Battle Honors of the Six Marine Divisions in WWII

 

Previous to 1 February 1941, the Marine Corps did not have a combat organization larger than a brigade, although a Marine division for service in France during World War I was proposed. Two Marine brigades (4th and 5th), each composed of two regiments of infantry and one machine gun battalion, were organized and sent to France with the idea of forming a Marine division, the two Marine Brigades to constitute the infantry and machine gun units, with the artillery and auxiliaries taken from the Army. The last units of the 5th Marine Brigade arrived in France on 9 November 1918, and the signing of the armistice two days later brought to a halt any further plans for a Marine division. Up to the latter part of 1940 war plans had called for the Marine Corps to furnish brigades for duty with the Fleet. In September, 1940, however, the Secretary of the Navy directed that personnel and material tables be drawn up for Marine divisions without delay, the proposed divisions to replace the present brigades of the Fleet Marine Force. The purpose of the proposed Marine division was to have available a “strong, fast, striking force for use in subduing enemy incited rebellious or uprisings in neutral countries within South America.” On 22 October 1940, the Major General Commandant of the Marine Corps wrote the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, that it was his intention to organize the 1st and 2d Marine Divisions, each to be composed of the following:

1 Division Headquarters Company
1 Guard Company 
1 AA Machine Gun Battery
1 Engineer Battalion
1 Tank Company (11 ½-ton tanks)
3 Infantry Regiments
1 Medical Battalion
1 Aircraft Group
1 Artillery Regiment

1st Marine Division

The 1st Marine Division came into existence on 1 February 1941 by change of designation from the 1st Marine Brigade, then at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The 1st Marine Division was awarded three Presidential Unit Citations for the following:

Guadalcanal - 7 August to 9 December 1942
Assault and seizure of Peleliu and Ngesebus,
Palau Islands - 15-29 September 1944
Okinawa - 1 April to 21 June 1945

In addition, the 11th Marines was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for Cape Gloucester, New Britain, 26 December 1943 to 30 April 1944.

The 1st Marine Division (Headquarters) participated in authorized operations and engagements in the Asiatic-Pacific Area as follows:

Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings (including First Savo) - 7-9 August 1942.
Capture and defense of Guadalcanal - 10 August to 8 December 1942.
Finschhafen occupation (Eastern New Guinea Operation) - 2 October to 31 December 1943.
Cape Gloucester, New Britain - 1 January to 1March 1944.
Capture and occupation of southern Palau Islands -15 September to 14 October 1944.
Assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto - 1 April to 30 June 1945.
China Service - 30 September 1945 to (terminal date to be designated).


2d Marine Division

The 2d Marine Division was officially organized on 1 February 1941 by change of designation from the 2d Marine Brigade.

The 2d Marine Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, 20-24 November 1943. The 2d and 8th Marines (reinforced by other units of the 2d Marine Division) were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation while attached to the 1st Marine Division from 7 August and 4 November 1942, respectively, for the Guadalcanal operation.

The 2d Marine Division (Headquarters) participated in authorized operations and engagements in the Asiatic-Pacific Area as follows:

Capture and defense of Guadalcanal - 4 January to 8 February 1943. (2d Marines, reinforced: Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings, 7-9 August 1942; capture and defense of Guadalcanal, 10 August 1942 to 31 January 1943. 8th Marines, reinforced: capture and defense of Guadalcanal,
2 November 1942 to 8 February 1943).
Gilbert Islands (Tarawa) operation - 20 November to 4 December 1943.
Capture and occupation of Saipan - 15 June to 24 July 1944.
Capture and occupation of Tinian - 24 July to 10 August 1944.

Assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto (floating Reserve) - 1 April to 10 April 1945. (Detachment of Headquarters and the 8th Marines, reinforced, from 1 to 30 June 1945).


3d Marine Division

The 3d Marine Division was officially activated on 16 September 1942 in two echelons: the Advance Echelon (9th Marines and reinforcing units) at Camp Elliott, San Diego, California, and the Rear Echelon (21st Marines and reinforcing units) at New River, North Carolina.

Units of the division included in assault troops of the V Amphibious Corps, reinforced, were awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for Iwo Jima, 19-28 February 1945. The 3d Marines, reinforced, serving as 3d Combat Team, was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for Guam, 21 July to 10 August 1944. The 3d Marines was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for Empress Augusta Bay Beachhead, Bougainville, British Solomon Islands, 1 November to 22 December 1943. The 12th Marines was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for Empress Augusta Bay Beachhead, Bougainville, British Solomon Islands, 1 November 1943 to 12 January 1944. The 21st Marines, reinforced, serving as the 21st Combat Team, was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for Guam, Marianas Islands, 21 July to 10 August 1944.

The 3d Marine Division (Headquarters) participated in authorized operations and engagements in the Asiatic-Pacific Area as follows:

Occupation and defense of Cape Torokina - 1 November to 15 December 1943.
Consolidation of Northern Solomons - 15-21December 1943.
Admiralty Island landings - 20 March to 19 April 1944.
Capture and occupation of Guam - 21 July to 15 August 1944.
Assault and occupation of Iwo Jima - 19 February to 16 March 1945.


4th Marine Division

The 4th Marine Division was officially activated on 16 August 1943 at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California.

The 4th Marine Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for Saipan and Tinian, 15 June to 1 August 1944. Units of the division included in assault troops of the V Amphibious Corps, reinforced, were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, and those included in support troops of the V Amphibious Corps, reinforced, were awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for Iwo Jima, 19-28 February 1945.

The 4th Marine Division (Headquarters) participated in authorized operations and engagements in the Asiatic-Pacific Area as follows:

Occupation of Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls - 1-8 February 1944.
Capture and occupation of Saipan - 15 June to 24 July 1944.
Tinian capture and occupation - 24 July to 7 August 1944.
Assault and occupation of Iwo Jima - 19 February to 16 March 1945.


5th Marine Division

The 5th Marine Division was activated on 21 January 1944 at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California.

Units of the division included in assault troops of the V Amphibious Corps, reinforced, were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, and those included in support troops of the V Amphibious Corps, reinforced, were awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for Iwo Jima, 19-28 February 1945.

The 5th Marine Division (Headquarters) participated in authorized operations and engagements in the Asiatic-Pacific Area as follows:

Assault and occupation of Iwo Jima - 19 February to 16 March 1945.
China Service Medal - 15 December 1945 to (terminal date to be designated).


6th Marine Division

The 6th Marine Division was activated, 7 September 1944, on Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands.

The 6th Marine Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for Okinawa, 1 April to 21 June 1945. The 4th and 22d Marines, as part of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, were awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for Guam, Marianas Islands, 21 July to 10 August 1944.

The old 4th Marines was cited in War Department orders in the name of the President of the United States, and its members are entitled to wear the Army Distinguished Unit Badge, for service in the Philippine Islands operations, 8 December 1941 to 6 May 1942.

The 6th Marine Division (Headquarters) participated in authorized operations and engagements in the Asiatic-Pacific Area as follows:

Assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto - 1 April to 30 June 1945.
China Service Medal - 11 October 1945 to 31 March 1946. 


Reference Branch 
USMC History Division
December 2001