1st Marine Division (United States)

1st Marine Division (United States)

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=1st Marine Division

caption=1st Marine Division insignia
dates= *February 1, 1941 - present
country=United States
type= Infantry division
role= Locate close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver and repel the enemy's assault by fire and close combat
size= 19,000
command_structure= I Marine Expeditionary Force
current_commander= MajGen Thomas D. Waldhauser
garrison=Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
nickname= "The Old Breed"
"Blue Diamond"
motto= No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy
march= "Waltzing Matilda"
battles= World War II
* Battle of Guadalcanal
* Battle of Peleliu
* Battle of Cape Gloucester
* Battle of Okinawa
Korean War
* Battles of Inchon/Seoul
* Battle of Chosin Reservoir
Vietnam War
* Tet Offensive
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Iraqi Freedom
* Operation Vigilant Resolve
* Operation Phantom Fury
notable_commanders=Holland Smith
Alexander Vandegrift
William H. Rupertus
Richard F. Natonski
James Mattis

The 1st Marine Division is the oldest, largest (active duty), and most decorated division in the United States Marine Corps representing a combat-ready force of more than 19,000 men and women. It is one of 3 active duty divisions in the Marine Corps today and is a multi-role, expeditionary ground combat force. Nicknamed "The Old Breed", it provides the ground combat element of the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) and is headquartered at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.


The division is employed as the ground combat element (GCE) of I MEF or may provide task-organized forces for assault operations and such operations as may be directed. The 1st Marine Division must be able to provide the ground amphibious forcible entry capability to the naval expeditionary force (NEF) and to conduct subsequent land operations in any operational environment.

Subordinate units

The 1st Marine Division is currently composed of :
*Headquarters Battalion;
*1st Marine Regiment
*5th Marine Regiment
*7th Marine Regiment
*11th Marine Regiment
*1st Combat Engineer Battalion
*1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion
*1st Reconnaissance Battalion
*1st Tank Battalion
*3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion
*3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion


The division's regiments were in existence as early as March 8, 1911, when the
1st Marine Regiment was formed at Guantanamo Bay, Cubacite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = History of the 1st Marine Division
work =
publisher = United States Marine Corps
date =
url =http://www.i-mef.usmc.mil/DIV/generalinformation.asp
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-11-21
] . They saw action throughout the Caribbean during World War I.Fact|date=July 2007 The 5th Marines were created in Vera Cruz, Mexico on July 13, 1914 and participated in 15 major engagements during World War I, including Belleau Wood, Chateau Thierry, and St. Mihiel. On August 7, 1917, 7th Marines were activated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and spent the duration of World War I in Cuba and were disbanded after the war. The 11th Marines was formed in January 1918 at Quantico, Va., as a light artillery regiment. The regiment went to France as an infantry unit, providing a machine gun company and a guard company. Decommissioned and reactivated twice between world wars, the regiment was re-formed in 1940 as a full-fledged artillery unit.

World War II

The 1st Marine Division was activated aboard the USS Texas on February 1, 1941cite web
last = Lowery
first = M. Trent
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = 1st Marine Division welcomes veterans for 67th anniversary
work = Marine Corps News
publisher = United States Marine Corps
date = 2008-01-28
url = http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/2715A4D86D0F9204852573E8007D3C56?opendocument
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-02-08
] . The division's units were scattered over the Pacific with the support elements and the 1st Marine Regiment transported en route to New Zealand on three ships, the USATs "Ericsson", "Barnett" and "Elliott" from Naval Reserve Air Base Oakland to New Zealand [p.44, Lane] , and later were landed on the island of Guadalcanal, part of the Solomon Islands, on August 7, 1942. Initially only the 7th Marine Regiment was in garrison on the British Samoa [It would be replaced by the 2nd Marine Regiment from San Diego sailing with the USS "Wasp"] , with the 5th Marine Regiment having just encamped at Wellington, New Zealand after disembarking from USAT "Wakefield", and the 1st Marine Regiment not scheduled to arrive in New Zealand until 11 July. [p.51, Lane] The 1st Raider Battalion was on New Caledonia, and the 3rd Defense Battalion was in Pearl Harbor. All of the division's units, with the 11th Marines (artillery) and 75mm howitzer armed 10th Marines battalion would rendezvous at Fiji. [p.51, Lane] Due to the change in orders, and shortage of attack and combat cargo vessels all of the division's 2.5 ton trucks, its M1918 155-mm howitzers [P.27, Rottman] and the sound and flash-ranging equipment needed for counter-battery fire had to be left in Wellington. Also, because the Wellington dock workers were on strike at the time so the Marines had to do all the load reconfiguration from administrative to combat configuration. [p.57, Lane] After 11 days of unparalleled dockside logistic mayhem, the division, with 16,000 Marines, departed Wellington in eighty-nine ships embarked for the Solomon Islands with 60-day combat load, no tents, spare clothing or bed rolls, no office equipment, unit muster rolls or pay clerks. Other things not yet available to this first wave of Marine deployments were insect repellent and mosquito netting. [p.60, Lane] Attached to the division was the 1st Parachute Battalion which along with the rest of the division conducted landing rehearsals on 28-30 July on Koro Island which General Vandergrift described as a "disaster". [p.63, Lane] On 31 July the entire Marine task force came under command of Vice Admiral Frank J. Fletcher's Task Force 61. The division as a whole would fight in the Battle of Guadalcanal until relieved at 1400 on December 9, 1942 by Alexander Patch's Americal Division. [Frank (1990), p.522] [Cronin (1951), p. 47] . This operation won the Division its first of three World War II Presidential Unit Citations (PUC). The battle would cost the division 650 killed in action, 1,278 wounded in action with a further 8,580 contracting malaria and 31 missing in action [Frank "Guadalcanal", p. 522.] . Others were awarded for the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa.

