No one can say that Abraham Lincoln didn’t have a full plate during the American Civil War and filling up that plate began even before he assumed office. No one should have to endure that kind of stress — tensions that lasted for four long years — but it was Lincoln himself who signed up for that slog-fest. In 1861, the nation’s capital lay in the center of southeastern slave territories. Although Maryland didn’t secede from the Union, Southern sympathies were widespread in that state. Maryland’s possible secession was one of many factors Lincoln had to consider in defining his domestic agenda.
John Merryman (1824-1881) was the father of eleven children, a farmer in Cockeysville, Maryland, and a president of the Board of County Commissioners of Baltimore County. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, Merryman also served as Third Lieutenant of Baltimore County Troops. In 1861, he served as First Lieutenant in the Baltimore County Horse Guards. On Friday, 19 April 1861, anti-war Democrats (calling themselves Copperheads) joined with other Southern sympathizers to oppose certain Massachusetts and Pennsylvania militia members. They were mobilizing in Baltimore as a defense force for the city of Washington. Hostilities erupted when the Copperheads attempted to prevent the aforementioned Yankee militia from moving to Washington.
On 20 April, Maryland’s governor Thomas H. Hicks (a pro-slave/anti-secession Democrat) and Baltimore mayor George W. Brown dispatched Maryland State Militia to disable the railroad tracks and bridges leading out of Baltimore. Hicks later denied issuing any such order. In any case, one of the low-level Maryland militia leaders was none other than John Merryman.
On 27 April, President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus. This Latin phrase means, “We command that you must produce the body at court.” The writ prohibits unlawful detention or imprisonment and compels “government authority” to produce a prisoner to the court so that the accused can appear before a jurist. It is a mechanism for ensuring the right of an accused to have his day in court.
In suspending the writ, Lincoln’s purpose was to give military authorities power to arrest, detain, and silence dissenters and rebels. Was Lincoln’s act lawful? According to experts in Constitutional law — yes. A president may suspend the Constitution when rebellion or invasion occurs, and public safety requires it.
On 25 May, Union military forces arrested Mr. Merryman for his role in destroying railroad tracks and bridges and escorted him to a cell at Fort McHenry. Merryman remained there for several months. If it were up to President Lincoln, Merryman would stay in that cell to this very day. Some would argue that the federal government violated Mr. Merryman’s constitutional rights. Through his lawyer, Merryman petitioned the court for a writ of habeas corpus. The petition was presented to, of all people, the Chief Justice of the United States, Roger B. Taney — a native of Maryland and the federal circuit court judge for Maryland.
We know from history that Lincoln’s election to the presidency led several states to secede from the Union. We also know that the first hostile act of the Civil War occurred in Baltimore, which means that the bombardment of Fort Sumter was not the initiating action of the Civil War — so we should stop saying that.
Roger B. Taney was an anti-Lincoln jurist who saw it as his duty to remain seated on the high court rather than resigning his appointment to serve the Confederacy. As with Governor Hicks (and many others of his day), Taney was a pro-slavery anti-secessionist. As a jurist, he believed that states had a Constitutional right to secede from the Union. As a man, he detested Lincoln, believing that he was responsible for destroying the Union. From his position on the high court, Taney would challenge Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, arguing that only Congress could do that. And he loathed Lincoln’s interference with civil liberties.
Through non-acquiescence (where one branch of the government refuses to acknowledge the authority of another branch of government), Lincoln ignored Taney’s ruling. Lincoln nevertheless addressed the issue in a message to Congress in July 1861. In his letter, Lincoln cited Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution (previously mentioned).
Eventually, Lincoln doubled down on suspending habeas corpus by extending it on a much larger scale, which some would argue violated the rights of citizens throughout the war. Eventually, Lincoln’s policy softened somewhat in Maryland, but only out of concern that Maryland might also secede from the Union. After the Merryman arrest, however, Lincoln channeled such actions through Congress. It was a workable arrangement because, in 1863, Congress passed the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act.
Chief Justice Taney passed away in 1864, aged 87 years. He served as Chief Justice of the United States for 28 years, 198 days — the second-longest tenure of any chief justice and the oldest ever serving Chief Justice in United States’ history.
Ultimately, John Merryman was turned over to civilian authorities and allowed to post bail. The government finally dropped its treason charges against Merryman in 1867; he was never brought to trial. Six years later, in a case unrelated to Merryman’s, the high court ruled that civilians were not subject to military courts even in times of war. As it turned out, the Merryman case was not the last time the federal government suspended American civil rights.
America in 1916
Americans saw no reason to involve themselves in Europe’s “great war” of 1914. Few people knew where the Austro-Hungarian Empire was, much less who was in charge of it, so the assassination of the heir to the throne was a non-event. Nor did many Americans care about the wartime alliances. The whole affair, in the mind of most Americans, was none of our business. President Woodrow Wilson, a progressive Democrat, proclaimed United States’ neutrality — a view widely supported by the American people — including many immigrants from the belligerent countries.
Yet, despite Wilson’s claim of neutrality, American capitalists were quick to take advantage of war-related opportunities. Europeans needed food, materials, and American-made munitions. Not only were American companies happy to sell these goods to the Europeans, but American banks were also happy to loan money to the Europeans so that they could purchase those goods. This financial involvement gave the United States a stake in the winner of the Great War. The trick for the Americans was to find a way to safely send American-made goods to the allied powers — through seas patrolled by German submarines.
When RMS Lusitania was laid down in 1904, the British government decided to subsidize its construction costs, provided that the Cunard Line agreed to allow Lusitania to serve as an Armed Merchant Cruiser (AMC) should Great Britain need her in time of war or other national emergencies. The British government placed Lusitania on its list of AMCs in 1914, but Lusitania’s exorbitant operating costs caused the government to reverse that decision. Whether the British ever got around to informing the Germans of this decision is unknown.
For their part, Imperial Germany gave due notice and warning to anyone booking passage on Lusitania: since a state of war existed between Germany and Great Britain, all Allied vessels were targets of the German Imperial Navy. From Germany’s point of view, knowing full well that Lusitania’s holds contained U. S. manufactured war materials intended to aid the Allied powers, Lusitania became a legitimate target. After all, Britain’s decision to allow passengers on a de facto AMC vessel wasn’t Germany’s problem — and besides — the United States’ claim of neutrality was laughable.
It was no surprise to anyone in the hierarchy of either government when a German submarine torpedoed Lusitania on 7 May 1915. Twelve hundred people lost their lives, including 128 Americans. By this time, anti-German war propaganda was in full swing. Stories of German military atrocities targeting civilians appeared regularly in the American press, such as the Rape of Belgium, which claimed that the German army was responsible for the death or injury to 46,000 innocents. Even though President Wilson maintained his non-intervention policy, anti-German passions increased throughout the United States.
Meanwhile, the Mexican Revolution (1910-1921) was in full swing. Mexican bandits attacked, murdered, and looted American homesteaders living along the US/Mexican border with increasing regularity. In 1916, Wilson dispatched US troops to the southern border and ordered General “Black Jack” Pershing into Mexico to capture or kill Pancho Villa. Anticipating conflict on two fronts, President Wilson asked for and gained congressional authority to increase the size of the U. S. Army, National Guard, and U. S. Navy.
American voters reelected Wilson to a second term in November 1916. By this time, the anti-German passions led some Americans to join the French Army, French Foreign Legion, and French Air Service.
After the German Imperial government announced its intent to resume unrestricted submarine warfare, President Wilson severed diplomatic relations with Germany. Germany responded by targeting American merchant ships in the North Atlantic.
In January 1917, British codebreakers intercepted an encrypted German telegram addressed to the German Ambassador to Mexico. The telegram instructed the Ambassador to propose an alliance between Germany and Mexico against the United States. In essence, should the United States join the allied war effort, Germany suggested a pact with Mexico with military assistance regaining the territory lost to the United States during the Mexican-American War (1848): Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. History recalls this communique as the Zimmerman Telegram.
British diplomats handed the Zimmerman Telegram to Wilson on 24 February, and Wilson released it to the American press on 1 March. The effect of publishing this information was, as anticipated, wide-scale public outrage toward both Germany and Mexico (even though Mexico never officially acknowledged the proffered alliance). The United States declared war on Germany on 4 April 1917.
After declaring war, Wilson focused almost exclusively on his foreign policy agenda — leaving domestic affairs to his “war cabinet.” The cabinet’s chief concern was the expansion of the military, food distribution, fuel rationing, and consumer conservation. Within three years, America’s annual budget exploded from around $1 billion in 1916 to nearly $20 billion in 1920. Congress raised taxes through the War Revenue Act of 1917 and the Revenue Act of 1918, increasing the top tax rate to 77% and expanding the number of citizens subject to personal income taxes.
Wilson’s tax scheme was unsettling from several points of view. Because tax increases were by themselves insufficient, the federal government began issuing low-interest war bonds. To encourage investment, Congress made the interest paid on these bonds tax-free. One consequence of this policy was that it encouraged citizens to borrow money for the purchase of bonds. This, in turn, produced two additional effects: an increase in inflation and (by 1929) the Stock Market crash.
Not everyone was pleased with Wilson’s decision to enter World War I. Without realizing their country’s economic involvement with European nations at war, many Americans demanded that the United States maintain its neutrality. Other groups opposed the military draft (the first of its kind in the world). Other opposition groups included pacifists, anarchists, socialists, labor union workers, Christians, anti-militarists, the so-called “Old Right,” and women’s peace groups. Among the socialists were Irish, German, and Russian immigrants whose “loyalty” to the United States Wilson always questioned. While young Americans were fighting and dying for the American way, Wilson, fearing that dissidents would undermine his war effort, signed the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. Both acts criminalized disloyal, profane, scurrilous, and abusive language toward the United States government, the military, or any speech or language intended to incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of conscription. They were among the most egregious of the government’s violations of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court upheld several convictions based on “limitations of free speech in a time of war.” See also Schenck v. United States and Note 4.
(Continued next week)
Connell, T. America’s Japanese Hostages: The US Plan for a Japanese Free Hemisphere. Praeger-Greenwood, 2002.
McGinty, B. The Body of John Merryman: Abraham Lincoln and the Suspension of Habeas Corpus. Harvard University Press, 2011.
Hall, K. L. (Ed.) The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. Oxford University, 1992.
Lewis, W. Without Fear or Favor: A Biography of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney. Houghton Mifflin, 1965.
Robinson, G. By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans. Harvard University Press, 2009.
 The sinking of the Lusitania underscored Germany’s success in espionage, and America’s failure in counter-espionage.
 Wall Street investors were making large profits from their arrangement with the Allied Powers — even after federal taxes, but they would make a lot more money by investing in post-war reconstruction. This would become part of the post-war boom that was so profitable, people borrowed money to invest in the stock market. When the Stock Market crashed in 1929, due to the over-valuation of stocks, people not only lost their investments, they also became indebted with no way to repay their personal loans. It was a behavior that caused investors to throw themselves off buildings.
 Later, partially in reaction against the Bolshevik Revolution and the rising tide of socialism in Europe, a more general anti-immigrant sentiment gripped America. For example, through the Palmer Raids of the 1920s, the Department of Justice rounded up thousands of foreigners who were alleged communists, anarchists, labor reformers, or otherwise menaces to society. Many were forcibly deported.
 The years surrounding America’s involvement in World War I were a watershed for how the United States treated foreigners within its borders during wartime. Immigrants had flooded the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. When the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, almost a third of Americans were either first or second-generation immigrants. Those born in Germany and even American-born citizens of German descent fell under suspicion of being disloyal.
My thanks to Mr. Koji KANEMOTO for his much-valued assistance and participation in the research, preparation, and editing of this post.
The Marine Corps mission, now a long tradition, is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or to repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. No matter what occupational specialty assigned, every Marine is a trained rifleman. Up-close and personal is how Marines fight. As an organization, the Corps has two essential purposes: (1) making Marines, and (2) winning battles.
People who seek to join the Marine Corps are already psychologically unique because every potential recruit knows what the Marine Corps will expect from them from the very beginning of their enlistment process. Knowing this, however, is insufficient. Every enlisted recruit and every officer candidate must measure up to the Corps’ uncompromising high standards. They must demonstrate that they have what it takes to serve as a US Marine. They do this either at recruit training depots or at the officer candidate school — which is where they earn the title, MARINE.
Marines are naval infantry. Between 1775-1900, Marines primarily served in ship’s detachments, navy yards, and provisional forces for expeditionary service ashore. Between 1900-1940, Marines participated in irregular warfare and counter-insurgency operations in support of American foreign policy. Conventionally, Marines served with enviable distinction in the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and in the Middle Eastern Wars.
Organizationally, the Marine Corps is composed of its Headquarters element (Headquarters Marine Corps) (HQMC), its supporting establishments (Marine Corps Bases and Air Stations), and the Operating Forces. The Operating forces (presently) consist of three infantry divisions, three air wings, three logistical commands, and their reserve counterparts. The Marine Corps organizes its deployed forces as Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs), which range from battalion landing teams to reinforced infantry divisions. While war strategies are matters for senior (flag rank) officers, battlefield tactics frequently fall within the purview of Marine noncommissioned officers (NCOs).
The structure of the Marine Corps (1775-present) has been an evolutionary process. At its beginning, Congress authorized the recruitment of two Marines battalions and directed that their officers organize them for service aboard ships of war as riflemen. Historically, the size of the Marine Corps has expanded and contracted to meet the nation’s demands in times of peace and war. In the Revolutionary War period, for example, the size of shipboard detachments depended on the ship’s size to which assigned. The size of the Marine Corps depended on the missions assigned to it by Congress. Following the Revolutionary War, the new U.S. Congress determined that it could no longer afford to maintain a naval force, so both the Navy and Marine Corps disbanded between 1783-1798. The Navy and Marine Corps have continuously served the American people since 1798; their size in ships and manpower ceilings is always a matter for the Congress to decide.
Victory over Spain in 1898 was a pivotal event because it propelled a somewhat backwater United States onto the world stage and had a sudden and significant influence on the growth of the US Navy and Marine Corps. With victory over Spain came vast territorial acquisitions that included the Philippine Islands, Guam, Samoa, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. These were in addition to already existing US interests in Central America (Nicaragua and the Isthmus of Panama). Territorial acquisition meant that the United States would have to defend these faraway places, and the only service that could do that was the US Navy — challenges never imagined before 1898.
Realizing that the post-Civil War Navy was initially out of its depth in this new world order, the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) established the General Board of the Navy in 1900. The Board’s membership included the Navy’s most senior officers, men who were at the end of their careers upon whom he could rely on offering deliberate and objective analyses of world events and offering recommendations on a wide range of issues — from ship design to naval strategy and contingency planning and training. The General Board undertook the development of war plans for responding to anticipated threats against the US East Coast, the Antilles, and, eventually, the Panama Canal.
Initially, the General Board of the Navy viewed Great Britain as a “most likely” threat to American interests and sovereignty. With greater allied cooperation with the United Kingdom, however, the General Board turned its attention toward Imperial Germany, especially after Spain sold its Central Pacific territories to Imperial Germany and German military construction projects in the Pacific and coastal China. Japan’s victory over Imperial Russia in 1905 forced the US to consider conflict with the Japanese, as well.
In late 1901, the Navy General Board demanded that (then) Major General Commandant Charles Heywood develop a four-company infantry battalion for expeditionary and advanced base defense training. The Navy Board envisioned a Marine battalion that could rapidly deploy (ship to shore) in defense of American territories as part of the Asiatic Fleet and do so without awaiting the arrival of US Army units from the United States. The writings of Captain Dion Williams, (then assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence), emphasized the importance of the Navy’s ability to refuel its ships from Pacific coaling stations. Since it was incumbent upon the Navy to defend those advanced bases, the Navy turned to the Marine Corps for this purpose.
One achieves an understanding of warfare by reading history and then thinking about an event’s causes, its actors, what they did, why they did it, the mistakes they made, and the consequences of conflict. Learning how to prepare for war is a bit more complicated — often involving many years of trial and error. In 1907, a battalion under Major Eli K. Cole participated in a training exercise in Subic Bay, the Philippine Islands. It took his Marines ten weeks to set emplace 44 heavy shore battery guns. The lesson the Marine Corps learned from this exercise pointed to the wisdom of pre-staging men and material as “rapid response” elements of the naval expeditionary forces. Cole’s exercise prompted the Navy Board to recommend establishment of permanent advanced bases within the Navy’s defensive sphere.
In 1913, Major General Commandant William P. Biddle ordered a Marine Corps Advanced Base Force. He named it the 1st Advanced Force Brigade. Biddle further re-designated the Brigade’s two regiments as the Fixed Defense Regiment (under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles G. Long) and the Mobile Defense Regiment (under Colonel George Barnett).
World events temporarily interfered with the Corps’ effort to improve the Advanced Base Force concept. In 1914, the President dispatched a Marine expeditionary force to Vera Cruz, Mexico. The Marines used this event to test and validate previously developed theories; these, in turn, providing essential lessons for ongoing developments in Marine Corps force structure.
