement events with allies and partners. They also have the advantage of not being as large as regular (“L”-class) amphibious ships and therefore do not overwhelm some of the smaller navies with which they might work. The Navy is making modifications to some of these ships to allow them to accommodate Marine Corps aircraft and troops more easily.
Mark Cancian(Colonel, USMCR, ret.) is a senior adviser with the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
This report is made possible by general support to CSIS. No direct sponsorship contributed to this report.
This report is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax- exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).
1 On the higher target: Lee Hudson, “Marines Need 194,000 Troop Force to Meet Requirements,” Inside Defense, February 8, 2017, https://insidedefense.com/daily-news/marines-need-194000-troop-force-meet-requirements.
2 David Berger, Commandant’s Planning Guidance: 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps (Arlington, VA: 2019), p. 6, https://www.hqmc.marines.mil/Portals/142/Docs/%2038th%20Commandant%27s%20Planning%20Guidance_2019.pdf?ver=2019-07-16-200152-700.
3 For a classic expression of the Marine Corps’ concern in this regard, see the Introduction to Victor Krulak, First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1984).
4 Berger, Commandant’s Planning Guidance.
5 Robert Neller, “Posture of the Department of the Navy,” Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, 115th Cong., 2nd sess., April 19, 2018, p. 15, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Neller_04-09-19.pdf.
6 Brian Buggeman and Ben Fitzgerald, Crisis Response: Institutional Innovation in the United States Marine Corps (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, Nov 2015), https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/crisis-response-institutional-innovation-in-the-united-states-marine-corps. Robert Neller, “Posture of the Department of the Navy,” Testimony to the Senate Armed Ser- vices Committee, 116th Cong., 1st sess., April 9, 2019, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Neller_04-09-19.pdf.
7 “Fiscal Year 2020 Marine Corps Unfunded Priority List,” Defense Daily, https://www.defensedaily.com/wp-content/uploads/post_attachment/239637.pdf.
8 U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Corps Operating Concept (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, September 2016), https://www.mccdc.marines.mil/Portals/172/Docs/MCCDC/young/MCCDC-YH/document/final/Marine%20Corps%20Operating%20Concept%20Sept%202016.pdf; “Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment,” U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy, 2017, https://www.candp.marines.mil/Concepts/Subordinate-Operating-Concepts/Littoral-Operations-in-a-Contested-Environment/; “Expeditionary Advance Base Operations,” U.S. Marine Corps, 2018, http://www.candp.marines.mil/Concepts/Subordinate-Operating-Concepts/Expeditionary-Advanced-Base-Operations/.
9 “Marine Corps Establishes Volunteer Cyber Auxiliary to Increase Cyber Readiness,” Marine Corps, press release, May 13, 2019, https://www.marines.mil/News/Press-Releases/Press-Release-Display/Article/1845538/marine-corps-establishes-volunteer-cyber-auxiliary-to-increase-cyberspace-readi.
10 Dakota L. Wood, Rebuilding America's Military: The United States Marine Corps – Refocusing the Corps on Its Primary Mission: Contrib- uting to the Prosecution of Naval Campaigns (Washington, DC: Heritage Foundation, March 21, 2019), https://www.heritage.org/sites/default/files/2019-03/SR211_0.pdf.
11 Brian Beaudreault in Megan Eckstein, “Marine Corps Wants Forces in US Ready to Surge for Major War,” U.S. Naval Institute, June 4, 2018, https://news.usni.org/2018/06/04/34100.
12 For details on all aspects of Marine aviation, see U.S. Marine Corps, 2019 Marine Corps Aviation Plan (Arlington, VA: 2019), https://www.aviation.marines.mil/Portals/11/2019%20AvPlan.pdf.
13 Defense Operational Test and Evaluation, RQ-21A Blackjack Unmanned Aircraft System (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, January 2016), http://www.dote.osd.mil/pub/reports/FY2015; Justin Katz, “Marine Corps Manpower Shift Leads to Reduction in RQ-21 FY-19 Request,” Inside Defense, February 16, 2018, https://insidedefense.com/insider/marine-corps-manpower-shift-leads-reduction-rq-21-fy-19-request.
14 Yasmin Tadjdeh, “Reapers to Give Marine Corps New Set of War Fighting Tools,” National Defense, June 2019, p. 34-35, https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2019/6/7/reapers-to-give-marine-corps-new-set-of-warfighting-tools.
15 Matthew Burke, “Marines’ move from Okinawa to Guam could begin as early as October 2024, report says,” Stars and Stripes, May 16, 2019, https://www.stripes.com/news/marines-move-from-okinawa-to-guam-could-begin-as-early-as-october-2024-report-says-1.581201.
16 Ibid.; Matthew Burke, “Work on Guam's $8.7 Billion Portion of Pacific Realignment Gaining Momentum, Officials Say,” Stars and Stripes, August 14, 2018, https://okinawa.stripes.com/news/work-guams-87-billion-portion-pacific-realignment-gaining-momentum-officials-say.
17 “U.S. to start moving Okinawa-based marines to Guam in 2024,” Japan Times, April 27, 2017, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/27/national/politics-diplomacy/u-s-start-moving-okinawa-based-marines-guam-2024/#.WZw_qsa1vct.
18 Paul Mcleary, “SecDef & Marines Want To Disperse Across Pacific, But It’s Hard,” Breaking Defense, August 29, 2019, https://breakingdefense.com/2019/08/secdef-marines-want-to-disperse-across-pacific-but-its-hard/.
19Seth Robson, “Australia-bound battalion will boost Marines' Darwin presence to 2,500,” Stars and Stripes, April 25, 2019, https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/australia-bound-battalion-will-boost-marines-darwin-presence-to-2-500-1.578356.
20 A Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) has a headquarters, a ground element (built around a reinforced infantry battalion), an aviation element (usually a reinforced medium rotary-wing squadron), and a logistics unit.
21 A Marine Expeditionary Brigade has the same elements as a MEU but is built around an infantry regiment and notionally has about 17,000 Marines. Thirty-eight ship requirement: U.S. Marine Corps, Maritime Expeditionary Warfare: Annual Report 2017 (Alexandria, VA: August 2017), p. 11. https://news.usni.org/2017/10/27/document-2017-u-s-maritime-expeditionary-warfare-report; same statement of requirement is in the 2018 report, which is not available online.
22 Robert D. Holzer and Scott C. Truver, “The U.S. Navy In Review,” U.S. Naval Institute, Proceedings, May 2017, https://www.usni.org
Fort Bragg's Special Forces, Psychological Operations, Civil Affairs induct honorary members
The Special Forces, Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs community named 20 new soldiers, civilians and veterans as distinguished and honorary members during induction ceremonies this month.
