Overview of the History of the Marine Corps
On November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia passed a resolution stating that "two Battalions of Marines be raised" for service as landing forces with the fleet. This resolution, established the Continental Marines and marked the birth date of the United States Marine Corps. Serving on land and at sea, these first Marines distinguished themselves in a number of important operations, including their first amphibious raid into the Bahamas in March 1776, under the command of Captain (later Major) Samuel Nicholas. Nicholas, the first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines, remained the senior Marine officer throughout the American Revolution and is considered to be the first Marine Commandant. The Treaty of Paris in April 1783 brought an end to the Revolutionary War and as the last of the Navy's ships were sold, the Continental Navy and Marines went out of existence.
Following the Revolutionary War and the formal re-establishment of the Marine Corps on 11 July 1798, Marines saw action in the quasi-war with France, landed in Santo Domingo, and took part in many operations against the Barbary pirates along the "Shores of Tripoli". Marines participated in numerous naval operations during the War of 1812, as well as participating in the defense of Washington at Bladensburg, Maryland, and fought alongside Andrew Jackson in the defeat of the British at New Orleans. The decades following the War of 1812 saw the Marines protecting American interests around the world, in the Caribbean, at the Falkland Islands, Sumatra and off the coast of West Africa, and also close to home in the operations against the Seminole Indians in Florida.
During the Mexican War (1846-1848), Marines seized enemy seaports on both the Gulf and Pacific coasts. A battalion of Marines joined General Scott's army at Pueblo and fought all the way to the "Halls of Montezuma," Mexico City. Marines also served ashore and afloat in the Civil War (1861-1865). Although most service was with the Navy, a battalion fought at Bull Run and other units saw action with the blockading squadrons and at Cape Hatteras, New Orleans, Charleston, and Fort Fisher. The last third of the 19th century saw Marines making numerous landings throughout the world, especially in the Orient and in the Caribbean area.
Following the Spanish-American War (1898), in which Marines performed with valor in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, the Corps entered an era of expansion and professional development. It saw active service in the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902), the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900). and in numerous other nations, including Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Mexico, and Haiti.
In World War I the Marine Corps distinguished itself on the battlefields of France as the 4th Marine Brigade earned the title of "Devil Dogs" for heroic action during 1918 at Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Michiel, Blanc Mont, and in the final Meuse-Argonne offensive. Marine aviation, which dates from 1912, also played a part in the war effort, as Marine pilots flew day bomber missions over France and Belgium. More than 30,000 Marines had served in France and more than a third were killed or wounded in six months of intense fighting.
During the two decades before World War II, the Marine Corps began to develop in earnest the doctrine, equipment, and organization needed for amphibious warfare. The success of this effort was proven first on Guadalcanal, then on Bougainville, Tarawa, New Britain, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. By the end of the war in 1945, the Marine Corps had grown to include six divisions, five air wings, and supporting troops. Its strength in World War II peaked at 485,113. The war cost the Marines nearly 87,000 dead and wounded and 82 Marines had earned the Medal of Honor.
While Marine units took part in the post-war occupation of Japan and North China, studies were undertaken at Quantico, Virginia, which concentrated on attaining a "vertical envelopment" capability for the Corps through the use of helicopters. Landing at Inchon, Korea in September 1950, Marines proved that the doctrine of amphibious assault was still viable and necessary. After the recapture of Seoul, the Marines advanced to the Chosin Reservoir only to see the Chinese Communists enter the war. After years of offensives, counter-offensives, seemingly endless trench warfare, and occupation duty, the last Marine ground troops were withdrawn in March 1955. More than 25,000 Marines were killed or wounded during the Korean War.
In July 1958, a brigade-size force landed in Lebanon to restore order. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, a large amphibious force was marshaled but not landed. In April 1965, a brigade of Marines landed in the Dominican Republic to protect Americans and evacuate those who wished to leave.
