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4th Marines - epic accomplishments and myths

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 4/26/2004

Story by Cpl. Ryan D. Libbert

CAMP SCHWAB, Okinawa, Japan (April 16, 2004) -- "Oldest and Proudest" is a title held by only one unit in the Marine Corps, a regiment that claims both adjectives by surviving the tests of time and combat.

Since its beginnings in Central America to the War on Terror today, 4th Marine Regiment is still serving the nation forward deployed from Okinawa, where it continues to serve with the fierce determination it has become known for over the past 90 years. Colonel Joseph H. Pendleton activated the 4th Regiment on April 16, 1914 in Puget Sound, Wash.

After relocation to San Diego, the 4th Regiment made deployments to both Mexico in 1914 and the Dominican Republic in 1916 to stop possible revolutions in both countries. The tensions in the Dominican Republic committed 4th Regiment to an eight-year campaign there.

Upon returning to San Diego, the 4th Regiment was tasked to guard mail routes in the western part of the country in 1926. Subsequently, not a single envelope was stolen or mail train robbed.

In February 1927, the regiment deployed to Shanghai, China to protect the lives and property of U.S. citizens in the international settlement of Shanghai. The move started a 14-year occupation of Shanghai, giving the regiment the nickname "China Marines" as well as the official title "4th Marines." During that period, 4th Marines became a feared and respected force throughout China.

With war looming on the horizon, the 4th Marines deployed to The Philippines in November 1941 to defend Olongapo Naval Station and the Mariveles Naval Section Base near Manila Bay. One month later, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the regiment was redeployed to Corregidor to support the U.S. and Philippine Armies' defense of the island.

The defense of Corregidor raged for nearly six months with Marines, soldiers and Philippine militants fighting off hoards of Japanese invaders. In May 1942, facing disease, starvation, lack of ammunition, and no hopes of being resupplied, the American forces at Corregidor were captured. Before the Japanese took prisoners, the regimental commander, Col. Samuel J. Howard, set in motion an event that sparked one of the biggest myths in Marine Corps history.

"I did some research with the History Department at HQMC. The official histories of Marine Corps operations in World War II tell us that inside Malinta (tunnel), Col. Howard ordered the regimental and national colors of the 4th Marines burned to prevent their falling into enemy hands," stated Col. Drew A. Bennett, current regimental commander for 4th Marines. "As to the regiment never again being headquartered in the United States- that is pure myth as we have been located back in the U.S. several times."

After the colors were burned, the regiment temporarily ceased to exist. After the fall of Corregidor, the surviving Marines were subject to the notoriously brutal Bataan Death March, later spending three and a half years as prisoners of war.

The regiment was reactivated on February 1, 1944 as the 1st Raider Regiment was redesignated as 4th Marines. The resurrected regiment participated in numerous World War II campaigns to include Bougainville, Northern Solomons, Guam, and Okinawa.

In 1946, 4th Marines was finally relocated to Camp Lejeune, N.C. as part of 2nd Provisional Marine Brigade. The regiment was deactivated October 17, 1949 as a part of the post-World War II drawdown.

Reactivated on September 2, 1952 at Camp Pendleton, Calif., the regiment deployed to Camp Nara, Japan in support of the Korean Conflict. In February of 1955 they relocated to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

From there, the regiment deployed in May 1965 to the Republic of Vietnam where they participated in numerous battles, operating from Chu Lai, Phu Bai, Dong Ha, Co Bi Thang Tan, Camp Evans, Camp Carroll, and Cam Lo. The regiment redeployed to Camp Hansen in November of 1969. From their new home, elements of 4th Marines took part in the evacuation of Southeast Asia in April 1975.

The regiment was relocated to its current home Camp Schwab in April 1979. Over the years the regiment has participated in numerous conflicts including Operation El Dorado, Operation Sharp Edge, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Haitian Refuge Operation, Operations in Somalia, and Operation Sea Signal.

Today 4th Marines operates differently than other infantry regiments throughout the Corps. Although 4th Marines' three separate battalions are located across Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms, the regimental headquarters operates with three different battalions on a six-month rotational basis known as the Unit Deployment Program. Currently, all three of the regiment's UDP battalions are deployed from Okinawa supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

"Because our regiment is composed of Unit Deployment Program battalions, during a 'normal' period we rotate one battalion in and a different battalion out almost every two months," Bennett concluded. "I have had the opportunity to serve with 12 different infantry battalions from the East Coast, West Coast and Hawaii, plus our Headquarters Company. That is over 10,500 great Marines and Sailors. Additionally, each one of those units had some great leaders. We tried to take the good ideas from each of those places, units, and individuals and incorporate them into the 4th Marines."

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