During World War I, the 4th Marine Brigade operated as one of two brigades within the US Second Infantry Division. The 4th Marine Brigade consisted of the 5th Marine Regiment, 6th Marine Regiment, and the 6th Machine-gun Battalion. A fully deployed combat brigade was a significant increase in overall Marine Corps strength, but the American Expeditionary Force in Europe was not the only iron in the fire. HQMC formed an additional expeditionary brigade for service in the Caribbean and Central America during the so-called banana wars. In 1919-1920, post war reductions in funding forced the Marine Corps to disband several infantry regiments/separate battalions.
In 1921, Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune continued the work undertaken in previous decades — work that actually continues today. Each achievement, methodological or technological, becomes the foundation upon which new ideas emerge — and so it goes. In 1933, creating and perfecting the Advanced Base Force led to the creation of the Fleet Marine Forces (Atlantic and Pacific) — which became an integral part of the United States Atlantic and Pacific Fleets.
The primary mission of the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) was the seizure and temporary defense of advanced bases, in concert with US fleet operations. In the 1920s and 1930s, the United States participated in a series of naval conferences designed to reduce the likelihood of war by limiting armaments (i.e., the size of national navies). It was, at best, a romantic assumption. The US Congress began thinking defensively, prompting a significant reduction in the size of the military services. Defense is not how the Marine Corps wins battles; senior Marine officers remained focused on offensive operations and defensive thinking had no appreciable impact on the readiness planning of the Fleet Marine Force.
The vast range of US territories and the requirement to defend them continued as a vital interest to the Navy and as a primary responsibility of the Marine Corps. A formal review of responsibilities assigned to the Army and Navy, designed to avoid duplication of effort, determined that the Army should confine itself to continental land operations. The Navy should focus its attention on the security of overseas territories and possessions.
By 1937, the Navy began to consider creating Marine Corps security detachments, particularly at vulnerable locations in the Pacific, in conjunction with Plan Orange. Initially, the Navy Board envisioned security detachments as battalion-sized organizations. In 1938, the Navy Board recommended the placement of defense battalions at Midway, Wake, and Johnston Islands —in sufficient strength and size to repel minor naval raids.
Defense battalions were coastal artillery units armed with 5-inch guns (6), anti-aircraft guns (12), machine guns (48 .30 caliber) (48 .50 caliber), searchlights (6), and sound locators (6). The Battalion’s usual complement involved 28 officers and 482 enlisted men, but a battalion’s size depended on the specific size of the area the battalion was charged to defend. Once ashore, owing to the size of naval guns, the Battalion would become “immobile.” In effect, once defense battalions assumed their positions, there would be no retreat.
Initially, the Marine Corps envisioned four defense battalions; their importance (in relation to the Marine Corps as a whole) was significant. Of the Corps’ total strength (27,000 officers and enlisted men), 9,000 Marines would serve as part of the Fleet Marine Force, and 2,844 of those would serve in defense battalions.
Defense battalions began to form in late 1939. By 7 December 1941, there were seven active battalions: the 1st, 2nd, 6th, and 7th formed at Marine Corps Base, San Diego, California; the 3rd, 4th, and 5th formed at Parris Island, South Carolina. The 5th Defense Battalion was the first such battalion to deploy to a potentially hostile shore.
Under the command of Colonel Lloyd L. Leech, the 5th Defense Battalion deployed to Iceland in June 1941 as part of the 1st Marine Brigade (Provisional). In addition to the 5th Defense Battalion, the Brigade included the 6th Marines, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines, and various other supporting units to reinforce British forces charged with blocking any German attempt to seize Iceland. To facilitate training and instruction for the American Marines, the brigade commander assented to the 5th Defense Battalion’s incorporation into the British air defense system.
Over time, it became increasingly unlikely that Germany would seize Iceland. However, while the Pacific command urgently needed the 1st Brigade, its eventual reassignment was contingent upon the arrival in Iceland US Army units to replace the Marines. Before Pearl Harbor, statutory provisions precluded the assignment of non-volunteer troops to overseas locations. Army conscripts could not serve in Iceland until a state of war existed between the United States and its adversaries. The Brigade was finally relieved by Army units in March 1942.
Of the remaining defense battalions, all but one (2nd) deployed to the Pacific before Pearl Harbor. The 2nd Defense Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel Raymond E. Knapp, joined the 2nd Marine Brigade in Samoa in January 1942. Already serving in Samoa was the 7th Defense Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel Lester A. Dessez. The 7th Defense Battalion was the first FMF unit to operate in the South Pacific theater of operations.
The 3rd Defense Battalion formed in late 1939. After initial training, the Battalion embarked for Pearl Harbor in April 1940. In September, the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific ordered elements of the Battalion to Midway Island. The entire Battalion reformed at Midway in February 1941. In September 1941, the 6th Defense Battalion replaced the 3rd Battalion at Midway, which then returned to Hawaii and participated in defense of Pearl Harbor. Also, in Hawaii on 7 December 1941, was the 1st Defense Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Bert A. Bone, and the 4th Defense Battalion, under Colonel Harold S. Fassett.
The preceding may seem like an orderly process, but it was far from that. Moving large numbers of Marines and their heavy (and expensive) equipment is never easy, rarely tidy, and always compounded by higher headquarters. For instance, in 1939, the 1st Defense Battalion formed by renaming the 2nd Battalion, 15th Marines, and then reorganizing it, re-equipping it, and re-positioning it to serve in its new role. In February 1941, the 1st Defense Battalion arrived at Pearl Harbor from San Diego. No sooner had the Battalion arrived when higher authority split it apart into subunits and redistributed them throughout the Central Pacific. FMF Pacific (also, FMFPac) dispatched Detachment A, 1st Defense Battalion to Palmyra Island (arriving 10 March). A month later, HQMC renamed the unit “Marine Detachment, 1st Marine Defense Battalion, Palmyra Island.” Additional subunits became Marine Detachments at Johnston (mid-July) and Wake (late-July). Thus, on 7 December 1941, the 1st Defense Battalion had subunits on three atolls with their headquarters element remaining at Pearl Harbor.
By early December, Marine defense battalions defended Midway, Johnston, Palmyra, Samoa, and Wake. The global war plan, then in effect, renamed “Rainbow Five,” called for the development of air bases at all these sites. After 7 December, the United States had to concede Guam (and its small naval facility) to the Japanese owing to its position in the center of the Japanese-held Marianas Island group. The Navy’s intention behind creating these small forward bases was two-fold. Samoa would help protect communication routes in the Southwest Pacific; Midway, Johnston, Palmyra, and Wake were offered for the protection of Oahu installations. None of the forward bases provided much protection, however.
At Pearl Harbor
Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor started at 0755 on 7 December 1941. The assault lasted two hours. The defense battalions offered limited (and generally ineffective) opposition to Japanese forces. This generally poor performance was not the fault of the defense battalions, however. Japan’s attack was a surprise event well-timed for Sunday morning. Accordingly, all US responses were haphazard.
Before the Japanese attack, the United States was already preparing for hostilities — albeit with only limited intelligence information. Hawaii-based commanders heard nothing from Washington beyond cautionary advice. Reacting with caution, senior commanders ordered all munitions secured at widely dispersed locations. Motor vehicles were carefully stored in are motor pools, berthed ships and parked aircraft were lined up neatly for ease of monitoring security — in case Japanese agents attempted to sabotage American military equipment. When the Japanese attacked, air defense positions had no ammunition with which to shoot down enemy planes. Within a few moments of the attack, air and ground commanders ordered munitions, but there were no vehicles available to transport it. By the time ammunition did arrive, the Japanese attack was over.
Within six minutes of the beginning of the Japanese attack, Marines from the defense battalion had machine guns set up and engaged the enemy. These were the only weapons used in the defense of Pearl Harbor. It was a bit too little.
Within mere hours after Japan’s attack, Navy and Marine commanders took steps to reinforce outlying island garrisons, rushing substantial numbers of Marines to Midway, Johnston, and Palmyra. These Marines and their equipment came from the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Defense Battalions. Midway’s assets included 17 Scout/Bombers, ferried to the island commander via the aircraft carrier USS Lexington. Once the ship returned to Pearl Harbor, additional flights were direct over-ocean movements. The distance from Pearl Harbor to Midway was 1,137 miles.
The situation on Guam was bleak. Lieutenant Colonel William K. McNulty’s 122 Marines (and 15 additional Marines serving on detached duty with the Guamanian Police Force) were overwhelmed by Japanese forces.
Johnston Island, a spec of sand in the middle of the ocean, was too small and too close to the Hawaiian Islands to risk a land assault, but it was a tempting target. Major Francis B. Loomis, serving as the 1st Defense Battalion executive officer, was present at Johnston Island when the Japanese made their move against Pearl Harbor. As the senior officer present, Loomis assumed overall command of American military assets.
The first contact the Johnson Island Marines had with the Japanese occurred on 12 December when a submarine surfaced 8,000 yards off Sand Island and began firing green star clusters, which exploded high overhead. Marines returned fire with a 5-inch gun, and the submarine withdrew. Three days later, two Japanese ships opened fire and damaged several buildings and an oil storage facility. Again, the Marines answered with a 5-inch gun, and the enemy ships withdrew before suffering any damage. On the nights of 18, 21, and 22 December, enemy submarines returned to deliver harassing fire. By the end of the month, reinforcements arrived from Hawaii, adding another 5-inch battery, another 3-inch battery, and 16 more machine guns —but the Marines heard no more from the Japanese for the duration of the war.
Palmyra Island experienced a single Japanese attack on 24 December. A Japanese submarine surfaced 3,000 yards offshore and fired its deck guns at a dredge in the lagoon. The 5-inch battery drove the submarine away. Lieutenant Colonel Bone, commanding the 1st Defense Battalion, arrived with reinforcements at the end of December. The Palmyra garrison became 1st Defensive Battalion in March. Spreading Marines all over the Central Pacific had the effect of diminishing unit cohesiveness within the defense battalions. To solve this problem, local commands absorbed the various “detachments” into their organizations.
By mid-December world attention was focused on events unfolding at Wake Island. The unfolding battle electrified everyone. On 7 December 1941, the Wake Island detachment totaled barely 400 officers and men, including 9 officers and 200 enlisted men who had only joined the detachment in the previous month. The detachment commander was Major James P. S. Devereux. The Island’s air support squadron included 12 F4F-3 Wildcats of Major Paul A. Putnam’s VMF-211 detachment, which arrived on 4 December. Putnam reported to Devereux, who reported to the Island Commander, Commander Winfield S. Cunningham, USN.
There were no optimists among the Marines of Wake Island. Devereux’s detachment was understrength; one battery of 3-inch guns was completely unmanned. Two other batteries could field only three of four guns (each), and Echo Battery had no height-finding equipment. Ground and anti-air crew-served weapons were only half manned. The detachment had no radar and no sound-locator equipment. By the time Wake Marines learned of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, VMF-211’s dawn patrol was already aloft. Putnam dispersed his remaining aircraft, and the detachment’s Marines manned their posts.
Shortly before noon on 8 December (Wake Island was in a different date-time-zone from Hawaii), 36 Japanese bombers attacked Wake Island, their bomb load mostly hitting the airstrip where seven of the eight parked Wildcats were destroyed, exploding aviation gas storage tanks, and killing 23 of the 55 enlisted aviation ground crewmen. The bombers returned each day for the next six days, always at the same time of day. Each day, the Japanese inflicted more damage and took more lives. At 0300 on 11 December, a Japanese assault force appeared offshore. Warships moved in after dawn to begin raking fire prelude to troop landings. By 0615, the Marines had severely damaged the cruiser Yubari and sunk the destroyer Havate. Additionally, Marines damaged a light cruiser, two destroyers, and a troop transport. The Japanese withdrew to Kwajalein Island.
In the following week, Marines lost an additional three aircraft to Japanese bombers, half their trucks, and engineering equipment, most of their diesel fuel and dynamite, and the motor pool, warehouse, machine shop, and the blacksmith shop was wholly destroyed. The Japanese destroyed the last two Wildcats on 22 December during aerial combat. By this time, the Marines at Wake Island were running a pool on their expected shelf-life.
At dawn on 23 December, another Japanese assault force appeared offshore. One-thousand Imperial Japanese Army and 500 Imperial Japanese Navy prepared to land on Wake Island. Marines engaged the first wave of Japanese at 0245, but none of the 5-inch guns were able to take destroyers/transports under fire. The 3-inch guns inflicted some damage, but not enough to hinder the landing. Lacking any infantry support, overwhelming Japanese forces pushed the Marines back to secondary defensive positions. Gun crews, in defending themselves, had to forsake the big guns. By 0500, the Marines realized that the dance was about over. At dawn, enemy carrier-based fighters and bombers arrived overhead. Devereux advised Cunningham that he could no longer maintain organized resistance. With Cunningham’s concurrence, Devereux surrendered his force to the Japanese landing force commander.
The story of Wilkes Island unfolded differently, however. At Wilkes, the battle raged so fiercely that at daybreak, Captain Wesley Mc. Platt not only destroyed the Japanese landing party after the initial Japanese assault, but he also reorganized his men and ordered a ruthless counterattack, killing every Japanese soldier he could find, one after another. Captain Platt was out of contact with Devereux and did not know of the surrender until around 1330 when Platt saw Devereux approaching a Japanese officer. Platt was not a happy camper, but he obeyed Major Devereux’s order to relinquish his arms to the Japanese.
Admiral Yamamoto’s plan for seizing Midway Island was typically complex. He also based his assumptions on faulty intelligence. He believed that only two aircraft carriers were available to the Pacific Fleet after the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942. After the repair of USS Yorktown, the Navy had three carriers: Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown. He also misread the morale of the US Armed Forces and the general American population. Admiral Yamamoto was a crafty fellow, but he did not know that the Americans had broken the naval code. The key for the Americans was learning that the Japanese designation of Midway Island was JN-25.
Lieutenant Colonel Harold D. Shannon ordered his 6th Defense Battalion to “general quarters” as soon as he learned of the Japanese attack at Wake Island. It was a sensibly prudent order, but its effect was that it kept his Marines on edge for an extended period. No action developed that day, but shortly after dark, the Japanese destroyers Akebono and Ushio arrived offshore. Their mission was to harass the Island’s defenders and determine the placement of Marine shore batteries. Two Japanese rounds hit the Island’s power plant and disrupted the communications center. As the two ships set up for their second run into the beach, Shannon ordered his Marines to engage enemy targets at will. Battery A’s 5-inch guns remained silent due to the break down in communications, but Battery B and Battery D opened up with their 5-inch naval artillery and 3-inch anti-aircraft guns. The .50 caliber machine-guns fired once the destroyers were within range. The Japanese ships withdrew shortly afterward.
Reinforcements and resupply soon arrived from Hawaii. Among the heavy weapons were 7-inch guns removed from World War I ships that had been in storage for many years. Midway Island was well-armed and adequately manned to repel an enemy assault; the American defenders responded to several Japanese probing raids early in 1942. Aviation assets at Midway included both Navy and Marine Corps combat aircraft. The Navy had four PBY squadrons (31 Patrol planes), and six Grumman TBF Avengers from VT-8. Marine Corps aircraft included Scout/Bomber squadron VMSB-231 (17 SB2U-3 Vindicators), and the remainder of VMF-221 (arriving at Midway from USS Saratoga with 14 F2A-3 Brewster Buffaloes). Following the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Pacific Fleet quickly replaced lost aircrews with additional Navy and Marine Corps air squadrons.
In May 1942, FMFPac reinforced the 6th Defense Battalion with three additional 3-inch batteries, a 37-mm anti-aircraft battery, a 20-mm anti-aircraft battery, and two rifle companies from the 2nd Raider Battalion with five light tanks in direct support. FMFPac ordered all Marine aircraft at Midway consolidated under Marine Aircraft Group (MAG)-22. The MAG received 16 SMD-2 Dauntless Diver Bombers and seven Grumman Wildcat fighters.
As the Battle of Midway Island began on 4 June 1942, it became apparent that the defense of the atoll was of secondary importance to the air engagements at sea, but Midway was the bait that had drawn Yamamoto’s task forces within range of US carrier aircraft. The Marines ashore were, however, ready for any eventuality. PBYs from Midway first spotted Japanese naval units at 0900 on 3 June. Army B-17s launched that afternoon to bomb the Japanese fleet, but none of the bombs hit their targets. At 0545 on 4 June, Navy PBYs fixed an approaching air assault position consisting of over 100 Japanese torpedo, dive bombers, and escort fighters (numbers estimated). US aircraft were in the air within ten minutes to intercept them. Japanese Zeros easily destroyed Marine buffaloes, but not without losing several bombers and fighters of their own. The survivors arrived over Midway at around 0630. The Japanese attacked lasted thirty minutes. Marine anti-air defenses claimed ten kills and seemed anti-climactic, but Japan’s air assault was what the Navy fleet commander wanted. As these planes returned to their carriers, US aircraft followed them.
