1st Marine Division
The primary mission of the 1st Marine Division is to execute amphibious assault operations and other such operations as may be directed. The Division is supported by Marine aviation, and force service support units and is prepared to be employed, in conjunction with a Marine aircraft wing, as an integral part of a Marine Expeditionary Force in amphibious operations.
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. When task organized with units from the Marine Aircraft Wing and the Force Service Support Group, an efficient, self-supporting Marine Air-Ground Task Force is created.
The 1st Marine Division is currently composed of 1st, 5th, 7th and 11th Marines; Headquarters Battalion; 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion; 1st and 3d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions; 1st Combat Engineer Battalion; 1st Tank Battalion; and 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. These units represent a combat-ready force of more than 19,000 men and women.
Headquarters Battalion provides command, control and administration for the 1st Marine Division. Within the battalion are a headquarters company, a service company, division headquarters, military police company, a communications company, and a truck company. The division headquarters is located in the Headquarters (11) Area, while the Headquarters Battalion and its companies are located in the Margarita (33) Area. The Senior Control and Management Platoon, the Photo Imagery Interpretation Unit and the Interrogator-Translator Teams are all in this Battalion.
The 1st Marine Division was activated aboard the battleship Texas on February 1, 1941. It is the oldest and most decorated division-sized unit in the United States Marine Corps. Since its formation, the 1st MarDiv. has been involved in many of the most famous campaigns in Marine Corps history. They fought on Guadalcanal, Pelileu and Okinawa in WWII. Korea saw Division units execute the landing at Inchon, and the famed withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir. In Vietnam, Division units saw heavy fighting during the Tet Offensive. In the Gulf War, they made up the task forces assigned to breach Iraqi minefields and enter Kuwait. Since the cessation of hostilities in the Gulf, the Division has been involved in numerous contingency and humanitarian operations, including peacekeeping actions in Somalia.
Guadalcanal was the first major American offensive of World War II. Launched on August 7, 1942, this operation won the division its first of three World War II Presidential Unit Citations (PUCs). Others won were for the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa.
On 15 September 1950, the 1st Marine Division, under the command of Major General Oliver P. Smith, led the first major U.N. force strike in North Korean-occupied territory, with a surprise amphibious assault at Inchon. In five days of textbook-style campaigning, the division closed on the approaches of Seoul, the South Korean capital. In house-to-house fighting, the Marines wrested the city from its communist captors by Sept. 27. On Oct. 7, 1950, with North Korean forces in full retreat, the Inchon-Seoul campaign was formally declared closed.
On 27 November 1950, elements of the Chinese Communist People's Liberation Army struck Marine positions in force. In a carefully-planned counterstroke, eight Chinese divisions charged down from surrounding mountains with the sole mission of destroying the 1st Marine Division. Over the next four weeks, the Chinese and Marine Corps forces engaged in some of the fiercest fighting of the Korean War. In an epic movement, the 1st Marine Division completed a successful fighting withdrawal through 78 miles of mountain road in northeast Korea. The fighting withdrawal ended in mid-December with the amphibious evacuation of the Marines from the port of Hungnam, Korea. Although suffering more than 4,000 battle casualties and uncounted incidents of frostbite, Marine Corps air and ground units killed nearly 25,000 Chinese communist troops.
March 1966 saw the 1st Marine Division headquarters established at Chu Lai. 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. Between March and October 1966 to May 1967, the Division conducted 44 named operations. Major engagements included Operations Hastings and Union I and II. In these operations, 1st Marine Division units decisively defeated the enemy. 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 the enemy drive in its operational areas.
Following six hard years of combat, the 1st Marine Division turned home to Camp Pendleton in April 1971, closing another chapter of dedicated service to Corps and country. 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.
In Operation Desert Storm, the 1st Marine Division was to conduct a deliberate attack to penetrate Iraqi defensive positions located between the Al Wafrali and Umm Gudair Oil fields. That attack would initiate the allied ground offensive. The reorganization of the division realigned the infantry battalions to the four task forces. Task Force Ripper remained the primary maneuver element and was reinforced by 1st Combat Engineer Battalion (less a contingent transferred to Task Force Papa Bear). Task Force Papa Bear gained assault amphibian and engineer units to conduct breaching operations on the right flank of Task Force Ripper. The third and fourth task forces were not mechanized. They received the mission of protecting the division's flanks. Until 17 February, Task Force Taro (3d Marines) constituted the division's helicopter-borne contingency force in addition to its new role as an infiltration force. To perform both missions, Task Force Taro designated one of Taro's three infantry battalions as the heliborne force. In early February 1991, this contingency battalion, 1st Battalion, 3d Marines, detached to division control, forming Task Force X-Ray. The fourth major task force was made up of the headquarters of the 4th Marines and the 2d and 3d Battalions, 7th Marines. Similar to Task Force Taro in its configuration, this newly created unit, designated Task Force Grizzly, also lacked organic transportation. By late January 1991, the organization for combat of the division was essentially complete.
