Category Archives: USMC

Marines’ Ship-Killing RC Truck Gets (Some) Funding

A Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System launcher deploys into position aboard Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Hawaii, Aug. 16, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Nick Mannweiler, released)

As spotted in last week’s DOD Contracts:

Oshkosh Defense LLC, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is awarded a $23,709,168 hybrid firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the procurement of Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires (ROGUE-Fires) carriers for use in the Navy/Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS). NMESIS is a land-based missile launcher platform that provides the Marine Corps High Mobility Artillery Rocket System battalions and operating forces with anti-ship capabilities. NMESIS integrates a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) launcher unit, capable of launching two NSMs, onto a ROGUE-Fires carrier. Work will be performed in Alexandria, Virginia (18%); Gaithersburg, Maryland (15%); and Oshkosh, Wisconsin (67%). Work is expected to be completed in November 2023. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Marine Corps) funds in the amount of $15,989,908 will be obligated and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This action is a follow-on production contract in accordance with 10 U.S. Code § 4022(f). Marine Corps Systems Command, Program Manager Long Range Fires, Quantico, Virginia, is the contracting activity (M67854-22-D-1002).

As covered previously on the blog, ROGUE Fires, a remote-control JLTV loaded with a containerized module that includes a two-pack of the Norwegian Kongsberg-developed 900-pound Naval Strike Missile, is set to be a big deal for Marine Littoral units. The current buy is set to field 14 new Marine expeditionary precision strike units with 252 launchers. These could be useful on anything from atolls and reefs to oil platforms and grounded old hulks. The concept was validated after it got some actual hits in during a SINKEX against a moored FFG last fall.

A Naval Strike Missile is launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands during the sinking exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps/MC2 Lance Cpl. Dillon Buck)

The Marines are already theorizing about using their NMESIS batteries while underway on amphibious support ships if needed. The same concept could quickly arm ships taken from trade, such as old RO/ROs and tankers, giving the 1990’s Arsenal Ship theory an ersatz rebirth, at least for anti-ship purposes.

Once upon a time: Marine AV-8A Harriers Testing Sea Control Ship Concept

We’ve covered the trials and deployment of a Marine Hawker Siddeley AV-8A Harrier squadron, the Aces of VMA-231, on the Iwo Jima-class phib USS Guam (LPH-9) in 1976 on numerous occasions.

Part of CNO Elmo Zumwalt’s “Sea Control Ship” concept that would provide a Cold War-era evolution to the escort carrier concept for convoy protection and ASW hunter-killer teams, the basic idea was to turn these small (18,000-tons, 592-feet oal) flattops into economical CVEs overnight through the fly-on of a Harrier det for air defense/surface strike and a Sea King SH-3 ASW/SAR element.

Of course, Zumwalt wanted some dedicated SCS hulls, but, barring the shipbuilding dollars, the Iwo Jimas could work in a pinch.

Planned Sea Control Ship concept, art

Planned Sea Control Ship concept, model

Sea control ship outline, Janes ’73

The entry for Iwo Jima-class LPH USS Guam as an interim sea control ship in the 1973-74 Jane’s

Well, prior to VMA-231 shipping out on Guam, the Marines ran an extensive evaluation trial in March 1971 on her sister, USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7). I recently came across about 30 minutes of color footage from those trials, involving the “Flying Nightmares” of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 513, from MACS Beaufort– the first American Harrier squadron– in the National Archives.

Check out this screengrab:

Now that’s a beautiful aircraft. Dig those full-color roundels and the Marine crest. The British-made AV-8A was essentially the same as the RAF’s Harrier GR.1 with very few changes. Keep in mind the first Marine Harrier arrived in the USA on 21 January 1971, just two months before this trial, and the last was delivered in November 1976. 

The videos show ordnance in play, lots of short take-offs and vertical landings of camouflaged early British-built AV-8As, and even some night operations.

Enjoy!

 

80 Years Ago: Boyington is Back, Baby

Born in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho in December 1912, Gregory Boyington sought out the military at age 21. Commissioned a 2nd LT in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1934, serving with the cannon cockers of the 630th Coast Artillery on the Washington coast for 11 months, Boyington was then accepted to the Marine Corps Reserve Aviation Cadet program where he trained from 18 February 1936 to July 1937.