The inductees have built the organization through military and civilian endeavors from conflicts in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Somalia, Desert Storm, Grenada, Panama and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, said Maj. Gen. Patrick Roberson, commander of Fort Bragg's U.S John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
“They are pillars of our organization because they helped really develop our organization and adopt these structures, training and every aspect in making this organization great,” Roberson said.
The inductees are committed to improving opportunities for men and women in uniform, through "their selfless actions over the years to promote the warfighting ethos and unwavering sense of pride and selfless service,” Col. Charles Burnett, deputy commander of the JFK Special Warfare Center and School said.
Special Forces Regiment Distinguished members
Sgt. Maj. Matthew Williams
Sgt. Maj. Matthew Williams served with the 3rd Special Forces Group and received the Medal of Honor recipient for his actions on April 6, 2008, as part of an assault element inserted into Afghanistan.
After the lead element was attacked by an enemy machine gun, sniper and rocket-propelled grenade fire in the Nuristan Province, Williams helped lead a counter-attack up a mountain and across a valley of ice-covered boulders and a rapid, ice-cold, waist-deep river.
Williams moved a wounded team sergeant down the mountain, then went back up to defend the other soldiers, directing suppressive fire and exposing himself to enemy fire.
He helped lead Afghan commandos in a counter-attack that lasted hours, and continually exposed himself to enemy fire as the wounded were evacuated.
Lt. Gen. Bennett Sacolick
Retired Lt. Gen. Bennett Sacolick joined the Army as a private in 1981, later commissioning as an officer and joining the 3rd Battalion, 7th special Forces Group.
He is also a former troop commander of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta at Fort Bragg, serving during Operation Restore Hope-Somalia and Operation Desert Storm.
Sacolick’s other assignments include those as Chief of Current Operations for the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg with service during Operation Iraqi Freedom; deputy director for defense of the Counter-Terrorism Center at the Central Intelligence Agency; deputy commanding general and commander of the JFK Special Warfare Center; director of Force Management and Development at the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida; and deputy director of Strategic Operational Planning for the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington, D.C.
Lt. Col. Eugene McCarley
Lt. Col. Eugene McCarley enlisted in 1955, serving 12 years in the North Carolina Army National Guard and Army Reserves, before volunteering for the regular Army in 1967 during Vietnam.
In Vietnam, he served with the top-secret Military Assistance Command-Vietnam Studies and Observations Group, a joint-service special operations unit.
He participated in Operational Tailwind, a cross-border penetration mission leading a company force into enemy-occupied territory in Laos.
He later testified in a Department of Defense investigation in the late 1990s, after CNN and Time Magazine falsely reported that nerve gas was used and alleged that women and children were killed during the previously classified operation.
The news reports were retracted, and the DOD investigation found that Operation Tailwind was conducted in accordance with rules of engagement, nerve gas was not used and the operation did not target American defectors.
Wounded twice, McCarley secured sensitive information and lead his fellow fighters to secure a crash site in Vietnam.
McCarley’s service continued past 1970, as he served with the National Guard and Army Reserves until 1995.
McCarley died Nov. 19, 2018, in Wilmington.
1st Lt. Phillip Gonzales
Retired 1st Lt. Phillip Gonzales enlisted in the Army Security Agency in 1958 as a trained Morse Code inceptor. After completing airborne school in 1969, he was assigned to the 403rd, Special Operations Detachment, 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam.
Gonzales completed two tours in Vietnam, from 1969 to 1971, and was assigned to the 3rd Mobile Strike Force and various “A-teams” scattered from Northern Highlands to the Mekong Delta.
He received a Special Forces flash tab with 8th Special Forces in 1972.
While serving, Gonzales held jobs as a medical sergeant, intelligence sergeant and communications sergeant.
He’d continue service as a contractor with the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs’ Counternarcotic and Aerial Eradication program, working in Columbia for 20 years to develop medical and security areas of study, as well as trained guerilla armies, and participated in counter-narcotic and medical operations in war zones in Burma, Cambodia, Columbia, Sarajevo, Salvador and Panama with the Nicaraguan Contras.
Gonzales also worked as a medical officer in Iraq and Afghanistan after military retirement and has served as an advanced medical instructor with Joint Special Operation Medical Training Center for the past eight years.
Sgt. Maj. Terry Peters
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Terry Peters entered the Army on Sept. 14, 1983, and was assigned as an infantryman. to the 101st Airborne Division's 4th Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment.
He held various positions as a gunner, M60 gun team leader, fire team leader and weapons squad leader, before being reassigned to Korea during the summer of 1986. After completing the Special Forces Qualification Course in 1988 as a weapons sergeant, Peters was assigned to the 5th Special Force Group.
Peters has deployed in support of numerous missions, including Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield, before being reassigned to the Special Warfare Center and School.
In 2002, he deployed with Company B, 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Force Group in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In 2003, he was responsible for all training at Camp Mackall as the 1st Battalion command sergeant major.
In 2004, he was assigned to the Special Warfare Center’s 3rd Battalion, becoming responsible for Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations training courses and the special operations language training program.
Peters served as the senior enlisted advisor to the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines as it conducted a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines from January to July 2007, and in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as the senior-enlisted advisor under 3rd Special Forces Group for Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan from October 2007 to May 2008 and January 2009 to August 2010.
Peters is the regiment’s outgoing honorary command sergeant major.
Master Sgt. Larry Townsend
Retired Master Sgt. Larry Townsend served in the Army from 1972 to 1992, with 17 of those years with Special Forces.
Following completion of the Special Forces Qualification Course in 1978, he was assigned to the operational detachment under the 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Force Group as a radio operation supervisor. After serving with a Special Forces Demonstration team, he was selected to serve with a Delta operational detachment in 1982 as a base station radio operator and promoted to section crew chief and also participated in the invasion of Grenada to complete a mission to rescue American hostages.
Townsend became wounded when an aircraft was shot down.
From March 1985 to May 1989, he was the principal drill instructor for an Army ROTC Battalion at East Carolina University.
He was later selected by the Special Forces commander to serve as a senior Special Forces doctrine and training analyst to review curriculum and doctrine used by Special Operation Forces units. He retired from the Army in 1992.
Townsend continued to serve as a civilian for the Directorate of Training and Doctrine at Special Warfare Center and School and Joint Special Operations Command, 1st Special Forces Command and deputy director of Operations Support Office and Sensitive Activities Officer for the Office of Special Warfare.
Master Sgt. Joe Walker
Retired Master Sgt. Joe Walker graduated from Special Forces training in 1967, qualifying as an operations and intelligence and weapons specialist.