The landing of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Da Nang in 1965 marked the beginning of large-scale Marine involvement in Vietnam. By summer 1968, after the enemy's Tet Offensive, Marine Corps strength in Vietnam rose to a peak of approximately 85,000. The Marine withdrawal began in 1969 as the South Vietnamese began to assume a larger role in the fighting; the last ground forces were out of Vietnam by June 1971. The Vietnam War, longest in the history of the Marine Corps, exacted a high cost as well with over 13,000 Marines killed and more than 88,000 wounded. In the spring of 1975, Marines evacuated embassy staffs, American citizens, and refugees in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. Later, in May 1975, Marines played an integral role in the rescue of the crew of the SS Mayaguez captured off the coast of Cambodia.
The mid-1970s saw the Marine Corps assume an increasingly significant role in defending NATO's northern flank as amphibious units of the 2d Marine Division participated in exercises throughout northern Europe. The Marine Corps also played a key role in the development of the Rapid Deployment Force, a multi-service organization created to insure a flexible, timely military response around the world when needed. The Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS) concept was developed to enhance this capability by prestaging equipment needed for combat in the vicinity of the designated area of operations, and reduce response time as Marines travel by air to link up with MPS assets.
The 1980s brought an increasing number of terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies around the world. Marine Security Guards, under the direction of the State Department, continued to serve with distinction in the face of this challenge. In August 1982, Marine units landed at Beirut, Lebanon, as part of the multi-national peace-keeping force. For the next 19 months these units faced the hazards of their mission with courage and professionalism. In October 1983, Marines took part in the highly successful, short-notice intervention in Grenada. As the decade of the 1980s came to a close, Marines were summoned to respond to instability in Central America. Operation Just Cause was launched in Panama in December 1989 to protect American lives and restore the democratic process in that nation.
Less than a year later, in August 1990, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait set in motion events that would lead to the largest movement of Marine Corps forces since World War II. Between August 1990 and January 1991, some 24 infantry battalions, 40 squadrons, and more than 92,000 Marines deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield. Operation Desert Storm was launched 16 January 1991, the day the air campaign began. The main attack came overland beginning 24 February when the 1st and 2d Marine Divisions breached the Iraqi defense lines and stormed into occupied Kuwait. By the morning of February 28, 100 hours after the ground war began, almost the entire Iraqi Army in the Kuwaiti theater of operations had been encircled with 4,000 tanks destroyed and 42 divisions destroyed or rendered ineffective.
Overshadowed by the events in the Persian Gulf during 1990-91, were a number of other significant Marine deployments demonstrating the Corps' flexible and rapid response. Included among these were non-combatant evacuation operations in Liberia and Somalia and humanitarian lifesaving operations in Bangladesh, the Philippines, and northern Iraq. In December 1992, Marines landed in Somalia marking the beginning of a two-year humanitarian relief operation in that famine-stricken and strife-torn nation. In another part of the world, Marine Corps aircraft supported Operation Deny Flight in the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina. During April 1994, Marines once again demonstrated their ability to protect American citizens in remote parts of the world when a Marine task force evacuated U.S. citizens from Rwanda in response to civil unrest in that country. Closer to home, Marines went ashore in September 1994 in Haiti as part of the U.S. force participating in the restoration of democracy in that country. During this same period Marines were actively engaged in providing assistance to the Nation's counter-drug effort, assisting in battling wild fires in the western United States, and aiding in flood and hurricane relief operations.
During the late 1990's, Marine Corps units deployed to several African nations, including Liberia, the Central African Republic, Zaire, and Eritrea, in order to provide security and assist in the evacuation of American citizens, during periods of political and civil instability in those nations. Humanitarian and disaster relief operations were also conducted by Marines during 1998 on Kenya, and in the Central American nations of Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. In 1999, Marine units deployed to Kosovo in support of Operations Allied Force.
The Marine Corps continues its tradition of innovation to meet the challenges of a new century. The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory was created in 1995 to evaluate change, assess the impact of new technologies on warfighting, and expedite the introduction of new capabilities into the operating forces of the Marine Corps. Exercises such as "Hunter Warrior," and "Urban Warrior" were designed to explore future tactical concepts, and to examine facets of military operations in urban environments.
