US Naval Landing Parties

You wouldnt know it to look at today’s ultra-modern US warships, but for hundreds of years Uncle Sam’s Jackies stood ready to go ashore in small boats and mix it up with the locals. They strapped on web-gear, grabbed rifles and bayonet, and hefted rucksacks and canteens and became blue-coated naval infantry. This mind you, is over and above the embarked ship’s marines.

Throughout the 19th century and as late as the 1930s sailors regularly drilled in infantry tactics and the ship’s armory held a massive supply of rifles, bayonets, cutlasses and pistols for boarding and landing duties. Large ships such as battleships and armored cruisers would even carry small howitzers and machine-guns on wheeled carriages.

Another Jackie in 'Heavy Marching Order'
Note the 38 in the open-topped holster. A cruiser like the New York needed a 500+ man crew to man all her multitude of weapons and stoke her boilers. These large crews also enabled these steam navy ships to land 100-150 well armed naval infantry if needed and still be able to fight. Now that's Littoral warfare!

part of the USS New Jersey's landing team 1915


Thirty-six Illustrative Examples of the Use of Sailors as Infantry
(Note: This is only a partial list)

Event
Year
Description
Force composition
Capture of New Providence Island, Bahamas.59 1776 Continental Navy under Ezek Hopkins captures New Providence Town and two forts. First fleet operation and first amphibious operation by the U.S. Navy 200 marines under Capt Samuel Nichols, 50 sailors under LT Thomas Weaver of Continental Navy ship Cabot.
Defense of Washington and Baltimore.60 1814 Washington: Como Joshua Barney’s Chesapeake flotilla personnel fought ashore at Bladensburg defending the capital. Navy forces ashore commanded by Como David Porter and O.H. Perry engaged the British Potomac River expedition. Baltimore: Navy units including Barney’s flotilla personnel, ships company from USS Guerriere, Essex, Erie, manned the artillery and infantry redoubts defending Baltimore. Barney’s flotilla men engaged the British assault on Fort McHenry. Washington: Como Joshua Barney’s approximate 400 man force, augmented by about 110 marines. Baltimore: eight officers, 387 sailors and about 50 marines from USS Guerriere and Erie ships company under Como John Rogers.
Two engagements with pirates: Cuba.Both are typical operations during the anti-piracy campaign of 1821-29.61 1823 a.) Two cutters from USS Peacock intercepted and drove ashore pirate Pilot capturing it and continuing pursuit ashore.
b.) USS Greyhound and Beagle land parties and assault a pirate base.
Peacock: 36 sailors and marines.
Greyhound/Beagle: Seaman conduct frontal assault while party of marines and sailors attempt to take position from the rear.
Capture of Quallah Battoo, Sumatra (Indonesia)62 1832 Sailors and marines from USS Potomac capture Quallah Battoo against stiff opposition. 250 man marine and bluejacket landing party consisting of one marine and two sailor companies.
Siege of Vera Cruz, Mexico.63 1847 Gunners and artillery from the Home Squadron operated ashore bombarding the city. The naval artillery was the heaviest siege artillery used and fired about twenty-five percent of the munitions expended against the city. Approximately 200 sailors. Vera Cruz surrendered before it was assaulted by infantry. If an infantry assault had been made it was planned that one of the three planned assault columns would be composed of sailors and marines.
Recapture of Los Angeles.64 1847 During the War with Mexico Los Angeles was captured by a Navy-Marine force. It was subsequently retaken by the Californians and then recaptured after an initial unsuccessful try. The recapture involved an infantry march from San Diego to Los Angeles. Battles occurred at San Gabriel and La Mesa Six companies of sailors and marines, two companies of U.S Dragoons (dismounted), two companies of Californian Volunteers under Commodore Robert Stockton
Capture of the Chinese barrier forts.65 1856 Landing parties from USS Portsmouth, Levant, and San Jacinto captured and held the Pearl River forts guarding Canton 237 sailors and 50 marines.
Infantry force organized and trained in order to conduct operations against Paraguay.66 1859 The United States sent a 19 ship expedition to Paraguay to enforce reparations and an apology for firing on the USS Water Witch four years earlier. A 250 man force consisting of 100 marines, 110 sailors in a light infantry role and 40 sailors comprising the artillery (4 guns) was organized. They exercised ashore at Corrientes, Argentina, before the affair ended peaceably.
Reconnaissance at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River.67 1862 Reconnaissance and demolition of Confederate fortifications near Shiloh by gunboats USS Tyler and Lexington landing parties. The landing party consisted of one hundred sailors and Army soldiers. This is one of 46 minor Navy landing operations during the Civil War.
