1 January - The strength of the U.S. Armed Forces was 1,449,690, of whom 174,018 were U.S. Marines.
1 January - World War II Marine ace and Medal of Honor recipient Joe Foss died in Arizona from complications following an aneurysm. He was 87. Mr. Foss is credited with 26 personal downings of enemy aircraft and was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1984. After his military service, he held high-profile jobs in politics, sports, and lobbying, including two terms as Governor of South Dakota. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
4 January - An undisclosed number of Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) deployed from Camp Pendleton, California, to the Persian Gulf region as part of the Defense Department's plan to bolster forces in the area for a possible war with Iraq. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) was part of the deployment.
7 January - Incoming commandant General Michael W. Hagee removed three of his personal awards after discovering there was not enough documentation to prove he rated them. The mistake was disclosed at a press conference were General Hagee took personal responsibility for the mix-up but planned to institute better databases and record keeping at the awards branch of Manpower and Reserve Affairs in Quantico, Virginia.
10 January - Secretary of the Navy Gordon England announced the Navy and Marine Corps would cease training at Vieques, Puerto Rico, by 1 May 2003. Alternative East Coast sites for the exercises were being assessed, with Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, looking the most promising. Although many of the same live-fire exercises previously conducted at Vieques could be supported at Eglin, Marine units training there would have to rely on simulated naval gunfire instead of the real thing.
11 January - A contingent of nearly 300 Marine reservists headed to Djibouti in support of Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). The task force was meant to disrupt and defeat terrorism in and around the Horn of Africa and had strengthened its ranks steadily since it was activated in late October 2002. Marines deployed included those from 4th Marine Air Wing, 4th Force Service Support Group, and 4th Marine Division.
12 January - Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed two major deployment orders to send 62,000 more U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf area. The buildup in the area reached almost 150,000 following the addition of the troops. The U.S. Naval ships, Bataan (LHD 5), Ashland (LSD 48), Portland (LSD 37), Kearsarge (LHD 3), Saipan (LHA 2), Gunston Hall (LSD 44), and Ponce (LPD 15), used to transport Marines from II MEF to the theater, left their homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, within days of the order. Marines also unloaded equipment from Marine Prepositioning Force ships in a Kuwait port on 17 January 2003 in
support of the arriving forces.
13 January - General James L. Jones relinquished duties as the 32d Commandant of the Marine Corps to General Michael W. Hagee during a ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy. General Jones was the first commandant in 40 years not to retire from the position and became the first Marine to assume duties as the head of U.S. European Command on 16 January 2003 and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, the following day.
14 January - The MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft made its first shipboard landing in more than two years. The Osprey, piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Gross, spent the day taking off and landing on the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) off the coast of Norfolk. The aircraft returned to flight 29 May 2002 after being grounded following two fatal crashes in 2000. The new series of testing was expected to take at least two years.
14 January - Marine Administration Message 007/03 authorized the stop-loss/stop-move policy for all Marine Corps personnel, active and reserve. Nearly 22,500 Marines scheduled to either leave the Corps between 15 January and 30 September, or move on to new duty locations in the next 90 days, were frozen in place. The order was the largest Marine Corps stop-loss since the Persian Gulf crisis in 1990 and 1991.
22 January - Four Marine Corps Reserve aviators from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, including the commander of the unit, were killed when two AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters collided during a night reconnaissance operation. The squadron was supporting the U.S. Border Patrol counter-drug effort and was part of Joint Task Force 6 when the crash occurred near Zapata, Texas.
1 February - An opening ceremony kicked off the Georgian Train and Equip Program (GTEP), which placed U.S. Marines in the country of Georgia for more than a year. Marines were scheduled to train a total of four battalions that would help the republic form its own anti-terrorist units for actions against militants believed to be linked to the al-Qaida network and holed up in the rugged border region near Russia's breakaway republic of Chechnya.
7 February - The last active duty FA-18 Hornets with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA (AW)-121) left Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The "Green Knights" of VMFA (AW)-121 had only been back in the United States for three months before returning to action and, unlike previous deployments, the unit had no set return date.
8 February - Marine Forces Reserve activated the Intelligence Support Battalion. The move consolidated reserve intelligence assets into five companies across the U.S. under a battalion headquarters in New Orleans, Louisiana. Reserve intelligence Marines must now train at both their local reserve centers
and at one of 27 joint reserve intelligence centers across the country.
12 February - Two riggers from 2d Transportation Support Battalion (TSB), 2d Force Service Support Group (FSSG) were charged with 13 counts of attempted murder for sabotaging parachutes before members of their unit jumped from a plane on 21 September 2002. Thirteen out of 22 chutes set aside for the jump had the canopy suspension lines cut in such a way that jumpmasters missed the tampering during required pre-jump inspections. Three Marines had jumped with the damaged chutes before the exercise was aborted. The reserve chutes each wore at their waists prevented them from plunging 1,250 feet to their deaths.
12 February - Approximately 2,000 more Marines from the San Diego, California, based 15th MEU arrived in Kuwait, and the number of activated Marine Corps reservists reached 12,539 as the build-up continued in the face of a possible war with Iraq.