He deployed to South Vietnam conducting reconnaissance operations with a 5th Special Forces Group detachment.
After a year-long tour, he volunteered for another year in combat with the Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group, a top-secret action unit that conducted operations behind enemy lines in Laos and Cambodia.
After his second year in combat, he joined the 46th Special Forces Company in Thailand, serving as an instructor for a then-classified CIA program that trained Thai military volunteers and Laotian irregulars for combat against North Vietnamese forces in Laos.
Walker rejoined the observation group for a third year in combat and insisted on finishing his tour when wounded Jan. 15, 1971.
After four continuous years in Southeast Asia, he was reassigned to a Special Forces unit stateside in 1971 and continued to spend more than a decade with Special Forces assignments until retiring in 1982.
After military retirement, Walker worked alongside U.S. and allied special operations personnel and foreign irregulars on six continents and served another 21 years as a civilian with the nation’s premier intelligence and paramilitary operations organization.
This year's Honorary Members of the Special Force Regiment are:
Capt. Chuck Deleot
Retired Navy Capt. Chuck Deleot was an active-duty naval intelligence officer from 1967 to 1972 and retired as a captain in Naval Reserve in 1990.
In 1972, he joined the commander-in-chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet staff as a computer specialist and became the technical director and deputy director for the Pacific Fleet Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence.
Deleot retired from the federal service in 2001, working as an occasional defense consultant for Science Applications International Corp. as a chief scientist and engineer.
In 2003, he volunteered for the Pinehurst-based Patriot Foundation as its president and chairman.
The organization provides scholarships to children of the conventional Army and Army Special Operation Forces servicemen and women who have been killed or wounded from the Global War on Terrorism.
Jim Moriarty is a Marine veteran and Gold Star father who has served the military and Special Forces for four decades as a lawyer and advocate for Green Berets.
He was part of a team that sought to have the Army review the Medal of Honor nomination packet for Lt. Col. Paris Davis, one of the first Black officers in Special Forces.
He also advocated for Medal of Honor recipient Gary Rose, who was previously defamed for his role in Operation Tailwind.
Moriarty has undertaken several pro-bono cases for Gold Star families.
In November 2016, Moriarty’s son, Staff Sgt. James “Jimmy” Moriarty, was a 5th Special Forces Group soldier killed in Jordan along with staff sergeants Kevin McEnroe and Matthew Lewellen.
Staff Sgt. James Moriarty is credited with mortally wounding the shooter, saving another soldier’s life.
His father advocated for the U.S. and foreign governments for a full investigation after the host nation initially blamed the Americans.
Teresa Nugent is a former Army telecommunications specialist who was assigned to the Air Defense Artillery Patriot Missile Battalion from 1985 to 1988.
In the 1990s, she started working in the medical nursing field and has spent the past 15 years involved in injury and illness cases involving active-duty special operations personnel.
She’s served as the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s nurse consultant since 2012 and has cared for more than 400 special operations soldiers, coordinating 30 medical evacuations of deployed soldiers and managing 10 Army Special Operation Forces amputees.
She is credited with recommending a streamlined process for traumatic brain evaluation and coordinating with Army Special Operation Forces and the Intrepid Spirit Center at Fort Bragg, along with developing treatment plans for Army Special Operation Forces amputees, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder patients.
Outgoing and incoming honorary regiment leaders
Also honored was retired Col. Fredrick Dummar, a former Special Forces operational detachment commander of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group; a deputy commander of Special Operations Task Force, Kandahar, Afghanistan; deputy commander of 7th Force Group; chief of staff and deputy commander combined Joint Special Operations Task-Force Afghanistan; executive officer of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command; chief of staff Special Operations Joint Task Force-Fort Bragg; and commander of the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command-Special Operations Advisory Group at Camp Morehead Afghanistan from May 2014 to June 2015.
Dummar is the outgoing honorary colonel of the Special Forces Regiment.
The incoming honorary colonel is retired Col. David McCracken.
McCracken is a former executive officer of the 7th Special Force Group who’s participated in Operation Just Cause and is a past commander of the 1st Special Warfare Training Group company and battalion, and 3rd Special Forces Group. He retired in 2004.
He is credited with developing the National Counter-Terrorism Center.
The regiment’s honorary outgoing warrant officer is retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Douglas Frank.
Frank previously served as the 7th Special Forces Group warrant officer, leading teams during Operations Just Cause, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
He’s served as chief warrant officer at brigade and command levels, including the 7th Special Forces Group, the 1st Special Warfare Training Group and the U.S. Special Operations Command's Special Operations Joint Task Force-Bragg.
He is credited with spearheading an Army-level study that led to the JFK Special Warfare Center and School becoming one of two organizations in the Army authorized to appoint warrant officers.
The regiment's incoming warrant officer is retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 James Korenoski. Korenoski previously served with the 5th Special Forces Group and has served as a weapons sergeant, intelligence sergeant, assistant detachment commander, detachment commander, company, battalion and group operations warrant officer and warrant officer institute instructor.
He was first selected as command chief warrant officer for the 1st Special Warfare Training Group and spent 31 years as 5th Special Forces Group’s command chief warrant officer, with deployments during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Somalia and operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and Inherent Resolve.
The regiment's incoming honorary command sergeant major is retired Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Lamb. Lamb deployed with the 1st Ranger Battalion during the Operation Eagle Claw 1980 mission attempt to free American hostages in Iran.
He served with Ranger battalions, two infantry battalions, four Special Forces Groups, two theater special operation commands and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Horn of Africa.
He was wounded during the Battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, attempting to rescue American soldiers and had deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Lamb is credited with negotiating an assignment for a Republic of Korea exchange officer to the U.S Special Operations Command and assisting Republic of Korea Special Operation Forces in transforming force structure and airlift capabilities.
He is also credited with developing an international directorate within the U.S. Special Operations Command to integrate 24 allied officers and 17 partner nations in trans-regional planning initiatives.
Psychological Operations Distinguished Members
Col. Dorothea Burke
Retired Col. Dorothea Burke commissioned as a military police officer in May 1982 and served on active duty for 30 years, including more than 15 years as a psychological operations officer. She retired in May 2012.
As a military police officer for the 502nd Transportation Battalion in Germany, Burke managed deployment and redeployment of U.S. Forces to Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
As a psychological operations detachment commander with Company B, 6th Psychological Operations Battalion, she led program development in support of the Department of Defense’s response to the Rwanda genocide.
Burke later deployed to Panama to plan and lead a psychological operations task force supporting Joint Task Force Safe Haven and Cuban migrant operations.
She also deployed to Haiti, leading a task force in support of U.N. missions.
Following the events of 9/11, Burke balanced competing requirements to support plans, exercises and operations throughout the area of operations, as well as operations in the Middle East.