Following the Battle of Guadalcanal, the division's Marines were sent to Melbourne, Australia to rest and refit. [Leckie "Helmet for my Pillow", p.147-208.] It was during this time that the division took the traditional Australian folk song "Waltzing Matilda" as its battle hymn. To this day, 1st Division Marines still ship out to this song being played. [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink = Roger Clarke
coauthors =
title = Roger Clarke’s Waltzing Matilda Home-Page
work =
publisher = Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd
date =
url = http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/WM/ | format =
doi =
accessdate =

The division would next see action during Operation Cartwheel which was the codename for the campaigns in Eastern New Guinea and New Britain. They came ashore at the Battle of Cape Gloucester on December 26, 1943cite web
last = Shaw
first = Henry I.
authorlink =
coauthors = Kane, Douglas T.
title = History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II
work = Volume II: Isolation of Rabaul
publisher = Headquarters Marine Corps
date = 1963
url = http://ibiblio.net/hyperwar/USMC/II/USMC-II-D.html
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-05-06
] and fought on New Britain until February 1944 at such places as "Suicide Creek" and "Ajar Ridge". During the course of the battle the division had 310 killed and 1,083 wounded. Following the battle they were sent to Pavuvu in the Russell Islands for rest and refitting. [Turner (1997), p.25-6]

The next battle for the 1st Marine Division would be the bloodiest yet at the Battle of Peleliu. They landed on September 15, 1944 as part of the III Amphibious Corps assault on the island. The division's commanding general, Major General William H. Rupertus had predicted the fighting would be, "...tough but short. It'll be over in three of four days - a fight like Tarawa. Rough but fast. Then we can go back to a rest area." [Sloane (2005), p.65] Making a mockery of the prediction, the first week of the battle alone cost the division 3,946 casualties during which time they secured the key airfield sites. [Hastings (2007), p116] The division fought on Peleliu for one month before being relieved. [Sledge (1990), p151] Some of the heaviest fighting of the entire war took place in places such as "Bloody Nose Ridge" and the central ridges of the island that made up the "Umurbrogol Pocket". [Sledge (1990), p.96,127-158] The month of fighting against the 14th Division (Imperial Japanese Army) on Peleliu cost the 1st Marine Division 1,252 dead and 5,274 wounded. [Sledge (1990), p155]

The final campaign the division would take part in during World War II would be the Battle of Okinawa. The strategic importance of Okinawa was that it provided a fleet anchorage, troop staging areas, and airfields in close proximity to Japan. The division landed on April 1, 1945 as part of the III Amphibious Corps. Its initial mission was, fighting alongside the 6th Marine Division, to clear the northern half of the island - that they were able to do expeditiously. The Army's XXIV Corps met much stiffer resistance in the south, and in late April the Marine division was moved south where it relieved the Army's 27th Infantry Division. The division was in heavy fighting on Okinawa until 21 June 1945, when the island was declared secure. The 1st Marine Division slugged it out with the Japanese 32nd Army at such places as "Sugarloaf Hill" and Shuri Castle. Fighting on Okinawa cost the division 1,155 killed in action.

Korean War

Following the end of World War II and the postwar draw down of forces, by 1950 the division only possessed the strength of a reinforced regimental combat team [Chapin "Fire Brigade", p.5] The division would be assembled on the battle field and would participate in the amphibious assault at Inchon under the orders of General MacArthur [Simmons "US Marines History", p. 200] . "The Old Breed" was the unit chosen to lead the Inchon landing on September 15, 1950. At Inchon, the division faced one of its most daunting challenges, deploying so hurriedly it still lacked its third infantry regiment and ordered to execute an amphibious assault in a city the size of Omaha under the worst tidal conditions they had ever faced. After the landing they moved north and after heavy fighting in Seoul they liberated the city.