13 February - The first operational assessment of the newest attack and utility helicopters, the AH-1Z Super Cobra and UH-1Y Huey, began at Patuxent River, Maryland. The three-month assessment was based on tactical situations the aircraft could face during combat and consisted of each helicopter flying five sorties. The UH-1 Huey was first delivered in 1958 and the AH-1 arrived in 1967.
14 February - Colonel Doug Yurovich became the first Marine ever to be named commander of a carrier air group, a position usually held by Navy captains. Colonel Yurovich was selected from a pool of other candidates as commander of the Naval Air Station Lemoore-based Carrier Air Wing 9. His selection was an example of changes that were occurring as the Navy/Marine Corps Tactical Air Integration plan unfolded.
16 February - Nearly 7,000 Marines from 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) hit the shores of Kuwait, boosting the Corps' in-country strength to more than 40,000 troops. The Marines left Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in mid-January as the Marine contingent of Amphibious Task Force East and joined up with I MEF, which was already in place in Kuwait in anticipation of hostilities with Iraq.
21 February - Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael W. Hagee, hosted a ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of continuous service by women Marines. Although women served in the Corps during World War I, the Marine Corps Women's Reserve wasn't established until 13 February 1943. The role of women has expanded greatly from primarily clerical during the world wars to now allowing service in 93 percent of all occupational fields and 62 percent of all billets, including serving as combat pilots.
24 February - Roughly 6,000 Marines of Amphibious Task Force West arrived in Kuwait, bringing the Marine Force to nearly full strength. Nearly half of the 150,000 U.S. troops dispatched to the Persian Gulf region congregated in Kuwait while waiting to hear whether the U.S.-led strike against Iraq was to go forward.
__March - For the first time since the Korean War, U.S. Marines were assigned to serve under the command of their British counterparts. Tactical control of the 15th MEU was given to the British 3rd Royal Marine Commando Brigade in a goodwill gesture to replace troops from the unit that were still engaged in operations in Afghanistan at the time of the Iraqi troop buildup. The Royal Marines, however, remained under I MEF as the unit was in charge of overall Marine operations in the region.
5 March - The 26th MEU deployed aboard the ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) to the eastern Mediterranean Sea to await further deployment orders. The unit deployed with a heftier-than-usual aviation combat punch, deploying with six Super Cobras and six Super Stallions instead of the usual four. The 24th MEU (Special Operations Capable (SOC)), which the 26th MEU would normally relieve, remained in the Persian Gulf region following the extension of its six-month deployment.
8 March - General Wallace M. Greene, 23d Commandant of the Marine Corps, died in Alexandria, Virginia, at the age of 95 from cancer. General Greene graduated from the Naval Academy in 1930 and served in many locales during his 37 years of service, including tours in China, England, and the South Pacific during World War II. He served as Commandant during the buildup of U.S. troops in Vietnam until his retirement on 31 December 1967. He was buried 3 April 2003 with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
10 March - Retired Colonel Truman W. Crawford, former commanding officer and director of the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 68 at the Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Nationally known as an instructor, arranger, and judge, Colonel Crawford entered the Marine Corps as an enlisted man in 1967 to head the Marine Corps band. He retired from service in 1998.
12 March - President George W. Bush signed an executive order establishing two new awards for actions in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). The Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal were created to recognize sacrifices and contributions military members have made in the GWOT since 11 September 2001. The medals do not take the place of the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal or the Armed Forces Service Medal, but no one may be awarded more than one of the four medals for service in the same approved expedition or operation to combat terrorism.
12 March - The Marine Corps expanded the stop-loss policy originally issued in January. Marines in special duty assignments previously exempt from the order, such as drill instructors, recruiters, security guards, combat instructors, and Marine Corps Security Forces, must now comply with the order and stay in their current assignments. Exceptions were allowed on a case-by-case basis or if commands received replacements for the departing Marines.
17 March - In an address to the nation, President George W. Bush sent Saddam Hussein a clear message, "The Iraqi regime has used diplomacy as a ploy to gain time and advantage. ... All the decades of deceit and cruelty have now reached an end. Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing."
20 March - With the lapse of the 48-hour deadline, Operation Iraqi Freedom began with the launching of approximately 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles at 5:34
a.m. The missiles, which were launched from six U.S. Navy ships, were aimed at three designated military targets around Baghdad, Iraq, in an attempt to kill or maim Hussein. U.S. Air Force F-117 stealth fighters were also involved in the opening strike.
20-21 March - Marines from I MEF crossed the Kuwait border into southern Iraq in the first push to Baghdad. A firefight between American and Iraqi ground forces occurred when a patrol of light armored vehicles from 1st Marine Division encountered two Iraqi armored personnel carriers. The Marines destroyed the enemy and moved forward quickly, capturing key facilities in Rumeila, Iraq's southern oil fields. Marines saved all but nine of nearly 500 oil wells from sabotage before continuing toward the Iraqi capital.
21 March - A Marine CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 crashed nine miles south of Umm Qasr. All four Marine crewmembers and the eight Royal British Marines they were ferrying became the first to be killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. There was no indication of hostile fire.
23 March - 2d MEB's Task Force Tarawa lost 18 Marines in the bloodiest day of the war as the task force pushed into the city of An Nasiriyah to secure it
and key bridges over the Euphrates River, thus creating a second route into Baghdad. A wrong turn lead one company of Marines directly into a two-mile stretch of roadway in a residential area known as "Ambush Alley" that was filled with uniformed Iraqi army troops. A second trip through "Ambush Alley" trying to evacuate casualties from the early firefight resulted in the loss of nearly half of all Marines killed that day.