Pappy Aviation Cadet Gregory Boyington taken during his flight instruction at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, 1936

Gregory Pappy Boyington NAS Pensacola Class 88-C standing second from right

After finishing the program, he was granted a regular commission in the Marines, where he served until 27 August 1941 when he resigned his commission with an understanding “that I would be reinstated without loss of precedence when I returned to United States Service,” then left the Corps as a 1st LT to join the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) fighting for the KMT forces in China against the Japanese.

Boyington was a private military contractor of sorts with the original Flying Tigers, operational from December 20, 1941. Note the P-40 Warhawks in the background. Boyington claimed six victories, but that number is unconfirmed with some sources just saying he got two. The Chinese eventually paid him bonuses for 3.5 meatballs at $500 per kill.

Returning home from China in July 1942, he promptly sought to return to the Corps in a flying assignment, after all, there was something of a war on.

This was granted after passing a new flight physical and obtaining several endorsements, on 16 September 1942– some 80 years ago today– as a 1st LT in the USMC Reserve. After fighting with the brass for two weeks over getting a reserve commission when he left on a regular one and being told essentially “we will see,” Boyington went ahead and accepted the appointment on 29 September.

The Corps’ Director of Aviation nonetheless recommended to the Commandant that Boyington’s recommissioning halted, noting his previous stint with the Marines prior to leaving for China did not point to him as becoming a career officer and that Claire Chennault with the Tigers had noted, “This pilot was a capable flyer and would have been of valuable service were it not for his excessive drinking,” despite the fact Boyington was officially credited with at least 2 “kills” in China.

Cooling his heels, Boyington kept the telegrams to Marine HQ rolling.

Finally, on 10 November– the Birthday of the Corps– he was ordered for a second physical at Pasco, Washington (he lived at the time at Okanogan) and, if passed, to proceed to San Diego where he would report to Marine Airwings Pacific for assignment to “active duty in the Aeronautic Organization of the Marine Corps Reserve.” Passing his cough check, Boyington was duly promoted to Major (temporary) in the USMCR on 24 November.

Working through enhanced flying training on the West Coast, he was then appointed in January 1943 to XO of the “Candystripers” of VMF-122 on Guadalcanal, operating F4F Wildcats with the Cactus Air Force at Henderson Field until July of that year. Raised up to become the squadron’s skipper in July, he was there for the unit’s transition to F4U Corsairs.

Soon after, he was made commander of VMF-214 which he joined at Turtle Bay Airfield on Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides in August 1943.

It took roughly a year from the time he was reinstated before he would become the head of VMF-214.

Marine Attack Squadron Two Hundred and Fourteen – VMF 214 (Black Sheep Squadron) on Turtle Bay Fighter Strip, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. They are shown before leaving for Munda, with an F4U in the background, on 11 September 1943. Note, Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, 8th from left, front row. U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-54288.

Flying with his famed “Black Sheep” the elderly — at age 31– “Gramps” Boyington claimed 13 kills in aerial combat over the Solomans between 15 September and 20 October 1943.

Remarkably, an act of Congress (S.1427) was introduced in October 1943 to grant him a regular commission (as a 1st LT). Over time, the Gramps nickname would fade to be replaced by the more lovable “Pappy” and the rest, as they say, is history…

A Good Pilot in a Capable Plane Goes a Long Way

On this day: 70 years ago (September 10, 1952), Captain Jesse Gregory Folmar (MCSN: 0-26438), from the “Checkerboards” of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 312 of the jeep carrier USS Sicily (CVE-118), shot down a North Korean (marked) MiG-15 to become the only F4U Corsair pilot to claim a MiG kill during the Korean War. After successfully engaging the MiG, Folmar was himself shot down by four other MiGs. He survived the attack and was rescued.

By Lou Drendel

The performance between the two aircraft is about 200 knots and 10,000 feet in ceiling, to the MiG’s advantage. However, Folmar, age 32 at the time, was no novice to his aircraft.

Born 13 Oct 1920 in Montgomery County, Alabama, he joined the Marines in WWII and learned his trade with the Corsair against the Japanese.

