Marine Division has its own personal history - - its own kind
of esprit, its unique combat experiences, its own section of
the vast Pacific which, because so many of its men still lie
there in vigilance under the white coral sand, can belong to
no other. Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Bougainville, Tarawa, and
the Marshalls, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa are all different,
and the courage and suffering and glory that went into the
taking of them are different, too. Thus the memories of the
men in the other divisions will be different from those of
the Fourth. This history is an attempt to make permanent the
record of the men in the Fourth Marine Division who fought
so valiantly on islands in the Pacific.
many ways the Fourth was more fortunate than some of its sister
divisions. It was overseas 21 months, whereas a tour of 26
to 30 months was not unusual for the divisions which preceded
it. Its zone of action was exclusively in the Central Pacific;
jungles, oppressive heat, and tropical diseases were not part
of its experience; casualties from malaria, filariasis, and
jungle rot were practically unknown. It was in combat but a
total of 63 days; it was based, between operations, in the
next best place to the States - - The Island of Maui. Long
months of isolation in some rainy jungle or on a barren rock
were never part of the Fourth's experience. It was also the
first Marine division to return to the States and be deactivated
after the war.
in contrast to this, no division participated in more violent
combat than did the Fourth. In 63 days it saw more action than
did many units during months of jungle fighting, or in long
campaigns in Italy and France. Every day was its own bloody
battle, and every acre of Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo
Jima was its own battlefield. The Fourth set something of a
record in making four beachheads - - all of them bitterly opposed
- - in less than 13 months.
if men escaped the discomfort of steaming jungles and the plagues
of insects and disease, they were not so fortunate where enemy
bullets were concerned. Sixty-three days of merciless but futile
enemy opposition accounted for probably the highest casualty
rate of any Marine division. During the four operations in
which the Division was engaged, a total of 81,718 men saw action
one or more times. (This is a combined figure of totals of
all operations for the Reinforced Division, i.e., some served
in all four operations, and thus are included four times.)
Out of this total of 81,718, there were 17,722 casualties (some
being wounded more than once) killed, wounded, and missing
in action - - a total of 21.6 per cent. The percentage of the
original 17,086 men who left the States with the Fourth and
later became casualties would be even higher than this. These
figures are not stated boastfully but as solemn facts that
testify as no words possibly can to the contribution which
the Fourth made to the victory in the Pacific.
division is merely a name until its component parts are joined
and integrated into a single fighting unit. This process,
for the Fourth, took more than a year. It began at Camp Lejeune,
New River, North Carolina, where nearly all of the lower
echelons were formed, and ended at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside,
California, with the activation of the Division as a whole.
During this period, separate battalions were combined to
form regiments and regiments split to form new regiments;
specialized units were welded together to make Special and
Service Troops; and a Division Staff was organized.
the Twenty-third marines goes the honor of being the oldest
component unit of the Division. It was activated in July 1942,
under Lieutenant Colonel William B. Onley, as a part of the
Third Division. In September 1942, Colonel Louis R. Jones took
command. On February 15, 1943, it was detached from the Third
and five days later designated part of the Fourth. Colonel
Jones, a baseball enthusiast, determined to make the Twenty-third
not only a first-class fighting outfit but a ball-playing outfit
as well, and its regimental team won a long string of victories.
15 cold days in January 1943, the Twenty-third conducted amphibious
maneuvers in Chesapeake Bay - - a change, but hardly a relief
from the long days of training in the North Carolina "boondocks" which
all the units were undergoing during these formative months.
On May 1 of the same year the Regiment was divided into two
cadres, one of which was the nucleus of the Twenty-fifth Marines
formed under Colonel Richard H. Schubert. Later that month
the Fourth Service Battalion, the Ordinance Company, Division
Headquarters Company, and the Fourth Signal Company were activated.
On June 15, 1943, the Twentieth Marines, consisting of engineers
and pioneers, was activated under Lieutenant Colonel Nelson
K. Brown. During the same month the Fourteenth Marines, the
Division's artillery regiment, was activated under Colonel
Randall M. Victory.
of these units were transferred, by ship and train, to Camp
Joseph H. Pendleton during July and August 1943, and it was
here that the Division was brought up to its full strength.
Under the leadership of Colonel Franklin A. Hart, the Twenty-fourth
Marines, which had been formed in March at Camp Pendleton by
combining three separate reinforced battalions, was added.