Today's Marine Corps stands ready to continue in the proud tradition of those who so valiantly fought and died at Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir, and Khe Sanh. Combining a long and proud heritage of faithful service to the nation, with the resolve to face tomorrow's challenges will continue to keep the Marine Corps the "best of the best."
Reference Section History and Museums Division August 1999
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MARINE CORPS DURING THE KOREAN WAR
On 25 June 1950, eight divisions of the North Korean People's Army, equipped with Soviet tanks, mobile artillery, and supporting aircraft, crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the Republic of Korea. On 27 June, the United Nations Security Council proclaimed the North Korean attack a breach of world peace, and requested member nations to assist the Republic of Korea.
On 29 June, President Harry S. Truman ordered a naval blockade of the Korean coast, and authorized the Commander in Chief Far East, General Douglas A. MacArthur, to send U.S. ground troops into Korea. On 2 July, General MacArthur formally requested of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that a Marine regimental combat team be deployed to the Far East. His request was approved by the Joint Chiefs on the following day.
On 7 July, the lst Provisional Marine Brigade was activated at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. The primary core of the ground element was the 5th Marines, while Marine Aircraft Group 33 constituted the air element of the brigade. Just five days after its activation, the lst Provisional Marine Brigade, with a strength of 6,500, sailed on 12 July from San Diego, California, enroute to Pusan, Korea.
The first elements of the brigade came ashore at Pusan on 2 August. The next day, the first Marine aviation mission against North Korea was flown from the USS Sicily by gull-winged Corsairs of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 (VMF-214) in a raid against North Korean installations. They were subsequently joined by fighterbombers from Marine Fighting Squadron 323 (VMF-323), flying from the USS Badoeng Strait, as the two squadrons harassed enemy positions and installations. Marine ground forces first engaged the enemy on 7 August at Chindong-ni, some 50 miles west of Pusan. In twelve days of hard fighting, the North Koreans were driven back with heavy losses, and the Pusan Perimeter defense was stabilized.
During the grim opening weeks of the Korean War, while American forces fought desperately in defense of the Pusan Perimeter, General MacArthur was already conceiving a bold stroke that would crush the North Korean People's Army. He planned an amphibious assault behind North Korean lines at Inchon, the port for the city of Seoul and close to both the 38th Parallel and North Korean Army supply lines. The lst Marine Division would spearhead the assault. The attacking force would have to navigate a narrow channel with swift currents, while dodging islands and potential coast defense battery sites. Final approval for the operation, code-named "Chromite," was not given until 8 September.
On 15 September, the lst Marine Division, under the command of Major General Oliver P. Smith led the first major United Nations strike in North Korean territory, with an amphibious assault at Inchon that completely caught the enemy by surprise. In five days of textbook campaigning, the division closed on the approaches of Seoul, the South Korean capital, and in house-to-house fighting, wrested the city from its Communist captors on 27 September. On 7 October 1950, with North Korean forces in full retreat, the Inchon-Seoul campaign was formally declared closed.
In late October, the lst Marine Division made an unopposed landing at Wonsan, on the east coast, which initiated U.N. operations in northeast Korea, and established security for the port of Wonsan. The division was then ordered to advance northwest of Hungnam along a mountain road to the Chosin Reservoir, the site of an important hydroelectric plant; the Marines would then advance to the Yalu River and the border between North Korea and the People's Republic of China.
Despite intelligence in early November that Chinese Communists forces were massing in force across the Yalu River, the lst Marine Division was ordered to continue its progress northwest from Hungnam to the Chosin Reservoir. Elements of the division reached Hagaru-ri, at the southern tip of the Reservoir, on 15 November. The brief autumn weather was almost over, and the temperatures were turning bitterly cold. On 27 November, elements of the Chinese Communist People's Liberation Army struck Marine positions in force. In a carefully planned counterstroke, eight Chinese divisions charged down from surrounding mountains with the express mission of destroying the lst Marine Division.
Over the next four weeks, the Chinese and Marine forces engaged in some of the fiercest fighting of the Korean War. In an epic movement, the 1st Marine Division completed a successful fighting withdrawal through 78 miles of mountain roads in northeast Korea, that ended in mid-December with the amphibious evacuation of the Marines from the port of Hungnam, Korea. Although suffering over 4,000 battle casualties, and uncounted numbers of frostbite, Marine air and ground units had inflicted nearly 25,000 casualties on Chinese Communist forces.