The Battle of Midway’s significance was that it signaled the end of the United States’ defensive war and the beginning of America’s offensive. In these early days of a long war, the Defense Battalions’ Marines had played their role and contributed to the war effort. With the arrival of additional Marines, most of whom had enlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbor, many found their way into the Defense Battalions. By the end of 1942, the Marine Corps had 14 defense battalions. Two years later, there were twenty such battalions.
Guadalcanal and beyond
The assault of Guadalcanal was the first American land offensive in the Pacific war. The 3rd Defense Battalion provided support to the 1st Marine Division’s landing. The landing force commander split the Battalion to support simultaneous operations at Guadalcanal and Tulagi. The Battalion’s machine-gun sections and 90-mm anti-aircraft guns went ashore in the first assault waves. Similarly, the 9th Defense Battalion supported the assault on the Munda Peninsula in July 1943. By this time, defense battalions employed 155-mm and 40-mm guns. On Vella Lavella, the 4th Defense Battalion’s 90-mm gun was the Japanese pilot’s worst nightmare. Both the 9th and 14th Defense Battalion went ashore with the landing forces at Guam in 1944. When Japanese aircraft were no longer capable of threatening Marine occupied terrain, senior officers decided that the battalions had served their purpose. HQMC disbanded most defense battalions after the war —but one (sort of) remains today. One Marine responsibility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is to defend the naval base. This mission is similar to that of the World War II-era defense battalion.
Cole, E. K. Advanced Base Force Training. Philadelphia: 1915.
Davis, H. C. Advanced Place Training. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1911.
Jackson, R. H. History of the Advanced Base. Records of the General Board of the Navy, 1913.
Jackson, R. H. The Naval Advanced Base. Records of the General Board of the Navy, 1915.
McBride, W. M. Technological Change and the United States Navy, 1865-1945. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
Millett, A. R. Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps. New York: The Free Press, 1991.
Simmons, E. H. The United States Marines: A History. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1974.
 Eli Kelley Cole (1867-1929) graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1888, served as a naval officer for two years, and transferred to the US Marine Corps in 1890. In 1915, Cole, Williams, Earl H. Ellis, John H. Russell, and Robert H. Dunlap were the Marine Corps’ deepest thinkers. While commanding the 1st Provisional Brigade in Haiti, he received the Navy Cross Medal. He later commanded the US Army’s 41st Infantry Division during World War I, and served as the first Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. He passed away while still serving on active duty.
 Designated 2nd Regiment, Advance Base Brigade on 18 February 1914 (today, 1st Marines).
 Designated 1st Regiment, Advance Base Brigade on 18 February 1914 (today, 2nd Marines).
 Fleet exercises were important rehearsals in the development of amphibious warfare and the establishment of advanced base defenses, including the art and science of loading/un-loading ships, transfer of equipment from ship to shore, employment of shore artillery, signal science, combat engineering, harbor construction/defense, and the employment of automatic weapons.
 Colonel Dessez’ also formed and trained the 1st Samoan Battalion (infantry) (territorial reserve).
 One of Putnam’s flight officers was Captain Frank C. Tharin, a graduate of the US Naval Academy (1934). While serving on Wake Island, Tharin distinguished himself through his courage and aeronautical skill against overwhelming Japanese air forces. He was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star Medal, and two Air Medals. Tharin spend the war in a Japanese POW camp. I worked for LtGen Tharin in 1968 at a time when Tharin served as the Operations Deputy to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. General Tharin passed away in 1990.
 Wesley McCoy Platt survived the war as a POW. The United States subsequently awarded him the Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit, and Purple Heart Medal. During the Korean War, Colonel Platt died of wounds while serving on the staff of Major General Oliver P. Smith, USMC, who commanded the 1st Marine Division at the Chosin Reservoir.
 Warfare is by its nature complex; overly complicated war plans simply increase the likelihood of failure at critical moments of the battle.
 First Lieutenant George H. Cannon, a communications officer, received severe wounds from Japanese guns but he refused evacuation until the communications center was once more up and running. Cannon died shortly afterwards. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously, the first Marine to receive the nation’s highest medal during World War II.
 The round of the 90-mm gun weighed 23 pounds. It had a maximum range of 39,500 feet.
There is so much myth surrounding the life and times of David Crockett that hardly anyone knows the truth about the man. We know he was born in 1786 and gave up his life for Texas Independence on 6 March 1836. He was 49-years old when he died — in those days, 49-years was a long time to live. One of the stories about Crockett surrounds his political career. He served in the Tennessee General Assembly between 1821-1823 and served as a member of the U. S. House of Representatives from 1827-1831 and 1833-1835. When Crockett decided that he was done with politics, he allegedly told someone, “You can go to hell; I’m going to Texas.” And he did.
Crockett went to Texas for the same reasons as other folks back then. There was an adventurer in Crockett, the same as there was a sense of adventure in most people who migrated west. The difference was that as a member of the US House, Crockett was fully aware of what was going on between the Texians and Mexico’s centrist government. Most of the pioneers had no clue at all. Crockett entered Texas with both eyes wide open. He knew what he was getting himself into — and he believed that the Texas fight was one worth having. Was he also looking to enrich himself in land? Of course, he was. There were no “commies” back then seeking to hold hands and sing kumbaya. Taking a piece of scrub land and molding it into a profitable enterprise wasn’t for the faint of heart.
What we also know to be a fact is that Texians, Texans, and Americans have never gotten along well with Mexicans. There are no similarities between the two cultures, and while there are plenty of good arguments from both sides of any issue confronting Texians, Texans, and Americans, there was never any “earned trust” between these people. This uneasy relationship continues to this very day; and today, as in 1915 (or at any other time in our history with Mexico), the association was often deadly.
There was always a good reason for revolution in Mexico. The reasons are as valid today as they were in 1824, 1836, and in 1910. Arguably, no one associated with government in Mexico ever developed compassion for their citizens. Ever. Mexican politicians who became the inheritors of Spanish America were always completely focused on enriching themselves; building a vibrant nation and society was never a priority, and still isn’t. As the descendants of Spanish Peninsulares and creoles, today’s politicians remain welded to an unwieldy class structure that makes one group of people forever better than the one just below their own. One would think that after 500 years of this “caste” system, the people would throw it off and demand better from their government. But — no.
What caused the Mexican Revolution of 1910 was the increasing unpopularity of El Presidenté Jose de la Cruz Porfirio Diaz Mori. He was known simply as Porfirio Diaz. He’d served as President of Mexico for 31 years. He served in office for so long because he observed the golden rule: whoever owns the gold, makes the rules. Plus, it seems that Mexico’s founding fathers never quite got around to solving the question of presidential succession.
Not only did Mexico have a revolution in 1910, one that lasted for ten long, bloody years, Mexico also experienced a series of armed insurrections. It was a time when every thug with a bandolier called himself general, and every army general commanding a platoon was a self-perpetuating thug. The groups in armed conflict, and the men involved in these lawless shootouts, when listed altogether, remind one of the greater Chicago telephone directory.
In 1910, one might have imagined that things could not have ever gotten worse in Mexico. They would have been wrong. The situation in Mexico between 1910-1920 was so bad that no rational person could have imagined what was next on the agenda. Casualty estimates range from 1.7 million to 2.7 million people killed (military and civilian). Of innocent bystanders alone, somewhere between 700,000 and 1.1 million. Within four years, conditions were such inside Mexico that American politicians began to view them as presenting a clear and present danger to the peace and stability of the United States. It was serious enough to justify two (2) separate US interventions: the invasion of Vera Cruz (1914) and the twelve-month-long Poncho Villa Expedition (1916-17). In addition to the two US expeditions, there was another confrontation — which occurred after thousands of Mexicans invaded Texas to escape the violence in Mexico (see also, Sedition in Texas and The Bandit War). It did not help to improve relations with Mexico when it was learned that Germany was making an attempt to coopt Mexico into attacking the US southern border.
Send in the Marines
When President Woodrow Wilson decided to commit American blood to the defense of Paris, France in 1917, it was necessary to mobilize the U. S. Armed Forces. At the very moment when Wilson made his fateful decision, there were only two (2) military services even partially ready for combat: The United States Navy and the U. S. Marine Corps. The Navy and Marines were “most ready” because they had already demonstrated their capabilities in the Spanish-American War. The Army, meanwhile, were still organized almost exclusively for fighting hostile Indians in the western states. Mobilization in 1917 was a herculean task — and it speaks well for the American people that they were able to pull it off in such a short period of time.
One of the units activated in 1917 was my first (home) regiment, the Eighth Marines. Of course, a number of regiments were brought online in 1917, not only for use in Europe, but also in areas far away from the European battle zone. In total, fourteen regiments of Marines were activated by the middle part of 1918. Most of these never served in the European conflict but were deployed either in the Caribbean or remained in readiness inside the United States. The 8th Marine Regiment was one of these stateside infantry units.
At the time, Marine Corps regiments lacked the structure of subordinate battalions. There was only a regimental headquarters element, and independent numbered companies. The 8th Marines included its headquarters, 103rd, 104th, 105th, 106th, 107th, 108th, 109th, 110th, 111th, and 112th rifle companies totaling 1,000 officers and men under the command of Major Ellis B. Miller. In 1917, owing to the “different kind of war” unfolding for the United States in Europe, the Marine Corps recognized the wisdom of adopting the U. S. Army’s battalion structure. If the Marines were going to fight a sustained land engagement, particularly alongside Army units, they would have to adopt an organizational structure that was identical to that of the Army. The structure, for the regiments dispatched to Europe, included three subordinate battalions, each with a headquarters company, and four rifle companies — an increase in strength to 3,000 men. Since the 8th Marines was not earmarked for service in Europe, the standard pre-war organization was retained.
The regiment’s first orders from HQMC was to prepare for deployment — to Texas. The contingency plan was to send the 8th Marines into Mexico if needed in the defense of the United States’ southern border — particularly in light of the fact that there was no improvement in Mexican/American relations after Pershing’s pursuit of Pancho Villa, and the growing concern among American citizens living along the border for their safety — particularly in light of Germany’s attempt to involve Mexico against the United States. Should it become necessary, the 8th Marines would make an amphibious assault at Tampico and seize the oilfields there.
After arriving at Fort Crockett, the 8th Marines resumed its normal duties, which included field training, weapons training, and amphibious operations. In August 1918, a newly organized 9th Marine Regiment under the Third Marine Brigade joined the 8th Marines at Fort Crockett. These units had been stationed in Cuba to safeguard sugar mills from insurrectionists and saboteurs working with German agents. It was in this way that the 8th Marine Regiment became a subordinate command, along with the 9th Marines, of the 3rd Marine Brigade.
This presence of a large force of U. S. Marines in Texas — not too far distant from the Mexican border, continued through 1919. There was never any attempt to hide the purpose of these Marines and Mexican officials were fully aware of the United States’ willingness to intervene in Mexico’s internal affairs. Accordingly, a steady supply of oil from Tampico continued to flow to the United States and its allies. This duty assignment was the 8th Marines most important contribution to the First World War. After eighteen months in Texas, HQMC directed that the 8th Marines move to Philadelphia. There, on 25 April 1919, the regiment was deactivated.
 Fort Crockett, constructed in 1903, was named in honor of frontiersman and member of the U. S. House of Representatives, David Crockett. Fort Crockett was a facility of the U. S. Army Coastal Artillery Corps at Galveston, Texas. During World War I, Fort Crockett served as a training base and pre-deployment training facility.
Every Marine, regardless of military occupational specialty, is a rifleman. There are specialists in the Marine Corps, of course —people trained to perform a specialized task, which, when combined with all other specialties, form the Marine Corps Team. The Marine team has but one purpose: winning battles. In contrast to the United States Army, which consists of several corps (three infantry divisions and supporting elements form a single corps, three such corps form a field army), the Marines are a single corps (three divisions, three air wings, and supporting elements).
Because the Marine Corps is a much smaller organization, which is the way we like it, Marines do not have the luxury of employing cooks or communicators that only cook and communicate. Every Marine is a rifleman, including combat pilots, administrators, supply pogues, truck drivers, field engineers, and computer technologists. Whether a general or a private, the Corps trains every Marine to pick up a rifle and kill an enemy. The notion that every Marine is a rifleman makes the Marine Corps unique among all U.S. Armed Services. The Corps’ distinctive training creates a common bond between Marines: officer and enlisted, men and women, whether ground, air, or logistics combat elements. Marine aviators, for example, are hell on wings; they are also a lethal force on the ground should it become necessary. Every Marine earns the title, Marine.
Marine Corps aviation began on 22 May 1912 when Marine First Lieutenant Alfred A. Cunningham reported to the Naval Aviation Camp at Annapolis, Maryland, for duty under instruction. He was the nucleus of what would become the Marine Corps’ air combat element. A few short years later, Congress declared war against Imperial Germany, and the United States entered the First World War. This event became the catalyst for the Navy and Marine Corps air arm, and a greatly accelerated growth in both Navy and Marine Corps manpower and combat technologies.
In those days, responsibility for procuring aircraft fell under the Navy Department’s Bureau of Aeronautics (Also, BuAer). Marine graduates of the U.S. Navy Flight School, Pensacola, Florida, became Naval Aviators. Since those early days, the Navy and Marine Corps have developed aviation equipment, strategies, and tactics common to their unique “naval” mission of protecting the fleet through air superiority and projecting naval power ashore. Marine pilots, however, provide close air support to ground forces —and this they do better than any other aerial arm of the Department of Defense.
At the beginning of the First World War, the entire Marine Corps consisted of a mere 511 officers and 13,214 enlisted men. At the end of the “war to end all wars,” 2,400 officers and 70,000 men served as Marines. Initially, HQMC assigned Captain Cunningham to command the Marine Aviation Company at Philadelphia. Since there was only one aviation company, this simple designation was enough. These early aviators’ mission was traditional, which is to say, attack and destroy enemy aircraft and provide intelligence on enemy forces’ location and movement. Suddenly, the Marine Corps incurred a separate mission requiring different equipment types and a different aeronautical skill set.
With the expansion of Marine aviation, Captain Cunningham’s Aviation Company became the 1st Marine Aeronautic Company (1stMAC) with a workforce ceiling of ten officers and 93 men. 1stMAC’s mission was flying anti-submarine patrols in seaplanes. HQMC approved a new aviation unit, designated as 1st Aviation Squadron (AS-1), to support the Marine Brigade in France. AS-1’s mission was to provide reconnaissance and artillery spotting missions. The strength of the 1st Aviation Squadron was 24 officers and 237 enlisted men.
Following the war in Europe, Navy and Marine Corps planners distributed aviation personnel and equipment to Naval stations to support operating forces throughout the east coast of the United States and those in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In the post-war environment, with less money available to sustain air combat forces, the Marine Corps began its desperate struggle to convince Congress that it should maintain, as a minimum, prewar levels of aviation personnel, bases, and equipment. Leading the charge in this endeavor was Major Cunningham, who strenuously argued for Marine Corps aviation’s permanent adoption.
Congress officially limited the Marine Corps’ strength to one-fifth that of the U. S. Navy, in total, approximately 27,000 Marines. Due in no small measure to Cunningham’s efforts, Congress approved an additional 1,100 Marines for aviation units. Congress also approved permanent Marine Corps Air Stations at Quantico, Virginia, Parris Island, South Carolina, and San Diego, California. On 30 October 1920, Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune approved an aviation table of organization for four squadrons, each consisting of two flights. Simultaneously, the 1st and 4th Aviation Squadrons supported combat operations in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the 2nd and 3rd Aviation Squadrons trained at Quantico, Virginia. By 1924, the Marine Corps had two air groups, each consisting of two squadrons. The second air group took up station in San Diego, California.
As previously mentioned, the Marine Corps petitioned Congress for funds to maintain its air arm. Part of this effort involved demonstrating to Congress and the American public the utility and worthiness of Marine Corps aviation. To this end, the Marine aviators found it necessary to combine tactics and air strategy with headline-hunting public exhibitions. One of these involved a march of 4,000 Marines from Quantico, Virginia, to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In this demonstration, the ground combat element maintained constant contact with aircraft along the route of march and provided air resupply of the men on the ground.
Additionally, Marine pilots continually tested new equipment and flying techniques, including record-breaking long-distance flights and air show competitions. In the 1920s, air races became an American institution. Marines sometimes flew navy aircraft in these competitions. Sometimes, they flew their own squadron’s aircraft. They occasionally flew experimental planes, testing not only their endurance but also the reliability of aircraft prototypes. During this period, Notable pilots included First Lieutenant Ford O. Rogers, Major Charles A. Lutz, and Captain Arthur H. Page, Jr.
Arthur Hallet Page, Jr. was the first Naval Academy graduate to enter the Marine Corps Aviation program. He may have been typical of aviators in his day, or at least he seems to have been the sort of fellow popularized in Hollywood films of that period —the flamboyant devil-may-care fellow. From available sources at the USNA, we believe Captain Page had a colorful personality, a remarkable character, and was the embodiment of mature judgment. He was good looking; a natty dresser had a good singing voice, possessed a near-professional dancing ability, and was frequently in the company of beautiful women.
