Tag Archives: Marine detachment carrier

870 Love, Sh-tty Kitty Edition

Official caption: “A Marine armed with shotgun and ammunition belt stands guard at a rail aboard the aircraft carrier USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63), 12/15/1984”

Dig those crisp cammies and leather shell bandolier. Talk about Cold War esthetic. Photo 330-CFD-DN-ST-87-09135 by PH3 Davidson via NARA 

While many just talk about the Marines going from the Winchester 97 Trench Gun in WWI, to the Winchester 12 in WWII and the Mossberg 590 and Benelli M4 today, for years the Corps fielded a specialized version of the Remington 870, dubbed the M-870, Mark 1, complete with a bayonet lug forend over a lengthened mag tube. These guns are highly collectible when encountered in the wild today.

USNS JOSHUA HUMPRHEYS (T-AO-188), Marine FAST team member with an M870 MK1 Remington shotgun, notably missing the front sight post

A Marine demonstrates a standing firing position with a Remington 870 M-870, Mark 1 12-gauge shotgun, 5.3.1989. Note the kevlar, woodland BDUs, and Bianchi M84 holster with the M9 Beretta. DM-SN-93-00537 et.al via NARA.

As for Kitty Hawk, one of the Navy’s last conventional supercarriers, she was decommissioned in 2009 and is awaiting disposal. The Navy recently said she will undergo a drydocking in early 2021 at Puget Sound NSY’s Dry Dock 6 to remove sea life in anticipation of being moved to the breakers. She long outlived shotgun-wielding Marine Dets, which were pulled from flattops and disestablished in 1998.

The Devils’ 5-inchers

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-K-3037

Here we see a great image of one of the six twin Mark 32 Mod 4 5″/38 caliber mounts aboard USS Alaska (CB-1), one of the only two operational battlecruisers (though termed just “large cruisers”) ever to serve in the U.S. Navy. The gun’s lookout is Corporal Osborne Cheek, and in the local control position as mount captain is Platoon Sergeant George W. Ewell. Note the local control ring sight and the binoculars and sound powered telephones worn by Ewell. If the ranks sound odd, that’s because they are not Navy GMs or strikers, but Marines.

Since the days of Tun Tavern, Marines often manned naval guns aboard the ships they were assigned. WWII battleships, carriers, and cruisers were no different. Typically each battleship had one 5-inch mount manned by Marines, as well as other mounts.

As noted by the USS North Carolina museum, the ship’s 84-86 man detachment formed the 7th Division in the Gunnery Department and were very busy.

“The Marine Detachment was in the Gunnery Department. The Marines stood lookout watch and in battle manned 20mm and (provided officers in two) 40mm mounts. (They also manned a 5-inch mount early in the ship’s career.) The Marines also furnished twenty-four hour orderly services to the captain and the executive officer. In port the Marines were responsible for the security of the ship. The Marines helped with provisioning the ship and taking on ammunition. All Marines were trained in ship to shore operations, so in addition to helping with the security of the ship in port, we were prepared to be a landing force when necessary. This was necessary near the end of the war when all Marines in our battle group transferred at sea to attack transports and went into Yokosuka, Japan. This preceded the signing of the peace treaty by several days. The Marine officers stood top gunnery watches, officer of the deck and junior officer of the deck watches, and regularly assisted in summary and general courts martials acting either as the prosecuting or defending officer.” -Captain William Romm, USMC, Marine Detachment North Carolina

When the Navy recommissioned the Iowa-class battleships in the early 1980s, the det was smaller, typically platoon-sized, but they still dedicated a 14-man gun crew to control a designated Mk28 5-inch mount, typically marked with an EGA.

As noted in the below video aboard USS Wisconsin, now a museum ship, the MARDET would rotate between manning their 5-incher, manning the ship’s 8 .50-cal M2 single mounts, and serving with the ship’s reaction force.

IKE’s MARDET’s sidearms

Until 1998, platoon-sized Marine detachments were standard on deploying battleships and carriers (as well as cruisers and even some small gunboats through WWII). These dets served various administrative duties (door guards for the skipper and afloat admirals, honor guards for port visits) as well as a legitimate military purpose (TRAP, “special munition” guard, ship defense et.al).

Below are some 1988 images of the MARDET of the USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN 69), then in the 6th Fleet on a Mediterranean Sea cruise, working up with their WWII vintage M1911 .45-caliber pistols in their berthing space aboard the ship.

Dig those bright green woodland BDU cammies.

Photo by PH3 Gregory A.Pinkley/National Archives 6450632

Photo by PH3 Gregory A.Pinkley/National Archives 6450632

In the same set is this August 1985 image of 1SG Holmes– wearing starched ERDL leaf pattern jungle fatigues– preparing to fire a (personally owned?) Browning Hi Power from Ike’s fantail. Now that‘s unusual.

DN-SC-87-05848

Note the shotgun in the background.