When assigned to the Special Operations Command as chief for the Psychological Operations Concept Development Branch, she coordinated plans and programs supporting Department of Defense information operations during the War on Terror.
She later served as chief for the plans and program division of Joint PSYOP Support Element and deployed as chief of staff for Combined Task Force Fervent Archer, leading a mission in the Balkans in support of Special Operations Command-Europe.
Col. Michael Seidl
Retired Col. Michael Seidl commissioned in the Army in May 1979 as an armor officer and was assigned to the 4th Psychological Operations Group in June 1994. He served the next 15 years in psychological operation positions including at the Pentagon as the director for military information support operations and psychological operations.
In December 1995, Seidl deployed to Bosnia as the first operations officer for the Combined Joint Implementation Force information campaign task force for implementation of the Dayton Accords, a peace agreement among the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia, ending the war in Bosnia.
He took command of the 6th Psychological Operations Battalion in 1999 and was the first psychological task force commander to the NATO Headquarters in Kosovo.
From 2001 to 2003, he served as deputy commander for the 4th Psychological Operations Group and was assigned to operations for the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command in 2003.
Sgt. Maj. Neil Heupel
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Heupel entered the military in August 1975.
He served in the Marine Corps for four years before joining the North Dakota National Guard in 1982, where he served for seven years before joining the Army Reserve.
Heupel served as command sergeant major for several units including the 13rth Psychological Operations Battalion, 353rd Civil Affairs Command and U.S. Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command.
He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, deploying with the 353rd Civil Affairs Command from September 2004 to May 2005.
His last military assignment with the Psychological Operation’s Commandant’s Office at the U.S. Army Special Warfare Center and School’s U.S. Army Reserve liaison.
Heupel also worked as an architect for 20 years and as a Department of the Army civilian serving as a strategic panner for Psychological Operations at the U.S. Civil Affairs Operations Command at Fort Bragg.
Retired 1st Sgt. Donald Barton joined the Army in June 1974, serving in various positions — from assistant gunner to a platoon sergeant and serving with the 1st Armored Division and 1st Cavalry Division.
In 1981, Barton reenlisted Army Reserve and reclassified as a psychological operations specialist.
In 1993, he returned to active duty and was assigned at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School and served two years as a psychological operations collective training developer and writer.
In 1997, he was assigned to Pacific Command Battalion, 4th Psychological Operations Group and served as the battalion's first operations sergeant.
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In 2001, he was assigned to 8th Army Headquarters in Seoul, Korea, followed by a 2002 assignment to the Pacific Command as a battalion operations sergeant.
In 2003, Barton served in the JFK Special Warfare Center School’s Career Management Field in the Directorate of Special Operations Proponent, where he initiated several proposals that contributed to the health of the force.
He retired after 36 years of service and currently serves as a civilian management analyst in the personnel proponent of the Civil Affairs commandant's office.
Psychological Operations honorary members
Master Sgt. Aubrey LaFosse
Master Sgt. Aubrey LaFosse joined the Army in May 2007 and is assigned as a clarinetist to the Army Band, Pershing’s Own, where she’s spent her Army career.
She’s provided musical support for full honor funerals at Arlington Cemetery and military and diplomatic ceremonies in Washington D.C, including the White House and Pentagon.
Ronald Archer joined the Southern Command’s Strategic Studies Detachment, 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg, in 1997.
He has written classified studies represented in the 4th Psychological Operations Group and 8th Psychological Operations Group.
He is currently a senior psychological operations intelligence analyst, with responsibility for Columbia and Ardean Ridge countries of Latin America, as well as Panama and Afghanistan.
In 2013, he became the deputy chief of the 1st Military information Support Battalion Cultural Intelligence Cell.
In 2018, he became the chief of the 1st Psychological Operations Battalion Cultural Intelligence Cell.
He has deployed more than 100 times since 1997 for nearly 2,300 days to Columbia, Afghanistan, Panama, Central America and the Caribbean in support of psychological operations.
Master Sgt. James Kazik
Master Sgt. James Kazik is the chief arranger and music support group leader of the Army Band, Pershing’s Own.
Kazik enlisted in the Army in 2001 and has written more than 400 arrangements and compositions in support of high visibility missions including five presidential inaugurations, three presidential state funerals and general officer retirement ceremonies.
More: Who are Fort Bragg’s buildings and roads named after?
In 2004, he wrote original music in support of the commemoration of the World War II memorial in Washington D.C.
Kazik has written several pop arrangements in support of the sergeant major of the Army’s “Hope and Freedom” tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kazik also composed original music regimental marches to the Joint Task Force Civil Support, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, and the Psychological Operation Regiment March and song “Libertas et Veritas.”
Distinguished Members of Civil Affairs Regiment
Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Irizarry II
Retired Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Irizarry II served in the military for 36 years, retiring in August 2015.
He’s served as deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Army Reserve Command and Chief, Readiness Office of the Chief of Army Reserve.
His other assignments include executive officer for the undersecretary of the Army; commander of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade; chief of staff for the Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command; director of Army Special Operations Forces Proponency; and chief of civil affairs-civil affairs military operations training and doctrine development.
Irizarry also served as deputy commanding general for the JFK Special Warfare Center and School where he was responsible for coordinating the accreditation and recognition of the school as a training Center of Excellence.
His tour in support of contingency operations includes those to Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan with joint and multi-national units.
Brig. Gen. Cornelius Wickersham
Brig. Gen. Cornelius Wickersham enlisted in the New York National Guard in July 1915 and commissioned as a second lieutenant Sept. 13, 1916.
He served on the Mexican border in 1916 then deployed to France in February 1918.
Wickersham’s assignments included those with the 27th Infantry Division and Reserves.
More: These are the stories of Fort Bragg's Medal of Honor recipients
In March 1942, he became the first commandant of the School of Military Government at the University of Virginia, where he pioneered the Army’s first professional civil affairs education that continues today at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School.
In January 1944, Wickersham deployed to England and served as a U.S. military representative to the European Advisory Commission which planned the post-war occupation of Germany.
He was deputy commander of the U.S. Group Control Council in 1944 and assistant deputy military governor until May 1945.
He continued to serve as a lieutenant general in the New York National Guard until his retirement in June 1948.
Wickersham died Jan. 31, 1968.
Col. James Wolff
Retired Col. James Wolff commissioned as a military police officer in 1987 and served as a platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
He was assigned to the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion after attending Naval Post Graduate School in 1994.
Wolff served as a civil affairs team leader, company operations officer, delta company commander and battalion executive officer, before serving on the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Enduring Iraqi Freedom.