Page was also a daring, foolhardy risk-taker —but a man others might describe as lucky as hell. He graduated from the USNA, Class of 1918 (one of fourteen graduates) a year early due to the emerging European War. Second Lieutenant Arthur H. Page, Jr., became a Naval Aviator (No. 536) on 14 March 1918. His aviator number tells us how many Navy and Marine Corps pilots preceded him.
Today, we have few details about Page’s military career. For the most part, early assignments appear typical of young officers. He received his wings at the NAS Pensacola (1918). He then served several tours of duty attached to the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia —which may not have had anything to do with base security or operations (1919-20, 1923-24), service with the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in Haiti —likely duties involving flight operations (1920-21), assignment as a flight instructor at NAS Pensacola (1924-25), as a student at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico (1925-26), service with the 3rd Marine Brigade in China (1926-28), an assignment at Marine Corps Base, San Diego, California (1928), and duty with the East Coast Expeditionary Force (1929). His final assignment was at Headquarters Marine Corps (1929-30), during which time he engaged in flying exhibitions (previously discussed).
We also know that the Marine Corps established its first balloon detachment on 28 June 1918 under Captain Page’s command, very likely at Quantico. The detachment’s mission artillery spotting in support of the 10th Marine Regiment (artillery), which in 1918 trained at Quantico for service with the American Expeditionary Forces. After the Armistice on 11 November 1918, there being no need for the 10th Marines in France, HQMC deactivated the regiment in April 1919.
An aside: Change within the Navy and War Departments, particularly involving aviation, was never easy. Senior officers within both departments were simply the product of their training and experience and somewhat intractable in their national defense views. Even following the First World War, Army and Navy leaders remained unconvinced that aviation should assume a more significant national defense role. They may have maintained this view had it not been for the relentless efforts of William Lendrum Mitchell (1879-1936), an Army aviator. Mitchell believed that “floating bases” was necessary to defend U.S. territories against naval threats, but the CNO, Admiral William S. Benson, dissolved navy aeronautics in 1919 (a decision later reversed by Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt). It was a bit of service rivalry that senior navy aviators argued that land-based pilots no more understood naval aviation demands than ground commanders understood airpower capabilities. They resisted any alliance with Mitchell. Despite these attitudes, Mitchell urged the development of naval air service, arguing that air-delivered bombs would become a serious threat to enemy ships. Not even Roosevelt agreed with Mitchell’s proposals in 1919.
Convinced that he was right on this issue, Mitchell became publicly critical of the Army and Navy’s senior leadership, judging them as “insufficiently far-sighted” regarding airpower. Despite their misgivings, the secretaries of War and the Navy agreed to a series of joint Army/Navy exercises that incorporated captured or decommissioned ships as targets. Mitchell believed that the nation’s spending on battleship fleets was a waste of money; he intended to demonstrate how easily aircraft could defeat the Navy’s dreadnaughts. Mitchell received public support for the joint exercise when the New York Tribune revealed that the Navy had cheated on its test results.
Despite his popularity with the press, Mitchell’s criticism of Army/Navy leadership made him a pariah in both departments. Nevertheless, the joint exercise proceeded with bombing attacks on a former German battleship by Army, Navy, and Marine Corps pilots armed with 230, 550, and 600-pound bombs. Air-delivered bombs’ success and the German ship’s sinking caused the Navy to suspend shipbuilding and focus more on the possibilities of naval air power, but there were also political ramifications. For starters, the Navy’s perceived weaknesses embarrassed President Harding —the blame of which fell at Mitchell’s feet.
As for Mitchell, his prickly personality left him with few friends in the Army hierarchy, a condition that only grew worse after Mitchell appeared before a Congressional committee and criticized his superiors and senior Navy officers. In 1925, a tragic accident involving the airship Shenandoah prompted Mitchell to accuse senior Army/Navy leaders of gross incompetence and treasonable administration. As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Coolidge ordered Mitchell court-martialed. The court-martial proceeding was more on the order of a media circus. Mitchell’s defense attorney was a sitting congressman. Of the thirteen officers detailed as judges, which included Major Douglas A. MacArthur, none had an aviation background. In its deliberations, the court ruled that the truth or falsity of Mitchell’s accusations were immaterial to the charge against him: Violation of the 96th Article of War, “Bringing disgrace and reproach upon the military services,” which included six specifications. When the court found General Mitchell guilty of the charge and all specifications, he resigned his commission.
Despite Mitchell’s pissing-contest with Army/Navy leaders, the Marine Corps continued its experimentation with aviation platforms and aerial balloons. Between 1924-29, the Marine Corps established a balloon observation squadron (designated ZK-1M). Captain Page, meanwhile, continued evaluating experimental aircraft while challenging his aeronautical skills. He flew the Curtiss F6C-3 plane to victory in the Curtiss Marine Trophy Race on 31 May 1930, defeating a field of mostly Navy pilots. The F6C-3 was a member of the Hawk family of biplane fighters that, because of its performance evaluations by Navy/Marine Corps aviators, went through a series of design modifications to make it suitable for naval service. Captain Page lost his life while participating in the Thompson Air Race in 1930. There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots; there are no old bold pilots.
By the spring of 1940, planners at HQMC were acutely aware of the problems associated with defending advanced bases against enemy air attack. To address these issues, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) convened a board of senior officers to study air defense aspects. It became the duty of the Anti-Aircraft Defense Board to formulate policies suitable to both the Navy and War Departments. One agreement concerned the division of responsibility for barrage balloons and kite defenses protecting U.S. military installations. Under this agreement, the Army assumed air defense responsibility for permanent naval bases. Simultaneously, the Navy would develop shipboard defenses and “at such advanced bases as are not defended by the Army.”
On 27 December 1940, the Secretary of the Navy assigned responsibility for anti-air defenses (not defended by the Army) to the Fleet Marine Forces. From that point forward, Marine advanced base battalions assumed responsibility for the anti-aircraft defense mission at Guantanamo, Midway, Johnson Island, Palmyra, Samoa, Wake, Guam, and “any future location seized by American forces.” The CNO subsequently asked various bureaus and offices to comment or offer suggestions on the extent to which the Marine Corps should enter the barrage balloon field. There were two views:
The Director, Navy War Plans Division opined that balloons were unreliable anti-air defense mechanisms and noted that the small size of several advanced base locations (islands) meant that balloon defenses would be ineffective except against dive bombers. Moreover, the placement of such balloons would have to be so as not to interfere with friendly air operations, which would require moveable barge platforms. At no time did the War Plans Division mention any reliance on carrier-based attack aircraft.
The Director, Fleet Training Division expressed confidence in the efficiency of balloon defenses. He relied on the United Kingdom’s experience in London’s defense; it appeared to him that 50-100 balloons would provide adequate anti-air defenses. Based on this one assumption, the Director envisioned that the Marine Corps would require two to four squadrons of 24 balloons each and around 200 men per squadron. There was also the problem of availability because requisitions for Army balloon equipment strained industrial production capacities.
The CMC took immediate steps to procure balloons, not only for the initial issue but also for replacement balloons. HQMC also recalled to active service retired Major Bernard L. Smith and placed him in charge of the Corps’ barrage balloon development. During World War I, while serving as an assistant naval attaché in France, Major Smith’s study of lighter-than-air craft made him an “expert” in the field of balloon defense mechanisms.
In late April 1941, Major Smith (assisted by Captain Aquillo J. Dyess and Captain Robert S. Fairweather) established a training school at Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia. Smith led his officers and ten enlisted men to the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey, for a two-week course of instruction in the art of flying British-made Mark-5 and Mark-6 balloons. Returning to Quantico, Smith and his Marines prepared course curriculum and liaised with balloon manufacturers. When, more than a year later, Smith and his staff had yet to receive their first student, HQMC directed Smith to move his cadre to New River, North Carolina, where it became part of the Marine Corps Training Center, Camp Lejeune.
Still without students, Smith’s “school” essentially became a balloon research/development center; the Navy’s Anti-Aircraft Defense Board provided Smith with several varieties of British prototypes. Smith was also involved in the study of rockets and fuses suspended from aloft balloons. By late 1941, the arrival of balloon equipment allowed Smith to commence teaching balloon defense’s art and science. Concurrently, HQMC directed the establishment of the 1st and 2nd Barrage Balloon squadrons to further order that defense battalions incorporate these squadrons into training and operations. Typically, HQMC wanted to review the defense battalion’s evaluations of the practicality of barrage squadrons. By early December, Smith advised HQMC that the 1st Barrage Balloon Squadron (designation ZMQ-1) was ready for deployment. In late December, Smith’s report was timely because the Army requested the Marines provide a squadron to defend the Panama Canal Zone. Administratively, ZMQ-1 fell under the Fifteenth Naval District; operationally, the squadron supported the Army’s artillery command. ZMQ-1’s “temporary” assignment lasted through mid-September 1942.
Meanwhile, ZMQ-2, under Captain Henry D. Strunk, joined the 2nd Marine Brigade in Samoa. War with Japan led the Marine Corps to activate six additional Barrage Balloon Squadrons, although planners estimated a need for as many as twenty squadrons by 1944. To meet this demand, HQMC increased Smith’s training unit’s size to five officers and 43 enlisted men. In April 1942, HQMC assigned ZMQ-3 to the Pacific command; by September, the squadron was operating on the island of Tulagi —but with significant restrictions. Concerned that deployed balloons would attract enemy aircraft to vital airfields and logistics storage areas, senior Navy and Marine Corps officers curtailed the use of balloons at Tulagi and Guadalcanal. Instead, squadron personnel performed ground defense (infantry) duties. ZMQ-3 departed Tulagi for Noumea, where it joined with ZMQ-1, ZMQ-5, and ZMQ-6. HQMC ordered the deactivation of ZMQ-4, serving in Samoa, on 20 February 1943. The unavailability of helium at forward bases hindered squadrons’ performance, as in Noumea’s case, forcing unit officers to alter their tactics: they only launched their balloons when an enemy attack was imminent.
Shortages of helium wasn’t the only problem plaguing ZMQ squadrons. The task of logistical resupply in the Pacific was incredibly difficult. Since senior commanders in the Pacific questioned barrage balloons’ utility, balloon squadrons had a lower priority for resupply than did the most-forward units. Army logisticians paid scant attention to the needs of the attached Marines. Back in Washington, the demands placed on BuAer to prioritize the resupply of aircraft squadrons similarly left the balloon squadrons only marginally effective. For example, each balloon squadron required 4,000 high-pressure hydrogen cylinders. The Marine’s demand for 14,500 cylinders per month fell considerably short, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. To help coordinate balloon activities and address logistical shortfalls, HQMC ordered Major Charles W. May to assume command of the Marine Barrage Balloon Group on 10 January 1943.
One wartime epiphany was the Marine Corps’ realization that anti-aircraft guns had a greater effect on the enemy than the barrage balloons did. In the spring of 1943, the Marine Corps’ Commandant asked the U.S. Army to assume full responsibility for aerial balloon activities. The Commandant’s decision made perfect sense because, at that time, all Marine balloon squadrons served under the operational control of the U.S. Army. In June, the Army agreed to absorb the balloon mission, making 60 officers and 1,200 enlisted Marines available to serve in other (more critical) combat units. Beginning in March 1943, Marines of ZMQ-5 began training with 90mm anti-aircraft guns; ZMQ-6 followed suit. By August, manning anti-aircraft guns became the primary focus of training and operations. ZMQ-2 disbanded on 21 August, with all its Marines joining the 2nd Defense Battalion.
All barrage balloon squadrons ceased to exist by December 1943, and all Marines assigned to them transferred to the Marine Corps’ defense battalions. Luckily, these Marines were not only skilled balloonists; they were also deadly as hell in their new assignment as anti-aircraft gun crewmen and as a rifleman, the essential role of every Marine.
Updegraph, C. L. S. Marine Corps Special Units of World War II. Washington: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1972.
Barrage Balloons, Aerospace Power Journal, Summer 1989.
Hillson, F. J. When the Balloon Goes Up: Barrage Balloons for Low-Level Defense. Maxwell AFB: U.S. Air Force Command and Staff College, 1988.
 The purpose of military tables of organization (and equipment) (also, T/O and T/O&E) is to standardize the personnel staffing of military units according to their mission and includes the numbers and types of weapons and accoutrements required by such organizations to complete their mission.
 Major Smith was the 6th Marine officer designated as a naval aviator.
The sweaty Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines marched wearily through the pitch-black of the night along a hard-packed wheel-rutted road. German shelling had stopped a few hours earlier. The respite allowed these Marines to reach La Voie du Chatel unmolested and take up their fighting positions in a clump of woods about a mile farther. The battalion was down to three companies; the colonel had detached one rifle company to reinforce another battalion.
The wood contained little in the way of underbrush, so there was no way for the Marines to conceal themselves. When dismissed from marching formation, the men broke ranks and began eating their cold rations. Some of the Marines remained on their feet, eating erect; others wearily sat on the ground to nibble and rest. There may not have been much food, but there was plenty of tobacco, and the men took advantage of it.
Even after daybreak, the wood remained dim and damp from low cloud cover and early morning dew. The Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Frederic Wise, a nineteen-year veteran of Marine Corps service, established his command post under a few trees on the edge of a thicket not far from the road that came down from Champillon. Allied artillery began promptly at 0600 —right on schedule. The thunder of distant guns brought slouching Marines to their feet, and they stood silently listening. Then came the rifle and machine-gun fire heard from afar; it was ominously distinctive. After a few moments, the Marines returned to what they had been doing, mostly resting. They were tired. Very tired.
After an hour or so, 2/5 Marines saw the walking wounded as they approached along the adjacent road. Some of the men struggled by themselves; others walked in groups. Some of the men had their arms wrapped in slings; others had bandages wrapped around their heads. They all hobbled along, some using their rifles for crutches. A few blinded men followed behind others with their hands resting upon the men’s shoulders ahead of them. The injured men brought with them various accounts of the distant battle. None of it being particularly good news. The Germans had repelled their assault. The attack was a disaster, they said.
Sometime later, behind the long line of injured men, came a group of motorized ambulances. They stopped not far away, across the road from Colonel Wise’s command post, and began to set up a dressing station. In the distance, the battle raged on. After the ambulances came, the stretcher-bearers. Someone had pressed these captured German soldiers into service. The line of stretchers was not too long, and the Marines of 2/5 wondered if injured men told them exaggerated stories. The stretcher men took their charges into the dressing station. Some of the Marines wondered aloud at the foolishness of having medics so far from the battlefield. Damn, Marines question everything.
At around 1100, a company of Army engineers passed by, moving toward Champillon. Their captain soon appeared marching along behind them. His face was pale, and he seemed much disturbed. “The attack has failed,” he told the Wise. “The Marines are cut to pieces.” A few of Wise’s Marines, who stood nearby along the edge of the wood, heard this and muttered, “Bullshit.” The captain soon continued on his way.
By noon, the distant fire slackened, but the men no longer paid any attention to it. There was no excitement among them. Some of the Marines slept; others sat around smoking. Not long after, a runner came up the road with messages from Colonel Neville, the regimental commander. Colonel Wise had orders to proceed with his Marines to the northeast edge of the wood, northwest of Luc-le-Bocage —there to await further orders. The Sergeant Major passed the word, which prompted the NCOs to get their men on the road. “Mount up.” After mustering the men, the Marines stepped off in compliance with their orders. One Marine noticed a German observation balloon hovering far above them and passed the word back through the ranks. It was a bad sign.
An hour later, the Marines arrived at their newly assigned position on the wood’s northeast section. The terrain was completely different; this section of wood afforded good concealment. Company commanders dispersed their men, and sergeants inspected their positions, admonishing them to spread out—avoid bunching up, assigning them fields of fire. Colonel Wise (post-war picture at right) walked among his Marines checking on his captains’ work —they, in turn, supervising the work of their lieutenants, and the sergeants, who already knew what to do, muttered “yes sir” and got on with it. The veteran NCOs knew that setting into defensive positions is an ongoing process; there is always time to improve fighting positions —but there does come a time when the effort is less urgent, though no less critical.
When the Germans were not directing artillery fire against an allied advance, they used their big guns to harass suspected bivouac areas. It seemed to the Marines that there was never any shortage of German artillery. The enemy preferred shelling at night because it denied rest to the allied forces. On this night, the shelling began at 2200. Shell after shell poured into the wood. The noise was deafening. There was also the sound of shrapnel whizzing overhead, of trees crashing down. The Marines leaned in closer to mother earth. There were a few casualties, but not too many. Then, as suddenly as the barrage had begun, it stopped.
