Hit the Beach! Your Marine Corps in Action

Hit the Beach! Your Marine Corps in Action

Hit the Beach! Your Marine Corps in Action

Hit the Beach! Your Marine Corps in Action


In order to evaluate the contribution of the U. S. Marine Corps to the winning of World War II, it might be well that the reader reflect upon the amphibious character of that great struggle. Certainly, from the American point of view, World War II was predominantly amphibious -- inevitably so, because our country, in many senses, is an island nation. In order to carry the war to our enemies, in order even to defend our maritime Frontiers, it was necessary that we be able to project our land, naval and air power beyond the seas. Such a task, by definition, was (and remains) amphibious.

Amphibious warfare is something which we have come to accept as a military commonplace. To realize that this was not always so, however, we have only to look backward to the first World War, in which the most conspicuous fiasco was that of Gallipoli, the tragic Failure of the British to seize the Dardanelles. To modern soldiers, the Gallipoli defeat seemed to set the seal upon an ages-old military axiom that the seaborne assault of a defended objective could not succeed. Under this handicap, it might truthfully be stated that, as of 1921, the concept of amphibious warfare as we now know it appeared almost chimerical.

Yet it was at this very low point -- and employing a failure, Gallipoli, as a starting-point -- that the U. S. Marine Corps, alone among the armed services of the world, set out to create an amphibious doctrine which would succeed.

Progressing patiently, studying and wringing dry every historical case-study, and analyzing the most likely possible objectives, the Marine Corps Schools, from 1922 to 1935, made itself the central repository of amphibious information and thinking. During this time -- while orthodox military thinkers often smiled and shook their heads -- every amphibious failure was dissected, and every possible remedy was considered. Spurring on the Marine students' efforts, furthermore, was the realization that, in the evidently approaching struggle for the Pacific, no way existed, other than the amphibious way, of coming to grips with Japan.

By 1935, three long forward steps had been taken by the U.S. Marine Corps. Foremost, by all odds, was the completion, in late 1934, of a Marine Corps Schools text, "Tentative Landing Operations Manual." This volume, almost unchanged, became, word for word, chart for chart, and picture for picture, the basic landing operations manual first of the U. S. Navy (under title, "FTP-167, Landing Operations Doctrine, U. S. Navy, 1938"), and, when the Army ultimately took note of the amphibious specialty in 1941, that of the Army as well (under title of "FM 31-5, Landing Operations on Hostile Shores").

The second momentous advance prior to 1935 had been the creation -- at insistence of the then Major General Commanclant of the Corps, Major General Russell -- of a unique organization entitled the Fleet Marine Force. As its name implied, this force of Marine tactical units embodying the combined arms (including Marine Aviation) was Formed to act as an integral part of the U.S. Fleet, so that Marines became as much a part of the balanced fleet as submarines or aircraft carriers. The specific mission of the Fleet Marine Force (or "FMI", as it was called) was to enable our Fleet to project sea-power ashore wherever necessary as part of a naval campaign; and to seize or defend such advance bases as the Navy afloat and in the air might require. Obviously this mission was amphibious in character, and inasmuch as the Marine Corps then embodied the only U.S. amphibious troops then in existence, the FMF was apt For this role.

As will be realized, therefore, in 1935 the United States naval establishment included both an amphibious doctrine and a going Marine force for execution of this technique. The third and logical forward step, based upon the two foregoing ones, was that both the force and the doctrine undergo test and refinement. Thus, in fleet Landing Exercise One ("FLEX-1"), held in the Culebra-Vieques area between the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the Fleet Marine Force conducted what can accurately be described as the first modern amphibious assault maneuver ever to be held. In this exercise, as well as in those which thereafter followed annually, the basic techniques were improved, the concept's soundness was demonstrated, and, by 1941, when war was on our door-step, the Fleet Marine Force, now expanded to divisional size, was prepared to undertake the basic amphibious training of the Army divisions which were themselves to be initiated into this hitherto unfamiliar technique. To what extent both the doctrine and the specific training of the Fleet Marine Force influenced our Army comrades will be understood . . .

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