The United States Marine Corps
During the 1920s and 1930s, the United States Marine Corps was highly active in what would today be termed 'low intensity warfare' operations. Various units served throughout the Caribbean, Central America, the Philippines and even China. This gave the Corps a somewhat fragmented organisation, with Regiments and Brigades being activated and deactivated to suit the circumstance of the time. It was not until early 1941 that the Corps began to organise its first two Divisions, primarily to support US naval operations in the Pacific theatre.
Quantifying the status of the Marine Corps can be somewhat tricky, as it exists effectively as a fourth service in the US armed forces. While intrinsically linked with the US Navy, and administered via the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps is separate from the Navy. In combat capability, it mirrors the US Army, deploying infantry, armour and artillery units, and has long possessed it own Marine aviation assets.
Today, the Marine Corps is synonymous with the Pacific battles of 1942 to 1945 for islands such as Guadalcanal, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The Corps even presented perhaps the defining image of the conflict, with the flag raising on mount Suribachi. Given these achievements, it is sometimes easy to forget that the US Army committed around twenty Divisions to the Pacific war, roughly three times the number of equivalent Marine formations, and launched numerous amphibious assaults itself.
The Pacific war will though always be the defining period for the Marine Corps. It buried 18,000 of its men during the campaign, the equivalent of one of its six divisions. Marine Divisions became specialists at large scale amphibious assault landings during the island hopping campaign, with many of the early operations having to overcome a fanatical defence on the beachhead. In time, the Japanese adapted their defensive tactics, allowing the Marines and Army to land before drawing them into a nightmare combat among caves, jungle and dugouts. It was an exhaustive and costly form of combat, intended to bleed the attacker white and persuade the Allies that a direct assault on Japan would carry too great a price in lives to pay.
The links below lead to a description of the various types of Marine Infantry, Raider and Parachute Battalions, plus a study of the Divisional organisations deployed.
The United States Marine Infantry Battalion
Specialist Marine Battalions
United States Marine Divisional Organisations
Battalion Summary Tables
Published works and Websites