During the first three months of 1951, the lst Marine Division participated in several United Nations offensive operations, first against North Korean guerrillas, and later in an advance through the mountains of east-central Korea. From late April to early July, the division took part in the United Nations defense against a Chinese Communist spring offensive, in which the enemy committed almost 500,000 men against U.N. forces. The Chinese offensive ended in mid-May with heavy enemy losses.
The lst Marine Division then participated in the Eighth Army drive northward past the eastern tip of the Hwachon Reservoir. By 20 June 1951, the division had taken its portion of the X Corps objective, a ridgeline overlooking a deep circular valley in the Korean mountains nicknamed the "Punchbowl." Truce negotiations now began, and the UN forces settled down into a defensive line.
In early September, the division was directed to take the remainder of the Punchbowl. Hampered by rains, poor roads, and a well entrenched enemy, the Marines nevertheless gained their initial objectives in hard fighting, when X Corps suspended offensive operations.
The first Marine mass helicopter resupply mission took place during operations at the Punchbowl on 13 September 1951, when Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron 161 successfully executed Operation Windmill I. Eight days later, the same squadron landed 224 Marines of the division reconnaissance company and 17,772 pounds of cargo on an isolated hilltop at the Punchbowl. In November, the squadron would conduct the first frontline relief of a Marine battalion in Operation Switch.
The winter of 1951 found the lst Marine Division deployed along eleven miles of front just north of the Punchbowl. In mid-March, the division was reassigned from the X Corps' eastern position in Korea, to the I Corps area at the far western end of the Eighth Army line. On 24 March, the division assumed responsibility for approximately 35 miles of frontline, which overlooked Panmunjom and included the defense of the Pyongyang Seoul corridor. The pace of the war now slowed, with small, localized actions, replacing the earlier large-scale offensives.
In mid-August 1952, in the first major Marine ground action in western Korea, the 1st Marine Division began its successful defense of Outpost Bunker Hill. Two months later, during the Battle for the "Hook," the division again defended a segment of the United Nations Main Line of Resistance (MLR). A winter lull during January-February 1953 brought some relief to Marines at the front, while cease-fire talks at Panmunjom remained suspended.
The relative quiet on the front was rudely shattered in late March 1953, when Chinese forces mounted a massive offensive across the United Nations front line that hit 1st Marine Division outposts in their right sector. On 26 March, enemy forces attacked outposts "Reno," "Vegas," and "Carson" (the so-called Nevada Cities campaign), all manned by the 5th Marines. In particularly bitter fighting, Outpost Reno fell to the enemy, but the stubborn 5th Marines maintained control of Outposts Vegas and Carson. Marine casualties totaled over 1,000, with Communist losses at least twice as high.
In late April, truce talks resumed at Panmunjom, which again did not prevent a renewed outbreak of savage fighting in western Korea. While truce details were worked out by negotiators, Communist forces launched a regimental-strength attack against the I Corps sector. Heavy fighting took place in the Nevada Cities and Hook area outposts.
During the first week of July, the command outposts Berlin and East Berlin in the 7th Marines right regimental sector came under attack during the Marines' relief of the US 25th Infantry Division. The Marines did not concede any key terrain, and at 2200 on 27 July, the truce argued out at Panmunjom finally went into effect, ending three years of fighting in Korea.
During the Korean War, units of the lst Marine Aircraft Wing flew more than 125,000 sorties in support of United Nations forces. Almost 40,000 of these sorties were close air support missions. Marine helicopter squadrons evacuated more than 10,000 wounded personnel, and greatly increased the survival rate for wounded Marines.
The price of liberty in human costs is always high, and the Korean War was no exception; Marine casualties totaled over 30,000; just over 4,500 Marines gave their lives in Korea. Forty-two Marines were awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism above and beyond the call of duty in Korea; twenty-seven of these awards were posthumous. Though sometimes viewed as an "indecisive" conflict, the Marine Corps can truly be proud of its role in stemming the tide of Communist aggression during the Korean War.
