Monday, September 18, 2017

Blast from the Past. Marine Raiders of WW2 first combat action!

via National Interest.
On a stormy night, U.S. Marines set off secretly from submarines to assault a remote island base. They are led by a controversial commander with radical new ideas. And the son of the sitting U.S. president is one of his officers.

The Makin raid in 1942 might seem to have the implausible plot of an action movie—and in fact, one year later it would become one! But it was a deadly real for both the American and Japanese troops involved. What was arguably the first combat operation ever undertaken by a U.S. military special forces unit nearly ended in complete disaster.

At the outbreak of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt requested that the marines form an “unconventional warfare” unit to conduct raids behind enemy lines modeled after British commandos. U.S. Marine Corps brass disliked the idea, but reluctantly formed two battalions of “Raiders”—and appointed a black sheep of the USMC to lead one of them.

Lt. Col. Evans Carlson had been wounded in action as an army captain in World War I, decorated with the Navy Cross for defeating bandits in Nicaragua as a marine lieutenant, befriended FDR while commanding his guard detachment in Georgia, and then accompanied and observed Communist insurgents fighting the Japanese in China. There, Carlson met key leaders such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping and developed an appreciation for the tactics, team spirit and zeal of the Communist guerilla units. Upon returning to the United States, Carlson resigned his commission to advocate against Japanese expansionism, before reenlisting shortly before the U.S. entry into World War II.

Carlson sought to instill in his Raiders the team spirit that he had observed in China, a quality he called gung ho, based on the Mandarin Chinese words gōng (work) and hé (and/together). Ironically, gung ho was not an actual Chinese idiom, but would soon become a term in English. The marine leader believed in giving more initiative to subordinates and breaking down the barriers between officers and enlisted men, which did little to endear him to his superiors.

The Pacific War began with six months of defeats for U.S. forces until the decisive turning point in the naval battle of Midway. In August 1942, the U.S. Navy and Marines were ready to go on the offensive with an amphibious landing on the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. However, Pacific Commander-in-Chief Adm. Chester Nimitz also conceived of a commando raid to divert Japanese forces and gather intel. He ultimately dispatched A and B company of Carlson’s Raiders to launch a hit-and-run raid on a Japanese seaplane base on Makin Island, allotting them a month of preparatory training time.

Makin, now known as Butaritari, is a tiny triangular-shaped atoll at the northern tip of the Gilbert Islands, located just north of the equator between Hawaii and Papua New Guinea. Seventy-five Japanese personnel, including a platoon of around forty-seven Special Naval Landing Force marines, maintained a refueling base in the atoll’s lagoon, circumscribed by an eight-mile long road. The Allies had only sketchy photographic intelligence on the actual Japanese forces present, and estimated there could be as many as 300 troops on Makin and a shore battery overlooking the lagoon.
Story here. 

This is a nice read to clear the brain cells and get a bit of history at the same time.

It does make me wonder though.

Marine Raiders are cool again since Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command adopted the name.

But what about the other elite group that was formed during WW2?

When will USMC Parachute Battalions get their nod from MARSOC?

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