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An Introduction to the Sixth Marine Division

Kill the Bastards!The Sixth Marine Division, as such, came into being when it was Activated on Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands, September 7, 1944.

During its period of existence, it participated in only one combat action against the Japanese and that was at Okinawa. It's life-span was short, ending on April 1, 1946 at Tsingtao, China. It's demise, as noted in "The History of the Sixth Marine Division", page 221, reads....."It was the last of the four wartime divisions to be formed, the last to be inactivated, leaving only the First and Second Divisions intact as part of the Corps' permanent postwar structure. The Sixth had the unique record of never seeing duty in the United States during the whole of its nineteen months of existence. Throughout the campaigns of Melanesia, Micronesia and the Orient, the officers and men held high the sword emblazoned on their badge, and Corps and Country will remember the crusading spirit with which they fought...."

It must be noted, however, that the roots of the Sixth Marine Division are far reaching. The three Infantry Regiments have each made their mark on the pages of Corps History. The Fourth Marine Regiment was activated on April 16, 1914 under the Command of Colonel Joseph A. Pendleton to help meet problems related to the Revolution in Mexico but its Baptism of Fire did not come until the midsummer of 1916, in the Dominican Republic, where it was committed for some eight years. It was known, in later years, as "The China Regiment" where it served with distinction for many years. It was lost to the Japanese Forces with the fall of Corrigadore and Battan in the early days of WWII, but like Phoenix, the legendary bird in Egyptian mythology, having consumed itself by fire, rose renewed from its ashes, to fight again. It was reactivated on February 1, 1944 as the Fourth Marine Regiment (Reinforced). The term "Reinforced", when added to the designation of a Unit, refers to the addition of Marines, Naval personnel, Equipment and Arms over and above what the Unit is normally allotted by its Table of Organization.

In the case of the Reactivated Fourth Marines, however, it carried much more meaning. The Marine Raiders, in forming the "New" Fourth Marines, brought with them a "Gung Ho" spirit, and a wealth of combat experience gained at Gaudalcanal, Tulagi, Makin, New Georgia, Midway, and Bougainville that no amount of training could ever equal. It was, in truth, the real "Reinforcement" factor.

While the 22nd and 29th Marine Regiments cannot be traced as far back in Corps History, they also made their respective marks in the pages of History that were written during WWII, prior to the activation of the Sixth Marine Division. When the 22nd Marines were formed in June, 1942, it was the first Regiment to be designated as an "independent" Unit. The cadre was drawn from the older 6th Marines, who had occupied Iceland during the early part of the war. Kwajalein, Eniwetok, a dozen or more nameless atolls, and Guam was their training ground, and they too brought the "experience" factor to the Sixth Marine Division.

The 29th Marines was the last Regiment formed during the war during the summer of 1944. Its Officers and NCO's were hand picked from returned veterans of the five active Divisions, and indeed, from the Raider Battalions.

The 1st Battalion, on the way to join what would be the Sixth Marine Division, was committed to action as a reserve force when the issue was in doubt at Saipan. It distinguished itself in the fight for Mount Tapotchau, and suffered over 50% casualties in a 24 day period of combat. They too, brought a wealth of combat experience and know how to the newly formed Sixth Marine Division.

The reader's attention is directed to "The History of The Sixth Marine Division". Read Chapter 2, Origins of The Division Units, and trace their movements through the Pacific Area as depicted in the Pacific Area Map that is printed as a frontispiece on the inside cover. The point that this writer is trying to make is that while the Sixth Marine Division, as a Division, made only one operation, Okinawa, its command structure and indeed, the bulk of its rank and file, were combat veterans, tested under fire. It would prove a valued asset in what would come to be the last major battle of the Pacific Area in WWII.

 

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Contact Information
Larry Walker
rwalkersr@triad.rr.com

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