Reference Section History and Museums Division
U.S. MARINES IN VIETNAM
THE ADVISORY AND COMBAT ASSISTANCE ERA 1954-1964:
For the United States Marine Corps, involvement in the nation's longest war began on 2 August 1954 with the arrival of Lieutenant Colonel Victor J. Croizat as a liaison officer with the newly established United States Military Assistance and Advisory Group to the Republic of Vietnam. For the next eight years Marine activities in Vietnam consisted mainly of advisory and staff responsibilities. This began to change in mid-April 1962 when Marine Medium Squadron HMM-362, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Archie Clapp, deployed to South Vietnam to provide combat service support for the fledgling South Vietnamese army. In the Spring of 1964, Marine Detachment, Advisory Team One, commanded by Major Alfred M. Gray Jr. arrived to collect signals intelligence thereby becoming the first Marine ground unit to arrive in the country.
Following the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in August 1964, the Marine Corps commitment to southeast Asia expanded further. The end of 1964 brought an end to the advisory and assistance phase of the Vietnam War. A crucial turning point had been reached and 1965 brought about a major escalation in Marine combat activities in Vietnam.
THE BUILDUP 1965:
On 22 February 1965 General William C. Westmoreland, USA, Commander, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam requested two Marine battalions to protect the key airbase at Da Nang from increasing threat by the Viet Cong to U.S. installations. In response, on 8 March 1965, the 9th MEB landed at Da Nang. By the end of March, nearly 5,000 Marines were at Da Nang, including two infantry battalions, two helicopter squadrons, and supply and logistics units. In April the U.S. government decided to agreed to deploy still more Marines to Vietnam and to permit those at Da Nang to engage in counterinsurgency operations. In June, Major General Lewis W. Walt arrived to take command of the newly formed III MAF, comprising both the 3d Marine Division and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. By mid-summer, the Marines had moved outside their cantonment at Da Nang and expanded their Area of Responsibility(AOR) to include the Viet Cong infested villages to the south. Marines landed at Chu Lai allowing the 1st Wing to expand to new facilities their and Marble Mountain, home of MAG-36, while MAG-16 remained at the airbase at Da Nang. In August, Marines engaged in their first major offensives against the Viet Cong--operations STARLITE which included the 7th Marines, the vanguard of the 1st Marine Division. The action destroyed one Viet Cong battalion and badly mauled a second. By the end of the year General Walt commanded 42,000 Marines. Despite operational successes, pacification in the densely populated areas in the Marine's AOR remained a difficult process. With no end to the war in sight, the prediction of a Vietnamese soothsayer would come true: 1966 would be a year of a "lot of fighting and killing.
AN EXPANDING WAR 1966:
In 1966, the size of U.S. Marine forces in the Republic of Vietnam continued to increase as the remaining units of the 1st Marine Division, commanded by Major General Lewis J. "Jeff" Fields, arrived from Okinawa to assist in pacifying the southern areas of I Corps. Even with its influx of Marines, a manpower shortage plagued III MAF compounding a already difficult mission. Senior Marine commanders expressed strong disagreement with the conduct of the war by the leadership of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. The Marines pushed for a small scale unit pacification program along the populated coastal areas while the Army leadership in Saigon advocated large unit search and destroy operations against North Vietnamese units. These disagreements further hindered III MAF's ability to conduct effective combat operations.
Despite these problems, the Marines continued to carry the fight to the enemy with several operations, most notably Operations UTAH and TEXAS in southern I Corps and Operation PRAIRIE in the north of I Corps. The Marines continued to refine a novel organizational concept, Combined Action Platoons, which merged a local Vietnamese militia platoon with a Marine infantry squad. The month of March saw the first arrival of CH-46 "Sea Knight" helicopters as a replacement for the aging Sikorsky UH-34 when HMM-46 landed at Marble Mountain, deploying from the USS Valley Forge. Meanwhile Marine fixed wing aircraft continued to strike targets as far north as Hanoi and Haiphong.