He deployed to Iraq as chief of operations for the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance Southern Region and served as chief of civil administration for the Coalition Provisional Authority South-Central Region.
Wolff returned to Fort Bragg to command the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion from June 2004 to June 2005, followed by becoming the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade’s deputy commanding officer and commanding the brigade from June 2010 to June 2012.
He also had assignments with the U.S. Special Operations Command with duty as the operations officer in the Office of Military Affairs, U.S. Agency for International Development.
Wolff was commandant for the Civil Affairs Regiment in 2014 and was the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s chief of staff for strategy and plans the same year.
He also served as a senior advisor for the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service from February 2016 to March 2017.
Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3528.
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The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
The building has withstood the test of time. It has seen generations of Marines enter and leave its halls. It has seen Marines off to several wars from the shores of Pacific Islands, the mountains of North Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of the Middle East. It has served as the operational and cultural epicenter of the 1st Marine Division — the most storied and consequential Division in the United States Marine Corps. It has seen its share of history both for the division and the Corps.
The building has even been reviewed as a historical site, still bearing the simple style and white paint associated with World War II era buildings, which were originally meant to be temporary. Few of its kind are still standing across the nation, yet it remains, bold in both color and design, while its peers have been replaced over the decades. If you walk through the musty halls that were once treaded by the likes of Chesty Puller and James Mattis, you can see the artwork — paintings of past commanders, old battle scenes ripped from the pages of history and photos of Marines from modern wars.
“It’s a unique building,” said Colonel Christopher S. Dowling, former Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Division. “When it was built in 1942-1943 it was supposed to only last five years, five years — that was it.”
U.S. Marine Corps Col. Christopher S. Dowling.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Audrey M. C. Rampton)
Humanity creates things that last; tools which pass through dozens of hands before becoming worn beyond use, structures that stand strong for decades, centuries and even several millennia. There are also occasions where we make things for a simple and easy use, where they are only meant to last for short periods of time. Building 1133 of Camp Pendleton, better known as “the white house” was one such structure. Acting as both a headquarters and administration building for the growing conflict in the Pacific, it even expanded to accommodate the needs of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions that also participated in World War II’s Pacific Theatre.
“The sergeant major’s office is my favorite room,” said USMC Sgt. Maj. William T. Sowers, former sergeant major of the 1st Marine Division. “The amount of detail in the wood and the fire place gives it that really old feeling and gives off the air of a museum.”
In the early years it did not have the nickname “the white house”. It stood amongst many buildings that were painted the same cheap, bare off-white and was not unique beyond its purpose. Styled like many of the buildings to ensure the security of the command, it served many Marines throughout the Pacific for the course of World War II.
The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)
The structure grew upon the Marines that called it home and in 1946 it was officially ordained the 1st Marine Division Headquarters building. This would lead to it being modified decades later, not once, but twice to ensure the building could continue to function and support the many Marines that passed through its halls. Though the renovations have ensured the building has stayed with both the times and technology of the era from phone wiring to internet within its walls, its overall structure and design are still the same as it was when first built.
“It was not as iconic to us during our time,” said U.S. Marine Corps Retired General Matthew P. Caulfield. “We never knew it as ‘the white house’. We never thought about the fact it was the division command post during World War II. We simply knew it as the place we work, though we sometimes referred to it as ‘the head shed’.”
Due to the era in which ‘the white house’ was made, there were many developmental needs required of it during that time. One of the largest was the need to withstand a possible attack. A Japanese invasion of the U.S. was a realistic threat in the 40s. To ensure the safety of the command staff, the building was meant to be indistinguishable from the rest. To those born in the last 40 years, the very concept of a military attack on the U.S. is simply something that would not and could not happen. But in 1940, when Camp Pendleton was officially opened, thousands of Marines marched up from San Diego for combat exercises against a fake enemy. It caused a panic within the civilian population. People initially thought a Japanese invasion had occurred. The base’s presence even led to a drop in the housing market, a fact that is inconceivable to most Southern California home owners today.
The main gate of Camp Pendleton.
The threat of attack from the skies influenced much of what would become Camp Pendleton as we know it today. The camps on base are spread wide across the camp’s more than 195 square miles, originally designed to protect the base from being crippled in one decisive airstrike, according to Dowling. In the attics of the White House and other buildings from the era, there is still evidence of the original plywood roofing used. Pressed wood was used at the time for two reasons: actual wood planks were in immediate need to build and replace decks of Navy ships, and pressed wood was less likely to create deadly wood debris if the buildings were stuck by a Japanese bomber.
“The white house” was designed by Myron B. Hunt, Harold C. Chambers and E. L. Ellingwood. Their firms handled the development of several buildings across Camp Pendleton during the 1940s. Based on the U.S. Navy B-1 barracks, which was a common design to further make the building indistinguishable from other building on base at the time, making it less of a target for Japanese bombers after Pearl Harbor. Few of these barracks are still left standing after the 70 plus years since their development. The B-1, much like its sibling structure, “the white house” was only a temporary design meant to last for the duration of the war. In 1983 congress would pass the Military Construction Authorization Bill of 1983, which demolished many of the older temporary structures of World War II in favor of new designs. Some structures were renovated due to their historical significance. “The white house” interior was included in these renovations. The building underwent changes to its exterior but maintained its current shape with only a few minor changes.
Since its construction many people have entered “the white house” and many more have driven past it. It is an iconic symbol of the 1st Marine Division with dozens of memorials surrounding it, capturing the sacrifice of every Marine who fought with the Division during its many battles through our history. From officers arriving at its doors in 1940 Ford staff cars, to 1968 Volkswagen Beatles, and even more recently, a 2018 name your make and model. When one steps out of their vehicle, they would gaze up at the white building marked by the iconic blue diamond and the battle streamers the division has earned.
The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, May 17, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)
In the old days it would support the entire command staff, but now much of the command is spread out across Camp Pendleton. Many Blue Diamond alum have even thought of making it into a museum, given the many historical pieces that already line its halls. It gives off that feeling of having entered a place engrained with history.
“The iconic building of the ‘Blue Diamond,’ it is the division,” said Sowers. “Many people assume that this is the main command post for the Marine Expeditionary Force or even the Marine Corps Installations West.”
Many of the older veterans were not using to dealing with the commands of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Sowers. When they thought of “the white house” they’d think of the commanding general who presided over all they knew of the Marines on the West Coast at that time.
Generals, majors, sergeants and lance corporals have walked its halls over the last 70 years. Some still live amongst us while others have given the ultimate sacrifice. Their memories and actions live through both the 1st Marine Division and “the white house” itself, which has been an unchanging monument to the Marines of the 1st Marine Division. No matter the age in which one served the Division, all have known that building in one way or another. It is a testament to both the Division and the Marines that have served. Our ideals have become engrained into its very structure and it has become a permanent member in both the hearts and minds of the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.
