Archive for the 'Marine Corps' Category

Oct 4

Navy-Marine Corps Photo Reconnaissance Over Cuba

Monday, October 4, 2010 10:51 AM

As Fidel Castro worked furiously to build an offensive missile capability in the Caribbean in the fall of 1962, the Navy/Marine Corps team utilized his folly as an opportunity to demonstrate its inherent synergy.

Navy Light Photographic Squadron Sixty-Two (VFP-62), stationed at Cecil Field, Jacksonville, Florida, received the warning order in early October to have 8 camera-ready RF-8A Crusaders ready to launch from Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West on short notice. The mission was treacherously simple: confirm the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

Shortly thereafter, the Second Marine Aircraft Wing (2d MAW) at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina received tasking to augment VFP-62 with Marine photo Crusaders. After a monumental effort to update the camera suite on the aircraft, a Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron Two (VMCJ-2) detachment of four Crusaders linked up with VFP-62 at Cecil Field on 21 October and flew with them to NAS Key West the following day.

Marine photo reconnaissance pilots flew their Crusaders along side the Navy aircraft for the duration of the crisis. The joint service unit documented the operational state of the Russian missiles and confirmed their dismantling during the crucial last week in October. They then documented the retrograde of the Russian ships as they carried the missiles back across the Atlantic.

With one exception, the Marines flew their own aircraft as wingman or lead in section with Navy aircraft. On 10 November Commander Ecker, the squadron Commanding Officer, authorized an all-Marine mission to commemorate the 187th birthday of the Marine Corps. President Kennedy attested to the effectiveness of this powerful Navy/Marine team by personally presenting it the Navy Unit Commendation.

 
Sep 15

A Marine Hits the Beach

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 12:01 AM

Early in the morning of 15 September 1944, Eugene B. Sledge and his buddies scrambled down the netting hung on the side of the troopship and into an amtrac. When all the men had boarded, the amtrac headed out into the open sea. As the vessel circled, awaiting the signal to head shoreward, long jets of red flame mixed with thick black smoke belched forth with the roar of a thunderclap from the muzzles of 16-inch guns on nearby battleships. The odors of diesel fuel and gunpowder tainted the smell of the salt air. Sledge broke into a cold sweat, his stomach knotted, and his knees nearly buckled with tension.

Suddenly the amtrac engine revved as the driver made for the beach. “We moved ahead, watching the frightful spectacle,” Sledge recalled. “Huge geysers of water rose around the amtracs ahead of us as they approached the reef. The beach was now marked along its length by a continuous sheet of flame backed by a thick wall of smoke. It seemed as though a huge volcano had erupted from the sea, and rather than heading for an island, we were being drawn into the vortex of a flaming abyss.”

“This is it, boys,” yelled the lieutenant as he passed around a half-pint of whiskey.

Sledge refused the offer, afraid he would pass out. At that moment a large shell exploded, barely missing the amtrac. The engine stalled and the amtrac lurched to the left and slammed into the rear of another amtrac. With shells raining down around them, the driver restarted the engine and the amtrac moved forward again. Soon the amtrac came ashore and moved a few yards up the gently sloping sand.

“Hit the beach!” yelled a sergeant.

Sledge and the others piled over the sides as fast as they could. A burst of machine gun fire with white hot tracers snapped through the air at eye level, barely missing Sledge’s head. Sledge tumbled forward onto the island of Peleliu. With shells and bullets tearing at the air above and behind him, Sledge scuttled forward. “The world was a nightmare of flashes, violent explosions, and snapping bullets,” he recalled. “Most of what I saw blurred. My mind was benumbed by the shock of it.”

Amtracs were burning all along the beach. Japanese bullets made long splashes on the water as though flaying it with giant whips. Marines fell as bullets ripped through them. “I shuddered and choked,” Sledge recalled. “A wild desperate feeling of anger, frustration, and pity gripped me.”

Sledge got up, crouched low, and raced forward, meeting up with several buddies. Together, they moved inland. Soon he came across the first enemy dead he had ever seen, a Japanese corpsman and two riflemen. The corpsman lay on his back, his medical kit strewn about him, his abdominal cavity laid open, the glistening viscera bespecked with fine coral dust. A couple of Marine veterans came up and stripped the bodies of souvenirs. The spectacle shocked Sledge. Would he, too, become so callous toward death? He continued advancing.

U.S. Marines have always been considered “naval” infantry, although they would be loath to admit it. Nevertheless, Marines’ experiences have been intimately related to those of sailors, as many Naval Academy graduates choose to become Marine officers, sailors drive the landing craft that put marines ashore, and Navy Corpsmen, Chaplains, and Seabees routinely serve with marines.