The year had brought a major buildup of U.S. Marine forces in Vietnam. Nearly 70,000 Marines were now in country, almost double the number from the pervious year. The hopes of the Marine commanders that the increased troop strength would defeat the enemy proved unrealistic. The coming year would find III MAF's two divisions fighting increasingly different wars, with the 3d Marine Division fighting a more conventional campaign against the North Vietnamese Army near the DMZ in the north of I Corps, while the 1st Marine Division engaged in more counter-guerrilla operations Southern I Corps.
FIGHTING THE VIETNAMESE 1967:
While Marines continued conducting pacification and counter-guerrilla operations, most of the heavy fighting in 1967 raged in the north of I Corps along the DMZ. The 3d Marine Division engaged in heavy conventional fighting around the former Special Forces camp at Khe Sanh in the northwestern I Corps, to "Leatherneck Square" in the eastern DMZ. Simultaneously Marines began construction of the "McNamara Line," a series of strong points, sensors, and obstacles designed to deter and detect Communist incursions across the DMZ. Never completed, the "McNamara Line" drained III MAF of scarce men and materiel. To counter it, the North Vietnamese conducted numerous attacks to destroy it in its infancy, all supported by heavy artillery fire. This resulted in several major engagements during the second half of 1967--most notably at Con Thien. All the while Marine air played a pivotal role in providing fire support while CH-46 and UH-34 helicopters remained the workhorses for logistics support, augmented that year by the first squadron of CH-53 "Sea Stallions."
By year's end III MAF had blunted the North Vietnamese's push across the DMZ. In all U.S. Marines conducted 11 major operations of battalion size or larger and over 356,000 smaller unit patrols and killed nearly 18,000 enemy. But the cost had been high--3,000 Marines killed including the 3d Marine Division commander, Major General Bruno A. Hochmuth. Despite augmentation by the Army's Americal Division, III MAF remained stretched in both men and material. Despite frustrations, the Marines believed they had made significant strides toward pacification during 1967. However, as 1968 approached there were ominous indications of an even larger enemy invasion.
THE DEFINING YEAR 1968:
The year 1968 proved to be the decisive year for the Marines in Vietnam. Instead of the traditional cease-fire for the lunar new year, Tet, the Communists launched a massive offensive against 105 cites and towns throughout South Vietnam. In the north, enemy forces attacked all the major population centers including Da Nang and the old imperial city of Hue. U.S. Marines and South Vietnamese forces repulsed all the attacks except at Hue. It would take 26 days of dogged house-to-house fighting to expel the North Vietnamese regulars from the city, as Marines more accustomed to fighting in the steamy jungle, learned the difficult and bloody lessons of urban warfare.
While Tet raged, another drama was being played out at Khe Sanh. For 77 days the 26th Marines, commanded by Colonel David E. Lownds, held the embattled base against intense pressure by the North Vietnamese, who hurled as many as 1,000 shells a day into the Marine position. President Johnson became so concerned over the siege that he had an exact model of the Khe Sanh base built to monitor the situation on the ground. But Marine tenacity and American air power inflicted grievous losses upon the enemy. On 6 April, the Army's 1st Cavalry Division broke the siege.
1968 marked a turning point for the war in Vietnam. While the enemy had been defeated on the battlefield, American public opinion turned against the war. Television images of the fighting in Hue and Khe Sanh, and even in U.S. Embassy in Saigon eroded public support for the war. After three years of fighting, the enemy still appeared far from beaten. For many Americans, thoughts turned from escalation to winding down war in Vietnam.
HIGH MOBILITY AND STANDDOWN 1969:
From the outset the new President, Richard M. Nixon, committed his administration to reducing the level of U.S. forces in Vietnam. For the Marine Corps this meant a gradual reduction of forces in Vietnam. Incrementally, the Marine Corps began to redeploying their units and by the end of the year, the entire 3d Marine Division had returned to Okinawa.