This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
More on We are the Mighty
The First Marine Division was one of the first two division-sized unit ever formed by the Corps. It was established in February 1941 aboard the USS Texas in Cuba around the nucleus of the pre-war First Marine Brigade. The Division's first commander was the amphibious warrior, BrigGen Holland M. Smith. There was no record of an activation ceremony since the division was deep in the preparations for FLEX 7, the last of the pre-war fleet landing exercises. On completion of the exercises, the Old Breed redeployed to Marine Corps Base, Quantico. Due to shortages of barracks there, the Seventh Marines was billeted at Marine Corps Base, Parris Island. In June 1941, the entire First Marine Division moved into garrison at the newly established Marine base at New River, North Carolina. MajGen Phillip Torrey took command the same month and the Division continued the serious business of expansion and training.
Outbreak of World War 2
When war came in December 1941, only 8,918 Marines were assigned to the Old Breed, far short of the authorized strength of almost 20,000. In March 1942, the Third Marine Brigade, organized around the Seventh Marines, sailed for Western Samoa. In May 1942, the rest of the Division sailed from Norfolk Naval Base bound for New Zealand. Arriving in June 1942, the Division was alerted for combat operations in the South Pacific.
On 7 August 1942 the First Marine Division landed at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands under the command of MajGen Alexander Vandegrift. So began Operation WATCHTOWER, the first major ground offensive of the war. This was a misnomer in reality, since the Division went into a defensive cordon around Henderson Field, an important American airbase on the island. The fighting around Guadalcanal, called simply "the 'canal" by Marines, quickly evolved into a complex series of air, ground and sea actions.
The First Marine Division found itself short of food, fuel, water and ammunition. Forced to subsist on captured Japanese rations, the Marines were pummeled by long range enemy artillery, nicknamed "Pistol Pete." They also endured some of the heaviest naval gunfire barrages and air raids of the war. In one of the most desperate fights of the war, Marines on Edson's Ridge stood firm against wave after wave of suicidal Japanese attackers on Edson's Ridge during the night of 13-14 September 1942. Before the battle, Col Merritt "Red Mike" Edson told his Marines, "There it is. It is useless to ask ourselves why it is we who are here. We are here. There is only us between the airfield and the Japs. If we don’t hold, we will lose Guadalcanal." They held.
Ravaged by malaria and malnutrition, the Old Breed pulled off of the 'canal between December 1942 and February 1943. They went into garrison in Australia, first to Brisbane, and then to Melbourne. The Marines fell in love with Australian, and the Aussies reciprocated the affection. Almost all of the young Americans would remember their stay down under as one of the happiest periods of their lives. Of course, they weren't there for a vacation. Instead, the Old Breed built its strength as it rested and refitted in preparation for future combat. While in Australia, the Division band adopted the song "Waltzing Matilda" as a favorite and it soon become the official song of the First Marine Division. MajGen William Rupertus assumed command of the Division in the summer of 1943.
On 26 December 1943, the Division landed at Cape Gloucester on New Britain. As part of the campaign to secure New Guinea, the combat on New Britain took place in some of the most rugged terrain anywhere on earth. Clothing, paper, leather — it all quickly rotted or fell apart in the intense humidity and heavy rainfall. Weapons and ammunition corroded almost in front of men's eyes. Marines moved out from the beach head into the almost impenetrable jungle to locate and destroy the Japanese defenders. Securing Hill 150, Aogiri Ridge and Hill 660, the Division's infantry regiments secured a lodgment around the landing beaches at Borgen Bay.
During April 1944 the Old Breed deployed to its new home on Pavuvu in the Russell Islands. Pavuvu was a far cry from the bright lights of Melbourne and the Division's Marines were bitterly disappointed when they first set eyes on Pavuvu. It was a tropical hole infested with sand crabs and covered by coconut plantations. The first order of business was to erect a tent city and clear out the millions of rotting coconuts that covered the ground. Entire battalions turned to in working parties to lay crushed coral roads and trails without any mechanized support. It was backbreaking work, but at least Pavuvu was free of malaria. One of the most pleasant memories of that time for most of the Division's Marines was Bob Hope's USO show just before the next operation.
On 15 September 1944, the First Marine Division assaulted Peleliu in the Palaus group. This campaign had only been expected to last for three days, but ultimately took over two months before the island was secured. By the time it was relieved by the Army's 81st Infantry Division on 16 October 1944, the Old Breed had been burned out by the deeply entrenched Japanese defenders. Only a few points off the equator, Peleliu was a brutally hot and humid place under the best of conditions. Air support stripped much of the vegetation from the island's ridges, leaving naked coral that blazed from the heat and offered little concealment. To add to all the other dangers on Peleliu, many Marines were killed or wounded by flying shards of broken coral, propelled at high speed from explosions.
Return to Pavuvu
The Division returned to Pavuvu in October 1944 and MajGen Pedro DelValle assumed command the following month. Once again, the Division rebuilt and prepared for another campaign. After Peleliu, some of the old timers from the Guadalcanal days said goodbye to their buddies and shoved off for assignments stateside. Replacements streamed in to fill the depleted ranks. Training was the order of the day and units marched around and around on the Shore Road around Pavuvu. Each Marine qualified with his individual weapon and practiced the old skills; shooting, maneuvering, communications.
Again, the Old Breed moved out, this time bound for Okinawa, a major island in the Ryukus only 350 miles from the southern Japanese home island of Kyushu. In the largest amphibious assault of World War II, Marine and Army units — among them the First Marine Division — landed on the Hagushi beaches on 1 April 1945. For most of April, the First was employed in a hard-driving campaign to secure the northern sections of Okinawa. On 30 April 1945, that all ended when the Old Breed went into the lines against the teeth of the Japanese defenses on the southern front.
The Division smashed up against the Shuri Line, and in a series of grinding attacks under incessant artillery fire, reduced one supporting position after another. As May wore on, heavy rains flooded the battlefield into a sea of mud, making life misery for all hands. meanwhile, Japanese kamikaze attackers exacted a fearsome toll from the supporting ships offshore. Finally, on 31 May 1945, Marines of the First completed the occupation of Shuri Castle, nothing more than a pile of rubble after so many days of unrelenting combat.
Under the overall command of Tenth Army, the Division continued the push south against the newly established enemy positions around Kunishi Ridge. Marine tank-infantry teams adopted a technique called "processing" to destroy Japanese positions with flame and demolitions. Finally, organized resistance ended on 21 June when the last Japanese defenses were breached. By now, many of the Old Breed's battalions had been reduced to nothing more than small rifle companies.