26 March - Marines of Task Force Tarawa seized a hospital in An Nasiriyah that was being used as a staging area for Iraqi paramilitary forces. Marines captured 170 enemy troops and located a large weapons cache while Marines located at the Marine Combat Headquarters in Southern Iraq were battered by a significant sandstorm with winds in excess of 60 knots.
28 March - The 24th MEU (SOC) began coming ashore in Kuwait to reinforce I MEF operations in the southern city of An Nasiriyah. The MEU consisted of Battalion Landing Team, 2d Battalion, 2d Marines; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263; and Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 24.
31 March - Charges were dropped against Lance Corporal Julian C. Ramirez in the 21 September 2002 parachute sabotaging case following an Article 32 hearing 18-19 March. Not enough evidence could be found to link Lance Corporal Ramirez to the damaged chutes. Charges, however, were brought against the other defendant, Lance Corporal Antoine D. Boykins. DNA evidence on a note and a damaged deployment bag matched Lance Corporal Boykins. The trial was scheduled to begin 29 June 2003.
1 April - Marines launched a diversionary attack near An Nasiriyah to assist U.S. Special Forces in the rescue of an Army prisoner of war from the hospital she had been held at since her capture 10 days earlier. The bodies of several soldiers killed in the same firefight where also recovered from the grounds of the hospital.
2 April - Elements of the 1st Marine Division crossed the Tigris River 80 miles southeast of Baghdad and destroyed the Baghdad Division of the Iraqi Republican Guard around Kut.
3 April - President George W. Bush met with Marines and their families at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Former President George H. W. Bush met with others at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, the day before. Both told those gathered the U.S. would stay the course in the war with Iraq and the sacrifices of America's dead and missing would not be in vain.
3 April - Marine Harriers participated in a major attack on a Taliban camp north of Spin Boldak, Afghanistan.
4 April - The 1st Marine Division battled its way into the southeastern outskirts of the Iraqi capital, encountering the Al Nida Division of the Republican Guard.
5 April - U.S. forces entered Baghdad. Marines expanded northward on the eastern edge of the city to secure major roads leading out of the capital.
7 April - British forces attached to I MEF secured the city of Basra while Marines, who had linked up with Army 5th Corps troops, attacked along the Diyala River and isolated the Iraqi capital.
8 April - Elements of the 1st Marine Division expanded a bridgehead over the Diyala River and captured the Rashid military airport on the eastern rim of Baghdad.
9 April - Iraqi resistance in Baghdad collapsed and U.S. Forces occupied the remainder of the capital. Marines assisted Iraqi civilians in toppling a large statue of Saddam Hussein in downtown Firdaus Square.
13 April - Marines of Task Force Tripoli took control of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown and the last significant city held by the regime.
13 April - Marines from a light armored reconnaissance battalion sent to Samarra, 75 miles north of Baghdad, to prevent enemy forces from interfering with
Task Force Tripoli's movement to Tikrit, were given information by a local Iraqi concerning the location of seven American POWs. The Marines conducted a hasty raid and rescued the U.S. soldiers from Iraqi forces.
14 April - A Pentagon spokesman announced that, although some fighting continued in Iraq, major military operations in the country had ended.
15 April - Elements of 26th MEU (SOC) began to flow into northern Iraq to control Mosul, a large city liberated days earlier by Kurdish forces.
20 April - I MEF began redeploying forces in central and northern Iraq into its zone of responsibility. The new mission was one of security, humanitarian assistance, and reconstruction.
22 April - The 24th MEU (SOC) began deploying back toward its ships. It was the first Marine unit to depart Iraq after more than eight months deployed.
22 April - Sergeant Major John L. Estrada was appointed as the 15th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. He was scheduled to relieve Sergeant Major Alford McMichael, who accepted the position as enlisted adviser to General James Jones, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.
26 April - A Marine reservist was brought under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for possible war crimes after giving a newspaper interview in which he stated he pursued and shot a member of the Iraqi Republican Guard in the back of the head following a firefight in Baghdad on 8 April. The Marine was assigned to 2d Battalion, 23d Marines.
27 April - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that major combat activity had come to an end in Afghanistan. He stated the focus would move into stabilization and reconstruction activities and the military would stay involved in the efforts.
29 April - Marines of 15th MEU (SOC) returned to the USS Tarawa (LHA 1) ARG and prepared for follow-on operations in the Central Command Area of Operations.
1 May - President George W. Bush declared victory in Iraq after making a historic landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) as it cruised off the coast near San Diego, California. The president arrived as the co-pilot of a S-3B Viking jet.
1 May - The 26th MEU (SOC) departed Mosul and returned to its ships in the Mediterranean.
1 May - The Department of the Navy withdrew from its training site in Vieques, Puerto Rico. The Marine Corps and the Navy used the site for bombing and landing exercises for decades after the U.S. acquired approximately two-thirds of Vieques in the 1940s. Protesters had made using the site difficult in previous years in the hopes of reclaiming the land. The victory was bittersweet, however, for residents of the island, for without the training range, the Navy announced it no longer had reason to keep Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in operation and moved it to the top of an upcoming base closure list. The closure would withdraw millions of dollars the base pumps into the local economy every year.