World War II provided the Marine Corps with the greatest role in all of its history as the Marines put into action the amphibious doctrine their leadership had been developing since World War I. Sledge, who had enlisted in the Corps on 3 December 1942 and shipped out to the Pacific with the 5th Marine Regiment, First Marine Division after more than a year of training, symbolizes World War II “island hopping.”

How was Sledge able to press on through the horror of his baptism of fire and muster the courage to fight on at Peleliu and later at Okinawa? A friend of John McCain who had received the Medal of Honor explained that it was “a kind of madness” that came over him, enabling him to fight for his own life and the lives of his buddies. It was rage that sustained Sledge in face to face combat with the enemy. But he also needed the kind of courage that infantrymen from time immemorial have had to muster—the courage simply to lift their exhausted bodies from wet foxholes, to put one foot after the other, to endure one more day. Sledge’s courage demonstrates that no matter what kind of ships and aircraft are available to support them, infantrymen experience a kind of combat that most sailors never experience—crawling through muck and filth and fighting the enemy hand to hand.

 
Sep 4

Grunt Padre: The story of Lieutenant Vincent R. Capodanno, USNR

Saturday, September 4, 2010 12:01 AM

Navy Chaplains have a long and distinguished history of administering to the spiritual needs of Marines. One such man was Father Vincent R. Capodanno. After his ordination in June 1957, Father Capodanno served from 1958-1965 as a Maryknoll Missionary for the Catholic Foreign Mission Society in the Far East. As the conflict in Vietnam escalated in early 1965, Father Capodanno felt the call to enter Naval Service. He subsequently accepted an appointment on 28 December 1965 as a Lieutenant, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Naval Reserve, and received indoctrination at the Naval Chaplains School in Newport Rhode Island.

In April 1966, Lieutenant Capodanno deployed to the Republic of Vietnam, and was assigned as a Chaplain with the First Marine Division. Battle hardened Marines soon came to seek out and appreciate the consolation and understanding they found in the tall, soft-spoken “Grunt Padre.” Lieutenant Capodanno always seemed to be on the go, and most of the time he was to be found with Marines in the field. While serving as Chaplain for the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines on 4 September 1967 in Quang Tri Province, he heard reports that 2d Platoon, Company M, was in danger of being overrun by a strong enemy force. Lieutenant Capodanno immediately requested to leave his secure station and attend to the Marines. In the words of the citation that would accompany his posthumously awarded Medal of Honor, Father Capodanno “ran to the beleaguered platoon through an open area raked with fire…and despite painful, multiple wounds to his arms and legs, refused all medical aid, and continued to move about the battlefield and provide encouragement by voice and example to the Marines.” Seeing a wounded Corpsman directly in the line of fire of an enemy machine gun, he rushed forward to the man’s aid, but was struck down by a burst of machine-gun fire. By his heroic conduct and inspiring example, Chaplain Capodanno upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service, and gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom.

Today, Lieutenant Capodanno is recognized as having been one of the Navy’s most dedicated Chaplains. There are monuments in his honor, and both a Chapel at Camp Pendleton California and a U.S. Navy fast-frigate bears his name. The devoted service of Lieutenant Capodanno during the Vietnam War to “his” Marines, his “chosen flock,” remains a shining example of one man’s willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

 
Aug 23

The Marianas: Saipan, Guam, and Tinian

Monday, August 23, 2010 12:10 PM

In June 1944, Allied forces launched an offensive to capture the Marianas Islands from the Japanese. Invasion forces stormed the islands of Saipan, Guam and Tinian in succession, supported by ships and aircraft of the United States Navy.

Offshore, the Battle of the Philippine Sea proved a decisive victory for the Allies. This United States Marine Corps “Official Operations Report,” produced during the war, provides a detailed examination of each phase of the campaign. Using maps and animations, the three films outline landing assignments, naval gunfire support, and air support for each phase of the campaign.

 The story of the battle on each island is brought to life with extensive combat footage of land, sea, and air operations.

These films, with a running time of nearly two and a half hours, stand as an excellent history of a crucial phase in the Pacific island-hopping campaign.

 

 

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Jul 27

TINIAN, JULY-AUGUST 1944

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 11:27 AM

From The Marine Corps History Division…

The 24 July – 1 August 1944 campaign for the assault and capture of the Mariana Islands played a vital role in the final defeat of Japan. Planners deemed the islands of Guam, Saipan, and Tinian of critical importance because the Army Air Corps needed bases from which its long-range bombers could make non-stop strikes on Japan. Additionally, the Navy wanted the islands developed as advance bases, and hoped that a Marianas operation would draw out the Japanese Combined Fleet so that it could be engaged in a decisive battle.