After the liberation of Seoul, the division was put back on ships and taken to the eastern side of the Korean peninsula and put ashore at Wonsan. As part of X Corps under the command of Edward Almond the division was ordered to push north towards the Yalu River as fast as possible. [Halberstam, "The Coldest Winter", pp. 432-433] The then commanding officer of the division, Major General O.P. Smith, did not agree with his superiors and had become convinced that they were stretched thin and that the Chinese Forces had entered the war. He purposely slowed his advance and consolidated along the way at every opportunity. [Fehrenbach "This Kind of War", p.243.] The 1st Marine Division was attacked by seven Chinese divisions on November 27, 1950. They fought their way out of the Chosin Reservoir against seven Communist Chinese divisions suffering over 900 killed and missing, over 3,500 wounded and more than 6,500 non-battle casualties mostly from frostbite during the battle. The greater part of the Chinese 9th Army was rendered ineffective as they suffered an estimated 37,500 casualties trying to stop the Marines' march out of the "Frozen Chosin". [Russ, "Breakout", pp. 433-434] Battles between April and September earned the division its sixth PUC. During the Korean War the division suffered combat casualties of 4,004 dead and 25,864 wounded.

Vietnam War

In 1965, the 7th Marine Regiment participated in Operations Starlite and Piranha, the first major engagements for American ground troops in South Vietnam. [Simmons "US Marines History", p. 225] . March 1966 saw 1st Marine Division Headquarters established at Chu Lai.Fact|date=July 2007 By June, the entire Division was in South Vietnam, its zone of operation—the southern two provinces of I Corps—Quang Tin and Quang Ngai.Fact|date=July 2007 Between March and October 1966 to May 1967, the division conducted 44 named operations. During the 1968 Tet Offensive, the division was involved in fierce fighting with both Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army elements. It was successful in beating back enemy assaults in its operation areas. The division received its 7th Presidential Unit Citation for service from 29 March 1966 to 15 September 1967 and an 8th one for the period 16 September 1967 to 31 October 1968.Fact|date=July 2007

After six hard years of combat, 1st Marine Division returned home to Camp Pendleton in 1971. In 1975, the division supported the evacuation of Saigon by providing food and temporary shelter at Camp Pendleton for Vietnamese refugees as they arrived in the United States.

Desert Shield/Storm

In 1990, the 1st Marine Division formed the nucleus of the massive force sent to Southwest Asia in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. During Operation Desert Shield, the division supported I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) in the defense of Saudi Arabia from the Iraqi threat. In 1991, the division went on the offensive with the rest of Coalition Forces in Operation Desert Storm. In 100 hours of ground offensive combat, the 1st Marine Division helped to liberate Kuwait, smashing the Iraqi Army in the process.


Immediately following the Persian Gulf conflict, the Division sent units to assist in relief efforts following a typhoon in Bangladesh (Operation Sea Angel) and the eruption of volcano Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines (Operation Fiery Vigil). In December 1992, Operation Restore Hope, bringing relief to famine-stricken Somalia, kicked off with the early morning amphibious landing of Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which was supported by 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. More than 15,000 metric tons of food was successfully distributed from 398 different food sites in the city during the operation. The final phase of the operation involved the transition from a U.S. peacemaking force to a United Nations peacekeeping force. U.S. Marine involvement in Operation Restore Hope officially ended on April 27, 1993, when the humanitarian relief sector of Mogadishu was handed over to Pakistani forces.

Iraq War

The 1st Marine Division, then under the command of Major General James Mattis, was one of the two major U.S. land forces that participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The division was the land component of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. Prior to the war in December of 2002, MajGen Mattis was quoted as saying, "The President, the National Command Authority and the American people need speed. The sooner we get it over with the better. Our overriding principle will be speed, speed, speed [Warren "American Spartans", p. 426.] ." Initially, the division fought through the Rumaila oil fields, feinted an attack towards Basrah [Warren "American Spartans", p. 425.] then moved north on Highway 1 to An Nasariyah - a moderate-sized, Shi'ite dominated city with important strategic significance as a major road junction and its proximity to nearby Talil Airfield. They then fought their way to Baghdad and pushed further to secure Tikrit by forming Task Force Tripoli after the fall of Baghdad. The division would cover 808 kilometers in 17 days of sustained combat [Reynolds "Basrah, Baghdad and Beyond", p. 170.] , the deepest penetrating ground operation in Marine Corps history. After the invasion the division settled in to conduct security and stabilization operations in Baghdad, Tikrit, and then in south-central Iraq from May to October 2003. For actions during the war as part of I MEF the division was awarded its 9th Presidential Unit Citation.