3 May - The Marine Corps left Iceland after being present for more than six decades. Marines were the first American military forces to arrive on the northern European island when the first contingent landed 7 July 1941 as part of the 1st Provisional Brigade sent to protect Iceland from becoming embroiled in World War II. The 51 members of the Marine Corps security force were used as the core group to set up the 3d Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) Company in Norfolk, Virginia.
4 May - The 15th MEU completed its backload to the Tarawa ARG. The backload, completed in eight days, included 241 tactical vehicles and more than 126,000 pounds of cargo. Two days later, the 2d MEB also completed its backload to the USS Kearsarge, part of Amphibious Task Force East. Both had been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
7 May - Eleven Marines onboard the USS Saipan were injured when a trash receptacle in a Marine berthing space exploded, piercing a bulkhead and injuring those in an adjacent compartment. None of the injuries were life threatening and the cause of the explosion was unknown. The injured personnel were members of 2d MEB and had deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
12 May - The Marine Corps lifted the stop-loss and stop-move policies that had been put in place in January. The policies were used to increase the Corps' combat effectiveness for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Marine Administration Message 228/03 offered the details of the phase out. An estimated 6,000 Marines were affected by the stop-loss.
15 May - The Pentagon ordered 11 new V-22 Osprey aircraft for $817 million. The Marine Corps hopes the aircraft will replace its aging fleet of transport helicopters. Testing of the aircraft was temporarily halted following two deadly crashes in 2000. The Osprey has fixed wings and propellers that can tilt upward so it can take off and land like a helicopter, then tilt forward so it can fly like an airplane.
19 May - Four Marines were killed when their CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed shortly after take-off into the Shat Al Hillah Canal near Karbala, Iraq. Two Marines on the bank entered the water in a rescue attempt that tragically cost one of their lives as well. The helicopter was conducting a re-supply mission in support of civil military operations. Although hostile fire was not suspected, the cause of the crash was under investigation.
19 May - Marine Major Farrell Sullivan was awarded the prestigious Leftwich Trophy for Outstanding Leadership for 2002. Promoted shortly before the announcement of the award, he received the honor as an outstanding combat arms captain with Company L, 3d Battalion, 8th Marines, where he served as commanding officer.
21 May - Marines mistakenly shot and killed four Afghan soldiers outside the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. The slain soldiers were part of a disarmament team unloading weapons at a collection depot in an intelligence agency complex across from the embassy. Conflicting reports claimed the Marines were returning fire after being fired upon. Embassy officials blamed "heightened tensions" for the incident. The Afghanistan government issued assurances the tragic misunderstanding would not harm relations between the two countries.
21 May - The Marine Corps was formally presented with a T58-GE-16A Engine Reliability Improvement Program (ERIP) engine. The program would eventually extend and improve the lifespan of 446 engines for the CH-46E helicopter fleet, the centerpiece of Marine Corps aviation assault support and troop transport.
22 May - Marine Private First Class Ronald Lilledahl became the first "unknown" American service member from the Korean War to be positively identified.
His remains were exhumed in 1999 from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii with the hopes that new technology could lead to identification of America's unknowns. Private First Class Lilledahl's remains were returned to his family for burial.
23 May - A Marine staff sergeant gave birth to a baby boy on board the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) in the Persian Gulf marking what Pentagon officials believe was the first time an active-duty woman has delivered a baby on a combat ship in a war zone. Marine Corps policy does not permit pregnant servicewomen to deploy, but the Marine never reported she was pregnant and claimed she herself did not know. Both mother and son were in good condition when evacuated off the ship.
26 May - Marines from 24th MEU returned home to Camp Lejeune. The 24th MEU left North Carolina onboard the USS Nassau (LHA 4), Austin (LPD 4), and Tortuga (LSD 46) in August 2002 for a routine six-month patrol, but mounting tensions in Iraq extended the deployment another three months that eventually included service in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
28 May - More than 400 Marines and sailors from III MEF left Okinawa to take part in the annual bilateral Landing Force Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise in Southeast Asia. For the first time in the nine-year history of the exercise, a Marine Reserve unit took part in the training. World situations required reserve units to assume rotations in places such as Okinawa to relieve active duty units for service in Iraq and Afghanistan and allowed the reserves to experience deployments and training exercises in which they would usually not have participated.
__June - Marines once again engaged in battle over Guadalcanal's airfield. A proposal to rename Henderson Field, named for Marine Major Lofton Henderson, after Japan's national flower prompted a U.S. Marine Raider Association-led petition drive to block such a change. In the end, despite assurances from the Solomon Islands Prime Minister that no change would occur, the government of the islands determined a name change was in their country's best interest. They offered a compromise by announcing the airport's new name as Honiara International Airport-Henderson Field on 11 September 2003.
2 June - Dr. Felix de Weldon, the sculptor of the Marine Corps War Memorial located in Arlington, Virginia, died of congestive heart failure at a nursing home in Woodstock, Virginia. The massive memorial, inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the flag being raised atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima during World War II, took hundreds of assistants and more than nine years to complete. Dr. de Weldon was 96.
