In July 1940, the Marine Corps had 28,000 men in uniform. The January 1945 strength figure of the Corps reflected some 421,605 Marines, men and women; before the end of the war, this number was to become even larger. Broken down, the Marine Corps January strength figure represented: FMF ground forces, 212,165; aviation, 125,162; sea-going Marines, 9,430; foreign and domestic naval and shore activities, 54,483; Women's Reserve, 18,365. In addition to the above and not included in the overall total were 16,017 doctors, hospital corpsmen, and other naval personnel assigned to the Marine Corps.2
Marine Corps Order of Battle1
In the beginning of 1945, no major Marine ground force as such was engaged in a major operation against the enemy. The 2d Division on Saipan and the 3d on Guam, where veterans and new replacements alike participated in on-the-job training, however, were mopping up survivors of the major Japanese defense garrisons which were defeated when those islands were officially declared secured in 1944.
The senior Marine commander in the Pacific at this time was Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific
(FMFPac).3 His was a type command which involved administrative control only over FMFPac units.4 The majority of Marine combat troops were located in the Central Pacific under Admiral Spruance's control. By January 1945, six Marine divisions had been activated, grouped three each in two corps. Headquarters of Major General Roy S. Geiger's III Amphibious Corps (IIIAC) was on Guadalcanal, where Major General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., based his 6th Marine Division. On Pavuvu in the Russells, approximately 65 miles northwest of Guadalcanal, was the 1st Marine Division commanded by Major General Pedro A. de] Vane. Also in IIIAC was Major General Thomas E. Watson's 2d Marine Division on Saipan. The other major Marine ground command under FMFPac, V Amphibious Corps (VAC), was headed by Major General Harry Schmidt, whose headquarters was located on Maui, Hawaiian Islands. Also on Maui in VAC was Major General Clifton B. Cates'5 4th Marine Division. On the island of Hawaii was Major General Keller E. Rockey and his 5th Marine Division, and on Guam was the 3d Marine Division of Major General Graves B. Erskine.
All six divisions had long been in receipt of orders for their next combat assignments and were actively engaged in preparing for them. Authorized strength for a Marine division at this time was 856 officers and 16,069 enlisted Marines. The 1st, 2d, and 3d Divisions were short a few officers, while the 3d Division was short 271 enlisted men and the 6th Division, 513. Replacement drafts had been assigned to the divisions, however, and were in transit to join them either before or just after the impending landings. In January 1945, 11 replacement drafts, containing 14,331 Marines and naval corpsmen and doctors, were either en route to or in the process of joining the six Marine divisions at the staging areas.6
In addition to the combat divisions, there were other FMF organizations spread throughout the Pacific undertaking assigned support, garrison, or defense missions. A total of 74,474 Marines and naval personnel was involved in the operations of these units.7 Two provisional field service commands, one at Guam and the other at Guadalcanal, and seven field depots and four service and supply battalions based in close proximity to the Marine divisions provided major supply support in the Pacific. Also available from FMFPac for support of and attachment to the two corps for upcoming operations were a variety of other units. These included 11 antiaircraft artillery battalions, 6 155mm gun and 6 155mm howitzer battalions, 3 armored amphibian battalions, 9 amphibian tractor battalions, and 6 amphibian truck companies. In January, most of these organizations were a part of the III and V
Amphibious Corps, although a few of the antiaircraft artillery battalions were still fulfilling island defense missions. Within FMFPac also were such other types of organizations as defense battalions, Joint Assault Signal Companies (JASCOs), provisional rocket detachments, war dog platoons, motor transport battalions, corps evacuation hospitals, bomb disposal companies, and separate engineer battalions; not all of them would be employed in future operations.
The highest level Marine aviation echelon in the Pacific, Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific (AirFMFPac), was commanded by Major General Francis P. Mulcahy, whose headquarters was at Ewa, on the island of Oahu. A type command like FMFPac, AirFMFPac organized, administered, supplied, and deployed all Marine aviation squadrons in the Pacific, but controlled none. The four Marine aircraft wings (MAWs) in AirFMFPac were based on islands at widespread points in the Pacific. Included in the four wings was a total of 16 Marine aircraft groups (MAGs) holding 70 tactical squadrons broken down as follows: 28 fighter (VMFs); 14 scout bomber (VMSBs); 7 bomber (VMBs); 7 transport (VMRs); 5 night fighter (VMF(N)s); 5 observation (VMOs); and 3 torpedo bomber (VMTBs).
