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Marine Corps Raiders

 

Lieutenant Colonel Merritt A. Edson and almost 5,000 Marine Corps Raiders of World War II were legend in the South Pacific.

Organized in January 1942 and disbanded just two years later, the Raider Battalions were developed as a Marine Corps special missions force, based on the success of the British commandos and Chinese guerrillas operating in northern China.

From Guadalcanal and the Makin Atoll to Bougainville and New Georgia, lightly armed and intensely trained Raiders had a three-fold mission: spearhead larger amphibious landings on beaches thought to be inaccessible, conduct raids requiring surprise and high speed, and operate as guerilla units for lengthy periods behind enemy lines.

Tested first during the 7 August 1942 Guadalcanal landing, Edson’s Raiders, the 1st Raider Battalion, struck at Tulagi, an island across the channel from the main landing force. Ten days later a force of 221 men from the 2d Raider Battalion, nicknamed “Carlson’s Raiders” for its commanding officer, LtCol Evans F. Carlson, landed from two submarines on Butaritari Island, Makin Atoll.  The raid inflicted heavy damage and forced the Japanese to divert troops from reinforcing Guadalcanal.

Lieutenant Colonel Edson and his Raiders, in conjunction with the Marine Corps’ 1st Parachute Battalion, left their mark on the Guadalcanal campaign during the night of 13-14 September.  The intense and vicious close quarters fight is known as the Battle of Edson’s Ridge, or Bloody Ridge, and resulted in LtCol Edson being awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Refitted, rested and rearmed, LtCol Carlson’s 2d Raider Battalion landed on a remote Guadalcanal beach and conducted their famous “Thirty Days Behind the Lines” operation from 4 November to 4 December.

 

Moving up the Solomon Islands chain after the capture of Guadalcanal, the 4th Raider Battalion, led by LtCol Michael S. Currin, slipped ashore on New Georgia in late June 1943.  For two months the 4th Raider Battalion and their colleagues from the 1st Raider Battalion joined with other Marine and Army units to fight a series of actions in the defense jungle and deep swamps.  Bairoko Harbor, New Georgia, in August 1943, was the final action for these men as members of the 1st and 4th Raider Battalions.

Bougainville, the largest of the Solomon Islands at nearly 30 miles wide and 125 miles long, was the assignment of the 2d and 3d Raider Battalions as they led the way for the 1 November 1943 invasion.

The units led by LtCol Joseph S. McCaffery and LtCol Fred S. Beans suffered heavy casualties during their more than two months ashore on Bougainville, as they fought beside Army and Marine Corps troops.  By mid-January the Raiders were withdrawn from Bougainville, and less than a month later the elite Raider battalions were disbanded.

The 1st, 3d and 4th Raider Battalions became the 1st, 2d, and 3d Battalions, respectively, of the 4th Marine Regiment when it was re-established on 1 February 1944.  The 2d Raider Battalion became Weapons Company, 4th Marines.

The legacy of the Raider’s history lives on in the perpetual memorial of the former USS Edson (DD-946), the destroyer bearing the name of the commanding officer of the 1st Raider Battalion.  Twenty-two other U.S. Navy ships were also named for men of the 1st Raider Battalion who were killed in action.

 

 

 

 

U.S. Naval Ships Named for Men of 1st Raider Battalion

SHIP NAME                      NAMED FOR

USS Ahrens

 PFC Edward H. Ahrens

  KIA 7 August 1942

USS Kenneth D. Bailey 

 Maj Kenneth D. Bailey

  KIA 27 September 1942

USS  Barr 

 PFC Woodrow W. Barr

  KIA 7 August 1942

USS Joseph E. Connolly

 Cpl Joseph E. Connolly

  KIA 9 October 1942

USS Cook*   

 Sgt Dallas H. Cook 

  KIA 18 August 1942

USS Edson   

 MajGen Merritt A. Edson

  Died 14 August 1955

USS Myles C. Fox 

 1stLt Myles C. Fox 

  KIA 8 August 1942

USS French  

 Cpl Neldon T. French 

  KIA 9 October 1942

USS Gilligan

 Pvt John J. Gilligan  

  KIA 8 August 1942

USS Goss  

 MajGen Angus R. Goss 

  KIA 20 July 1942

USS Gyatt

 Pvt Edward E. Gyatt  

  KIA 7 August 1942

USS Hanna

 Pvt William T. Hanna 

  KIA 9 October 1942

USS Heyliger 

 PFC George Heyliger 

  KIA 9 October 1942

USS George A. Johnson

 Pvt George A. Johnson

  KIA 10 August 1942

USS Key

 1stLt Eugene M. Key 

  KIA 7 August 1942

USS Alexander J. Luke

 PltSgt Alexander J. Luke

  KIA 7 August 1942

USS Thomas F. Nickel

 Pvt Thomas F. Nickel

  KIA 7 August 1942

USS Robert I. Paine

 Pvt Robert I. Paine  

  KIA 7 August 1942

USS Thaddeus Parker

 HM2 Thaddeus Parker

  KIA 20 July 1942

USS Steinaker  

 PFC Donald B. Steinaker

  KIA 9 October 1942

USS Woodrow R. Thompson 

 Sgt Woodrow R.    Thompson

  KIA 9 October 1942

USS Donald W. Wolf 

 Sgt Donald W. Wolf 

  KIA 9 October 1942

 

 

*Named jointly for Sgt Dallas Cook and his brother 2dLt A.F. Cook, USMC

NOTES:

  • 1st Raider Battalion (designated on 16 February 1942) was commanded by LtCol Merritt A. Edson.

                

 Tulagi, Solomon Islands (7-9 August 1942)
Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands (10 August –16 October 1942)
New Georgia (5 July – 28 August 1943)

 

  • 2d Raider Battalion (designated 19 February 1942) was commanded by LtCol Evans F. Carlson.

 

    Midway Island (4-6 June 1942)
Butaritari Island, Makin Atoll (17-18 August 1942)
Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands (4 November – 4 December 1942)
Bougainville, Solomon Islands (1 November 1943 – 12 January 1944)

 

  • 3d Raider Battalion (designated 20 September 1942) was commanded by LtCol Harry B. Liversedge.

 

                        Pavuvu, Russell Islands (20 February – 20 March 1943)
                        Bougainville, Solomon Islands (1 November 1943 – 12 January 1944)

 

  • 4th Raider Battalion (designated 23 October 1942) was commanded by Maj James Roosevelt for 7 months, then LtCol Michael S. Currin took over in May 1943.

                        Vangunu Island (21 June – 11 July 1943)
                        New Georgia (18 July – 28 August 1943)

 

  • Battalion strengths varied from 700 to 950 Marines.
     
  • The first of its kind, the Makin Atoll raid used two transport submarines:

 

                        USS Nautilus (SS-168) and USS Argonaut (APS-1).

 

Taken from the WWII 50th Anniversary Fact Sheet Prepared by the
Navy and Marine Corps WWII Commemorative Committee

SOURCES:

Updegraph, Charles L. Jr. U.S. Marine Corps Special Unit of World War II.  Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, 1977.

Marine Corps History Division