5-23 June - U.S. Marines joined allied European forces in the annual coalition exercise. BALTOPS 03 took place on Bornholm Island, just south of the Swedish mainland, and in Gdynia, Poland. This was the first year in the history of the exercise that land operations were conducted. It was also the first time ever that U.S. Marines stormed a beach in an amphibious landing beside their Russian counterparts.
9 June - The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael W. Hagee, signed the All Marine Message 039/03 (ALMAR 039/03) establishing the Marine Corps Logistics Command (MarCorLogCom), headquartered in Albany, Georgia, which streamlined logistical support to the operating forces and freed up a much-needed general officer for other assignments by combining Marine Corps Logistics Bases and Marine Corps Material Command.
13 June - Marines returning home from the war in Iraq onboard the USS Kearsarge were re-directed to Liberia to aid in the potential evacuation of U.S. citizens as civil unrest escalated. A handful of Marines deployed to help secure the U.S. Embassy, but they were quickly returned to their ship as it was ordered to continue heading home a few days after arriving. A FAST company followed with Marines from 26th MEU to eventually replace them in the war-ravaged country in mid-August. A peace agreement between factions allowed the Marines to leave Liberia by 1 October 2003.
20 June - The Marine Corps introduced its contribution to the U.S. Special Operations Command with the activation of an elite 86-man unit known as Marine Corps Detachment One. The commando unit, housed at the Camp Del Mar Boat Basin, consisted of a headquarters, reconnaissance, intelligence, and fire-support element.
21 June - World War II Marine and author, Leon Uris, died of natural causes at his home on New York's Shelter Island at the age of 78. Uris was best known for his 600-page book, "Exodus," published in 1958. His first bestseller, "Battle Cry," a novel based on his Marine experiences in World War II, was published in 1953 and he wrote the screenplay for the 1955 hit movie by the same title.
22 June - Errant bombs dropped from a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber during a training exercise in Djibouti killed a Marine helicopter pilot and injured eight other servicemen. Captain Seth R. Michaud was a naval aviator with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 and was participating in CJTF-HOA. He was standing outside of a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter at the Godoria Ridge along the northern coast when multiple bombs were dropped near the aircraft and the training personnel.
26 June - Sergeant Major John L. Estrada assumed the post of highest enlisted Marine, relieving Sergeant Major Alfred L. McMichael to become the 15th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. Sergeant Major McMichael was the first Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps not to retire after holding the distinguished position. His next assignment was sergeant major, U.S. European Command. Sergeant Major Estrada came to the post from his last assignment as sergeant major, 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, Miramar, California.
30 June - Major General Stephen T. Johnson assumed command of the 2d Marine Division. The division had been under the command of Major General John F. Sattler since July 2001. During his tenure, the Marines of his division served both in Afghanistan and Iraq while he himself took command of CJTF-HOA. Major General Johnson previously served as director, Manpower Plans and Policy Division, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps.
__July - Lance Corporal Antoine D. Boykins, scheduled for a general court martial in connection with a parachute sabotage case in which 13 parachutes were intentionally damaged prior to a jump at Camp Lejeune in September 2002, reached a plea bargain days before his trial on several counts, including 13 counts of attempted premeditated murder. He was later sentenced to 20 years in prison, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, reduction in rank to private, and was dishonorably discharged.
2 July - A Marine was killed and three others injured while clearing mines near Karbala, Iraq. The deceased Marine corporal was assigned to Combat Service Support Group 11.
4 July - A steel I-beam pulled from the wreckage of the destroyed World Trade Center buildings was donated to the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune by the New York Fire Department. The beam was presented to base and II MEF commanding generals at a ceremony as a token of appreciation and support for the efforts of Marines in the war on terrorism.
11 July - 2d Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) was reactivated at Camp Lejeune after being disbanded in 1998. The mission of the company was to provide Marine Air Ground Task Force commanders a liaison capability with foreign area expertise to plan, coordinate, employ and conduct radio communications for air, sea, and land support fire for joint, allied, and coalition forces.
12 July - Marines from the 15th MEU (SOC), who had deployed with the Tarawa ARG nearly six-months earlier, returned to Camp Pendleton. The Tarawa ARG was stationed in the North Arabian Gulf during Operation Iraqi Freedom and provided critical support to ground troops, including nightly combat sorties flown by Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161.
13 July - Marine Lieutenant General Alpha Lyons Bowser Jr. passed away at his home in Kailua, Hawaii, at the age of 92. The U.S. Naval Academy graduate saw action in the Pacific during World War II and during the Chosin Reservoir and Inchon-Seoul campaigns during the Korean War. He served in the Marine Corps for 39 years, earning both the Bronze Star and Legion of Merit.
14 July - Marine Lieutenant General Louis B. Robertshaw died of cancer at the age of 90 in Chestertown, Maryland. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, he served as an aviator during World War II and Korea and as the commanding general of the 1st Marine Air Wing during a tour of duty in the Vietnam War. Some of his decorations included the Legion of Merit with combat "V" and the Distinguished Flying Cross with two gold stars.
24 July - Secretary of the Navy nominee and former Marine major, Colin McMillan, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Gordon England, the former Secretary of the Navy who left the position in January for a job with the new Homeland Security Department, was persuaded to return to the position following Mr. McMillan's death.