Major General Ralph J. Mitchell's 1st MAW headquarters was on Bougainvillea. He had under his command six MAGs; three of the groups and part of a fourth were assigned to CinCSWPA for the Philippines campaign; and one squadron of a fifth group was en route to join MacArthur. MAG-25, the latter group, and the portions of the other two not committed in the Philippines, were based on Emirau, Green Island, Manus, and Cape Torokina at Bougainvillea.8 (See Map XI, Map Section.) A transport group, MAG-25 also had another designation, SCAT (South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command), and as such, with a few AAF transport squadrons assigned from time to time flew many extensive air supply missions all over the Pacific from the time it was activated, 24 November 1942, until the end of the war. When available for such an assignment, the group also evacuated casualties from captured islands which had strips capable of sustaining the operations of transport-type aircraft.
Headquarters of the 2d MAW was at Ewa. Major General James T. Moore had only one MAG within his command at this time, and it was based on Espiritu Santo, in the New Hebrides. The reason that the wing was so depleted in January was that in mid-1944 most of Moore's squadrons had been transferred to the 4th MAW, and at the end of the year his command became the nucleus for Tactical Air Force, Tenth Army, and assigned as a task unit for the invasion of Okinawa.
The 3d Marine Aircraft Wing was commanded for the first seven days in January 1945 by Colonel Ford O. Rogers, who was relieved on the 8th by Colonel Byron F. Johnson, The wing had its headquarters command and a group at Ewa, and a MAG based on
Midway. Four fighter squadrons of the Ewa-based group were on carriers and supported the Lingayen landings in January and later flew strikes against Luzon, Formosa, and Indochina. Essex carried two of the VMFs, and Wasp the other two. The primary mission of 3d MAW was to train AirFMFPac tactical squadrons and pilots in night-fighting, air-warning, and radar-bombing techniques.
Major General Louis E. Woods' 4th MAW was based on Majuro in the Marshalls, and with seven groups located on islands all over the Central Pacific, his was the largest of the four AirFMFPac wings. From airfields on such widely separated islands as those in the Marshalls, Marianas, and Palaus, Woods' squadrons took off day after day to neutralize bypassed Japanese defenses. Although boring and seemingly prosaic in nature, important benefits derived from the operations of the 4th Wing squadrons in neutralizing the MarshalIs. "The 4th MAW's perfection of the napalm fire jelly formula was a big contribution to the rest of the Pacific. Also important was the development of the fighter bomber, that trusty weapon so sorely needed when more planes had to be had to save the fleet from the Kamikaze."9
There were two other major aviation commands in the Marine Corps; these were based on each coast of the United States and held similar missions. At San Diego, Marine Fleet Air, West Coast, administered, operated, trained, and equipped all Marine aviation organizations on the west coast; it also channeled personnel and materiel to AirFMFPac for further deployment in the Pacific. The east coast training command was the 9th MAW, with headquarters at the Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N. C. Within these two commands were 14 groups--6 on the west coast and 8 on the east. There were in turn a total of 100 tactical and 29 training squadrons of various types in the groups. On the west coast were 22 carrier squadrons, 16 fighter (VMF(CVs)) and 6 torpedo bombing (VMTB(CVs)), that were slated to go aboard new Commencement Bay-class escort carriers as soon as the latter had completed shake-down trials.
At the beginning of 1945, Marine Corps aviation had already passed through a period of expansion and was entering an era of consolidation with respect to its ultimate objectives in the war effort. Three months earlier, in October 1944, the Chief of Naval Operations had approved a plan to man four of the new class of escort carriers with Marine squadrons. Accordingly, that same month, the Marine Corps redesignated two groups already in existence on the west coast as Marine Air Support Groups (MASGs) . By January 1945, the VMF(CVS)s and VMTB(CVS)s were ready to begin a period of intense training from the decks of the carriers and at their former home bases, the Marine Corps Air Stations at El Centro and Mojave, in California. To each MASG was attached a Marine Carrier Group (MCVG), composed of a fighter and a torpedo bombing squadron; one of six Carrier Aircraft Service Detachments was to complete the
Marine complement in the carriers after the detachments had been organized on the west coast in February.