From Folmar’s Silver Cross citation for the dogfight:

When the two-plane flight which he was leading to the target area near Chinnampo was suddenly attacked by eight hostile jet interceptors, Captain Folmar immediately initiated effective defensive measures so that he and his wingman could bring fire to bear on the enemy aircraft. Aggressively maneuvering his plane to the inside of one of the attacking hostile jets, he skillfully fired a burst from his guns that ripped into the side of the jet, causing it to burst into flames and forcing the enemy pilot, with his clothing ablaze, to abandon the flaming jet which subsequently crashed into the Taedong estuary.

While Captain Folmar was maneuvering his aircraft to ward off another attack, his plane was hit and severely damaged by hostile fire, forcing him to parachute. With the hostile jets continuing to make firing runs, he landed in the water from which he was rescued by friendly forces.

By his indomitable courage, outstanding airmanship, and gallant devotion to duty, Captain Folmar was directly responsible for the complete destruction of a hostile jet aircraft and contributed materially to the safe return of his wingman, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Folmar died in 2004, aged 83, and is buried in Foley, Alabama. 

For reference, the Marines’ “tally sheet” for Korea, showing Folmar as both the last Corsair victory and the only one of a prop plane against a jet.

Ah, the sound of CRRCickets in summer

Check out this great photo essay, shot in the Philippine Sea (Aug. 19, 2022), featuring Maritime Raiding Force Boat Company Marines of 2/5 with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conducting a boat launch aboard the 25,000-ton San Antonio-class amphibious assault dock USS New Orleans (LPD 18).

Official caption: “Boat companies launch from the well-deck to provide the landing force a ship-to-shore capability. The 31st MEU is operating aboard ships of the Tripoli Amphibious Ready Group in the U.S. 7th Fleet to enhance interoperability with Allies and Partners and serve as a ready response force to defend a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

15 CRRCs of a full boat company, carrying at least 90 Marines, trailed by a RHIB serving as a control boat. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

The craft are Enhanced Combat Rubber Reconnaissance Craft (CRRC, or just “Crick”) of the type made by Wing Inflatables of Arcata, California.

Wing’s five-chamber P4.7 series inflatable runs 15′ 5″-feet long, has a 6′ 5″-foot beam, and offers 38.32ft² of usable deck space on a 12×3-foot deck. Empty weight is 180-pounds not counting the 274-pound rollup hard deck insert and can accommodate a 65hp outboard and 10 passengers/2,768-pounds of payload. The whole thing folds up into a 27″x29″x56″ package or roughly the size of a curbside garbage can.

Each of the 7 Marine Expeditionary Units (a battalion landing team with a bunch of stuff bolted onto it and a harrier/helicopter airwing for support) has a bunch of different ways to get to the beach. These include of course the choppers, navy landing craft (LCU, LCAC, etc), and the Marines own amtrac swimming APCs. However, each one of these MAUs also has 18 (15 active and 3 spares) of these little rubber zodiac-style boats.

A little larger than a sectional couch and powered by an outboard (or two) these can motor out from a task force still some 20 miles out at sea and approach an enemy-held beach, port, or vessel with very little footprint. They are hard to spot by eyeball, radar, or other means, especially in a light chop state. It’s a wet ride for the Marines aboard and anyone who has ever ridden one through the surf doesn’t look forward to doing it a second time– especially on a contested beach.

For landings, a company of the battalion landing team is designated the “Boat Company” and they spend a couple weeks figuring these boats out. This includes sending as many as 36 of its force before deployment through a four-week coxswains school where they learn basic sea-nav, and what not to do with these temperamental crafts.

Meanwhile, a few other members of the Boat Coy head off to scout swimmer school where they learn the finer points of exiting a rubber raft on fins and doing lite frogman shit.

In the end, Cricks allow two-thirds of a 144-man company to be landed on a strip of beach or empty pier in three, five-boat waves. The latter third can be shipped in follow-on elements or landed by helicopter. This type of landing was done under OOTW conditions by Marines in Somalia in 1992.

Air transportable, Cricks can be slid out the rear ramp of MV-22s or parachuted from cargo planes such as the C-130 (and Navy C-2 CODs), can be launched from surface vessels ranging from Amphibious assault ships (shown) or smaller craft like patrol boats, LCS and frigates.