At midnight, another messenger arrived —with new orders. Colonel Neville ordered Wise to move his men again. Wise had two hours to assemble his men, move them once more along the Lucy-Torcy Road, locate Colonel Feland, the regimental executive officer, and obtain orders about what next to do. Wise signed for his orders and called for his captains. Mustering the men in the dark after two hours of heavy shelling would be no easy task. Wise sent out runners to find the Fifth Marines’ headquarters. Locating Colonel Feland in the dark of night would be a miracle.
Wise already knew the score. The battle of 2 June 1918 produced mixed results. The 1st Battalion, 5th Marines had done rather well against the Germans, but the Germans severely mauled the 3rd Battalion. The brigade’s objective had been the Bois de Belleau, and German resistance stopped the Allied advance.
Company officers and NCOs mustered the men as they came out of the woods in two’s and threes. The Lucy-Torcy Road formed a defile between the high ground on both sides of the road. On the right of the line of march was the Belleau Wood; Colonel Wise knew that the wood was teeming with German troops. His map informed him that the road would open up into a sloping grain field about one-half mile distant. It was not unlike a bottleneck from which his Marines would spill out onto a table.
When NCOs and officers finally organized their companies, and all hands accounted for, Colonel Wise stepped off, leading his Marines between those high banks. But Wise was worried. He knew they would soon encounter terrain that afforded no cover at all. The night was still—the only noticeable sound was the crunching of booted feet. There was no muttering in the ranks. Wise thought the night was too still. He didn’t have a good feeling about what lay ahead. About 100 yards before the bottleneck, Wise halted his battalion and ordered them off the road.
When the road was clear of Marines, Colonel Wise called for a lieutenant and two rifle squads to reconnoiter the road ahead. After a slow advance over a couple of hundred yards, rifle fire suddenly erupted from the left, the sound of which was unmistakably Springfield rifles. Colonel Wise hollered out, “Ceasefire god damn it. What in the hell do you mean by shooting us? We’re Americans!”
The firing stopped —the shooters revealed themselves. They were all that remained of the 3rd Battalion. “Look to your right,” someone advised, “The Germans are in the Bois de Belleau.” Colonel Wise no sooner started his men back the way they had come when the Germans opened fire with machine guns. Their aim was low, but several Marines received wounds. And then the entire German line opened up; most of the fire was indiscriminate and ineffective. When Wise and his Marines returned to the battalion’s main body, he instructed his company commanders to take cover along the ridgeline on the left of the road and tie in with what remained of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. Colonel Wise shuddered; he was well aware that had he led his battalion further down the road, the Germans might have destroyed 2/5.
While conferring with his company officers, Captain John Blanchfield suddenly grabbed at his groin and then fell to the ground. A sniper’s well-aimed shot brought him down. Two young NCOs picked him up and carried him to safety, but he was soon dead. German fire continued unabated. Overconfident, Germans began standing up and shooting at the Marines. Germans also wounded Lieutenant Sam Cummings and several others; their comrades helped them along. Some of these young men were beyond help. The well-disciplined Marines held their fire. There was no good reason to reveal their exact position.
When the NCOs had finally positioned their Marines, the battalion extended a mile in distance. German fire continued, and it didn’t take much urging for the Marines to begin digging in —just in time for the arrival of more German artillery.
Colonel Wise made his way to his battalion’s left flank to find out about the remnants of 3/5. He found fifty men; they were all that remained of a rifle company. The lieutenant commanding the platoon had done a good job establishing defensive positions for his Marines. They were in mutually supporting foxholes but nervous, which is not unusual. The lieutenant apologized for firing on Colonel Wise; he explained that the Germans had been probing the Marine’s position for several hours. Wise informed the young officer that he was now attached to the 2nd Battalion.
Within a half-hour, the soil being sandy and easily disturbed, 2/5 Marines were well-entrenched and expecting a German attack. No attack materialized. There were only persistent artillery and a constant stream of machine gunfire. A continuous stream of machine-gun fire is not how experienced troops fire their automatic weapons; Wise suspected that the German troops were new to the line.
At 0900, Colonel Feland came up behind the ridge on foot. He informed Wise that 1/5 was now on his left; there was little left of the Third Battalion. He told the battalion commander, “Stay here and hold this ridge.”
Just as the Marines concluded that the German shelling couldn’t get worse, the German began to employ trench mortars on the Marine position. Trench mortars were aerial torpedoes about four feet long and packed with explosives. Once fired, they sailed through the air and landed along the top of the ridge; when they exploded, the entire ridge line shook. The bombardment kept up for the whole of the day. Gas shells fell, as well, but they were few. In time, the regiment sent up a machine gun section to support the 1st and 2nd battalions. No one entrenched on the Marine line could understand why the Germans did not launch a full-scale assault. Had they done so, with so few men, no defense-in-depth, and no opportunity to establish secondary positions, the Germans would have crushed the First and Second Battalion of the 5th Marines.
The Marines were still on that ridge on the third day. They held out against German artillery and murderous machine-gun fire; they maintained their position. The Marines had nothing to shoot at, except trees. Owing to the Marine positions’ disbursement and the depth of their fighting holes, the third day passed with few casualties. The supply sergeant sent up cold food in the evening with resupplies of ammunition. The Marines, on fifty-percent alert, slept as well as they could. German artillery began again on the morning of the fourth day.
At 0900, a runner came up with a message for the Battalion commander; the Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Harbord, wanted to see Colonel Wise at his headquarters. It was an unusual meeting. Without going through the regimental commander, Harbord ordered Wise into the attack on Belleau Wood. Wise went straightaway to the regimental command post to inform Colonel Neville of his orders and requested the return of his third rifle company.
General Harbord had given Wise carte blanch authority to execute his attack. What Wise did not want to do was to use the same unsuccessful strategy employed by the 6th Marines. Using the same old playbook would only cost his Marines more suffering. What Wise wanted was to hit the Germans where they weren’t looking —from behind.
LtCol Wise called for his company commanders. Captain Wass, Captain Williams, Captain Dunbeck, and First Lieutenant Cook soon appeared. They were red-eyed, unshaven, and dirty. Wise explained the mission assigned to 2/5, informed him of his plan, outlined the risks, and asked for their opinions. They agreed with Wise; there was no good reason to launch a frontal assault. Wise informed his officers that 2/5 would move out at 0400 for an attack before daybreak. In addition to the standard allotment of 100 rounds of ammunition, each Marine would receive two bandoliers (60 rounds each). Colonel Neville directed 1/5 relieve 2/5 on the line at midnight. (Shown right, Captain Lloyd Williams, USMC).
For the rest of the day, company officers and NCOs readied their men. The Marines displayed no excitement at all. They were veterans and, as such, resigned to whatever fate had in store for them. Colonel Wise conferred with Major Terrill, the officer commanding 1/5, and Major John A. Hughes, commanding 1/6, to confirm the midnight relief. Hughes agreed with Wise’s plan. A frontal attack would be suicidal, he said. Hughes offered good insight as to the German defenses and the terrain. Hughes told him that within the wood was a knoll that extended a mile long and about a half-mile wide. The knoll rose sharply from the surrounding field; there was an outcrop of boulders cut with gullies and ravines with thick underbrush inhibiting good observation beyond a few feet. Within this tangle, Hughes continued, were well camouflaged German machine gun nests, protected by fallen trees and woodpiles. Hughes told Wise to expect sniper fire from ground and treetop positions, by shooters desperate to defend the wood.
Colonel Wise was thankful for his conversation with Hughes, and for the fact that he would not have to make a frontal assault against the German positions. But his relief was short-lived. At midnight, General Harbord sent forward another message, countermanding his earlier order and directing Wise to make a frontal assault from the Wood’s southern edge. Major Hughes’ 1/6 would attack on the right of 2/5. To make sure that the Germans knew the Marines were coming, Harbord ordered a rolling barrage of artillery beginning at 0400. Wise was dumbstruck. It was now necessary to change his entire scheme of maneuver. He called up his company officers and gave them their new orders.
At 0300, the 2/5 was ready to attack. The early morning hour was still. Colonel Wise informed his officers that he would establish his command post to the right of the battalion line. Birds began to chirp; Wise later remembered how amazed he was that there were any birds at all in those woods. With his Marines positioned for the attack, Colonel Wise awaited the commencement of allied artillery. The morning light slowly revealed an odd, very eerie looking terrain.
A rolling barrage began at 0400, rounds dropping several hundred yards in front of the Marine position. A cultivated field extended upward to meet the thick wall of the Belleau Wood. Artillery pushed dirt high into the air, tons of soil dropping back to earth in a disorderly fashion. As the bombardment began to creep forward, German machine guns came to life. The Germans could not see any Marines yet, but the barrage informed them of what direction the attack would come.
Platoon sergeants blew their whistles; on cue, the battalion began its movement forward, now in plain sight of the Germans. They had the range of these Marines, and young men started dropping, but the line moved steadily on. In Colonel Wise’s opinion, the Germans could not have done better if they had ordered the attack themselves. Marines dropped one after another. In time, the Marine advance disappeared into the wood, and suddenly, German machine-gun fire abated. Now it was time for the Germans to die. Company commanders sent word back to Wise: objective achieved; casualties many.
Marines began escorting prisoners to the battalion command post. These men were from the Jaeger Division. The prisoners told the Marines that there were 1,800 Germans inside the wood. The Marine strength, before the attack, was half that. The German soldiers taken as prisoners said that they were glad to be out of the war.
The Marines took the wood. Every shred of post-battle evidence pointed to the fact that it was a horrific fight. In front of the German machine-gun nests were dead Marines. Inside the next lay the remains of Germans. A strange silence engulfed the entire area. Colonel Wise looked for Captain Williams. He instead found Williams executive officer; Captain Williams was dead. It was pure carnage. As the Marines continued their advance, Germans feigning death rose and shot them in the back. This behavior so thoroughly pissed-off the Marines that they stopped taking prisoners; they even shot Germans who had thrown down their weapons —not out of cruelty, but for survival. A dead enemy can’t kill you.
What made attacking German machine gun positions so dangerous, beyond the obvious, was how the Germans positioned their automatic weapons: Germans protected the first emplacement with two carefully camouflaged machine-gun nests behind it. As the Marines assaulted one such position, machine gun crews in the rear would wait until the Marines seized the forward nest before opening fire —which was essentially how Second Lieutenant Heiser, of Captain Dunbeck’s company, lost his life. A stream of machine-gun fire decapitated him. Among the German soldiers in Belleau Wood, machine gunners were the first to surrender. Unhappily for them, U.S. Marines were not very inclined to accept their surrender.
Colonel Wise’s companies fought their way through the Belleau Wood, from one side to the other. A lot of Marines died in the process of taking the wood. The attack began after daylight, but in some places, the wood was as dark as night, visibility impaired by think foliage, complex terrain, a place with no discernible landmarks. If one happened to turn entirely around twice, he would lose his sense of direction, and only a compass could set them straight. The density of the wood’s underbrush made close combat savage, deadly work. Up close and personal could not have been more personal. What made the American Marines stand out from their U.S. Army contemporaries was elemental courage, gallantry, fortitude, and the mental and physical hardening and determination instilled into them by their drill instructors.
At the end of this fight, German soldiers still occupied the northeast sector. Colonel Wise no longer had enough men to take it. Moreover, he didn’t have a sufficient number of Marines to defend what he’d taken. Half of 2/5 lay dead, dying or wounded on the field of battle. Colonel Wise had to establish a defensive perimeter that extended nearly two miles with what remained of his battalion. Everyone left alive knew that a counterattack was only a matter of time. Colonel Wise approached Major Hughes and requested the loan of a company of Marines to press the remaining Germans, but just then, General Harbord’s courier told Wise not to bother cleaning up the Germans; Army artillery would do the job. Colonel Wise shook his head because he knew artillery would do nothing to defend Belleau Wood. Major Snow brought up two companies of combat engineers; Wise promoted them to infantry and set them into defensive positions.
Meanwhile, a steady stream of stretcher-bearers emerged from the wood. For some, medical attention mattered; for most, it didn’t. This carnage was the price of glory; a word one never hears from the lips of a combat Marine. There is glory, of course, but only in the sense that young, well-trained American Marines can overcome their natural fear of death to accomplish that which is necessary, and in this process, distinguishing themselves at the most critical of times.
The Battle of Belleau Wood exacted a heavy toll on the 4th Marine Brigade. Within this brigade of 9,500 Marines, 1,000 lost their lives while in action, 4,000 more received serious battle wounds from gunfire or mustard gas —a 55% casualty rate. Colonel Thomas Holcomb’s 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, suffered 764 casualties out of roughly 900-man assigned. The battle ended in victory for the American Expedition Forces, but its significance went far beyond a single bloody engagement.
In subsequent years, the Marine Corps underwent a substantial reorganization and a change in direction, from its traditional role of serving in ship’s detachments to a multi-purpose force in readiness. The Corps’ senior officers who were ultimately responsible for this reorganization were men who fought at Belleau Wood, including future commandants John A. Lejeune, Clifton Cates, Lemuel Shepherd, Jr., Wendell Neville, and Thomas Holcomb.
The list of Belleau Wood combatants also includes Roy Geiger, the only Marine to command a U.S. field army. Charles F. B. Price commanded the 2nd Marine Division in World War II. Holland M. “Howling Mad” Smith commanded V Amphibious Corps in World War II, and Keller E. Rockey commanded the 5th Marine Division during the battle for Iwo Jima. Merwin Silverthorn was a sergeant in the 5th Marines who later retired as a lieutenant general as one of the Marine Corps’ foremost authorities on amphibious warfare.
Modern Marines refer to these World War I veterans as the “Old Breed.” The men identified above later shaped the Marine Corps in its new image: a force in readiness. They created and implemented intense training programs, adopted new weapons, devised new battlefield tactics, emphasized the importance of contingency planning, and instituted rigorous education programs for officers, noncommissioned officers, and entry-level Marines. Wisely, the Marine Corps learned many lessons from the Battle of Belleau Wood, and these lessons in turn prepared future Marines for World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle Eastern Wars.
 Logan Feland (1869-1936) was a career Marine Corps officer who retired as a major general in 1933. He participated in the Spanish American War while serving with the 3rd Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, and as a Marine Corps officer from 1899. In every battle in which he served, Feland was at the forefront of the fight. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal, and five awards of the Silver Star medal.
 At this particular time, all crew-served weapons were held in readiness by the brigade, distributed to regiments on an “as needed” basis.
 James Guthrie Harbord (1866-1947) was a senior officer of the US Army who, during World War I, commanded the 4th Marine Brigade during the battles of Chateau-Thierry and Belleau Wood.
 Captain Lloyd Williams commanded the 51st Company, 2/5. He will live forever in the hearts of Marines for his famous reply to a French colonel. As the Marines took their positions on 2 June, relieving elements of the French army, the colonel was attempting to acquaint the Americans with the realities of the situation outside Belleau Wood and not trusting his spoken English, wrote a note to Williams ordering him to retreat. Captain Williams looked at the colonel coldly and said, “Retreat hell! We just got here.” Other Marine officers parroted Williams’ eloquence several times since then.
 Major Hughes later claimed that he received no such order from Harbord.
There are many positive things to say about the American Republic —along with a few deserved criticisms. One of my criticisms is that we Americans seem never to learn important lessons from history —so we are continually forced to relearn them. This relearning process is too often painful for our nation —for its complex society. Maybe one day we’ll smarten up, but I’m not holding my breath.
Speaking of lessons unlearned, given their experience with the British Army the founding fathers were distrustful of standing armies. I find this odd because the British Army’s presence within the thirteen colonies prevented hostile attacks against British settlements. Years later, at the Battle of Bladensburg during the War of 1812, observing how the American militia cut and run when confronted with a well-trained British Army, President James Madison remarked, “I could never have believed so great a difference existed between regular troops and a militia force if I had not witnessed the scenes of this day.”
Our reliance on state or federal militia to defend our homeland was one of those unlearned lessons. War is not for amateurs. Federalized state militias during the American Civil War were not much of an improvement over the Revolutionary War minute men. History shows us, too, that finding enough resources to fight a war against Spain in Cuba was very close to becoming an unmitigated disaster. There was only one combat force ready for war in 1898; the U. S. Marine Corps was able to field a single (reinforced) battalion —one that was engaged with the enemy before the Army figured out which of its senior officers was in charge. Who knows how many horses drowned because the Army couldn’t figure out how to unload them from transport ships and get them to shore.
The United States was still unprepared for combat service at the beginning of the First World War. Politicians —those geniuses in Washington— had little interest in creating and maintaining a standing armed force. Worse, our military leaders were incompetent and complacent, and as a result of this, the US military lacked modern weapons. When Congress declared war against Imperial Germany, the American army was forced to rely on weapons provided by Great Britain and France. It wasn’t that the United States had no weapons, only that our arsenal was a mishmash of firearms requiring an assortment of munitions that were both inadequate and inefficient for the demands of general war. In particular, the United States arsenal included ten different revolvers of varying calibers, 12 rifles of foreign and domestic manufacture, and six variants of automatic weapons/machine guns.