End of War and China Assignment
Rumors swept through the ranks that the Division would ship out for Hawaii, even as units fanned out across the battlefield for the dirty job of mopping-up. But hopes were dashed when the Marines learned they wouldn't be sailing for an exotic post of call. Instead, they were ordered to remain establish camps on Okinawa. Every member of the Division was bitterly disappointed, but one Marine was reputed to have said, "Well, dammit, if they can dish it our, I can take it."
Events moved quickly in the summer of 1945. Expecting a protracted and brutal assault against the Japanese home islands, the Old Breed got a new lease on life with the end of the war in August 1945. On 30 September, the Division was ordered to Hopeh Province, China, for occupation duty. With its headquarters in Tientsin, the Old Breed remained in China until 1947.
Returning stateside for the first time in almost seven years, the Division was based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. In the future, the First Marine Division would again receive the call to duty in many climes and places; from the frozen hills of Korea to Vietnam's tropical jungles and the deserts of the Middle East. The World War II era members of the Division set a high standard of sacrifice and devotion to duty that were a beacon to every Marine and Sailor who would later serve with the Old Breed.
"Up there on the line, with nothing between us and the enemy but space (and precious little of that) we'd forged a bond that time would never erase. We were brothers." - With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa by E. B. Sledge
1st Marine Regiment
The 1st Marines stood at a low state of readiness at the beginning of the war having just been reconstituted from cadre status however they did possess very strong leadership at the higher levels. They set sail from the San Francisco in June 1942 on board a mix of eight ships headed for the South Pacific. The 1st Marines landed on the island of Guadalcanal, part of the Solomon Islands, on August 7, 1942 and would fight in the Battle of Guadalcanal until relieved on December 8, 1942.
Some of the heaviest action the regiment would see on Guadalcanal took place on August 21, 1942 during the Battle of the Tenaru, which was the first Japanese counter-attack of the campaign. Following their first campaign, the regiment was sent to Melbourne, Australia to rest and refit. During their stay there they were billeted in the Melbourne Cricket Ground until leaving in September 1943.
The 1st Marines would next see action during Operation Cartwheel which was the codename for the campaigns in Eastern New Guinea and New Britain. The regiment would be the first ashore at the Battle of Cape Gloucester on December 26, 1943. They fought on New Britain until February 1944 at such places as Suicide Creek and Ajar Ridge.
The next battle for the 1st Marines would be the bloodiest yet at the Battle of Peleliu. The regiment landed on September 15, 1944 as part of the 1st Marine Division's assault on the island. The division's commanding general, Major General William H. Rupertus had predicted the fighting would be, "...tough but short. It'll be over in three of four days - a fight like Tarawa. Rough but fast. Then we can go back to a rest area.".
The 1st Marines fought on Peleliu for 10 days before being pulled off the lines after suffering 56% casualties and no longer being combat effective. The regiment was decimated by heavy artillery and accurate small arms fire in the vicinity of Bloody Nose Ridge. Repeated frontal assaults with fixed bayonets failed to unseat the Japanese defenders from the 14th Division (Imperial Japanese Army). Ten days of fighting on Peleliu cost the 1st Marine Regiment 1,749 casualties.
The last World War II engagement for the regiment was the Battle of Okinawa.
In September 1945, the 1st Marines deployed to North China to take part in the garrisoning of the area and in the repatriation of former enemy personnel. It remained in China until February 1949. They returned to Camp Pendleton and were deactivated on October 1, 1949, only to be reactivated one year later.
5th Marine Regiment
After the outbreak of war, 5th Marines deployed to Wellington, New Zealand in June 1942. During World War II they fought on Guadalcanal, New Britain, Eastern New Guinea, Peleliu and Okinawa. Immediately following the war in September 1945 they deployed to Tientsin, China and participated in the occupation of North China until May 1947. They were redeployed to Guam in May 1947 and reassigned to the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade. In 1949 they were relocated to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. It is the most highly decorated regiment in the Marine Corps.
7th Marine Regiment
On 1 January 1941, the 7th Marine Regiment was re-activated at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The regiment moved to what is today Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. On 18 September 1942 the regiment landed in the Solomon Islands on Guadalcanal. For four long months the regiment relentlessly attacked the Japanese defenders and repulsed banzai charges and suicidal attacks. During the Battle of Guadalcanal the heroism of Medal Of Honor recipient "Manila John" Basilone, Mitchell Paige, and Navy Cross recipient Lewis "Chesty" Puller, represented the actions of the Marines of the 7th Marine Regiment.
Arriving in Australia in January 1943, the vast majority of the regiment suffered from malaria, wounds or fatigue.
Again and again the Regiment was called upon to storm the Japanese-held islands in the Pacific. The Seventh Marine Regiment fought in such places as Eastern New Guinea, New Britain, "Bloody Peleliu" and the island fortress of Okinawa. 7th Marines saw intense fighting on the island of Okinawa where they would sustain 700 Marines killed or wounded in the fighting to take Dakeshi Ridge and another 500 killed or wounded in the fighting near Wana Ridge.
After the surrender of Japan, 7th Marines took part in the Occupation of Northern China from 30 September 1945 through 5 January 1947. They returned to MCB Camp Pendleton, California in January 1947 and were reassigned to the 1st Marine Division. The regiment was deactivated on 6 March 1947 as part of the Marine Corps' draw down of forces after the war. 7th Marines however was quickly reactivated on 1 October 1947 but only as a shell of its former self as it consisted of only four companies. Company "C" deployed to China from 2 May through 23 June 1949 to safeguard the withdrawal of Americans and was the last element of Fleet Marine Force to depart China.
11th Marine Regiment
With the approach of World War II and the consequent expansion of the Marine Corps, an 11th Marines (Artillery) was activated at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on 1 March 1941. Activation of the regiment's organic battalions already had been underway since 1 September 1940 when the 1st Battalion was created. After its return to the United States from Cuba, the regiment (less the 1st Battalion) shipped overseas with the 1st Marine Division to New Zealand in June-July 1942. The 1st Battalion went to Samoa with the 7th Marine Regiment in March 1942.
The 11th Marines participated in the Battle of Guadalcanal in August with the 1st Marine Division and played an especially significant part in the Battle of the Tenaru and the Battle of Bloody Ridge. The 1st Battalion rejoined the regiment in September on Guadalcanal. On 15 December 1942, the 11th Marines left Guadalcanal for Australia, rested and reorganized, and then reentered combat on New Britain at Cape Gloucester on 26 December 1943. Here the regiment furnished support to the infantry in their capture of the Japanese aerodrome. Following the New Britain campaign came a period of preparation for the Peleliu landing where the regiment was actively engaged.