They can also be (and are) carried up from submerged submarines by divers for inflation on the surface.

Suitcased-Sized Marine Eyeball and Targeting Teams

Earlier this summer, members of Task Force 61 Naval Amphibious Forces Europe/2d Marine Division (TF-61/2), operating under U.S. Sixth Fleet, joined their Estonian counterparts to kick off exercise Siil 22, also known in English as Exercise Hedgehog 22. While not a large force of Marines involved, TF-61/2 took advantage of the deployment to test out the new Commandant’s concept for Stand-in Forces (SIF) to generate small, highly versatile units that integrate Marine Corps and Navy forces and have “multi-domain reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance (RXR)” capabilities.

When talking of Maritime Awareness in 2022, the above references little groups of Marines– a team small enough to be inserted in a UH-1Y Venom which can only lift 8-10 combat-loaded men– equipped with back-packable/UTV-mountable Small Form Factor surface search radars, SATCOM, small UAS, and enhanced observation telescopes/binos to provide actionable intelligence and targeting data to upper headquarters.

Check out the highlight reel:

Highly mobile SATCOM on a UTV:

U.S. Marines with 2nd Marine Division test a Small Form Factor Satellite Communication (SATCOM) on the move (SOTM) device, while it’s attached to a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 10, 2019. The CopaSAT STORM is a replacement for the current Networking on the move (NOTM) system, which will allow Marines better communication services while stationary or forward deployed. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Q. Hamilton)

The Marines in the video are shown with Lockheed-Martin’s Stalker VXE Block 30 VTOL UAV, which can be shipped in three large pelican-style cases.

Another new tool is the Next-Generation Handheld Targeting System, or NGHTS, which allows the deployment of laser designation and target location at extended ranges, day and night, in a GPS-denied environment with high accuracy and “allows Marines to prosecute targets at increased standoff ranges.” 

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – Marine peers through a prototype version of the Next-Generation Handheld Targeting System, March 2021 at U.S. Army Garrison Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. The Next-Generation Handheld Targeting System, or NGHTS, is an innovative, man-portable targeting system allowing Marines to rapidly and accurately conduct target location and laser guidance during combat operations. Photo By: MCSC_OPAC

More on NGHTS: 
 
Years of market research, technology maturity and miniaturization resulted in NGHTS. The unit, lighter and less bulky than past targeting systems, includes a selective availability anti-spoofing module GPS, a celestial day and night compass, a digital magnetic compass, a laser designator and a laser range finder, all in a single handheld system weighing less than ten pounds.

The Marines have recently been fielding more AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (GATOR) systems, including one in Estonia but there may be something smaller at play here that was kept off-camera.

GATOR, for reference:

All in all, this all seems right on point for use across nameless Pacific atolls in addition to its already-interesting use in the Baltic.

75 Years Ago: Back-to-Back Skystreak Records

Pre-dating Chuck Yeager’s ride in X-1, U.S. Navy CDR Turner Foster “Stinky” Caldwell set a new world air-speed record of 640.663 mph while flying Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak #1 (Bureau No. 37970-NACA 140), on this day in 1947, earning the Weatherhead Award.

Just five days later, Marine Major Marion Eugene Carl bested CaIdwell’s record, hitting 650.796 mph in Skystreak # 2 (Bureau Number 37971-NACA 141).

The two pilots—Caldwell (right) and Carl (left)—are pictured here. Although both NACA 140 and 141 had been painted scarlet for improved visibility, in flying the aircraft both Douglas and NACA personnel discovered that the scarlet color was difficult to discern against the dark blue desert sky. U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation photo No. 2012.004.090

D-558-1 in flight. During the winter of 1947-1948, NACA repainted NACA 141 with white color. Credits: NACA / NASA Photo

Caldwell, USNA 1935, was skipper of “Shademaids” of CVLG(N)-41 and, likewise, of VF(N)-41 while aboard the light carrier USS Independence (CVL-22), the Navy’s first dedicated night combat aircraft carrier. He also had a Navy Cross, thrice. 