The world’s first rapid-fire weapon was the brainchild of James Puckle (1667-1724), a British inventor, a lawyer, and a writer, who in 1718 invented a multi-shot gun mounted on a wheeled stand capable of firing nine rounds per minute. The Puckle Gun consisted of six flintlock barrels, operated manually by a crew. The barrel was roughly three feet long with a bore measuring 1.25 inches (32mm). The weapon was hand loaded with powder and shot while detached from its base. To my knowledge, this device was never used in combat.
Today, we classify machine guns as either light, medium, or heavy weapons. The light machine gun (with bipod for stability) is usually operated by a single soldier. It has a box-like magazine and is chambered for small caliber, intermediate power ammunition. Medium machine guns are general purpose weapons that are belt-fed, mounted on bi-or tripods, and fired using full power ammunition. The term “heavy machine gun” may refer to water-cooled, belt-fed weapons, operated by a machine gun team, and mounted on a tripod (classified as heavy due to its weight), or machine guns chambered for high-powered ammunition. Heavy machine gun ammunition is of larger caliber than that used by light and medium guns, usually .50 caliber or 12.7mm.
One example of America’s use of rapid-fire weapons was the weapon designed by Richard J. Gatling in 1861, which seems to follow the Puckle design. Called the Gatling Gun, it was the forerunner of the modern machine gun (and of modern electric motor-driven rotary guns and cannons). It saw only occasional use during the American Civil War, and only sporadic use through 1911. It was not an easily transportable weapon.
Wide use of rapid-fire (machine) guns changed the tactics and strategies of warfare. Magazine or belt fed ammunition gave opposing armies substantial increases in fire power. No longer could soldiers advance in a frontal assault without incurring massive casualties, which then led to trench warfare. Machine guns would never have been possible without advances in ammunition —a shift away from muzzle loading single-shot weapons to cartridges that contain the round, propellant, and means of ignition.
The first recoil-operated rapid-fire weapon was the creation of Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim in 1884, a British-American inventor. The Maxim gun was used by the British in several colonial wars between 1886-1914. Maxim’s work led to research and development by Hotchkiss, Lewis, Browning, Rasmussen, Mauser, and others.
First World War
The only machine guns available to the United States at the beginning of World War I were the Hotchkiss M1909 Benét–Mercié, the Chauchat M1915, M1918 (pronounced Show-sha), which was a light machine gun made in France, Belgium, and Poland, the Colt-Vickers (called the potato digger) was a British water-cooled .303 caliber gun, the Hotchkiss 1914, and the Lewis gun. While the Lewis gun was designed in the United States in 1911, no one in the Army’s Ordnance Department was much interested in it, which caused inventor Colonel Isaac Newton Lewis to seek license for its production in the United Kingdom in 1914.
Some of these machine guns were more dependable than others; they are, after all, only machines. But one consequence of faulty weapons was the needless combat-related deaths of many young men, whose weapons failed to work at critical moments. Whenever combat troops lose confidence in their weapons, they become less aggressive in combat; they lose their determination to win —they lose battles.
America’s War Department in 1914 was inept. Not only were the Army’s senior leader’s incompetent, the entire organization was ill-prepared to carry out the will of Congress. Of course, the Congress might have taken note of these conditions before declaring war on Germany in 1917, but it didn’t. Before America could go to war, it was necessary to increase the size of the Army through conscription, complete re-armament was necessary, and massive amounts of spending was required to satisfy the needs of general war. Until that could happen, until war technology could be developed, the American soldier and Marine would have to make do with French and British armaments.
In 1917, John Browning personally delivered to the War Department two types of automatic weapons, complete with plans and detailed manufacturing specifications. One of these weapons was a water-cooled machine gun; the other a shoulder fired automatic rifle known then as the Browning Machine Rifle (BMR). Both weapons were chambered for the US standard 30.06 cartridge. After an initial demonstration of the weapons capabilities with the US Army Ordnance Department, a second public demonstration was scheduled in south Washington DC, at a place called Congress Heights.
On 27 February 1917, the Army staged a live-fire demonstration that so impressed senior military officers, members of Congress, and the press, that Browning was immediately awarded a contract for the production of the BMR and was favored with the Army’s willingness to conduct additional tests on the Browning machine gun.
In May 1917, the US Army Ordnance Department began this additional testing of the machine gun at the Springfield Armory. At the conclusion of these tests, the Army recommended immediate adoption of Browning’s weapon. To avoid confusing the two Browning automatic weapons, the rifle became known as the M1917 Rifle, Caliber .30, Automatic, Browning. Over time, the weapon was referred to as simply the Browning Automatic Rifle, or BAR.
What was needed then was a company capable of producing the weapons in the quantities needed to arm a field army —which is to say, three infantry corps, each consisting of three infantry divisions, each of those having three regiments, and each regiment consisting of three infantry battalions. It would be a massive undertaking. Since the Colt Firearms Company was already under contract to produce the Vickers machine gun for the British Army, Winchester Repeating Arms Company was designated the project’s primary manufacturer. Winchester, after providing invaluable service to Browning and the Army in refining the final design to the BAR, re-tooled its factory for mass production. One example of Winchester’s contribution was the redesign of the ejection port, which was changed to expel casings to the left rather than straight up.
The BAR began arriving in France in July 1918; the first to receive them was the US 79th Infantry Division. The weapon first went into combat against German troops in mid-September. The weapon had a devastating impact on the Germans —so much so that France and Great Britain ordered more than 20,000 BARs.
The Marines, always considered the red-headed stepchildren of the U. S. Armed Forces, now serving alongside US Army infantry units, were never slated to receive these new weapons. Undaunted, Marines of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment developed a bartering system with co-located units of the 36th Infantry Division. The Marines traded their Chauchats to the soldiers in exchange for the new BAR. Given what I know of the average Marine’s ability to scavenge needed or desired resources, I have no doubt that the Marines were able to convince the doggies that one day, the soldiers would be able to retain the French guns as war souvenirs, whereas the BARs would have to be surrendered after the war. Unhappily for the Marines, senior Army officers learned of this arrangement and the Marines were ordered to surrender the BARs and take back their Chauchats.
The BAR was retained in continual use by the US Armed Forces (less the Air Force, of course) from 1918 to the mid-1970s. The BAR’s service history includes World War I, Spanish Civil War, World War II, Second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese Civil War, Indonesian Revolution, Korean War, Palestinian Civil War, First Indochina War, Algerian War, and in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Cyprus, and the Thai-Laotian Border War.
The BMG and BAR were not Browning’s only accomplishments.
John Moses Browning was born into a Mormon family on 23 January 1855. His father, Jonathan, was among literally thousands of Mormon pioneers that made their exodus from Illinois to Utah. The elder Browning established a gun shop in Ogden in1852. As a Mormon in good standing, Jonathan had three wives and fathered 22 children.
John Browning began working in his father’s gun shop at around the age of seven where he learned basic engineering and manufacturing principles, and where his father encouraged him to experiment with new concepts. He developed his first rifle in 1878 and soon after founded the company that would become the Browning Arms Company. In partnership with Winchester Repeating Arms Company, Browning developed rifles and shotguns, from the falling block single shot 1885 to the Winchester Model 1886, Model 1895, the Model 1897 pump shotgun, and Remington Model 8. He also developed cartridges that were superior to other firearm company designs.
Browning Arms Company is responsible for the M1899/1900 .32 ACP pistol, M1900 .38 ACP, M1902 .38 ACP, M1903 Pocket Hammer .38 ACP, M1903 9mm Browning Long, M1903 Pocket Hammerless .32 ACP, M1906/08 Vest Pocket .25 ACP, M1908 Pocket Hammerless .380 ACP, the US M1911A1 .45 ACP, Browning Hi-Power 9mm Parabellum, the Colt Woodsman .22 long rifle, and BDA handguns in .38 and .45 ACP. He developed ten variants of shotgun, eleven rifles, six machine guns, and was awarded 128 patents.
What it takes to win battles is reliable weapons expertly employed against the enemy. John Browning gave us expertly designed, quality manufactured weapons to win battles.
We no longer rely on state militias to fight our wars, but we have taken a turn toward including more reserve organizations in our poorly chosen fights. The US also has, today, a robust weapons development program to give our Armed Forces a battlefield advantage. Despite past failures in providing our frontline troops quality weapons, the US Marines have always succeeded against our enemies with the weapons at their disposal. Occasionally, even entrenching tools were used with telling effect against the enemy.
If American Marines have learned anything at all about warfare since 1775, it is that success in battle depends on never taking a knife to a gunfight.
Borth, C. Masters of Mass Production. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1945.
Browning, J. and Curt Gentry. John M. Browning: American Gunmaker. New York: Doubleday, 1964.
Gilman, D. C., and H. T. Peck (et.al.), eds. New International Encyclopedia. New York: Dodd-Mead.
Miller, D. The History of Browning Firearms. Globe-Pequot, 2008.
Willbanks, J. H. Machine guns: An Illustrated History of their Impact. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2004.
 Benjamin B. Hotchkiss (1826-1885) was an American who, after the American Civil War, with the US government little interested in funding new weapons, moved to France and set up a munitions factory he named Hotchkiss et Cie.
 Julius A. Rasmussen and Theodor Schouboe designed a machine gun that was adopted by the Danish Minister of War, whose name was Colonel Wilhelm Herman Oluf Madsen. They called it the Madsen Machine Gun.
 The invention of Colonel Isaac Newton Lewis in 1911 that was based on the initial work of Samuel Maclean. The US Army’s ordnance department was not interested in the Lewis Gun because of differences between the Chief of Ordnance, Brigadier General William Crozier and Colonel Lewis.
 Larceny has been a Marine Corps tradition since the 1890s. During World War II, Marines were known to steal hospital sheets from adjacent Navy hospitals, make “captured Japanese flags” out of them, and sell them to sailors and soldiers as war souvenirs. During the Vietnam War, anything belonging to the Army or Navy that was not tied down and guarded 24-hours a day was liable to end up on a Marine Corps compound. In 1976, three Marines were court-martialed for stealing two (2) Army 6×6 trucks, attempting to conceal the thefts by repainting the trucks and assigning them fraudulent vehicle ID numbers. In 1976, our Marines were still driving trucks from the Korean and Vietnam War periods. Despite overwhelming evidence that these three Marines were guilty as hell, a court-martial board consisting of five Marine officers and a Navy lieutenant, acquitted them. Apparently, no one sitting as a member of the court thought it was wrong to steal from the Army.
 Franklin Roosevelt’s “lend-lease” program provided thousands of US made weapons to the Communist Chinese Army during World War II. The Communists under Mao Zedong hid these weapons away until after Japan’s defeat, and then used them to good advantage against the Chinese Nationalists. Some of these weapons were used against American soldiers and Marines during the brief “occupation” of China following World War II. The United States government continues to arm potential enemies of the United States, which in my view is a criminal act.
Aviation history began before there were airplanes and the first use of aviators actually began with lighter-than-air balloons. In 1794, French observation balloons were used to monitor enemy troop movements. Balloons were also employed during the American Civil War, as part of the Army Signal Corps, for observing enemy movements and artillery spotting, and this in turn necessitated the development of a system for communicating between aviators and ground personnel.
In 1906, the Commandant of the Army Signal School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Major George O. Squier, began studying aeronautical theory and lectured student-officers on the Wright flying machine. One of his fellow instructors was a captain by the name of Billy Mitchell, whose expertise included the use of balloons in reconnaissance missions. Mitchell also became interested in aeronautical principles.
Major Squier later served as an executive assistant to the Army’s Chief Signal Officer, Brigadier General James Allen. In 1907, at Squier’s urging, Allen created the Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps. In December of that year, the Signal Corps requested bids for a heavier-than-air flying machine. Not everyone in the Army agreed with this development, but ultimately, the Aeronautical Division became the world’s first military aviation organization when it purchased the Wright Model A aircraft in 1909.
American naval interest in aviation followed the Royal Navy’s interests in developing aviation capabilities in 1908, when Prime Minister H. H. Asquith approved the formation of an Aerial Subcommittee within the Imperial Defense Committee. At this time, the British were primarily interested in dirigible airships for over-water reconnaissance.
In 1910, American aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss contracted with the U. S. Navy to develop and demonstrate an aircraft utility for ships at sea. One of Curtiss’ pilots, Eugene Ely, took off from the cruiser USS Birmingham anchored off the Virginia coast in late November 1910. Then, in January 1911, Ely demonstrated the ability to land on a navy ship by setting down aboard the USS Pennsylvania in San Francisco Bay —efforts which validated Curtiss’ theory. At the time, landing and takeoff platforms were crude temporary constructs. On 27 January 1911, Curtiss further demonstrated the suitability of naval aviation by piloting the first sea plane from San Diego Bay. The next day, Navy Lieutenant Theodore G. Ellyson became the first Naval Aviator when he took off in a Curtiss grass cutter.
Marine Corps aviation began on 22 May 1912 when First Lieutenant Alfred Austell Cunningham reported to the Naval Aviation Camp at Annapolis, Maryland “for duty in connection with aviation.” Lieutenant Cunningham became the first Marine aviator in August of that year when he took off in a Burgess Model H aircraft, presented to him by the Burgess Company of Marblehead, Massachusetts.
In those early days, the Navy and Marine Corps had different concepts of naval aviation and they were substantial enough to lead Marine aviators to conclude that the Marines should have their own section within the Navy Flying School (created in 1914). In the next year, the Commandant of the Marine Corps authorized the creation of a Marine Aviation Company for duty with the Advanced Base Force. The company, manned by ten officers and forty enlisted men, was assigned to the Navy Yard, Philadelphia.
A major expansion of the Marine air component came with America’s entry into World War I. Wartime enlargements resulted in renaming organizations and a substantial increase in personnel. In July 1918, Marine Aviation Company was divided and renamed First Aeronautic Company and First Marine Air Squadron. The aeronautic company deployed to the Azores to hunt for German submarines, while air squadrons were activated and assigned to the 1st Marine Aviation Force in France.
In France, Marine aviators in provided bomber and fighter support to the Navy’s Northern Bombing Group. Within the short time span of America’s participation in World War I, Marine aviators recorded several aerial victories and credit for dropping in excess of fourteen tons of ordnance on enemy forces. In total, the 1st Marine Aviation Force included 282 officers and 2,180 enlisted men operating from eight squadrons. Second Lieutenant Ralph Talbot was the first Marine Corps aviator to earn the Medal of Honor for action against the Luftstreitkräfte, the air contingent of the German Imperial Army.
By the end of the First World War, Marine aviators had gained aeronautical expertise in a wide range of air support roles, including air to air, air to ground, close air support for ground troops, and anti-submarine patrolling. Congress authorized an aeronautical force of 1,020 men and permanent air stations at Quantico, Parris Island, and San Diego. From that time forward, whenever and wherever Marines confronted an enemy, their aviation arm accompanied them —at the time, in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and in Nicaragua. It was during the Banana Wars that Marine Corps pilots expanded their unique application air air-ground tactics, resupply of ground forces in remote locations, and air-to-ground communications.
If there was one area where Marine aviation stood apart from the other services, it was in the number of enlisted men serving as pilots, especially in time of national emergency/war. Enlisted pilots were not a “new” concept. The French air services employed enlisted men as pilots, but if there was a general rule, it would have been that commissioned officers were the primary source for aviators. The Navy implemented its (enlisted) Naval Aviation Pilot designation in 1919. The Marines, as part of the Naval Services, also authorized enlisted men to serve as pilots. First Sergeant Benjamin Belcher was the first Marine enlisted man to serve as a NAP in 1923. Some of these men later received commissions, such as Marine Ace Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth A. Walsh, who scored 21 kills and earned the Medal of Honor during World War II. Walsh served as an enlisted pilot in the 1930s until he was commissioned in 1942. In that year, there were 132 enlisted pilots serving in front line (fighter/bomber) squadron. In later years, enlisted pilots flew helicopters and jet aircraft.
Technical Sergeant Robert A. Hill, USMC performed 76 combat missions as the pilot of an OY aircraft. Hill earned the moniker “Bulletproof” because he often returned to base after a combat mission with massive amounts of bullet holes in his bird. Hill was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for evacuating wounded Marines near the Chosin Reservoir while under heavy enemy fire. Enlisted pilots also flew R4D transports, which were also used to medevac wounded men and the remains of men killed in action.
During the transition from propeller to jet aircraft, enlisted pilots trained in the Lockheed P-80 (also, TO-1) but only after 1949 and not without some objection by a few squadron commanders who did not want enlisted men flying high performance aircraft. It was a bit confusing and difficult. Some of the enlisted pilots in the Korean War had been commissioned during World War II and then reverted to their enlisted ranks in the post-war demobilization period. Some of these temporarily commissioned pilots left the Marine Corps after World War II and then later regretted doing so. It was possible for these men to re-join the Marine Corps, but only as enlisted men. Reenlistment within 90 days entitled these men to rejoin at the rank of Master Sergeant (in those days, E-7), and if beyond 90 days, they could be accepted as Technical Sergeant (E-6).
