Marine Raiders: The Forgotten Lineage

Forming the Raiders:

In February 1941, one company (“A”, “E” and “I”) from each battalion of the recently formed 7th Marines were designated “Provisional Rubber Boat Companies” and participated in a Fleet Landing Exercise (FLEX-7) in 1941. After the exercise, General Holland Smith assigned the APDs and rubber boat function to the 1st Battalion 5th Marines.

7th Marine Regiment included:

  • 1st Battalion 7th Marines
  • 2nd Battalion 7th Marines
  • 3rd Battalion 7th Marines

General Holcomb re-designated the 1st Battalion 5th Marines as the “1st Separate Battalion” and created the 2nd Separate Battalion to be commanded by Carlson in response to pressure from the President.

The commandant selected the term “Raiders” and re-designated the two Separate Battalions. The 1st Raider Battalion was activated on 16 February 1942, followed by the 2nd Raider Battalion on February 19.

To give his Raiders an identity, Carlson designed a calling card with death’s black head on crossed yellow scimitars on a scarlet red background.

To give his Raiders an identity, Carlson designed a calling card with death’s black head on crossed yellow scimitars on a scarlet red background.

Disbandment:

On 1 February 1944, the 1st Raider Regiment was re-designated the 4th Marine Regiment, thus assuming the lineage of the regiment that had garrisoned Shanghai in the interwar years and fought so gallantly on Bataan and Corregidor. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th Raider Battalions became respectively the 1st, 3rd, and 2nd Battalions of the 4th Marines. The 2nd Raider Battalion became the regimental weapons company. Personnel of the Raider Training Battalion at Camp Pendleton transferred to the 5th Marine Division (The 5th Marine Division was formally deactivated on 26 November 1969, and the men reformed into the 5th Marine Brigade and later absorbed into 1st Marine Expeditionary Force).

4th Marine Regiment was assigned to the 6th Marine Division and then deactivated. 4th Marines were reactivated in 1951.

4th Marine Regiment included:

  • 1st Battalion 4th Marines – 1st Marine Regiment
  • 2nd Battalion 4th Marines – 5th Marine Regiment
  • 3rd Battalion 4th Marines – 7th Marine Regiment

When all the Marine Raiders (over 7,000) were renamed/ re-designated, the Raider structure followed them back into the Marine Corps infantry battalions. The Marine Corps infantry adopted Edson’s concepts: Each Raider Battalion had a weapons company and four rifle companies composed of three rifle platoons and a weapons platoon. These platoons consisted of a 3 man fire team and 10 man squad that was a lightly equipped force using conventional tactics to accomplish special missions. The Raider units were not truly “disbanded” but were converted back into an infantry units.

Modern Raiders:

Many infantry battalion “boat” companies used the “Raider” title, even though Marine Raiders were Infantry Rifleman and rarely fought/trained using rubber boats. Although, there was no existing Navy/ Marine Corps order that defined “Raider” designation, the consensus from the fleet Marines was that the Raider title was applicable to individual Marines bearing the 03XX military occupational specialty. However, that changed after a long campaign pushed by the Marine Special Operations Command to obtain exclusive rights to the Raider title.

Conclusion:

Many of the men who were formerly assigned to Raider units went on to serve with distinction during 1944 and 1945. For example, three of the six men in the iconic photograph of the flag raising at Iwo Jima, were former Raiders.

The Marine Corps infantry battalions share more in common with the structure, training, and heritage of the Marine Raider battalions than any other units and had upheld the Raider legacy for over 70 years.

We have an amazing history in the Marine Corps and often times, it is overlooked. The Marine Raiders were an exceptional organization, but none the less, were Marine infantry.

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5 comments

    1. What is even worse to me is that the original Raiders didn’t realize that their “legacy” had already been carried for over 70 years by Marine Boat Companies. I felt betrayed by the men of the Raider Association.

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  1. If you served in a boat company, in any battalion, at any time, you are a Marine Raider. You earned that by freezing your ass off through brutal OTH transits, getting the shit knocked out of you in wild sea states, hyping out on the beach because the skipper wouldn’t pass out immersion suits, catching fish that jumped into your boat, killing birds that landed on it, swilling around with leaky fuel bladders and crap outboard motors, scout swimming in those sexy UDT shorts and ripped neoprene “wet” suits, rafting up with dead boats in a Beaufort 4, breaking your knees on the deck plates–did I mention freezing your ass off –watching the Company Gunny puke in surf, stomping the high quality foot pumps to stay afloat, throwing a monkey’s fist on the stern gate, navigating with a whizz wheel at night, surf passages and broaching boats in sewage runoff, and also freezing your ass off. The elitist mentality of staking an exclusive claim to that legacy is for punks and fools, and I don’t care how short your rifle is, how many secret squirrel designations you have, or how you secretly wish the Commandant let you wear a beret.

    Liked by 1 person

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