Marine Corps History 6

The following information was obtained from the 2012 Officer Candidates School Student Outline.

1. THE STATE OF THE CORPS

a. After Vietnam, the Marine Corps, like the rest of the country was confused, unsure of what it meant to be a superpower, and deeply shaken by the crucible of Vietnam.

b. The new strategic mission for the Marine Corps became the defense of NATO’s “northern flank.” This was the arctic and sub-arctic areas of Scandinavia. Through the ‘70’s and 80’s, the Marines trained in cold weather in Norway, Camp Drum, and began planning for a Mountain Warfare Training Center in the mountains of Northern California.

c. Allan R. Millett, a Marine LtCol and Author called this period the Marine Corps’ 15 year Long March, comparing it to the Long March of Mao-Tse-Tung and the Communist Chinese. This Long March allowed the Communist Chinese to weed out the weak, and crystallized the resolve.

d. Once again, the Soviet threat brought into question the Marine Corps’ doctrine of amphibious operations against an equally technologically advanced enemy.

2. THE FINAL BATTLE OF VIETNAM

a. On 12 May, 1975, Cambodian (Khmer Rouge) sailors from naval patrol boats boarded and seized the United States registered container ship Mayaguez in international waters enroute to Thailand. The crew got off several distress calls that were picked up by other ships in the area, and within several hours, the news had been transmitted back to Washington, D. C. precipitating a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) with then-President Gerald Ford.

b. The U. S. had just pulled out of Vietnam, after a prolonged struggle there, and the President felt that this additional insult to national pride would not be well tolerated by the American people. For this reason, he ordered swift, (some say precipitate) action to free the 52 crew members being held. The ship had been forced to travel into Cambodian territorial waters by the hijackers. Preliminary flyovers by U. S. P-3 Orion surveillance planes were followed up by U. S. F-4 Phantoms from bases in Thailand that fired cannon shots into the water ahead of the ship. This caused the Khmer Rouge hijackers to anchor the ship near another coastal island and remove the crew by fishing boat. Initial intelligence indicated that the crew was being held on a coastal island called Koh Tang.

c. In fact, the crew had only stayed on Koh Tang overnight. Early the next morning, they were loaded onto a fishing boat escorted by patrol boats, and headed for Kampong San, a nearby port. U. S. surveillance picked up the movement, and planes soon sank both gunboats, and strafed the fishing boat. Luckily, one of the pilots reported seeing 30-40 Caucasians aboard, and the attacks were called off. The surveillance was lost when the fishing boat entered the crowded harbor at Kampong San.

d. Forces on hand to effect a rescue were scanty. American warships were hours or days away, and did not have sufficient Marines on board to rescue the hostages anyway. So, D Co, 1/4 was tasked with re-taking the Mayaguez. They initially were going to board the ship from helicopters, but civilian engineers reported that the containers that covered the deck were unable to support their weight, so a ship-to-ship boarding using the USS Holt was planned. The hostages were feared to be in several locations, so a larger force would be needed to rescue them. BLT 1/9 from Okinawa was tasked with assaulting Koh Tang Island from helicopters. Intelligence initially assumed that Koh Tang was lightly defended (by 20 or 30 Khmer Rouge), when in fact, the island was manned by over 100 soldiers, heavy machine guns, prepared defensive positions, rocket and grenade launchers. This was not directed at the Americans, but at the North Vietnamese, who were neighbors, and feared to be expansionist after their defeat of the U. S. only weeks before. Even though new intelligence was gathered that showed these new defenses on Koh Tang that information never reached the assault force, and they assaulted directly into the enemy’s defenses.

e. Further complicating the situation was the operational limitations of the helicopters used for the assault Of eight helos used for the assault, five were CH-53’s (Knifes) with non-self sealing fuel tanks and no tail mini-gun. The HH’53 {Jolly Greens) had foam-filled (self-sealing) fuel tanks and three Miniguns, with one in the tail. At the end of the recovery, only the HH-53’s were still in action, every one of the CH-53’s had been shot down.