27 July - Beloved USO performer and comedian Bob Hope died of pneumonia at the age of 100. Mr. Hope began entertaining U.S. troops early in 1941, first entering a combat area in 1943, and continued to be a USO mainstay for most of the following 50 years.
27 July - Korean War veterans converged on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Armistice that brought an
uneasy end to the three-year war. Many applauded Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz as he announced renewed efforts to locate the remains of more than 8,000 Americans still officially listed as missing in action from the conflict, stating "The Korean War will not be over for us until every American is brought home or accounted for."
30 July - In a move that fundamentally changed how naval services approach logistics, Marine Corps and Navy logistics chiefs agreed to integrate processes in daily operations and jointly prepare for future sea basing. The change was the result of the Marine Corps' and Navy's increasingly heavy involvement in joint operations.
8 August - The Marine Corps' V-22 Osprey program got a boost from the Pentagon when it approved an additional seven Ospreys. Originally, only 145 of the aircraft were budgeted through 2009, but the number rose to 152 with the increase. Despite the rise in the overall number of Ospreys, the production rate for the aircraft over the next few years was reduced in an attempt to stabilize cost.
10 August - A Marine humvee from Camp Lejeune ran off the road and struck a bridge abutment. The vehicle carried the driver and nine passengers. Many of the Marines were thrown out of the vehicle and down the bank into the New River. Four Marines were hospitalized, three in serious condition, while the other six were treated and released. The Jacksonville, North Carolina, police later charged the 19-year-old driver on a count of having alcohol in his system while operating a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor.
14 August - An estimated 10,000 Marines and their families turned out to hear President George W. Bush speak during a visit to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. The president focused on the progress in the war on terrorism and also the nation's gratitude to the U.S. armed forces. After his speech, President Bush ate lunch with the Marines before heading to downtown San Diego.
14 August - Marine Administration Message 370/03 was released stating that Marine Corps units now may use the Ceremonial Bugle as an alternative to the recorded version of Taps played on a stereo to honor Marines who have passed away. The Ceremonial Bugle is a real bugle with a built in sound system that plays Taps while providing the appearance the holder is playing the instrument.
18 August - Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps General William "Spider" Nyland visited Djibouti to congratulate CJTF-HOA personnel on a job well done. He also reiterated the importance of their mission there. After his speech, General Nyland answered questions from service members and took pictures with many of those among the crowd.
22 August - The 13th MEU, after earning the Special Operations Capable title 8 August, was the first Marine unit to deploy with the Navy's new seagoing concept, the expeditionary strike group (ESG). The 13th MEU (SOC) composed the Strike Warfare Component for ESG-1, a seven-ship battle group designed to provide a mobile, agile, lethal, and flexible Navy-Marine force.
28 August - Marine Tiltrotor Test and Evaluation Squadron 22 (VMX-22) was activated at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. The squadron was tasked with the operational testing and evaluation of the MV-22 Osprey and future tiltrotor-related systems.
29 August - Brigadier General Robert Dickerson, Jr., replaced retiring Major General David M. Mize as commander of Camp Lejeune, the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast. About 500 people gathered for the change of command ceremony that welcomed the career logistics officer and bid farewell to a Marine who had served his country for 38 years. Across the country on the same date, Major General Jan Huly relinquished command of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, and the Western Recruiting Region to Brigadier General John M. Paxton, Jr. General Huly was transferred to Headquarters Marine Corps.
__September - Numerous Marines from the 26th MEU who had gone ashore in the West Africa nation of Liberia in August were diagnosed with malaria. Many were hospitalized with serious cases of the most deadly strain of the mosquito-born illness. All the Marines eventually recovered, but the blame for the outbreak was found to be with a failure to follow protective measures, in particular not taking a once-a-week malaria-preventing drug issued to the Marines.
3 September - The I MEF transferred authority for five provinces in southern Iraq to the Polish-led Multinational Division Central-South at a ceremony at Camp Babylon, Iraq. Three weeks later, Marines handed control of Najaf to a Spanish-led force on 22 September. The delay in the second transfer was due to a deadly car bombing outside of a mosque in the holy city on 29 August.
3 September - Legendary Marine General Raymond G. Davis, who received the Medal of Honor for leading the rescue of besieged Marines at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, died of a heart attack in Conyers, Georgia, at the age of 88. General Davis served in the Marine Corps for 34 years, was a combat veteran of three wars, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps in the early 1970s, and was among the United States' most highly decorated military officers. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in College Park, Georgia, with full military honors.
11 September - Marines around the world paused to honor all those who perished in the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and for their fallen comrades who have since sacrificed their lives in the continuing Global War on Terrorism.
19 September - The Marine Corps reactivated 1st ANGLICO at Camp Pendleton, California. Like 2d ANGLICO, which reactivated in July, the unit provides a link between other U.S. services as well as coordinating with foreign troops, a skill much in demand with the trend of fighting battles as part of an international coalition.
21 September - Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 (MWSS-273) arrived to take over security for CJTF-HOA from the Air Force Security Forces Squadron. MWSS-273 was assigned to protect the helicopters, cargo aircraft, and equipment on the flight line, as well as any transient aircraft that came through the Horn of Africa region.
26 September - Commandant of the Marine Corps General Michael Hagee was among those present for the groundbreaking for the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The museum is projected to open in summer 2006 and will be located outside the main gate of the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia. The museum is expected to eventually draw nearly 500,000 visitors a year.