As planning continued on reducing forces levels in Vietnam Marines continued to engage the enemy throughout I Corps.Colonel Robert H. Barrow's 9th Marines began OPERATION DEWEY CANYON, perhaps the most successful high-mobility regimental-sized action of the war. Over two months the Marines operated in the A Shau/Da Krong valleys. By 18 March, the enemy base area had been cleared out killing more than 1600 enemy. The Marine air-ground team proved its worth in greatly reducing enemy 122 mm rocket fire into Da Nang. Marine infantry, transported by helicopters, cleared out enemy positions in the rugged "Happy Valley and "Charlie Ridges areas, all supported by effective Marine fixed wing aircraft.
VIETNAMIZATION AND REDEPLOYMENT 1970-1972:
Throughout 1970 U.S. Marine forces continued to withdraw from Vietnam. The new policy emanating from Washington was "Vietnamization." With U.S. airpower and advisors, the ground war was increasingly turned over to the South Vietnamese. While the invasion of Cambodia was the major military undertaking of 1970, only a limited number of Marine aviation assets were involved. Marines still conducted aggressive campaigns against the enemy, most notably Colonel Edmund G. Derning 7th Marines participation in OPERATION PICKENS FOREST and Colonel Paul X. Kelley's 1st Marines actions near Da Nang. But by the end of 1970 more Marines were leaving than arriving as replacements. On 14 April 1971 II MAF redeployed to Okinawa and two months later, the last ground troops, the 13000 men of the 3d Marine Amphibious Brigade, flew out from Da Nang.
Although Marine combat units were no longer in Vietnam, Marine advisors remained to assist the South Vietnamese. During the North Vietnamese 1972 "Easter Offensive," Marine Advisors played a pivotal role in repelling the Communist attacks. Captain John W. Ripley, Captain Ray L. Smith, and Captain Lawrence H. Livingston each won the Navy Cross for their heroic contributions in stopping the enemy advances.
THE BITTER END 1973-1975:
Following the failure of the Communist's "Easter Offensive" and an intensive bombing campaign of North Vietnam, a peace treaty was finally signed in Paris on 27 January 1973. The U.S. agreed to withdraw all its forces from South Vietnam. The North in turn returned all the U.S. Prisoners of War--including twenty-six Marines. Unfortunately peace was short lived in Vietnam and in 1974 fighting resumed in both Cambodia and South Vietnam. By the Spring of 1975, the situation became desperate for the U.S. backed governments in both Phnom Penh and Saigon. On 12 April, the 31st MAU, commanded by Colonel John F. Roche, executed a non-combatant evacuation, OPERATION EAGLE PULL, the abandonment of the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh prior to the city's capitulation to Communist Khemer Rouge forces. Three weeks later, Marines were called upon to evacuate another embassy, this time in Saigon. Marines of the 9th MAB successfully executed OPERATION FREQUENT WIND which safely removed hundreds of Americans and Vietnamese civilians prior to the fall of South Vietnam.
No sooner had the Marines evacuated the embassies than they were order by President Gerald R. Ford to rescue the Crew of the U.S.S. Mayaguez which had been taken by the Khymer Rouge. On 15 May a Marine Task Force under the command of Colonel John M. Johnson safely recovered the Mayaguez and her crew, but with high losses.
America's longest war was costly to the U.S. Marine Corps. From 1965-1975 nearly 500,000 Marines served in South East Asia. Of these nearly 13,000 were killed and 88,000 wounded, nearly a third of all American causalities sustained during the war.
History of Seagoing Marines
Nearly everyone is acquainted with the Marine Corps and its air, and amphibious operations. Less well-known are its seagoing activities. Although the very word "Marine" pertains to the sea, it is not so closely related today. U. S. Marines have always been seagoing. Their service aboard ships of the fleet spans the days of sharpshooting from a frigate's rigging to the present day service of manning a 5-inch gun on an aircraft carrier.
Marines, equipped with a musket and a cutlass, first served under Commodore Esek Hopkins aboard the USS CABOT in December, 1775. In 1803, action against the Barbary pirates took the Marines to the northern coast of Africa and the "shores of Tripoli."
During the period from 1815 to 1825, a wave of piracy swept the Caribbean area, resulting in the capture of many American ships and the murder of their crewmen. U. S. forces, including 200 Marines on board the MACEDONIAN and other ships, helped end these outrages by capturing pirate ships and their shore strongholds. Punitive action also was required against Sumatrans, following the 1831 sacking of an American trading ship in the harbor of Quallah Batutoo and the murder of part of its crew. An expedition, including Marines from the frigate POTOMAC, seized several Sumatran forts.
