Jeff Sanders' Blog

Return to

Home > January 2017 > The Marine Raiders

The Marine Raiders
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

An elite force within an elite force?  It was quite the radical idea over 70 years ago in the early years of World War II.  But President Franklin Roosevelt had been captivated by the success of newly formed British commandos and their raids against the Germans (most notably the famous SAS).  In 1942 the Naval forces of the United States saw the need for small groups of Marine infantry, landing swiftly in rubber boats or by landing craft, to operate behind Japanese lines in the islands of the South Pacific.  FDR gave the order to create the units, and soon two battalions (roughly 800 men per unit) were formed.  And the Commandant of the Marine Corps gave them their name.  They were not commandos.  They were "Raiders."

The First Battalion were commanded by Lt. Col. "Red Mike" Edson.  The Second was Lt. Col. Evans Carlson's Battalion.  Both men were fierce, dogged warriors, but they commanded differently.  Edson went more by formal command structure, but in battle he was everywhere.  In World War II he earned both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.  Carlson had observed the Chinese communist command structure and tactics against the Japanese, and believed their more casual observance of rank was best for guerrilla warfare.  Carlson also changed basic infantry strategy to use 3 man "fire teams" (one man with a Tommy gun, one with a Browning Automatic Rifle, and one man with an M-1 Garand.

Edson's Raiders held off superior numbers of Japanese troops in charge after charge on Guadalcanal.  Carlson's Raiders got on subs and raised Japanese troops on Makin Island.  Tragically, when the Marines left the island, they left behind nine of their men.  Those nine were captured by the Japanese and beheaded on Kwajalein Island.

But both battalions continued to battle it out throughout all of 1942 and 1943 in the Solomon Islands and New Georgia (near New Guinea).  Even President Roosevelt's son James was a Raider, serving as a Lieutenant Colonel and earning the Navy Cross himself! But by 1944 the Marine Corps was stretched to its limits.  And the admirals and generals never really liked the idea of an elite force within an elite force.

As successful as they were, the Marine Corps decided to stop wasting efforts on these smaller units, and they disbanded them.  The Marines were sent to standard infantry regiments where they distinguished themselves in battle against the Japanese.

Today the Marines have their own special forces (once again), just like the other branches.  One is called Marine Recon, and the other is MARSOC.  In 2014 MARSOC was redesignated as the First Marine Raider Battalion, and allowed to wear the old Raider patch (a blue field with white stars and a white skull), in honor of their World War II brethren.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017, 09:19 PM

Email to a Friend  |  Printer Friendly Page  |  Permalink | Comments

Bookmark and Share

Jeff Sanders' Bio


Past Posts

The Ghosts of Christmas Past--1776
Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation (Part 2)
George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation
The Contributions of Luther's Reformation
The Valley of Vision
Why ISIS Lost in Syria and Iraq...For Now
Some Things I am Grateful For
Gettysburg National Park
12 Years A Slave

November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009

Search this blog:

Copyright 2008 American Policy Roundtable