To enable Marine Corps aviation "to give support to the Fleet Marine Force in landing operations" more effectively in the future, the Navy approved a major revision of the Corps aviation structure at the beginning of 1945. Marine Corps planners envisioned a program encompassing balanced land-based and carrier-based aviation forces,, which would be soundly supported by shore activities. Not all of the Marine carrier program went into effect before the end of the war, but its progress was such that the validity of basing Marine squadrons in the flattops was proven.
Fleet Marine Force ground training facilities in 1945 had advanced far beyond those in existence at the beginning of the war. In addition to base command housekeeping and training units, Camp Lejeune had 10 battalions undergoing infantry training in January 1945 and Camp Pendleton had 12. Besides this number, Camp Pendleton housed four replacement drafts, a total of some 5,000 Marines, who were awaiting shipment to the Pacific. With the record number of six Marine divisions in the field, the constant demand for replacements and the heavy burden imposed upon the training command continued incessantly.
As IIIAC and VAC completed their training phases and began combat loading for the trip to the target areas, the anticipated demands for replacement of expected casualties on Iwo Jima and Okinawa were already being met by the organization and training of new replacement drafts. As each Marine destined for assignment to a combat organization in the Pacific left the United States, he was aware that his was the same path taken by fellow Marines who had fought at such now-famous places as Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and Tarawa. His sole consolation, if one was needed, was the knowledge that, although he had not participated in the beginning of the fight, he might possibly be there to help end it.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (I-2) * Next Chapter (II-1)
1. Unless otherwise indicated, the material in this chapter is derived from: CMC AnRpt to SecNav for the Fiscal Year Ending 30Jun45, hereafter CMC Rpt 1945 (CMC Rpts for other years will be cited CMC Rpt with year); DivAvn, HQMC, OpD, Jan45 (AdminFile, HistBr, HQMC), hereafter DivAvn OpD with date; G-1 Sec, Div P&P, HQMC, OpDs, 7Dec41-31Dec44 and Jan45 (AdminFile HistBr, HQMC), hereafter G-1 OpD with date; CO, 1st ProvHistPlat, FMF, MS, "Historical Outline of the Development of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, 1941-1950 (Preliminary)" 1951 (HistBr, HQMC), hereafter FMFPac Hist; Kenneth W. Condit, Gerald Diamond, and Edwin T. Turnbladh, Marine Corps Ground Training in World War II (Washington: HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, 1956), hereafter Condit, Diamond, and Turnbladh, Marine Corps Training; George McMillan, The Old Breed: A History of the First Marine Division in World War II (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1949), hereafter McMillan, The Old Breed; Richard W. Johnston, Follow Me! The Story of the Second Marine Division in World War II (New York: Random House, 1948), hereafter Johnston, 2d MarDiv Hist; 1stLts Robert A. Aurthur and Kenneth Cohlmia, The Third Marine Division (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1948), hereafter Aurthur and Cohlmia, 3rd MarDiv Hist; Carl W. Proehl, ed., The Fourth. Marine Division in World War II (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1946), hereafter Proehl, 4th MarDiv Hist; Howard M. Conner, The Spearhead: The World War II History of the 5th Marine Division (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1950), hereafter Conner, 5th MarDiv Hist; Bevan G. Cass, ed., History of the Sixth Marine Division (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1948) hereafter Cass, 6th MarDiv Hist; Robert Sherrod, History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II (Washington: Combat Forces Press, 1952), hereafter Sherrod, Marine Air Hist.
2. G-1 OpDs, 7Dec41-31Dec44 and Jan45; FMF Status Rpts, Ground and Air for Jan45, prepared by G-3 See, Div P&P, HQMC (Pers and Loc File, HistBr, HQMC), hereafter FMF Grd (or Air) Status Rpt with month. See App F for a complete location and strength breakdown of the FMF as of 30Apr45.
3. For the history of FMFPac, see Garand and Strobridge, Western Pacific Operations.
4. Generally, a type commander has an administrative mission only and has no tactical responsibilities. For the Iwo Jima operation, General Smith was assigned an additional tactical responsibility as Commander, Expeditionary Troops.
5. Generals Cates and Shepherd later became the 19th and 20th Commandants of the Marine Corps, respectively.
6. FMF Grd Status Rpt, Jan 45.
8. Green Island is approximately 80 miles north of the tip of Bougainville, and Manus is 280 miles southeast of Emirau and 80 miles north of the northeast coast of New Guinea.
9. Sherrod, Marine Air Hist, p. 246.