In 1835, the Seminole Indians attacked Army troops who had been sent to Florida to move them to the western reservations. Marines from the Navy's West India Squadron were among the first reinforcements sent to the area. They later participated in operations of the "Mosquito Fleet" composed of canoes, barges and other small vessels which were used until 1842 to patrol the swamps and everglades.
The year 1842 also saw ship detachments of Leathernecks become engaged in the suppression of slave trading which had sprung up along the western coast of Africa.
When sails gave way to steam, the United States needed advance bases for the purpose of supplying fuel for her ships as well as supplies for her crews. The added speed gained in steamship travel also stimulated interest in the increase of foreign commerce. When Admiral Matthew C. Perry visited Japan in 1854, Marines participated in the impressive ceremony and pageantry of the occasion, which helped to promote trade agreements between the two countries.
During the Civil War, both the Union and the Confederacy had a Marine Corps. These Marines, both north and south, were used in the same manner aboard ship and on land.
In 1871, after a number of American seamen had been massacred in Korea, a U. S. naval squadron was sent to that country to negotiate for the protection of American seamen and, if possible, to open up Korea to American trade. When ships of the squadron were fired upon by Koreans, a landing force was sent up the Sallee River to attack the forts. Of the squadron's 105 Marines who formed the shock troops for the expedition, six were awarded Medals of Honors for their heroism.
Illegal destruction of seals in the Bering Sea had reached wholesale proportions by 1892 following the purchase of Alaska from Russia. The poachers, principally British, were threating the complete extinction of the valuable animals. A settlement was finally reached between Great Britain and the United States by which naval officers of each nation were authorized to arrest and detain poachers. The streamer AL-KI, with three Marine officers and 40 Marines aboard, was sent to the troubled area, and the ruthless slaughter was soon ended.
Mutinies Aboard Ship - Eight Occasions on Which the Marines Have helped put down Mutinies aboard Ship:
- 1. An incipient mutiny aboard the USS Congress was foiled with the assistance of the ship's Marine Guard, 1800.
- 2. The ship's Marine Guard helped foil a threatened mutiny aboard the USS President, 1803.
- 3. The ship's Marine Detachment foiled a mutiny aboard the USS Constitution, 1807.
- 4. Mutinous conduct aboard the ketch USS Dispatch ended when the ship's Marines subdued the principal miscreant, 1812.
- 5. Marines from several ships quelled a mutiny aboard the USS Potomac at Puerto Mahon, the Baleaic Islands, Spain, 1836.
- 6. A threatened mutiny aboard the USS Somers was put down with the aid of Marine SGT Michael H. Garty, 1942.
- 7. A detail of Marines from the USS Dale helped suppress a mutiny aboard the bark Paulina in the Comoro Islands, 1851.
- 8. A detail of Marines assisted the skipper of a Siamese ship in suppressing a mutiny aboard his vessel at Canton, China, 1863.
Occasions When Marines Have Rendered Aid:
- 1. Treasury Building Fire, Washington 1833.
- 2. Great fire of New York, 1835.
- 3. Fire of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, 1852.
- 4. Fire of Portland, Maine, 1866.
- 5. Fire of Boston, 1872.
- 6. Fire of Boston, 1873.
- 7. Fire of Yokohama, Japan, 1890.
- 8. Fire at Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, British West Indies, 1896.
- 9. San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, 1906.
- 10. Messina Earthquake, 1908.
- 11. Great Tokyo Earthquake, 1923.
- 12. Ionian Islands Earthquake, Greece, 1953.
- 13. Tampico Flood, Mexico, 1955.
- 14. Flood, Valencia, Spain 1957.
- 15. Peruvian Earthquake, 1970.
- 16. Earthquake in Soviet Georgia, 1989.
- 17. Philippine Earthquake, 1990.
- 18. Bangladesh Cyclone, 1991.
- 19. Kobe Earthquake, 1991.