f. The landing quickly turned desperate as the first CH-53 successfully dropped its Marines on West Beach, but was so badly damaged on the ground that they had to ditch 1.6 km offshore. The second Knife was damaged before landing and aborted, carrying the G Co Commander. They crashed in Thailand, but its passengers were safely picked up by a Jolly Green and returned to the base in Thailand. The situation at East Beach was no better with the first Knife exploding killing all except 13 crew and passengers, who had to swim for two hours before being rescued.

g. This pattern continued, despite AC-130 gunship support, and naval gunfire from ships offshore. The Marines were never able to secure the beaches as the Cambodians rushed reinforcements in. The supporting fires were barely able to maintain the perimeter of the Marine’s positions on each beach. By 1600 that evening, word came through that due to intense bombing raids on the local area by Air Force planes, the hostages had been released, and the Marines should disengage. This was easier said than done, as the Cambodians gave no sign of retreating, and it took until 2000 for the last Marines to leave the island, all the time under severe enemy fire.

h. 14 Marines, 2 Navy corpsmen, and 2 Air Force crewmen were killed and 41 servicemen wounded. The most horrible fact though, is that in the confusion on West Beach during the evacuation, 3 Marines, members of an M-60 crew were left behind. All three were subsequently found and killed by the Cambodians.

i. The lessons learned from this debacle were many, but paramount was the fact that, in an attempt to look decisive, political and military leaders had failed to plan adequately. The cardinal law, never leave a man behind had been the result, as well as needless casualties from the assault on a fortified position.

3. LEBANON

a. Lebanon, 1976

(1) In July 1976, when protracted factional fighting in Beirut threatened the lives and safety of American citizens, Marines were called upon once more, this time to assist in a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO). The 12-man detachment of the Marine Security Guard at the American Embassy in Beirut, and the naval attache. Marine Colonel Forrest J. Hunt, had radio communication with the evacuating unit, Task Force 61.

(2) They controlled the orderly evacuation of 160 American civilians and 148 foreign national s on 27 July. Despite efforts of the international community to alleviate the bloodletting in Lebanon, the fighting continued, fluctuating with the fortunes and the strength of each of the factions. The Marines entered Lebanon once again in June 1982, destined to play a larger role than they had ever anticipated.

b. Lebanon, 25 August 1982 —31 July 1984.

(1) Following World War II, the country of Israel was established on formerly Palestinian territory, and since, there has been almost constant dissention in the Middle East. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) began launching attacks on Israel from Lebanon. Israel responded in the summer of 1982 with a full-scale invasion of Lebanon. The United Nations intervened with troops from the United States, France, and Italy.

(2) On 25 August 1982, the 32nd Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) went ashore peacefully in Beirut, and joined the Italian and French contingents. Their mission was to evacuate the PLO to help stabilize the situation. The Multinational Force (MNF) assisted in moving 6,500-armed PLO fighters to Cyprus. On 10 September, the Marines left never having fired a shot. Four days later, Lebanon’s Christian president was murdered. In retaliation, Christian Phalangist forces massacred nearly one thousand unarmed Palestinian civilians, many who were family members of those who had moved to Cyprus. The PLO returned, and in this turmoil the Marines landed again. Their new mission was to provide “a presence in Beirut that would in turn help establish the stability necessary for the Lebanese government to regain control of their capital.” The Joint Chiefs argued against this redeployment, but President Reagan insisted. To accomplish the mission, the MAU dug in around the perimeter of Beirut International Airport. The Italians and French moved to other locations in Beirut.

