MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- During World War II, four Marine Raider battalions and two Raider regiments were formed and saw action in the Pacific Theater between 1942 and 1944. Formed to conduct amphibious raids and guerrilla operations behind enemy lines, the Raider battalions were the United States’ first special operations units.
The Raiders went on to participate in campaigns across the Pacific Ocean and earned more than 700 decorations, including seven Medals of Honor, before disbandment approximately two years later.
Though the units’ existence was short-lived, they left a lasting impression. The Marine Raider battalions were the inspiration for what would become modern day special operations.
But when U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command was established in 2003, the unit did not officially carry-on the moniker.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos made official the title in a proclamation he released Wednesday, which calls for “the official continuation of our Corps’ special operations heritage from the Raiders of World War II to our modern day Marines.”
“United States Marines take great pride in our special operations and irregular warfare heritage…From this point forward, the Marines of MARSOC will be officially aligned with the Marine Raiders of World War II and are charged with maintaining the high standards and traditions that accompany such distinction,” as stated in the proclamation read during the unit’s change-of-command ceremony held at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
While MARSOC is adopting the name Marine Raiders, the command’s official title will remain MARSOC. However, Major Subordinate Elements of the unit will reflag with the Raider name. For example, subordinate commands will reflag as Marine Raider Regiment, Marine Raider Support Group, Marine Raider battalions, etc.
The Marine Raiders and MARSOC share the common experiences of being a specialized unit; formed during a time of conflict; and uniquely manned, trained, and equipped to conduct special operations.
Use of the Marine Raider title has so far been informal although MARSOC units have linked to the Raiders since establishment. Special operations Marines have used the Raider insignia in their unit emblems and it has become both a linkage to Marine Corps identity and a source of unit pride.
Major Gen. Mark A. Clark, the MARSOC commander, welcomed the news as he turned over command of MARSOC to Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman. The decision to align MARSOC with the Marine Raiders of WWII will enhance the Esprit de Corp and anchor MARSOC’s identity and heritage with the Marine Corps, said Clark.
“We are proud and honored to adopt the name Marine Raider, carrying on the rich heritage passed along to MARSOC by the Raiders of World War II,” said Clark. “As with every Marine Corps unit, MARSOC desires a moniker that creates its own unique identity that is based on Marine Corps heritage and enables Marines to trace the legacy of those Marines who served before them.”
Although MARSOC draws upon the Raider’s heritage for identity and Esprit de corps, the unit is a forward looking organization focused on innovative and critical thinking, standing always ready and prepared for modern day and future conflicts, explained Clark.
The reason for the recent designation is two-fold. First, Clark said, the Marine Raiders were performing special operations missions during World War II and therefore provides a logical, historical link to MARSOC.
The second reason is one backed by Raiders themselves. At recent Marine Raider reunions, its remaining original members have highlighted their strong desire for their legacy to not be forgotten and to be carried on by another Marine Corps unit.
“The Marine Raiders have chosen MARSOC to be the holder of their legacy,” said Clark. “We feel we owe it to those Marine Raiders still living and their families to make every attempt to do so.”