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Marine defense battalions: Map

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3rd Defense Battalion at Guadalcanal


Marine defense battalions were United States Marine Corps battalions charged with coastal defense of various naval bases in the Pacific during World War II. They maintained large anti-ship guns, anti-aircraft guns, searchlights, and small arms to repel landing forces.

Organization

Unlike the mobile Marine forces involved in offensive actions, defense battalions were detached to key outposts, in the Pacific and one in Icelandmarker,Melson 1996, p.5. and remained at the station they defended.Melson 1996, p.1. Most varied greatly in size and equipment. The battalions often had several coastal gun batteries, several anti-aircraft batteries, a detection battery (searchlights and radar), and machine gun units. While a few had composite infantry companies attached, most defense battalions were responsible for providing riflemen.

History

The defense battalions were first conceived from the fixed defense concept during the Marine Corps's, as well the United States Navy's, critical change in their traditional sea service role to a more 'aggressive' amphibious landing force. They conducted "fixed" defense exercises on Culebra Islandmarker of Puerto Rico throughout the first half of the 20th century, and other areas around the Caribbeanmarker.

The first battalions were created in 1939, when the outbreak of World War II caused concerns that overseas bases might be attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy. After the attack on Pearl Harbormarker, where defenders shot down three planes on December 7, 1941, the battalions grew rapidly. On December 8, the Japanese began an assault on Wake Island, and the defenders surrendered after a prolonged battle on December 23.

1942 became a period of defense for the Pacific Theater, and as such, the Marine Defense battalions saw much reinforcement, redeployment, and growth. On June 4, the Marines at Midway Islandmarker fended off a Japanese aerial attack, which contributed to the victory of the naval battlemarker hundreds of miles away. On August 7, the 3rd Defense Battalion went ashore with the infantry to Guadalcanalmarker and defended the island (and others in the Solomon Islandsmarker) against Japanese counterattacks during the Battle of Guadalcanalmarker.

In the summer of 1943, elements of the 9th, 10th, and 11th Defense Battalions supported the Army's XIV Corps in the central Solomon's campaign. Other battalions helped clear the northern islands, including Bougainvillemarker, and by the spring of 1944, they were all taken.

In early 1944, the Marshall Islandsmarker became the next target in the Pacific, and the Marine defenders moved in. By summer, they landed in the Mariana Islandsmarker, including Saipan, and Guam. During that time, Commandant of the Marine Corps LtGen. Alexander Vandegrift began to scale back on defense battalions. Two were disbanded, and the remaining began to gradually focus on anti-aircraft defense, rather than coastal defense. Only the 6th, the 51st, and the 52nd remained designated as defense battalions, the rest had become anti-aircraft units under Fleet Marine Force, Pacific.

In late 1944, the 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 16th Antiaircraft Artillery (formerly Defense) Battalions formed the 1st Provisional Antiaircraft Artillery Group in preparation to invade the Japanese Home Islands. While they did not participate in the Battle of Iwo Jimamarker, they did land on Okinawa in April 1945. Soon after, the Japanese surrender lead to the disbanding of most of the defense battalions.

Marine defense battalions were seen as an ideal platform for integrating African Americans into units with white leaders, since they trained independently and fought in isolated areas.Melson "Two African-American Defense Battalions" 1996, pp.8-9. Those recruits slated for defense battalions were trained at the then-segregated Montford Point (now known as Camp Gilbert H. Johnson, part of the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeunemarker complex in North Carolinamarker). They would then be assigned to the two black defense battalions, the 51st and 52nd.

List of battalions

Insignia Battalion Name Nickname Location(s)
1st Defense Battalion
Wake Island Defenders
Pearl Harbormarker, Hawaiimarker
Wake Islandmarker
Johnston Islandmarker
Palmyra Islandmarker
Marshall Islandsmarker
Mariana Islandsmarker
Guammarker






2nd Defense Battalion
Hawaiimarker
American Samoamarker
Tarawamarker
Guammarker
Okinawamarker




3rd Defense Battalion
Pearl Harbormarker, Hawaiimarker
Midway Islandmarker
Guadalcanalmarker
Tulagimarker
Bougainvillemarker




4th Defense Battalion
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Pearl Harbormarker, Hawaiimarker
Midway Islandmarker
New Hebrides Islandsmarker
New Zealandmarker
Guadalcanalmarker
Vella Lavellamarker
Peleliumarker
Okinawamarker








5th Defense Battalion
Icelandmarker
New Caledoniamarker
Tulagimarker
Ellice Islandsmarker
Hawaiimarker
Okinawamarker





6th Defense Battalion
Hawaiimarker
Midway Islandmarker

7th Defense Battalion
American Samoamarker
Upolumarker
Ellice Islandsmarker
Peleliumarker
Hawaiimarker




8th Defense Battalion
American Samoamarker
Wallis Islandsmarker
Gilbert Islands
Hawaiimarker
Okinawamarker




9th Defense Battalion
Fighting Ninth
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Guadalcanalmarker
New Georgiamarker
Arundel Island
Guammarker



10th Defense Battalion
Russell Islandsmarker
New Georgiamarker
Arundel Island
Marshall Islandsmarker



11th Defense Battalion
New Hebridesmarker
Guadalcanalmarker
Russell Islandsmarker
New Georgiamarker
Arundel Island
Guadalcanalmarker





12th Defense Battalion
Woodlark Islandmarker
New Britainmarker
Russell Islandsmarker
Peleliumarker



13th Defense Battalion
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Hawaiimarker

14th Defense Battalion
Five: Fourteenth
Tulagimarker
St.

Matthias Islands
Guadalcanalmarker
Guammarker



15th Defense Battalion
First: Fifteenth
Marshall Islandsmarker
Mariana Islandsmarker

16th Defense Battalion
Johnston Islandmarker
Hawaiimarker
Tinianmarker
Okinawamarker



17th Defense Battalion
Two: Seventeen
Saipanmarker
Tinianmarker

18th Defense Battalion
Saipanmarker
Tinianmarker

51st Defense Battalion
Ellice Islandsmarker
52nd Defense Battalion
Mariana Islandsmarker
Guammarker



See also



Notes

  1. Rottman USMC WWII OOB, p.212.


References




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