After the capture of Saipan in early July 1944, the next step in this campaign was Tinian, whose relatively flat terrain was ideally suited for the construction of airfields for the new American B-29 bombers. Vice Admiral Richmond Kelley Turner, USN, commanded the approximately 800 ships and 162,000 men of the Marianas Joint Expeditionary Force. Turner also led the Northern Attack Force, designated specifically for Saipan and Tinian. The task of taking Tinian fell to the 2d and 4th Marine Divisions, under the overall command of Major General Harry Schmidt, USMC, Commander, V Amphibious Corps.

Tinian underwent over 40 days of preliminary naval gunfire and bombing from the air. Shore fire control was improved from previous campaigns as fire-control parties worked out procedures on board the gunfire ships designated to support the landings. Photo reconnaissance flights and captured enemy documents on Saipan gave a clear picture of the topography of Tinian, and for the first time napalm was used extensively and proved successful in burning off ground cover.

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Jul 15

The Marianas Operation Phase 1: Saipan

Thursday, July 15, 2010 10:26 AM

This multi-part World War II documentary, produced by the United States Marine Corps, provides a detailed examination of the campaign to take the Marianas from the Japanese.

 

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May 19

Stories of the Past

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 7:59 AM

 Last week the Naval History and Heritage Command was host to the 2010 National Historical Conference and Naval History Workshop. This conference brought together those working to preserve and share naval history, allowing talk about how historians, museums, and libraries and archives are getting the job done and to learn from each other. One of the sessions focused on libraries and archives, highlighting the amazing naval history collections that are available. 

Staff members from the Library of the Marine Corps, Archives and Special Collections; the library at the National Naval Aviation Museum; and the Operational Archives of NHHC shared with attendees some of the interesting items they have in their collections, and why these collections are just as important as the objects held in the museums. 

Libraries and archives tell the stories behind the objects. The Marine Corps Archives and the NHHC Operational Archives mainly tell the official stories of the US Navy and Marine Corps. These are the command histories submitted annually, the after action reports, and deck logs. They also tell the more personal stories through collections of personal papers and diaries of both influential and not so well known Sailors and Marines. These collections also tell the social history of the organizations through recruiting posters, photographs, and menus from major events. 

Libraries such as the one at the National Naval Aviation Museum help to humanize the objects in the museum and provide the social history aspect of the conflicts and battles. Collections of photos, diaries, flight log books, maps, and film footage help tell the story of naval aviation to future generations long after those original aviators are gone.

The Navy Department Library helps to tell the scholarly and social history of the Navy. With over 150,000 volumes of naval history and an extensive manuscript collection there are many stories waiting to be discovered. We have everything from cruise books to ordnance manuals and most anything in between.

Whether you are looking for the official history or what it felt like to be a part of history, libraries and archives are the place to look. Call and arrange a visit to one of the historical libraries or archives, and let us help you research and tell your story.

 
May 15

Guest Post by LCDR Glenn Smith (USN-Ret.): Cover from a China Marine

Saturday, May 15, 2010 6:11 AM

This cover was mailed from Quartermaster Clerk L. F. Shoemaker, a Marine with the Marine Detachment, Tientsin, China (now known as Tianjin). The letter was posted in early 1941 apparently to his wife at home in rural Texas.

The cachet appears to be hand drawn, and shows a street vendor with his monkey. Many old China hands would be familiar with this kind of sight on any street in the China of that era.

At a time when Shanghai was only a small, unremarkable town among the paddies along the Huangpu River, Tientsin was already a vibrant ancient walled Chinese city. The city is situated about 37 miles up the Peihao River from the ocean at Taku and approximately 80 miles from the capital at Peking (now Beijing).

World War Two began in China July 7-8, 1937 with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident near Peking. As a result Japan invaded Northern China from its puppet state, Manchukou (Manchuria). Within a few short weeks Japan controlled most of Northern China. On July 29, Japanese air forces bombed and destroyed most of Nankai University to discourage the students who were anti-Japanese. Japanese forces occupied Tientsin July 30, 1937.

With its protecting mission now compromised by Japanese forces, the US Army’s 15th Infantry departed from Tientsin on March 12, 1938 after a 26 year stint representing American interests in the region. It was replaced by a small U.S. Marine detachment (49 officers and men) guarding the Consulate-General and showing the flag. The Marines stayed at Tientsin until ordered out on November 14, 1941, essentially leaving control of all of the old foreign concessions in the hands of the Japanese.

 
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