Two of these battalions had been formed at Camp Lejeune and
were transferred to the West Coast where unit training was
carried out upon organization of the Regiment. On August 16,
1943, the Division was formerly activated. The Fourth was now
ready to undergo intensive training as a unit in preparation
Division Staff was as follows:
General Harry Schmidt
General James L. Underhill
William W. Rogers
Merton J. Batchelder
Chief of Staff, D-1
Gooderham L. McCormick
Chief of Staff, D-2
Walter W. Wensinger
Chief of Staff, D-3
William F. Brown
Chief of Staff, D-4
William C. Baty, Jr.
Commander Otis P. Maddox
five regiments and other principal units of the Division at
this time were commanded by the following officers:
Louis G. DeHaven
Lucian W. Burnham
Louis R. Jones
Franklin A. Hart
Samuel C. Cummings
Emmett W. Skinner
Richard H. Schubert
was under this leadership that 17,831 men and officers (as
of September 30, 1943) were welded into a hard-hitting fighting
machine. In September 1942, training at Pendleton was begun
on an intensive scale. The 132,000 acres of the former Santa
Margarita Ranch with its hills, canyons, and semi-arid desert
were ideal terrain for CPXs (command post exercises), field
problems, hikes and maneuvers. Aliso Beach and San Clemente
Island served as proving grounds for amphibious landings. In
November, the Fourteenth Regiment moved in a body with its
75mm and 105mm howitzers to camp Dunlap, Niland, California,
for extensive firing practice.
three infantry regiments, reinforced with detachments of engineers,
medical personnel, Joint Assault Signal men, and amphibian
tractor units, boarded transports at San Diego and made a series
of practice landings on Aslito Beach. Later the whole Division
boarded ship and sailed to San Clemente Island, where, with
Task Force 53 giving it live fire support, men stormed the
beaches to "take" the island and then returned to
their ships to do it again the following days. By now it was
evident that the fourth was getting ready to move out. The
objective, of course, was TOP SECRET.
brief recital of the facts conveys but an impersonal outline
of these three months of training. As real men were the personal
experiences which these days and nights imprinted on their
experiences, for instance, of trying to stay warm at night
in Las Pulgas Canyon. No matter how many blankets a person
used, it was always cold. No doubt about it, when the sun went
down, California was the coldest place this side of the North
for the men of the twenty-fifth Marines and the Tank Battalion,
inhabitants of the tent camps, this sub-arctic temperature
was a nightly experience. But during the day, the famous California
sun beaming down, Camp Pendleton was pleasant.
are other things one will remember about Pendleton. The machine-gun
range, bayonet practice, conditioning hikes, the moving-target
range, pillbox assaults in Windmill canyon, night attacks near
the Santa Margarita River, rubber-boat landings at the boat
basin, combat swimming with the brutal words of the instructor: "STEP
will remember the Post Exchange when it opened at 1030 and
the rush for milkshakes..and the slopchute at night, where
beer stimulated many an argument and cemented many a friendship..and
the movies..and card games in the barracks..
of course, there were the liberties in "Dago" and "L.A."
and points in between..the mad scramble for a bus, or a seat
on the train, or a ride with a passing motorist..The Victory
Inn and the Biltmore and the Hollywood Canteen. Sometimes it
seemed that Pendleton was simply a place to stay between week
ends in Los Angeles.
you were living on borrowed time, for all you knew, and you
wanted to live that time intensely. Every day was precious.
of these experiences-the good times as well as the bad-The
Division grew into manhood. For a division is not just an aggregation
of 17,000 men but an organic thing, with a personality and
aspirations of its own. And all the thousand and one details
of training and recreation combine to make that quality to
which men referred when they talked about the "Fourth."
in January 1944, the Division boarded ship at San Diego. We
were combat loaded! Everyone knew that this was to be the real
thing. For many days supplies had moved off the docks and into
holds...then the troops. The Division began a new and strange
kind of life that it was to know too well before many months-life
on a troop transport.
January 6 and 7, LSDs and LSTs, carrying the Fourteenth Marines
and amphibian tractor detachments, sailed out of the harbor.
The remainder of the Division departed just after daybreak
on the 13th. Men stood on the decks and watched San Diego grow
fainter in the hazy distance. And then they turned and saw
an illimitable sweep of ocean beyond which lay the enemy stronghold.
Flintlock" was under way!