VMF-311 was ordered into the Korea War with its F9F Panthers and several NAP pilots. Master Sergeant Avery C. Snow was the first NAP to complete 100 combat missions in a jet aircraft. Snow achieved the rank of captain during World War II while serving with VMSB-232.
In 1952, Master Sergeant Lowell T. Truex was ordered to fly over an area near the Yalu River. During his pre-flight briefing, Truex was told that Air Force F-86s would fly escort for his mission. He was not at all happy to learn that he had no escort and he was flying alone in Indian Country. When Truex spotted several MiG-15s taking off, he started sweating. He hurriedly completed his photo-reconnaissance mission and returned to base. Truex had a few unkind things to say about the Air Force during his post-Op debrief, but he was reassured that the Air Force birds were on station and had kept a close eye on the MiG’s. The problem was service-rivalry; Air Force pilots had little regard for Marine Corps enlisted pilots, so they occasionally went out of their way to make the flying sergeants feel uncomfortable.
Master Sergeant James R. Todd completed 101 combat missions before rotating back to the States. He flew 51 missions in Banshees, 10 in the F9F, 23 in the F7F, 13 in F4U-5Ps, and four escort missions in F4U-4Bs. The F4U-4B was an armed aircraft, but in all the others, Todd had only his sidearm for self-defense —and a high-performance engine. Like many of his contemporaries, Todd had been commissioned as a second lieutenant in World War II. He was mustered out in September 1946 but returned to active duty in November of the same year. He resigned his commission as a first lieutenant and then enlisted as a private. After the ceremony, he was advanced to the rank of master sergeant. He received photo reconnaissance training at NAS Pensacola, Florida so that by the time the Korean War broke out, he was well-experienced recon pilot. It was a skill that would come in handy in the Korean conflict.
Note that in addition to their flying duties, NAPs also shared responsibility for supervising their squadron’s various divisions (flight line, powerplant, airframes, avionics, tool shed, and supply sections).
Enlisted Marines also flew combat missions in the Vietnam War, but by this time there were only a few remaining NAPs. In 1973, there were only 4 NAPs on active duty; all four of these men retired on 1 February 1973: Master Gunnery Sergeant Joseph A. Conroy, Master Gunnery Sergeant Leslie T. Ericson, Master Gunnery Sergeant Robert M. Lurie, and Master Gunnery Sergeant Patrick J. O’Neil.
A colorful era in Marine Corps aviation ended with the retirement of these flying sergeants.
 Cunningham (1882-1939) from Atlanta, Georgia, served in the 3rd Georgia Volunteer Infantry during the Spanish-American War. Following his voluntary service, he worked as a real estate agent in Atlanta for ten years until 1903. In 1909, he received a commission to second lieutenant in the U. S. Marine Corps. His enthusiasm for aviation was contagious and he soon convinced the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Major General William P. Biddle, that aviation was well-suited to the concept of the advanced base concept.
 An autonomous region of Portugal, an archipelago consisting of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic.
 Ralph Talbot (1897-1918) from South Weymouth, Massachusetts, joined the U. S. Navy in 1917. Owing to his participation in college level artillery reserve training, the Navy appointed him as a Seaman 2nd Class. After ground training and flight training, he was appointed Naval Aviator #456. At the time, the Marine Corps was having problems recruiting aviators so Talbot (and a number of other Navy pilots), in realizing that he would be in a better position to receive a combat assignment in the Marine Corps, resigned his navy commission and accepted a commission in the USMC. He was assigned to the 1st Marine Aviation Force for duty with “C” Squadron. Talbot was killed in an accident during takeoff at La Fresne aerodrome, France.
 At the beginning of World War II, the Royal Air Force would have been even worse off during the Battle of Britain were it not for their enlisted pilots.
 This aircraft became a workhorse for America. From its first design, the aircraft had several service and mission designations, including DC-3, R4D, C-47, Skytrain, Dakota, RC-47, SC-47, Spooky, EC-47, C-53, C-117, and C-129.
 In 1949, the highest enlisted grade was Master Sergeant (E-7).
I could not disagree more with the “journalist” Tom Brokaw when he labeled our fathers and grandfathers from World War II the “greatest generation.” Sociologists and other eggheads want us to know that the greatest generation followed the lost generation of World War I and preceded the silent generation of the 1960s. Balderdash. There may have been good reasons for disillusionment among the World War I generation, it was, after all, a horrible war. Bad memories plague all combat veterans for the balance of their lives. The silent generation (1928-1945) was hardly silent in mounting massive numbers of anti-war protest in the 1960s.
My problem with Brokaw is that in singling out one generation over another he renders a tremendous disservice to those who fought in all our wars, beginning with the American Revolution. A terrible price was paid in each of these. Were the soldiers of World War I less brave than those of World War II? Were the men of World War II any more courageous than those who fought in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq? Personally, I have room in my heart for all these men; the horror of war significantly changed, and sometimes shortened, their lives. They experienced diminished lifespans, painful war disability, and tormented sleepless nights for the balance of their time on earth.
Service men and women of all generations are worthy of our interest and respect. Many of these stand out because they participated in momentous events, others because of their personal bravery. Every combat soldier runs the risk of death or serious injury, and yet when it is time to muster for battle, they overcome their basest fears, they “fall in,” they perform their duty, and they stand as one.
Nearly all nations have decorations to bestow upon men (and now, women) who outperform all others during the crucible of war. Countries assign seniority over their medals, a precedence from highest to lowest honors. In the United States, we award Purple Heart Medals to those wounded or killed in action. The highest decoration in the United States, awarded for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty is the Medal of Honor, first authorized by the Department of the Navy in 1861.
The highest military decoration of the British Empire (now, United Kingdom-British Commonwealth) is the Victoria Cross, authorized in 1854 (during the Crimean War). The Victoria Cross distinguishes those demonstrating conspicuous bravery, valor, self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy. It differs from earlier forms of recognition for gallantry in the sense that the Victoria Cross did not discriminate according to birth or class. Queen Victoria presented the first medals at Hyde Park in 1857. Today, the highest military decoration of Australia (a British Commonwealth nation) is the Victoria Cross of Australia, generally awarded by the Governor-General of Australia.
In 1915, Australia was part of the British Empire. One hundred five years ago, the London Gazette published a brief announcement stating that King George V had awarded Lance Corporal Albert Jacka the Victoria Cross. No one in London knew who Albert Jacka was because he was a somewhat obscure young man from Australia.
Albert was born on a dairy farm just outside Winchelsea, Victoria, Australia on 10 January 1893. He was the fourth of seven children born to Nathaniel Jacka and his English-born wife Elizabeth. He attended primary school, as most children of that period did, and then began working with his father as a freight hauler. When the Great War began, Albert was a 21-year old employee of the Forestry Department at Heathcote. His work involved the installation of fencing, clearing fire breaks, and planting saplings. At the time, he was one of twenty such employees.
Albert enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) on 8 September 1914; after initial training, he joined the 14th Battalion, 4th Brigade. Turkey’s affiliation with the Axis powers prompted the dispatch of the 4th Brigade to the Middle East as part of the 1st Australian Division. Their mission was to guard the Suez Canal and undergo additional pre-combat training. Jacka’s first combat action exposed him to violent brutality. He was but one of thousands of young men who participated in the ill-conceived Australian landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, a battle that began the disastrous nine-month campaign that claimed the lives of more than 8,000 young Australians.
At 0330 on 19 May 1915, the Turks launched a small-unit assault against the ANZAC line at Courtney’s Post. After tossing hand-grenades into the Australian position, the Turks leapt into the trench. Jacka’s squad received the brunt of the explosions; three of Jacka’s men died instantly from the effects of the grenades with the rest of them receiving wounds from grenade fragments and gun fire. Lance Corporal Jacka alone remained unaffected. Jacka ordered the evacuation of his men while he alone remained behind to provide covering fire. He held off the Turks until the platoon commander sent up a few reinforcements.
Jacka was not a big man. He stood just over 5’ 6” tall, but his pre-military service employment had developed him into a muscular man of considerable strength. He was also a man devoted to his unit, his mates, and a man possessed of rugged determination. With only three men initially sent to reinforce him, Lance Corporal Jacka ordered them to fix bayonets. He would lead the charge back to Courtney’s Post, they would follow him. With this small force of four men, Jacka launched a counterattack against the Turks. In the ensuing fight, one additional Australian fell, mortally wounded; concentrated Turkish rifle fire forced Jacka to withdraw his fire team and call for additional reinforcements.
When those reinforcements arrived, Jacka organized them. He instructed them to lay down a base of fire against the Turks. After his men took up their firing positions, Jacka crawled out of the trench, crossed an area of “no man’s land,” and re-entered the trench behind the Turks. He then assaulted the Turks, shooting five of them, bayoneting two others, and taking three prisoners of war. Jacka then held Courtney’s Post alone until daybreak when additional soldiers re-manned the trench.
As the war continued, casualties mounted. The Battle of Chunuk Blair, an Australian attempt to break out of the beachhead, added thousands more to the list of dead and wounded. In their hemmed in positions, the Australians had no tactical advantage. In recognition of his sustained courage under fire, Lance Corporal Jacka’s commanding officer promoted him to corporal in late August, again to sergeant two weeks later, and by mid-November, he served as company sergeant major.
In July 1915, the British government announced that King George had awarded Jacka he Victoria Cross. He was then 22-years of age, making him the first Australian to receive the VC during World War I. The award also entitled him to £500 per month, which at the time was an enormous sum of money.
In early December 1915, after nine months of fighting with no strategic or tactical gains, and with an excess of 26,000 casualties, the Australians began their withdrawal from Gallipoli. Jacka’s battalion withdrew to Egypt where, after a few weeks, Jacka’s command assigned him to officer training school. Passing with high marks, Jacka received his commission to second lieutenant. During this time, the Australian Imperial Force received replacements and underwent a period of reorganization. Some of the combat experienced men from the 14th Battalion transferred to the 46th Battalion; the 4th Brigade combined with the 12th and 13th to form the 4th Australian Division.
Over the next three years Jacka’s battlefield bravery in France and Belgium became an inspiration to those back home. One Australian battalion began calling itself “Jacka’s Mob.” Yet, despite becoming a hero to the folks back home, Jacka fell out of favor with the officers in his chain of command. Apparently, Jacka began to criticize and question the orders passed down through the ranks, which in Jacka’s opinion, foolishly placed his men in harm’s way.
In late July, Jacka found himself embroiled in the Battle of Pozières near the French village of the same name during the Somme Campaign. The costly fighting ended with the British in possession of a plateau north and east of the village and positioned to menace the German position at Thiepval. According to one Australian historian, “the Pozières ridge is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth.” Jacka again demonstrated exceptional bravery on 7 August.
In the early dawn hours, German troops swept through the ANZAC ranks and at one point, infiltrated Jacka’s position. At the end of the assault, only seven Australians remained uninjured. Jacka was one of the wounded. As the Germans began rounding up Anzac prisoners Jacka formed the surviving men and led them in an attack. Jacka’s small force made a vigorous assault upon the Germans and engaged them in hand-to-hand fighting. Jacka received multiple wounds during the engagement and just as the Germans began to encircle the eight men, Aussie reinforcements arrived. Many Germans were killed, more than fifty taken prisoner, and the Australian captives freed.
Jacka finally fell with his seventh combat wound when a bullet passing through his body just under his shoulder. Four of the seven men who fought with him died in the assault. As Jacka was lifted from the ground and placed on a stretcher, one orderly remarked that he must be the bravest man in the Australian Army. Such a statement, obviously communicated with respect and admiration, is probably not true; there were many brave men serving in the Australian Army during World War I. Not everyone’s courage was recognized or reported upon. Nevertheless, Jacka’s superior officers remembered his border-line insubordination and, therefore, were hesitant to recommend him for a second combat award.
Medically evacuated to Britain, Jacka received the Victoria Cross at Windsor Castle in September 1916. It was a great honor, of course, but he was at the same time resentful that his actions at Pozières were not similarly recognized. Jacka received a promotion to lieutenant in December 1916 and resumed his regular duties.
In March 1917, Jacka was promoted to captain and appointed to serve as the 14th Battalion’s intelligence officer. In early April 1917, the 4th Australian Division operated on the western front under the 1st ANZAC Corps of the British Fifth Army, which was then engaged in support of the Third Army in the Battle of Arras. The operation called for a flanking movement and time was of the essence. The lack of artillery dictated the use of a company of (12) tanks to crush the barbed wire and lead the attacking force into the Hindenburg Line. The tanks were late in arriving, however, and the 4th Australian Division’s attack was therefore delayed. The 4th Australian Divisions adjacent command, the 62nd Division did not receive the message to postpone the attack and its forward element advanced into the Bullecourt defenses resulting in 162 casualties before they withdrew back into the British line. The mistake was costly too because by advancing before the Fifth Army was ready for a coordinated effort, the Germans were made aware of the Allied intention.
The German troops feared Allied tanks, the result of which prompted the Germans to concentrate their crew-served weapons on these terrifying weapons and the Germans learned that the tanks were vulnerable to armor piercing projectiles. On the night of 8 April, Jacka conducted a reconnaissance patrol into “no man’s land” to investigate German defenses before a scheduled Allied attack. While laying markers to guide assault troops, he captured a two-man German patrol. For this action, Jacka would eventually receive a bar (indicating second award) of the Military Cross. The Battle of Bullecourt, however, was a disaster for the Australians of the 4th Brigade … much of this attributed to the incompetence of the Fifth Army commander, some of it because the British were only beginning to come to terms with the concept of tank-infantry coordination. Of approximately 3,000 Australians attached to the 4th Brigade, 2,339 men were either killed or wounded.
In June, Captain Jacka was appointed to command Company D, 14th Battalion and led his company through the Battle of Messines Ridge. During this engagement, Company D overran several machine gun positions and captured a German field gun. On 8 July, Jacka was again wounded by sniper fire near Ploeqsteert Wood. After two months of hospitalization, he returned to the front in late September and took command of the 14th Battalion during the Battle of Polygon Wood.
In May 1918, Jacka suffered injury from a mustard gas attack outside the village of Villers-Bretonneux, his condition made worse by also being shot in the trachea. His wound and condition were so severe that he was not expected to survive. He was eventually returned to the United Kingdom for a long recuperative period.
Jacka returned to Australia on 6 September 1919 and he was discharged from military service on 10 January 1920. Albert Jacka never fully recovered from his wounds, which were several and severe. He passed away in 1932, aged 39 years. Captain Jacka was one hell of a soldier, fierce and dangerous to an opposing enemy. There are those in Australia who believe that Captain Jacka deserved three awards of the Victoria Cross; some argue that it was only British snobbery that kept him from being so recognized, but historians refute this claim. Jacka’s superiors, the men he too-frequently criticized, were Australians and it was they who refused to recommend him for subsequent awards of the Victoria Cross.
War is horribly brutal. War time events create memories that never go away. People who experience war relive it in their minds for the balance of their lives. They experience flashbacks and nightmares for the rest of their days. People who never experienced combat may empathize with our combat veterans, but they will never fully understand combat. If the folks back home fully understood war, they would never again allow their governments to send their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers or sisters into the jaws of death. Lessons from the past are always useful in the present, but only if we are wise enough to learn from them. So far in human history, we either have not learned anything, or we conveniently ignore the facts.
All the men and women of our armed forces are brave, no matter what war they fought in, irrespective of war time era and Tom Brokaw is wrong to suggest one greater than another. If this were not true, then our young men and women would never don a military uniform. That said, some of our men and women are more than brave; they are incredibly so. One of these incredibly brave men was an Australian named Albert Jacka.
Military and naval officers serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States. The President nominates officers for advancement (confirmation is required by the United States Senate), and depending on their seniority, it is the President who approves their assignments . Whenever an officer cannot, in good faith, serve the President, two things must occur: an officer with integrity must either resign his or her commission, or the President must relieve them from their duty assignment and send them away (either into retirement or reassign them to another duty). Generally, there are two reasons for presidential dismissal: insubordination, or professional disgrace (such as suffering considerable losses in war) .
James O. Richardson was born in Paris, Texas. He entered the United States Naval Academy in 1898 and graduated fifth in his class in 1902. His first assignment placed him in the Asiatic Squadron where he participated in the Philippine Campaign with later assignment to the Atlantic Squadron. Between 1907-09, while serving as a lieutenant, he was assigned command of the torpedo boats Tingey and Stockton, and later commanded the Third Division of the Atlantic Torpedo flotilla. Between 1909-11, he attended the Navy’s post-graduate Engineer School, then served as an engineer on the battleship USS Delaware. He was promoted to lieutenant commander and received an assignment to the Navy Department where he was charged with supervising the Navy’s store of fuel.