The division deployed back to Iraq in February 2004 and took control of the Al Anbar province in western Iraq. They were the lead unit in Operation Vigilant Resolve and Operation Phantom Fury in 2004. During February and March 2005, the division was relieved by the 2nd Marine Division concluding the largest relief in place in the history of the Marine Corps.

As of early 2006, the division is once again in Iraq as the ground combat element for I MEF in the Al Anbar province.Fact|date=July 2007

Unit awards

A unit citation or commendation is an award bestowed upon an organization for the action cited. Members of the unit who participated in said actions are allowed to wear on their uniforms the awarded unit citation. The 1st Marine Division has been presented with the following awards:

See also

* With the Old Breed
* The Pacific (miniseries)
* History of the United States Marine Corps
* List of United States Marine Corps divisions
* Organization of the United States Marine Corps



:Marine Corps

* cite book
last = Chapin
first = John C.
coauthors =
year = 2000
title = Fire Brigade: U.S. Marines in the Pusan Perimeter
publisher = Marine Corps Historical Center
location = Washington D.C.
id =

*cite book
last = Cronin
first = Francis D. (Capt)
authorlink =
year = 1951
title = Under the Southern Cross - The Saga of the Americal Division
publisher = Combat Forces Press
location = Washington D.C.
id =

*cite book
last = Fehrenbach
first = T.R.
authorlink =
year = 1963
title = This Kind of War
publisher = Brassey's Inc
location = Dulles, Virginia
id = ISBN 1-57488-335-8

*cite book
last = Frank
first = Richard
authorlink = Richard B. Frank
year = 1990
title = Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle
publisher = Random House
location = New York
id = ISBN 0-394-58875-4

* cite book
last = Halberstam
first = David
coauthors =
year = 2007
title = The Coldest WInter - America and the Korean War
publisher = Hyperion
location = New York
id = ISBN 978-140130-052-4

*cite book
last = Hastings
first = Max
coauthors =
year = 2007
title = Retribution - The Battle for Japan, 1944-45
publisher = Alfred A. Knopf
location = New York
id = ISBN 978-030726-351-3

* Lane, Kerry, "Guadalcanal Marine", University Press of Mississippi, 2004
* cite book
last = Leckie
first = Robert
coauthors =
year = 2001
title = Helmet for my Pillow
publisher = Simon & Schuster Inc.
location =
id = ISBN 0-74341-307-5

* Reynolds, Nicholas E. (2005). ‘’Basrah, Baghdad and Beyond - The U.S. Marine Corps in the Second Iraq War.’’Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-717-4
* Rottman, Gordon L., "US Marine Corps Pacific Theater of Operations 1941-43", Osprey Publishing, 2004
* cite book
last = Russ
first = Martin
coauthors =
year = 1999
title = Breakout - The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950
publisher = Penguin Books
location =
id = ISBN 0-14029-259-4

*cite book
last = Simmons
first = Edwin H.
authorlink =
title = The United States Marines: A History, Fourth Edition
publisher = Naval Institute Press
date = 2003
location = Annapolis, Maryland
doi =
id = ISBN 1-59114-790-5

*cite book
last = Sloan
first = Bill
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2005
chapter =
title = Brotherhood of Heroes: The Marines at Peleliu, 1944 -- The Bloodiest Battle of the Pacific War
publisher = Simon & Schuster
location =
id = ISBN 0743260090

*cite book
last = Turner
first = David
authorlink =
year = 1997
title = First Marine Division
publisher = Turner Publishing Company
location = Paducah, Kentucky
id = ISBN 1-56311-244-2

* cite book
last = Warren
first = James A.
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = American Spartans - The U.S. Marines: A Combat History from Iwo Jima to Iraq
publisher = Pocket Books
date = 2005
location = New York
pages =
url =
doi =
id =

*cite web|url=http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmchist/1967.txt |title= Brief History of the 1st Marines|author = Johnstone, Major John H., USMC |work= |publisher=Historical Branch, United States Marine Corps | year= 1968|accessdate=2006-07-04.

External links

* [http://www.i-mef.usmc.mil/msc/1mardiv/history.htm 1st Marine Division Website]
* [http://www.marines.mil/almars/almar2000.nsf/1babcf316f87f38c852569b8008017e7/170b6fa71fb542f08525710200514740?OpenDocument Anniversary message from Commanadant of the Marine Corps]

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