Capture of Fort Fisher, North Carolina 1864 A large Navy infantry force participated in the joint Army-Navy infantry assault of the fort which guarded Wilmington, the last open port of the Confederacy. Approximately 2,000 sailors and marines of the Blockading Squadron under Commodore Porter, Navy-Marine ratio can be estimated from losses: 320 sailors, 61 Marines. This is one of 36 major landings during the Civil War.
Seizure of the pirate ship Forward, Tecapan River Mexico.68 1870 Landing party seized the pirate steamer Forward which was located some 40 miles upriver from the coast. Seizure was conducted under heavy fire. Sixty man party from USS Mohican in six ships boats
Capture of the Korean Forts.69 1871 In retaliation for the ambush of an American survey party, a force from the Asiatic Squadron captured several Korean forts, spiking their guns. 651 sailors forming a Seaman Brigade, 105 Marines forming a battalion , including seven sailor manned naval field howitzers.
Landing exercise at Cheefo, China70 1882 Screw Sloop-of-war USS Swatara landing party put ashore for training with permission of Chinese Authorities 103 man landing party: including bluejacket company, 34 men; machine-gun section, 13 sailors; 12 pdr. howitzer, 13 sailors; squad of marines, 20 marines; file of pioneers, 4 men.
Protection of the Panama Railroad and U.S. interests.71 1885 Landing parties from North Atlantic and Pacific Squadron ships, along with an expeditionary force formed in the U.S., protect U.S. interests in the Isthmus. 875 man expeditionary force from ships and a force dispatched from the U.S. It included 549 marines and 280 sailors. Sailors acted as infantry and manned the artillery consisting of 3” breach loading canon, boat howitzers, and Gatling guns
Peacekeeping and engagements at Samoa during U.S.-UK protectorate72 1899 Landing party from Armored cruiser No. 4 USS Philadelphia ashore for three months to maintain order in connection with Royal Navy landing parties. Landing party consisted of marine company, sailor company, machine gun detachment (sailors) and artillery (sailors). Majority (36 of 56) of participants in major battle in the interior, are sailors.
Landing at Zumarraga, Philippines.73 1900 Investigation location of possible insurgent stores. 25 sailors from River Gunboat No. 5 USS Panay and Patrol Gunboat No. 39 USS Pampanga under command of LT Frederic R. Payne CO USS Pampanga. One of numerous incidents of use of sailors as infantry during the 1898-1903 Philippines insurrection.
Defense and relief of the Legation Quarter Beijing China74 1900 Navy machinegun detachment from Armored Cruiser No. 1 USS Newark and Battleship No. 3 USS Oregon landing party reaches Beijing and participates in defense of the quarter. Bluejackets are apart of first relief expedition British Admiral Edward Seymore. Machine gun detachment. Sailors and marines make up 112 man contribution to Seymore relief expedition.
Possible landing at Beruit , Lebanon (Syria)75 1903 Armored Cruiser No. 3 USS Brooklyn and Armored Cruiser No. 5 USS San Francisco landing forces prepared to land at Beruit to provide protection of Consulate during instability. One company of marines, one company of bluejackets. A small mixed sailor/marine guard was actually landed.
Operations in Nicaragua.76 1912 Navy and Marine forces operated in the field during the period August-November 1912. 42 officers and 1,030 sailors from seven ships; 43 officers and 1,272 Marines, most of whom were from battalion organizations.
Occupation of Veracruz, Mexico.77 1914 Fleet forces landed and occupied Veracruz against Mexican opposition. Sailors and some Marine forces later relieved by Army units. Forty five Navy personnel were awarded Medals of Honor for infantry action. Naval Brigade consisting of First Seaman Regiment (57 off, 1,146 men) and Second Seaman Regiment (64 off, 1,301 men) plus Navy artillery battalion.Marine Advanced Base Brigade: 2nd Provisional Regiment (28 off, 715 men), and 3rd Provisional Regiment (29 off, 608 men)
Occupation of Port au Prince Haiti.78 1915 Naval force occupied Port au Prince to maintain order and protect property. This landing begins a 19 year occupation of Haiti. During the first months of the occupation Navy landing parties were very active in conduct of operations against Coco opposition ashore. Battleship No. 18 USS Connecticut sailors formed a detachment of the assault force on Fort Riviere, capture of which essentially ended the first Caco war. Throughout the 19 year occupation Navy personnel performed key functions in the civil government including finance, public works, and medical services. 2 companies Marines (2 officers, 162 marines); 3 companies of seamen (7 officers, 215 men) from Armored Cruiser No. 11 USS Washington. Two bluejackets were killed.
Capture of Fort Riviére, Haiti 1915 This engagement ended the first Caco War. Three marines won the Medal of Honor including Major Smedley Butler who won his second award. Detachment of sailors from Battleship No. 18 USS Connecticut, Connecticut marines, units from the 5th, 13th, and 24th companies of marines.