Navy Cross:” For…the sinking or damaging of at least eight enemy Japanese vessels at Tulagi and in the sinking or severe damaging of another in the Coral Sea…”

Gold Star in lieu of the Second Navy Cross: “For extraordinary heroism…as Commanding Officer of a detachment of his Bomber Squadron in action against enemy Japanese forces during their assaults on our Guadalcanal positions in the period August 24 to September 23, 1942…”

Gold Star in lieu of the Third Navy Cross: For contributing to the destruction of three enemy ships at Salamaua and Lea, New Guinea, on March 10, 1942. 

Caldwell retired as a Vice Admiral in 1967, presumably to get a hearing aid so he could make out what people were saying over the sound of his balls clanging together. 

Carl earned his wings in December 1939 and was the Marine’s first World War II fighter ace, with 18.5 confirmed aerial victories with VMF-221 (at Midway) and later VMF-223, flying with the Cactus Air Force from Guadalcanal. He famously ended Japanese Navy Tainan Kōkūtai ace Junichi Sasai’s career over Henderson Field. Carl, with two Navy Crosses to his credit, went on to fly tense recon missions over Mainland China in the 1950s, command the 2nd MAW in Vietnam– where he once again flew combat missions– and served as Inspector General of the Marine Corps until retiring in 1973. By then he had logged a massive 13,000 flying hours in everything from Brewster Buffalos to F-4 Phantoms. Sadly, he was killed in a home invasion in 1998, aged 82.

As for the D-558-1 Skystreak, just three were produced. D-558-1 #1 – BuNo 37970 NACA-140, flew 101 flights and today rests at the National Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola. Carl’s bird, Skystreak #2, made a total of 19 flights with the NACA before it, sadly, crashed on takeoff due to compressor disintegration on May 3, 1948, killing NACA pilot Howard C. Lilly. Skystreak #3 is owned by the Carolinas Historical Aviation Museum located at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.

Pensacola’s D-558-1 Skystreak is on display restored to its original scarlet. Displayed on a wall in the museum as if in a tight turn, D-558-1 (Bureau Number 37970) was the first Skystreak produced and the one in which Commander Turner F. Caldwell established a world speed record of 640.743 M.P.H. on August 20, 1947, followed immediately after by Major Marion Carl in Skystreak 2

Arizona Marine Det flotsam

While at Gunsite earlier in the month, I spent some downtime wandering around (so I didn’t cramp up in the Arizona heat, to tell you the truth) and saw lots of plaques and trophies dotting the walls of the classrooms. As legendary Marine Col. Jeff Cooper originally founded the training facility as the American Pistol Institute (API) in 1976, wall decorations abounded. Besides the myriad of police and LE plaques and letters, there were tons of Army SF (mostly 10th Group) and, as expected with the pedigree, lots of “thank yous” from assorted Marine units.

One of these I thought you guys would find interesting:

Yup, the old school FBM Simon Lake-class submarine tender USS Canopus (AS-34), the first submarine tender in the United States Navy capable of refitting and maintaining a submarine with the UGM-73 Poseidon SLBM System– hence her Marine detachment.

Laid down in 1964 at Ingalls in Pascagoula, Canopus repeated the name of a WWII-era tender (AS-9) lost in the Philippines in 1942.

USS Canopus (AS-34) after its launch in Pascagoula, Mississippi on 12 February 1965. “The Polaris submarine tender Canopus (AS-34) made her slide into the Singing River following her launching at Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries, Pascagoula, Mississippi today and came one step closer to becoming an indispensable part in support of the US Navy’s Polaris Weapons System. Upon her scheduled delivery this September, Canopus, from an overseas base, will be capable of fully supporting nine nuclear-powered submarines on patrol, keeping them in a high state of combat readiness.” NHHC Catalog #: L45-42.08.08

USS Canopus (AS-34) Underway at sea, circa 1968. This photograph, taken by Airman T.J. Sharpe, was received by All Hands magazine on 8 July 1968. NH 107767

On active duty for 29 years, Canopus shuffled between Rota, Spain; Bremerton; Holy Loch, Scotland; Charleston, and Kings Bay, being a mothership to her incredibly powerful brood.

Decommissioned on 7 October 1994 (after Trident I was phased in and Poseidon was retired), she was disposed of in 2010.

As the plaque refers to API and not Gunsite, it dates to pre-1992, which tracks.