(3) The 24th MAU relieved the 32nd MAU in October. Their mission expanded to include security. Marines were finally permitted to return fire and even preempt perceived hostile intent. In February 1983, the 22nd MAU replaced the 24th MAU. The Muslims began attacking the MNF because they felt that the Americans were showing favor towards Israeli forces. In April, the Marines returned fire for the first time. At the end of May, the 22nd MAU was again rotated out and the 24th MAU moved in. Violence escalated throughout the summer. Soon afterwards, tragedy struck. A few minutes after dawn on Sunday, October 23,1983, an Iranian zealot driving a yellow Mercedes truck dodged the barriers erected around the headquarters building of the battalion landing team. The force of the explosion, equivalent to 12,000 pounds of TNT, leveled the building where 300 troops slept. Marines and sailors, Italians and Lebanese, British and French all helped dig through the rubble. Seven hours after the attack, the last living person buried in the rubble was rescued. By the time all were accounted for, 220 Marines, 18 Navy corpsmen, and 3 soldiers were dead. Across town, 58 French paratroopers died in a similar bombing.

(4) Marines continued their mission in Beirut; however their security measures were significantly heightened. In July of 1984, the MNF was withdrawn from Lebanon and by the end of July the Marines had left.

(5) Much of the responsibility for this tragedy must be laid at the feet of the political leadership. Their overly restrictive Rules of Engagement, intended to avoid violence, had in fact, left the Marines vulnerable. The guards on the gate at the compound were not even allowed to carry loaded weapons, and by the time they had locked and loaded, the bomber was inside the compound. This instance led to much review of rules of engagement, and resulted in a bedrock tenet of rules of engagement, the commander is always expected to take measures to ensure the safety of his unit, and every US service member has the absolute right to protect himself, whatever the rules say.

4. TEHRAN HOSTAGES

a. In November 1979, Iranian students and militants assaulted the American Embassy in Tehran (following the deposition of the American-supported Shah of Iran). They took 53 hostages, including embassy staff and Marine Security Detachment members.

b. The Carter administration had no idea what the plan was for the hostages. They were completely under the control of a non-governmental group of Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The administration exhausted all diplomatic efforts to get them freed.

5. OPERATION EAGLE CLAW

a. Intelligence assets in Iran were able to pinpoint two separate locations in Tehran where the hostages were being held.

b. The newly formed Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta (Delta Force) was enlisted to plan a rescue mission.

c. Lack of coordination between services, and an impossibly complex plan all came to grief on a remote desert Landing Zone called Desert One.

d. Eight men died as a result of a ground collision between an RH-53 helicopter and the C-130 refueler.

e. Hasty evacuation of the site left classified information for the Iranians to collect, including the names of CIA operatives in Iran.

6. GRENADA

a. In October 1983, President Reagan ordered a joint Marine/Army force to land on the small Caribbean Island of Grenada. He was concerned about safety of American lives and the deteriorating political situation.

b. Operation “Urgent Fury” began at 0500, 25 October. Marines from the 24th MAU, embarked aboard the USS Guam, landed ashore in order to rescue American medical students endangered by the spreading violence in Grenada. A helicopter assault on Pearls Airport had it secured within two hours. By 0712 the next morning, the Marines had secured the governor’s residence. Two Army Ranger Battalions parachuted onto the Port Salinas Airfield. Elements of these battalions later captured Grand Anse, where a number of Americans were attending medical school.

c. Six Marine helicopters then evacuated the medical students. By the 28th of October, all organized resistance had ceased and the mission was accomplished. Despite the success of the mission, there was serious concern about the coordination of joint special operations and joint communications. Commandant, Gen. P.X. Kelley, ordered the institution of the MAU (SOC) program to enable MAU’s to more effectively function in the special ops environment.

7 THE GOLDWATER-NICHOLS ACT

a. One of the most important pieces of legislation enacted for the American military since the Continental Congress established the Continental Army of 1775. Until then, America’s military had been fractured along service lines and very little had been achieved to establish inter-service cooperation. The ineffectiveness of joint operations was revealed in the operations of Eagle Claw and Joint Fury where failures proved fatal for American forces.

b. Per the article “Has it worked? The Goldwater-Nichols Reorganization Act” by James R Locher states 9 themes of what the Goldwater-Nichols Reorganization Act did. This act is very important for Marine Corps History because is shapes that way the Marine Corps and other services train and fight. Listed below are the 9 themes of what the Goldwater-Nichols Reorganization Act states.