29 September - The Navy announced its next amphibious assault ship would be named USS Makin Island (LHD 8) after a daring raid carried out by Companies A and B, 2d Marine Raider Battalion, on Japanese-held Makin Island in the Gilbert Islands in 1942. The eighth Wasp-class ship's scheduled delivery date was announced as May 2007.
30 September - The last AV-8B Harrier jet was delivered to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. The newest Harrier brought the number of the Boeing jets
provided to the Corps over the last 18 years to 360. Although the Harrier and its counterparts would still be utilized for several years to come, plans called for its eventual replacement by the Lockheed Martin-designed Joint Strike Fighter.
__October - Two Marines were charged with negligent homicide following the death of a 52-year-old Iraqi prisoner found dead in June 2003 at a prisoner camp run by the 1st Marine Division near Nasiriyah, Iraq. Six other Marines were charged with abusing prisoners at the same camp and then lying about the incidents to military investigators. The eight Marines were reservists with 2d Battalion, 25th Marines.
7 October - A maritime prepositioning ship was named in honor of a Marine Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient. The USNS Lance Corporal Roy M. Wheat (T-AK 3016) was assigned to Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron One in the Mediterranean as one of the 16 ships loaded with Marine Corps and Navy support element equipment to support combat readiness around the world.
9 October - Exactly 86 years to the day of when it was first established within 2d Marine Division, the 8th Marine Regimental Headquarters was re-established at Camp Lejeune after standing down from supporting the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Antiterrorism). Three infantry battalions were re-assigned to the regiment soon afterward.
10 October - The Marine Corps canceled plans to go into full-scale production for the Predator Short Range Antitank Weapon missile system made by Lockheed-Martin. Testing and lessons learned during Operation Iraqi Freedom helped the Corps determine it did not need the missile system.
13 October - The Marines of the 13th MEU (SOC) arrived in southern Iraq and set up on the Al-Faw peninsula. Under the British-led Multinational Division (Southeast), the 13th MEU (SOC) was tasked with disrupting illegal activities such as oil smuggling as well as providing humanitarian assistance.
18 October - World War II Marine and former Secretary of the Navy Senator John Chafee was honored with the naming of the 40th Arleigh Burke class destroyer, the USS Chafee (DDG 90). The late Rhode Island senator was among the first waves to hit the beaches of Guadalcanal and Okinawa and served as Secretary of the Navy from 1969 to 1972. He became a U.S. Senator in 1976 and passed away in 1999.
21 October - The Marines of the 26th MEU returned to Camp Lejeune from an eight-month deployment, which included combat operations on the ground near Mosul in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and participation in the peacekeeping efforts in the West African nation of Liberia. The return of the 26th MEU, however, left the European and West African areas without a Marine presence for the second time in as many years. The lapse in coverage was a necessary
void designed to get East Coast MEU deployments back on track after Operation Iraqi Freedom.
23 October - Today marked the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the U.S. Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The 1983 suicide attack killed 241 American servicemen, including 220 Marines, and launched a new era in the Middle East. Although no one knows for sure who was behind the bombing, a federal judge in Washington in a lawsuit filed by 153 families ruled in May 2003 that Iran funded the bombing. The governing body of Iran was ordered to pay restitution to survivors and relatives.
23 October - The Pentagon's Defense Acquisition Board approved the low-rate initial production for the Marine Corps' H-1 helicopter upgrade. Following the awarding of the contract to Bell Helicopter, the company began remanufacturing UH-1N Huey and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters to the UH-1Y and AH-1Z configurations.
26 October - The winner of the 28th Marine Corps Marathon, known as "The People's Marathon," was Peter Sherry of Great Falls, Virginia, with a time of 2:25:07. First-time marathon runner Heather Hanscom was the first female finisher with a time of 2:37:59. The men's "Challenge Cup" was won by the British Royal Navy/Royal Marines while the female Marines repeated their capture of the "Challenge Cup" against their British counterparts.
28 October - The Marine Corps announced that Marines eligible for unaccompanied assignments to Japan would begin to receive 24-month orders instead of 12-months starting in the spring of 2004. The intent in changing the service's assignment policy for the more than 17,000 Marines assigned to III MEF and Marine Corps Bases Japan was to increase unit effectiveness and reflected a steady improvement in the living conditions and entertainment options for Marines assigned to Pacific outposts.
3 November - I MEF was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC), the highest possible unit commendation, for "extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance" during the invasion of Iraq. Marine Administration Message 507/03 announced the approval of the PUC and the contributing elements authorized to display the PUC streamer. It was the first time the award had been presented to a Marine unit since the height of the Vietnam War in 1968. Also approved was the awarding of the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation to the 22d MEU (SOC) for its participation in Operation Enduring Freedom during 2002. It was the sixth such award for the unit since activation in 1982.
5 November - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld announced that Marine Corps units would return to Iraq as part of the U.S. troop rotation. The first 20,000 Marines and sailors of the Camp Pendleton I MEF were expected to replace the Army's 82d Airborne Division by February 2004. The deployment was expected to last seven-months with another 20,000-strong Marine force replacing them after that for another seven-months.