Remember those front sight presses when using 1911s, guys.

Starvation Island

Via the National Museum of the U.S. Marine Corps:

The decision by the Navy to remove all transports and cargo vessels around Guadalcanal on 9 August 1942 [following the slaughter of TG 62.6 in the Battle of Savo Island on D+3] left the Marines perilously short supplied. Marines subsisted on two meals a day to stretch out their meager stock. Guadalcanal would become known as “Starvation Island.”

In the months after the battle, Marine veterans created an unofficial medal, which poked fun at their Navy comrades. Known as the “George Medal”, it depicts an extended arm with admiral rank on its sleeve, dropping a literal “hot potato” to a scurrying cartoon Marine. The rear includes “remembrance of happy days” and the Two examples of these “awards” can be seen in the Museum’s current WWII Gallery.

The men purposefully chose the heraldry of the medal to reflect their dark humor. The outstretched hand, displaying the rank of a U.S. Navy admiral is depicted dropping a literal “hot potato” into the scrambling hands of a small Marine. The island itself is represented with a small cactus and sliver of land denoting the codename for the island of Guadalcanal. Under the scene, inscribed in Latin is the term Faciat Georgius, an approximate translation of “Let George Do It”.

The reverse of the medal was even more direct. Recalling the well-used expression “Sh-t had really hit the fan!”, the officers designed a cartoon showing the posterior of a cow pointed directly at an electric fan. Beneath it is the sarcastic script, “In fond remembrance of the happy days spent from Aug. 7th 1942 to Jan. 5th 1943. U.S.M.C.”

Certificate #2 awarded to MGEN William H. Rupertus

An initial purchase of 100 crude medals was from a small engraving shop off Little Collins Street, in Melbourne, Australia. A deliberately pretentious and humorous certificate was also printed by the Division’s lithographic branch to accompany each award. According to 1st Marine Division veteran Vernon Stimpel, the popularity of the medal soared and a second order was soon made for an additional 400 medals. These were to be presented with a large laundry bag pin, furthering the absurdity of the division’s award. Lore also has it that the manufacturing mold broke during this period. This made the determination of exactly how many original medals were produced in Australia forever unknown. In later years another mold was created and new versions were made and distributed more widely among all veterans of the 1st Marine Division. 

The Old Breed’s Last Bolt-Action Battle

Some 80 years ago this month, a scratch force of Marines waded ashore on a little-known island in the Pacific, with their beloved ’03s in hand, determined to stop the Rising Sun.

Some eight months after Pearl Harbor was attacked, and long after Wake Island, Guam, and the Philippines fell to the Japanese onslaught during World War II, the Allies in the Pacific moved to seize the initiative and launched the first Allied land offensive in the Theater as well as the first American amphibious assaults of the war. Between Aug. 7 and Aug. 9, 1942, some 11,000 men of the newly-formed 1st Marine Division landed on the beaches of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Japanese-occupied Solomon Islands, a chain of islands far closer to Australia than to Tokyo. There, the Marines aimed to seize an airfield the Japanese were carving out of the jungle and use it for their own fighters and bombers.

However, while the Army in 1937 had opted to switch to the M1 Garand from the M1903 Springfield– a bolt-action .30-06 adopted during the administration of Teddy Roosevelt– the Marines were slower to move towards the semi-auto battle rifle. It was only in Feb. 1941, just ten months before Pearl Harbor, that Marine Gen. Alexander Vandegrift wrote that he considered the Garand reliable enough to arm his Marines. With that, it wasn’t until after America was in the war that the Corps officially adopted the M1 Garand and later the M1 Carbine.

“Captured Japanese Battle Flag, Guadalcanal Airfield, circa 1942.” (Photo: Thayer Soule Collection/Marine Corps History Division)

Guadalcanal Campaign U.S. Marines rest in the field on Guadalcanal, circa August-December 1942. Most are armed with M1903 bolt-action rifles and carry M1905 bayonets along with USMC 1941 pattern packs. Two men high on the hill at the right have vests to carry patrol mortar shells and one in the center has a World War I-style hand grenade vest. The Marine seated at the far right has an M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle. (Photo: U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.)

More in my column at Guns.com.

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