Promoted to commander, Richardson served as a navigator and executive officer of the battleship USS Nevada between 1917-19. Between 1919-22, Richardson was assigned to the Naval Academy as an instructor. In 1922, the Navy assigned Richardson command of the gunboat USS Asheville. Under his leadership, Asheville was dispatched to Asiatic waters where he also commanded a division of ships assigned to the South China Patrol. After his promotion to Captain, Richardson was reassigned to Washington from 1924-27, where he served as Assistant Chief, Bureau of Ordnance —afterward commanding a destroyer division of the Atlantic Squadron and then returning to Washington for service with the Bureau of Navigation.
In 1931, Captain Richardson took charge of the new heavy cruiser USS Augusta and commander her for two years. After attending the Naval War College (1933-34), he was promoted to Rear Admiral (Lower Half) and rejoined the Navy Department as its budget officer. His first command as a flag officer was the scouting force, cruiser division, Atlantic Squadron. He then served as an aide and chief of staff to Admiral J. M. Reeves, Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet, and afterward as Commander, Destroyer Scouting Force. In 1937, he became Assistant Chief of Naval Operations under Admiral William D. Leahy. In this position, he coordinated the search for Amelia Earhart and dealt with the Japanese attack on the USS Panay. In 1938, Richardson assumed the duties as Chief, Bureau of Navigation and aided in the development of Plan Orange. In June 1939, Admiral Richardson took command of the Battle Force, US Fleet, with temporary promotion to the rank of admiral.
In January 1940, Richardson was assigned as Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet . According to journalist John Flynn , Admiral Richardson was one of the Navy’s foremost flag officers —a man who had made the study of Japanese warfare his life’s work and an outstanding authority on naval warfare in the Pacific and Japanese naval strategy.
One will note that in the 1930s, the European powers were moving rapidly toward another world war and Japan was rapidly increasing its power and prestige in Asia. The Sino-Japanese conflict in Asia continued unabated. In the United States, resulting from a lack of attention and funding, the army and navy were in a shamble. For the navy specifically, new ships, while ordered, were still under construction. In 1937-38, the United States was not ready for either of the world’s emerging conflicts; should something happen before new ships came online, the USN would have limited effectiveness in a two-ocean war. The organization of the United States fleet in 1939 reflects the Navy’s overall unreadiness for war. To correct this deficiency, the Navy began to re-commission ships from the mothball fleet, some of which were turned over to the British as part of the Lend-Lease Program.
In this environment, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Fleet to move the Pacific Fleet from San Diego, California to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. His purpose in making this decision was to “restrain” Japanese naval activities in the Pacific Ocean Area. Roosevelt made this decision without asking Admiral Richardson (who not only had responsibility for the US Fleet, but also a broad base of knowledge about Japanese naval warfare) for his opinion. Admiral Richardson was not a happy sailor.
Admiral Richardson protested Roosevelt’s decision. He not only took his concern directly to the president; he went to other power brokers in Washington, as well. Richardson did believe that advance bases in Guam and Hawaii were necessary, but inadequate congressional funding over many years made these advance bases insufficient to a war time mission. Richardson firmly believed that future naval conflicts would involve enemy aircraft carriers; to detect these threats, the US Navy would require an expanded surface and aviation scouting force.
Admiral Richardson was worried because he realized how vulnerable the US Fleet would be in such an exposed, vulnerable, and exposed location as Pearl Harbor. Moreover, he knew that logistical support of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor would be a nightmare, made worse by slim resources and an inadequate logistical organizational structure. Admiral Richardson believed that Roosevelt’s decision was impractical and strategically inept —that Roosevelt had no business offering US naval support to Great Britain when in fact the US Navy was barely able to stand on its own two feet. It was also true that the Navy had little in the way of adequate housing, materials, or defensive systems at Pearl Harbor. What Admiral Richardson wanted was to prepare the fleet for war at San Diego. Then, once it was ready for war, the Navy could return to Pearl Harbor.
Most of the Navy’s admirals agreed with Richardson —the Pacific Fleet should never berth inside Pearl Harbor where it would become a sitting duck for enemy (Japanese) attack. Admiral Richardson believed that Pearl harbor was the logical first choice of the Japanese high command for an attack on the United States because Pearl Harbor was America’s nearest “advanced base.” Since the 1930s, the US Navy had conducted several training exercises against the Army’s defenses at Pearl Harbor; in each episode, the Navy proved that Pearl Harbor did not lend itself to an adequate defense. Richardson communicated this information to President Roosevelt.
He also informed the President that, in his studied opinion, the United States Navy was not ready for war with Japan. When Richardson’s views were leaked to the Washington press, President Roosevelt fired him. On 1 February 1941, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel replaced Richardson as Commander, US Pacific Fleet, and Admiral Ernest J. King replaced Richardson as Commander of the US Atlantic Fleet. Fired by the President of the United States, Richardson reverted to Rear Admiral and served as a member of the Navy General Board until his retirement in October 1942.
Admiral Richardson predicted war with Japan and where the Japanese would strike. What the admiral knew ended up getting him fired from high command. It is my opinion that Admiral Richardson’s story tells us much about Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Richardson, J. O. On the Treadmill to Pearl Harbor: The Memoirs of Admiral J. O. Richardson, as told to Admiral George C. Dyer, Vice Admiral, USN (Retired). Naval History Division, Department of the Navy, Washington, DC, 1973
Steely, S. Pearl Harbor Countdown: The Biography of Admiral James O. Richardson. Gretna: Pelican Press, 2008
 Permanent flag rank ends at major general/rear admiral (upper half). Advancements beyond major general/rear admiral (paygrade 08) are temporary assignments (lieutenant general/general, vice admiral/admiral). A major general who assigned as a corps commander will be temporarily advanced to lieutenant general for as long as he or she serves in that billet. Should this officer retire from active service after three years, he or she will revert to permanent grade of major general (although he or she may be entitled to a higher rate of pay on the retired list under the “high 36” pay scale for flag rank officers).
 The first officer charged with treason was Brigadier General Benedict Arnold of the Continental Army. During the War of 1812, Brigadier General William Hull, US Army, was court-martialed for cowardice in the face of the enemy. Hull was sentenced to death, but President Madison remitted the sentence owing to his former “good” service. President Lincoln fired several generals for their failure to win battles, Franklin Roosevelt fired several, Harry Truman famously fired Douglas MacArthur, Jimmy Carter fired Major General John K. Singlaub, George Bush fired three generals, and Barack Obama fired several.
 Plan Orange was a series of contingency operational plans involving joint Army-Navy operations against the Empire of Japan. Plan Orange failed to foresee the significance of technological changes to naval warfare, including submarine, the importance of air support, and the importance of the employment of aircraft carriers. Part of the navy’s plan was an island-hopping campaign, which was actually used during World War II. Note: the Japanese, who were obsessed with the “decisive battle,” ignored the need for a defense against submarines.
 The organization of the U. S. Navy has changed considerably since the 1900s. In 1923, the North Atlantic Squadron was reorganized into the US Scouting Forces, which (along with the US Pacific Fleet) was organized under the United States Fleet. In January 1939, the Atlantic Squadron, US Fleet was formed. On 1 November 1940, the Atlantic Squadron was renamed Patrol Force, which was organized into “type” commands: battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and training/logistical commands. Then, early in 1941, Patrol Force was renamed US Atlantic Fleet. The Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Fleet exercised command authority over both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. At that time, the Chief of Naval Operations was responsible for navy organization, personnel, and support of the fleet—and administrative rather than having any operational responsibility.
It took the United States a few years to enter into the conflagration we today call World War I, but when the Congress authorized military action, an immediate expansion of the Marine Corps was ordered.A number of regiments were brought into existence for employment in Europe and in areas outside the war zone.By late 1918, the Marine Corps had 14 active regiments.Only four of these would serve in Europe; the rest were ordered for service in the Caribbean, or remained stationed in the United States.
The Eighth Marine Regiment (8th Marines) was activated at Quantico, Virginia on 9 October 1917.The regiment initially consisted of four units: Headquarters Company, and the 105th, 106th, and 107th Rifle Companies [Note 1].The regiment was augmented by the 103rd, 104th, 108th, 109th and 110th Rifle Companies on 13 October.Two additional companies were organized on 22 October: 111th and 112th Companies.Major Ellis B. Miller was designated as the regimental commander.He was a 37-year old Marine from Iowa.
At this time, Marine Corps regiments lacked a battalion structure, but in 1917, the Marine Corps adopted the deliberate policy of shaping its regiments to conform to the US Army’s regimental structure.The reason for this was that Major General Hugh L. Scott, serving as Army Chief of Staff, insisted that Marines deployed to France be organized identically with US Army units [Note 2].This made perfect sense in terms of deploying combat forces on the Western Front.Marine regiments would henceforth be organized with a headquarters company and three infantry battalions.Each battalion would consist of a command element and four rifle companies.The size of regiments would average 3,000 men.
The first orders received by the 8th Marines indicated that it could be sent to Texas for a possible thrust into Mexico.
Relations between Mexico and the United States had been strained since the Mexican-American War (1846-48).Since then, Texas and other border states had been subjected to bandit raidsfrom Mexico and insurrections from within Hispanic communities in South Texas.The Mexican Revolution (1910-20) only increased these tension.
In 1914, Mexican authorities arrested nine sailors while their ship was anchored in Tampico.The Mexicans released the sailors, but the US Naval commander demanded an apology and a 21-gun salute.The Mexicans did apologize, but refused to offer the 21-gun honors.As President Wilson consulted with Congress over the matter of a possible invasion of Mexico, US intelligence assets learned that a steamer with German registry was attempting to deliver weapons and munitions for Victoriano Huerta, who had seized control of the Mexican government [Note 3].In response, Wilson authorized the Navy to seize the port city of Veracruz.
In 1916, the Mexican Bandit Pancho Villa crossed the US border with a sizable force and attacked the New Mexico town of Columbus.Villa assaulted the resident detachment of the 13th Cavalry Regiment, burned the town, seized 100 horses, and made off with other military supplies.Eighteen Americans died during the assault; Villa lost about 80 of his banditos.
In January 1917, British Intelligence intercepted a cable from the German Foreign Office addressed to Mexico’s president proposing a military alliance; should the United States enter the war against Germany, a Mexican invasion of the southern portion of the US border would be rewarded by the recovery of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.President Carranza referred the matter to a military commission, which concluded that the proposed invasion of former Mexican territory would be neither possible or desirable.
With this as a backdrop, the 8th Marines were ordered to Fort Crockett near Galveston as a contingency force should it be necessary to seize and hold the oil fields at Tampico.The regiment departed for Galveston aboard the USS Hancock on 9 November.A week later, the Marines were creating a campsite at Fort Crockett.
In August 1918, the 9th Regiment and Headquarters, 3rd Provisional Brigade arrived at Fort Crockett.The 8th Marines became part of that Brigade.The Marines remained at Fort Crockett until the end of the war with Germany, but it was not necessary to deploy these Marines into Mexico.Meanwhile, Mexican officials were well aware of the presence of these Marines and their purpose.The placement of these Marines may have materially avoided further conflict with Mexico.
The regiment returned to Philadelphia on 25 April and was deactivated the next day.By the end of 1919, a decision was taken to reactivate the 8th Marines for service in Haiti—an intervention that would not go away [Note 4].A reorganization of Marine Corps units in Haiti, precipitated by an overall reduction in the post-war strength of the U. S. Marine Corps, began in December 1919.The 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (3/2) was redesignated 1/8 with its field and staff [Note 5], 36th, 57th, 63rd, 65th, 100th, 148th, and 196th rifle companies.8th Marine headquarters was not activated until the following month.
On 5 January 1920, the 8th Marines command element was activated at Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti.Field and Staff, 1/8 was deactivated and its personnel transferred to Headquarters Company, 8th Marines.8th Marines headquarters assumed control of subordinate numbered companies. This was the organization of the 8th Marines for the next five years.The regiment operated with less than 600 men; it’s commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel Louis M. Little.Colonel Little was an asset in Haiti because he was fluent in the French language.
The Marines were well-aware of a rumor that Cacos bandits were planning to assault the capital city.The attack came at 0400 hours on 15 January 1920.Three-hundred bandits assaulted in three separate columns.Second Lieutenant Gerald C. Thomas commanded an urban patrol of twelve Marines.This patrol and a 50-man group of bandits surprised each other on one of the city’s side streets.Thomas ordered his Marines to hold their fire as the bandits marched toward them.When the bandits had advanced further, they opened fire on the Marines, but Thomas ordered his men to hold until the Cacos were directly in front of their position.The concentrated fire from the Marines literally destroyed the bandit formation, killing 20 insurgents.Thomas’ Marines suffered three wounded.The bandits retreated from the city [Note 6].
In pursuit of the bandit leader Benoit Batraville, Colonel Little adopted aggressive “search and destroy” operations.Marine patrols were constantly in the field looking for a confrontation with the insurgents.This attention forced the rebels to be constantly on the move.Batraville, however, managed to elude capture, which made the Marines even more determined to find and arrest him.
On 4 April 1920, the Marines experienced two significant encounters with the Cacos.At 0700, Sergeant Laurence Muth observed a group of bandits on the summit of Mount Michel.Muth instantly ordered his men to take firing positions and open fire.Unexpectedly, another group of bandits, who were planning to ambush the Marines, opened fire on Muth’s right flank.Sergeant Muth was killed in the first volley; in the ensuing firefight, ten bandits were dispatched but the Marines, being overwhelmed in numbers, withdrew.Sgt. Muth’s body was left behind.An enraged Colonel Little immediately dispatched 21 patrols, with himself leading one of them to the place where Muth was killed.Catching a group of Cacos off guard, the Marines initiated a firefight that resulted in 25 enemy killed.After the fight, Little discovered Sgt. Muth’s remains.He had been decapitated and his heart had been cut out.
Commanding the 100th Company, 8th Marines in the area of Marche Canard, Captain Jesse L. Perkins led his Marines into the countryside to search for Batraville.Personally leading a squad of eleven Marines on 19 May, Perkins became aware of a large Cacos camp within a six hour march.He proceeded to the location with the assistance of native guides.At 0600, Perkins and his Marines encountered an outpost a short distance from the enemy’s main camp.Perkins sent Second Lieutenant Edgar G. Kirkpatrick with seven Marines to envelop the camp site.Captain Perkins, Sergeant William F. Passmore, Sergeant Albert A. Tauber, and Private Emery L. Entrekin [Note 7] assaulted the camp.Although greatly outnumbered, Perkins gambled on the element of surprise.Panic ensued once the Cacos observed the Marines rushing toward their position. Disregarding enemy fire, Perkins and his Marines rushed forward while firing their weapons, momentarily stunning the rebels.Benoit Batraville then appeared to take charge of the rebels.Recognizing Batraville, Sergeant Passmore turned and fired at Batraville with his Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), killing him instantly.
At the sound of the rifle fire, Lieutenant Kirkpatrick immediately led his seven Marines into a flanking assault.The firefight lasted another 15 minutes resulting in 10 enemy killed and several more seriously wounded. Sergeant Muth’s pistol was found on Batraville’s body.
Although the Cacos leader had been killed, the Marines continued to conduct patrols in order to keep the rebels from reorganizing around a new leader.Many of these patrols were conducted on horses and mules, since these animals were an excellent form of transportation over rough terrain [Note 8].
Problems with Cacos insurgents abated over time, but the hills were infested with bandits who traditionally preyed on defenseless women who were taking their wares to market.To solve this problem, Colonel Little had his Marines disguise themselves as women.When attacked by robbers, the Marines drew their weapons and resolved the problem.After a few of these encounters, Haitian thieves left the women alone.
As the insurgency died down, the Marines undertook other duties, such as mapping the countryside, road construction, building sanitation facilities, and training the local constabulary.When the 8th Marines was no longer needed in Haiti, it was once again deactivated and all assigned Marines were transferred to the 2nd Marine Regiment.We will not hear of the 8th Marines again until the outbreak of World War II.
Santelli, J. S.A Brief History of the 8th Marines.Washington: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U. S. Marine Corps, 1976
Rottman, G. L.U. S. Marine Corps World War II Order of Battle, 1939-45.Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002
At this time, rifle companies were numerically designated.
Regiments not ordered for service in Europe maintained the traditional Marine Corps structure.After World War I, Marine Corps regiments gradually adopted the Army’s regimental system.
A portion of the munitions shipment had originated with the Remington Arms Company.
Naval forces had been sent to Haiti in 1915 to protect American and other foreign interests.A series of revolts and disturbances led to an insurrection of Cacos bandits.The intervention dragged on for years as Marines struggled to bring stability to a Republic in shambles.Given what we know about Haiti today, the effort was a waste of American lives, time, and money.
At this time, field and staff was the accepted title for what would later become Headquarters & Service Company.
Thomas later served as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and retired in 1956.He passed away in 1984.
Perkins, Passmore, Taubert, and Entrekin were awarded the Navy Cross medal.
While Marines did use horses and mules, at no time were Marines employed as cavalry units. Of further interest, the US Army never developed a cavalry organization until after the Civil War. Before that, the Army employed dragoons, which were mounted infantry.