The final division task organization as of 21 February 1991 was as follows: Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division Task Force Papa Bear (RCT 1) Headquarters, 1st Marines 1st Battalion, 1st Marines Company B, 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion 3d Battalion, 9th Marines (-) Company C, 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion Company B, 1st Tank Battalion Obstacle Clearing Detachment, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion 1st Tank Battalion (-) Company I, 3d Battalion, 9th Marines Engineer Task Force (Detachment, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion) Company A, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion Company A, 7th Engineer Support Battalion Detachment, 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion (23 AAV P-7s) 1st Platoon, Battery B, 3d Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion Task Force Ripper (RCT 7) Headquarters, 7th Marines 1st Battalion, 7th Marines (-) Company D, 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion Company A, 3d Tank Battalion Obstacle Clearing Detachment, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion 1st Battalion, 5th Marines Company A, 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion Company A, 1st Tank Battalion Obstacle Clearing Detachment, 1St Combat Engineer Battalion 3d Tank Battalion (-) Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines 1st Combat Engineer Battalion (-) Detachment, 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion (40 AAV P-7s) Company D, 3d Light Armored Infantry Battalion 2d Platoon (motorized), Company C, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion Task Force Taro (RCT 3) Headquarters, 3d Marines 2d Battalion, 3d Marines 3d Battalion, 3d Marines Section C, 1st Platoon, Battery B, 3d Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion 3d Platoon, Company A, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion 3d Platoon (motorized), Company C, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion Team 2, 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion Task Force Grizzly (RCT 4) Headquarters, 4th Marines 2d Battalion, 7th Marines 3d Battalion, 7th Marines Detachment, Truck Company, Headquarters Battalion 2d Platoon, Company A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion 1st Platoon (motorized), Company D, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion Task Force Shepherd Headquarters, 1st Light Armored Infantry Battalion Company A, 1st Light Armored Infantry Battalion Company B, 1st Light Armored Infantry Battalion Company C, 1st Light Armored Infantry Battalion Section A, 2d Platoon, Battery B, 3d Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion Task Force X-Ray 1st Battalion, 3d Marines 11th Marines Headquarters, 11th Marines 1st Battalion, 11th Marines 3d Battalion, 11th Marines 5th Battalion, 11th Marines 1st Battalion, 12th Marines 3d Battalion, 12th Marines 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion (-) 1st Reconnaissance Battalion (-) 1st Battalion, 25th Marines
In the early morning of 24 February 1991, the 1st Marine Division pushed into southern Kuwait and began the long-awaited allied ground offensive aimed at ending Iraq's six-and-one-half-month occupation. The division's successful breach of the first obstacle belt triggered a timed sequence of attacks by coalition forces arrayed along the entire northern border of Saudi Arabia. It was fitting that the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), Lieutenant General Walter E. Boomer, selected the 1st Marine Division to lead the attack. In August 1990, division units were among the first dispatched by President George Bush to assist the defense of Saudi Arabia. Until the United States Army's VII Corps began its movement towards Iraq, the division was the northernmost deployed American ground force.
The Division had been continuously in the field since the beginning of Operation Desert Shield. Its units had spent the long months in the desert training and rehearsing for an anticipated ground war against the Iraqi Army and division Marines were physically, psychologically, and professionally ready. Following the start of hostilities, the 1st Marine Division proved its capabilities in a series of artillery raids, deception operations, combined arms raids, and screening operations, that made it the first to bring the ground war to the Iraqi army. The attack followed 38 days of constant allied air attacks and the ground offensive swept everything before it in an almost bloodless campaign. It would take only 100 hours for the coalition forces to rout the Iraqi army and retake Kuwait.
Phase one of Operation Restore Hope in Somalia kicked off with the early morning amphibious landing of Marines from the Camp Pendleton-based 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in early December 1992. The successful landing and subsequent security operations illustrated the effectiveness of forward deployed forces and helped validate the Navy/Marine Corps team's strategy for the 21st century. Landing forces were met with no organized resistance and port areas were secured, while combat engineers began making repairs and upgrades to the facilities. The first elements of the 1st Marine Division, commanded by MajGen Charles E. Wilhelm from Camp Pendleton, and three Maritime Propositioning Ships from Military Sealift Command also arrived. Daily, around-the-clock patrols throughout the port city resulted in the seizure of nearly 5,000 weapons and pieces of equipment over a five-month span. Meanwhile, over 15,000 metric tons of food was successfully distributed from 38 different food sites during the operation. The final phase of the operation involved the transition from U.S. peacekeeping force to a U.N. peace keeping Force. U.S. Marine involvement in Operation Restore Hope officially ended May 4, 1993 when operations were turned over to United Nations forces.
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