Five batteries of 14 inch Naval Railway guns involved in combat operations in France.79 1918 Five batteries are deployed under command of Radm C.P. Plunkett providing allies largest caliber gunnery support. Supported by 458 Navy officers and men. (20,000 volunteered)
Sailors acting as infantry at Murmansk and Archangel, Russia.80 1918 At Murmansk they relieved British marines who were dispatched to the South. At Archangel they participated in the pursuit of the enemy on the Volgda Railroad Front and on the Northern Dvina River Front. Murmansk: Eight officers and 100 seamen from Protected Cruiser No. 6 USS Olympia. Archangel: 54 sailors from Olympia.
Landing near Vladivistock, Russia81 1919 Combined Protected Cruiser USS Albany – White Russian landing party put ashore to protect the Suchun mines from the Bolsheviks. One hundred Protected Cruiser USS Albany men participated in the landing party.
Demonstration in front of the city of Trau, Dalmatia (Croatia)83 1919 A Navy landing party force is sent to the city of Trau in U.S. occupied Dalmatia in order to demonstrate that Italian government backed filibusterers who has seized the city that they would not be allowed to enter U.S. occupied territory during September 1919. Landing parties from Protected Cruiser No. 6 USS Olympia and Destroyer No. 167 USS Cowell under command of Captain (USN) Boyd.
Protection of refugees at Smyrna (Izmir) Turkey84 1922 Sailors were landed in September to protect American lives and property and to assist in the evacuation of Greek refugees as Turkish troops took over the city. Landing parties from destroyers USS Litchfield (DD-336), Simpson (DD-221), and Lawrence (DD-250).
Taking of the Standard Oil Company vessel Meifoo XIV at Hangchow, China85 A Standard Oil vessel that had been seized by Chinese troops was re-taken by sailors and marines. Two squads of sailors and two squads of marines from the USS Pittsburgh (CA-4).
Landing at Nanking, China82 1927 Sailors from destroyers USS Noa (DD-343) and William B. Preston (DD-344) put a small landing party ashore to protect refugees at the American consulate and later, with the British, put a 250 man landing party ashore to protect escaping refugees from marauding Kuomintang regulars. Squad of bluejackets at the consulate and larger number with Anglo-American force.
Bluejacket Expeditionary Battalion service in Nicaragua.86 1928 Sailors provided armed security for polling stations during Nicaraguan elections. 37 officers and 265 bluejackets.
Securing of oil facilities and protection of Americans at Hankow, China.87 1937 USS Guam’ s (PR-43) landing party provides security ashore while Japanese and Chinese forces fought. USS Guam (PR-43) landing party.
Navy infantry participation in the defense of Bataan and Corregidor, the Philippines88 1941-42 Bataan: Navy Battalion action prevented Japanese severing only road supporting I Corps. With assistance Philippine Scouts destroyed the Japanese landing force.
Corregidor. Navy battalion made the last attempt to stop Japanese landings.
Navy Battalion Bataan: approx 480 sailors from various units, 120 marine anti-aircraft gunners.
Corregidor: 1,750 sailors, most organized as a provisional battalion of the 4th Marines.
USS Philadelphia (CL-41) landings during Operation Torch.89 1942 a.) Landing party put ashore 8 November at Mirs-el-Kebir Algeria to prevent installations from being damaged by French. b.) Landing party put ashore 10-11 November near Safi, Morocco to assist 47th Infantry in capturing airport at Loa Senia. Philadelphia (CL-41) landing party (Navy-Marines). Mirs-el-Kebir also involved Royal Marines.
Occupation of Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, and vicinity and rescue of prisoners of war.90 1945 Three battalions of Navy infantry landed at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, August 30, 1945. Part of a larger force commanded by Radm Oscar C. Badger. 1,200 sailors from 3rd Fleet ships organized into three battalions; 9,000 U.S. Marines about half Third Fleet ship’s marines organized into a provisional regiment and the remainder a regiment from Guam; and 450 Royal Marines.
Watts Riots, Los Angeles.91 1965 A Navy Battalion was formed for possible federal involvement during the riots. The brigade was formed from sailors/marines from ships in port. Personnel were disembarked and the battalion spent a night encamped on the Long Beach Naval Station mole before being disbanded following drills. Landing parties from ships import Long Beach.
Defense and reoccupation of Naval Support Activity Saigon Vinh Long facility, Vietnam.92 1968 Navy personnel were withdrawn on 1 February while under attack during the Tet offensive. The next day Navy personnel, assisted by Navy SEALs, reoccupied the facility NSA Saigon sailors acting as infantry.

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