For the first two weeks after the initial landing on 15 September 1944, the regiment took part in the Battle of Peleliu. All artillery support was handled both novelly and conventionally, providing massed preparatory, harassing, and interdicting fire. Later, the artillery was used to fire directly into the mouths of enemy caves. In March 1945, the 11th Marines participated in the Battle of Okinawa, its final combat operation of World War II. There the regiment played an important defensive role with effective counter-battery fire, and steadily suppressed enemy attempts to counter-attack objectives already won by U.S. forces. With the war won, in the fall of 1945 the 11th Marines moved to Tianjin in North China where it was soon involved in trying to keep peace in the midst of the increasing conflict between rival Chinese factions. Early in 1947, the regiment returned to the United States to be reduced virtually to a battalion-sized unit.
The Story of the Division Patch
The First Marine Division was never really a green outfit in the sense of a newly formed military unit. When it was activated early in 1941, the Division was filled by Old Corps Marines with many years of expeditions and campaigning behind them. Filled with these Leathernecks, many with service going back to World War I, the Divisional name, "The Old Breed," made its way into common usage. The name fit, and it stuck.
Through the war, many of the old timers were killed, wounded, or became sick in the harsh conditions of the Pacific. But they left an indelible stamp on their Division that endured long after they had packed their seabags.
Except for the interlude of 1943 in Australia, the First Marine Division spent its years of service in austere conditions. This helped cement its inner feeling of being somehow different and set apart from the rest of the Marine Corps. The Divisional history noted that, "We never really came out of the boondocks..."
The story of how the Divisional patch was adopted is described on pages 143-144 of The Old Breed, by George McMillan:
"They sat in facing bucket seats, between the litter of packs, seabags, typewriters, briefcases — the kinds of things that staff officers would necessarily bring out of battle.
General Vandegrift had begun to be a little bored with the monotony of the long plane ride. "Twining," he said, "what are you doing?"
"An idea I have for a shoulder patch," said Twining. "The stars are the Southern Cross."
Vandegrift looked at it for a moment, scribbled something on it, and handed it back to Twining, who saw the word, "Approved," with the initials, "A.A.V."
They had been on the ride from Guadalcanal to Brisbane. Because the first few days in Australia were hectic, Twining did nothing else about the patch until one morning he was called into Vandegrift's office.
"Well, Twining, where's your patch?" Vandegrift asked to the discomfort of Twining.
"I bought a box of water colors," Twining says in recalling the incident, "and turned in with malaria. I made six sketches, each with a different color scheme. In a couple of days I went back to the General with my finished drawings. He studied them only a minute or so and then approved the one that is now the Division patch."
Twining knew there was more to his mission. He placed an order for a hundred thousand with the Australian subsidiary of an American woven name manufacturer although money was one of the things the Division did not have when it arrived in Australia.
"I convinced the Army PX people that they should supply credit until our outfit could get some folding money," Twining remarks.
The patches went on sale in February , three weeks after Vandegrift approved Twining's design."
20 June 1942-Wellington Harbor, New Zealand. MajGen A. A. Vandegrift, CG, 1st MarDiv, (wearing overcoat) and BrigGen William Rupertus, ADC, 1st MarDiv, (foreground) debark from the USS Wakefield (AP-21). Still image from USMC motion picture film
20 June 1942-Wellington Harbor, New Zealand. MajGen Vandegrift (wearing overcoat), and BrigGen Rupertus (center), confer dockside after debarkation. Still image from USMC motion picture film
20 June 1942-Wellington Harbor, New Zealand. Troops of the 1st MarDiv debark from their transport after over a month at sea. Most of them wear the winter service uniform and they are still equipped with the M1903 rifle. Still image from USMC motion picture film
20 June 1942-At their new camp outside of Wellington, Marines of the 1st MarDiv find their bunks under the watchful eye of their platoon sergeant. The Marine standing in the door is a BAR man and his NCO carried a Reising submachine gun. The division only stayed in New Zealand for a very short time. Still image from USMC motion picture film
Lt Col Lewis B. Puller marches at the head of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, during the campaign for Guadalcanal, 1942. Puller earned the third of his six Navy Crosses while commanding 1/7 on the 'canal, and he was wounded in action there. Still image from USMC motion picture film
During a visit to Guadalcanal in 1942, Adm Chester Nimitz, CINCPAC, decorates Col Merritt 'Red Mike' Edson with the Navy Cross for heroism in action while in command of the 1st Raider Battalion in the assault on Tulagi from 7-9 August 1942. Still image from USMC motion picture film
A posed shot of 1st MarDiv troops reading their mail, Melbourne, Australia, 1943. Australian War Memorial
A 6 x 6 truck of 3rd Bn, 17th Marines, plows through the morass of a trail at Cape Gloucester, 1944. Australian War Memorial
Down From Bloody Nose Ridge, by Tom Lea, depicting a combat fatigued Marine of the 1st MarDiv on Peleliu. In the background is the Umurbrogal complex. Lea wrote of this subject: "As we passed sick bay, still in the shell hole, it was crowded with wounded, and somehow hushed in the evening light. I noticed a tattered Marine standing quietly by a corpsman, staring stiffly at nothing. His mind had crumbled in battle, his jaw hung, and his eyes were like two black empty holes in his head. Down by the beach again, we walked silently as we passed the long line of dead Marines under the tarpaulins." U. S. Army Art Collection
Sundown at Peleliu by Tom Lea. U. S. Army Art Collection
1 April 1945, L-Day on Okinawa. An infantry Marine moves across the beach under cover of an LVT(A)-4 amphibian tank. Still image from USMC motion picture film
1945-Marines in combat on southern Okinawa. The First and Sixth Marine Divisions fought in this, the last campaign of the war. The island's rugged terrain posed an extreme challenge that required the utmost in courage and tactics. Still image from USMC motion picture film
A First Marine Division NCO presents the image of soldierly appearance and bearing. On his left shoulder is displayed the Divisional patch. USMC Photo
Sgt Lloyd Crusan was part of the first group of Old Breed Marines to rotate home in 1944 after over two years in the Pacific. he was a veteran of the campaigns for Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester and earned the Navy Cross in January 1944. Here Crusan is being fitted for a new set of dress greens at MCB, San Diego. The tailor is checking the position of the First Marine Division patch and rank insignia. Leatherneck Magazine
First Marine Division Medal of Honor ceremony at Balcombe, Australia, 21 May 1943. In this photo are the first Marines of the Division to receive America's highest honor in World War II. L-R: MajGen A. A. Vandegrift, Col Merritt Edson, 2ndLt Mitchell Paige, PltSgt John Basilone USMC Photo