* Strengthen civilian authority
* Improve military advice to the president (in his constitutionally specified capacity as commander in chief of the armed forces), secretary of defense, and National Security Council
* Place clear responsibilities on the unified commanders in chief for mission accomplishment
* Ensure that a unified commander’s authority is commensurate with his responsibilities
* Increase attention to strategy formulation and contingency planning
* Provide for the more efficient use of resources
* Improve joint officer management
* Enhance the effectiveness of military operations
* Improve Defense Department management and administration.

8. PERSIAN GULF WAR

a. On 2 August 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded his southern neighbor Kuwait. He claimed annexation of Kuwait as Iraqi’s 19th province. Immediately, President Bush ordered a military buildup in the region in concert with the government of Saudi Arabia to halt further aggression by Hussein. The Marines were immediately on the move. Marines from the East Coast deployed on amphibious shipping and airliners to Saudi Arabia. There they were met by Maritime Pre-positioning Ships (MPS). The MPS are cargo ships that carry a full complement of equipment and vehicles for a Marine unit. They are continuously forward-deployed at sea to provide a rapid response capability. Within five days of activation, the MPS ships arrived, the equipment was off-loaded and the Marines were moving north ready to fight.

b. This deployment of forces was called operation Desert Shield. Iraq possessed 10% of the world’s oil supply, and threatened to double that amount by invading Kuwait. The world’s leaders decided that Kuwait could not fall into the hands of an aggressive regime such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. His army was the 4th largest in the world at the time. The United States banded together with 34 other nations to form a coalition sanctioned by the United Nations. It even included other Arab countries that condemned Hussein’s actions and demanded the complete withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

c. During Operation Desert Shield, Marines at sea helped enforce a maritime blockade of Iraqi shipping. The Navy and Marine Corps team conducted many highly publicized amphibious “rehearsals” to show the Iraqis their capabilities. Because of these demonstrations the Iraqis committed three divisions to defending the Kuwaiti coast against an amphibious landing from the sea.

d. Coalition forces, headed by U.S. armed forces took up positions in the Persian Gulf and surrounding countries. Operation Desert Storm was the largest combat operation in Marine Corps history. Marines were embarked aboard thirty-one amphibious ships, and the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions were ashore along with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

e. President Bush issued a strong warning to the Iraqi government that America would not hesitate to use force. That use of force was known as Desert Storm. On January 16, 1991 the war began. The U.S. first established complete air supremacy, then pounded Iraqi forces unmercifully for over a month.

f. The abandoned Saudi frontier town of Al-Khafji was the site of the first ground engagement with Iraqi forces. An Iraqi mechanized division crossed the Kuwaiti border into Saudi Arabia and seized the town. Coalition aircraft, including Marines stopped most of the Iraqi division before it entered the city. Saudi Arabian and Qatari forces supported by Marine Forward Air Controllers counterattacked successfully and drove the Iraqis out of the city.

g. After the air campaign, the ground campaign began at 4 a.m., Feb 24 (Feb. 23, 8 p.m. Eastern time). The 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions’ mission was to conduct a frontal attack across the berm, through two Iraqi minefield/obstacle belts and directly into Kuwait. Marine forces at sea executed an amphibious demonstration to divert the Iraqis’ attention. This fixed the Iraqi forces and enabled coalition forces to hit the Iraqis with a huge, armored “left hook”, advancing around their left flank deep into Iraq and hitting the Iraqi rear.

h. Operation Desert Storm was a success. The Iraqis were completely out maneuvered and defeated in just 100 hours of combat. The Iraqis’ rapid defeat was due in part to the poor fighting ability of their armies and to our overwhelming air superiority. More importantly the 100 hours battle proved the lethal effectiveness of our well- trained disciplined Marines.

9. OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM

a. 9/11/2001: The A1 Qaeda attacks on the United States began the next phase of America’s Global War on Terror. Investigations proved that Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi who had formerly fought in Afghanistan as a Mujahideen against the Soviet Union was the mastermind. He was tracked to Afghanistan, and the hunt began to track him down.

b. 2001-2002

(1) Marines from the 15th MEU, already in the Arabian Sea were airlifted into Camp Rhino, and Kandahar International Airport, where they set up a detention facility, holding up to 400 Taliban and A1 Qaeda fighters captured by CIA, Special Ops, and Northern Alliance fighters.