10 November - Marines throughout the country and around the world celebrated the Corps' 228th Birthday in accordance with General John Archer Lejeune's Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921. In the traditional message from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee asked Marines to "reflect on our fallen with deep respect, observe our traditions with justifiable pride, take care of one another and, of course, celebrate those special bonds that exist among United States Marines."
15 November - Marine Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Mitchell Paige passed away from congestive heart failure in La Quinta, California, at the age of 85. Colonel Paige received the Medal of Honor for his actions as a platoon sergeant during the Battle of Guadalcanal on 26 October 1942 in which he held back an advancing Japanese regiment single-handedly all night until reinforcements arrived at dawn after his men were either killed or wounded. He retired from the Marine Corps after 28 years of service in 1964 and was the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from ground action on Guadalcanal. He was laid to rest in the Riverside National Cemetery in California.
17 November - Brigadier General (select) Joseph V. Medina, an experienced infantry officer, was the first Marine to take the helm of the Navy's newest strike group, Expeditionary Strike Group 3 (ESG-3). ESG-3, scheduled to deploy the following summer, was the Pacific Fleet's second operational strike group to stand up since the Navy reshaped the composition of its seagoing forces. General Medina, onboard his flagship USS Belleau Wood, led the seven-vessel force along with 11th MEU in numerous exercises in preparation for next year's overseas duty.
20 November - Five Marines and 20 Army soldiers supporting CJTF-HOA made history as the first Americans to graduate from the French Commando School there. The American platoon trained alongside French Foreign Legionnaires during the three-week course which was to better prepare them for nautical and mountain warfare challenges in the terrain of Djibouti. Each Marine and soldier was awarded the French Commando medal and a certificate of completion.
23 November - Marines with 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, left Camp Lejeune for a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. The deployment came mere months after some members had returned from duty in Iraq. Also in support of the Global War on Terrorism, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 (HMH-464) Detachment A replaced HMH-461 earlier in the month as the unit responsible for providing helicopter support throughout the Horn of Africa.
23 November - Marines from U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific and the 2d Marine Division returned to Tarawa to honor the more than 1,000 killed during one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific during World War II on the 60th anniversary of the battle. In November 1943, approximately 17,500 Marines and sailors defeated the Japanese defenders on the atoll after three days of intense fighting.
24 November - The last CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter was delivered to the Marine Corps Air Station New River by officials from the manufacturer, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 (HMH-461), the first squadron to receive the CH-53E in December 1980, was also the last. The Marine Corps received 172 of the second-generation CH-53 helicopters over the past 23 years and has used the CH-53E in nearly every engagement and humanitarian operation since Vietnam.
28 November - Marines from 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, joined the coalition forces of Combined Joint Task Force 180 in pursuit of al-Qaida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan. The unit, based out of Camp Lejeune, consisted of three infantry companies, a weapons company, and a headquarters and services company. Although the unit was not the first Marine unit to be in Afghanistan, 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, was the first active duty unit deployed there since the 2001 campaign began.
2 December - The 3d Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) honored the 15 members they lost during Operation Iraqi Freedom at a ceremony at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, California. Friends and family gathered as the names of the dead were read and Major General James F. Amos, air wing commander, addressed the crowd of 1,200. A bronze plaque with the 15 names was also placed at 3d MAW headquarters as a permanent reminder of those who died.
8 December - More than 7,400 sailors and Marines onboard 15 Navy ships in the Gulf of Mexico began a 10-day joint live-fire training exercise for the first time in Northwest Florida. The Florida panhandle around Eglin Air Force Base was chosen to replace the training area the Navy lost after vacating Vieques, Puerto Rico, in May. The USS Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group and the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit were the first to take advantage of the enormous training area, approximately half the size of Rhode Island, with future plans for bi-annual exercises in the area for other units in the pre-deployment phase already set. On hand for the opening of the exercise was the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee, and his senior enlisted advisor, Sergeant Major John L. Estrada.
9 December - One hundred forty-nine Marine reservists with Company C, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Battalion returned to Salt Lake City, Utah, after three months in Iraq followed by a six-month Unit Deployment Program rotation in Japan. The Marines were activated in April for Operation Iraqi Freedom where they were able to adapt to the active duty environment seamlessly.
10 December - Marine Sergeant Christopher Chandler, who lost his left leg below the knee after stepping on a land mine in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 16 December 2001, jumped into the history books as the first service member retained on active duty with a prosthetic limb to graduate from the U.S. Army Basic Airborne Course. Sergeant Chandler not only graduated the challenging jump school but was also selected as the class' noncommissioned officer honor graduate.
13 December - American soldiers captured former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein after discovering him hidden away in the dark of a tiny, underground burrow near his hometown of Tikrit, Iraq. His identity was confirmed through DNA testing.
22 December - A federal judge in Washington, D.C., issued a preliminary injunction against the mandatory anthrax vaccination of military personnel. The Pentagon continued to administer the vaccine but only on a voluntary basis as the Justice Department attempted to get the injunction overturned. The Food and Drug Administration aided the Defense Department's cause by announcing the vaccine was safe for inhalation anthrax, the judge's main concern, a week later. The judge eventually lifted his injunction on the use of the vaccine early the following month.
31 December - The strength of the U.S. Armed Forces was 1,462,779, of whom 177,030 were U.S. Marines.
USMC History Division