(2) In March 2002, increasing evidence indicated the presence of Taliban and A1 Qaeda fighters in the Shahikot Valley in eastern Afghanistan. An operation, combining Afghans, Special Ops, CIA, and conventional troops was planned to destroy them.

(3) The conventional wisdom said that as soon as forces moved into the valley, the Insurgents would escape east onto the Pakistan Border Territories using traditional escape routes. The plan was to use the Afghan militia and Special Forces to drive them from the valley, but use conventional forces to block the escape routes, as planned in Tora Bora shortly before.

(4) The conventional troops who landed to establish blocking positions however, found that the insurgents were well deployed, heavily armed and in no mood to scatter. They suddenly found themselves in a desperate fight against determined, well-armed fighters who held the key terrain in the valley.

(5) Satellite imagery was- unable to roust out the defenses, but teams of Delta Force operators, in the high ground were constantly busy for three days calling in air strikes against defenses they could see, but were invisible to the satellites, and aircraft recons.

(6) Marine F/A-18’s from the 5th Fleet, over a thousand miles away were able to lend a hand, despite the fact that they were never read into the operation, in fact, had been secluded from the top secret planning altogether. The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) was able to contribute AH-I Super-Cobra gunships, CH-53 medium and heavy lift helos, that forward-deployed to Bagram Air Base. Marine KC-130’s from the MEU also forward-deployed in Pakistan, and were used to keep the combat assets in the area longer.

(7) The frequent question, “hey, can you do this?” kept the Marines busy, and tested their flexibility to the maximum. The Army air assets were over-taxed, and they found the Marines were able to more than adequately fill the delta between missions and capabilities. The lack of prior coordination between the players in the Shahikot was noted by Lambeth, in his book Air Power Against Terror stating that “…the biggest problem presented by the initial planning of Anaconda entailed coordinating the many concurrent strike operations with too few prior preparations.”

10. OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM

a. The Axis of Evil and Saddam Hussein

(1) On January 9 2002, then-President George W, Bush used the term Axis of Evil in his State of the Union speech describing governments that he accused of helping terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction. Bush labeled Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the axis of evil.

(2) He further stated “Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens, leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections, and then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.” Afterwards, Bush said, “States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

(3) His second war aim of the Global War On Terror became the destruction of the regime of Saddani Hussein and his Baathist regime.

b. US Goals

(1) Eradication of WMD

(2) Removal of Saddam Hussein

(3) Establishment of a democratic Iraqi government

c. Build up – over 100,000 US troops stationed in Kuwait by Feb ready for war

d. Centers of Gravity at strategic and operational level seen as Baghdad and elite Republican Guards.

e. 21 days to topple regime – maneuver warfare at its finest.

f. But war lasted over eight years, March 20, 2003 — Dec 18 2011; WHY?

(1) Assumptions:

(a) Iraqi populace would welcome US as liberators.

(b) Expatriates would provide new leadership.

(c) Iraq’s own police and military would secure the country.

(d) Reconstruction would be similar to Germany and Japan post WWII.

(2) Reality:

(a) The citizens did not take kindly to occupation.

(b) The Iraqi security forces disappeared.

(c) Iraq collapsed in a nation-wide spasm of looting and street crime.

(d) Iraq lacked a tradition of representative bodies or the concept of the constitutional succession of

(3) Result:

(a) Counterinsurgency operations (COIN) for the next eight years.

(b) Over 40,000 casualties (4485+ killed)

(c) 1.9 Trillion dollars spent

REFERENCES
Joint Publication 3-0 “Joint Operations” 17 September 2006 Incorporating Change 1 13 February 2008 Millet, A. R.,(1991) Semper Fidelis: The revised and expanded edition. New York: The Free Press
Strategic Studies Institute
Casualty Document

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