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1st Marine Parachute Regiment Shoulder Patch
(above picture)
1st Marine Parachute Regiment Patch

The Asia-Pacific Campaign Medal

1943 Marine Birthday
Attached Units - The U.S. Airborne during World War II
1st Marine Parachute Regiment (Paramarines)

1st Marine Parachute Regiment

he 1st Marine Parachute Regiment was activated on April 1, 1943 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Robert H Williams (picture below right) at Vella Lavella upon arrival from its training base at Camp Kiser in New Caledonia. The 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, with around 3,000 men in three battalions was assigned to I Marine Amphibious Corps.

Lt Colonel Robert Hugh WilliamsThe first Paramarines (also known as Marine paratroopers) were trained at NAS Lakehurst in New Jersey in October 1940. A second group was quickly trained in December 1940, forming the 2nd Marine Parachute Battalion. A third class trained at Camp Kearney in Santee near San Diego in early 1941, eventually forming the 3rd Marine Parachute Battalion. After the US joined the Second World War, the training program was stepped up, and a special training camp was opened temporarily at Camp Elliot in May 1942, next to Camp Kearney in San Diego, CA.

The Beginning
In October 1940, the Commandant of the Marine Corp sent a circular letter to all units and posts to solicit volunteers for the paratroopers. To qualify a volunteer had to be unmarried, an indication of the expected hazards of the duty. The letter further stated that personnel qualified as parachutists would receive an unspecified amount of extra pay. " Parachute duty promised "plenty of action" and the chance to get in on the ground floor of a revolutionary type of warfare.

Marine Captain Marion L. Dawson oversaw the new school at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Two other officers, Second Lieutenants Walter S. Osipoff and Robert C. McDonough, were slated to head the Corps' first group of parachute trainees.

On 26 October 1940, Osipoff, McDonough, and 38 enlisted men reported to Lakehurst. The initial training program included 16-week course of instruction at the Parachute Material School land that conclude on 27 February 1941. A Douglas R3D-2 transport plane arrived from Quantico on 6 December and remained there through the 21st, so the pioneer Marine paratroopers made their first jumps during this period. For the remainder of the course, they leapt from Navy blimps stationed at Lakehurst. Lieutenant Osipoff, the senior officer, had the honor of making the first jump by a Marine paratrooper. By graduation, each man had completed the requisite 10 jumps to qualify as a parachutist and parachute rigger. Not all made it through - several dropped from the program due to ineptitude or injury. The majority of these first graduates were destined to remain at Lakehurst as instructors or to serve the units in the Fleet Marine Force as riggers.

1st Marine Parachute Battalion
The first mission for the new paramarines was an amphipious assault on the islets of Gavutu and Tanambogo north of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. With 8 small infantry platoons, a total of 361 marines, the paramarines had a tough mission. The coral reef surrounding the islets only compounded the problem.

After a pre-dawn bombardment on 7 August 1942 Company A of the 1st Marine Parachute Battalion landed on Gavutu in Higgins boat against little opposition. B & C Companies were not as fortunate and had to land under heavy fire. Bitter fighting ensued for the next two days until they secured their objective, Hill 148. The units 20 percent casualty rate was the highest of any unit fighting to secure a foothold on Guadalcanal. Because of the battalions depleted manpower, the unit was attached to Edson's Raider Battalion by General Vandegrift at the end of August on Tulagi.On September 8th the 1st Marine Parachute Battalion and the 1st Raider Battalion landed on Guadalcanal under cover of darkness and conducted a raid against Japanese positions near the village of Tasimboko. After this highly successful raid the Marine parachute battalion remained on Guadalcanal occupying defensive positions atop Lunga Ridge. It later became known as Edson's Ridge because of the success of Edson's 1st Raider Battalion and the 1st Marine Parachute Battalion against repeated ferocious banzai attacks by the Japanese in their attempt to recapture Henderson Field.

The two-day battle on the ridge had cost the 1st Marine Raiders 135 men and the 1st Parachute Battalion 128. Of those totals, 59 were dead or missing, including 15 parachutists killed in action. Many of the wounded parachutists would eventually return to duty, but for the moment the battalion was down to about the size of a small rifle company. With their ranks further depleted from the ferocious combat on Edson's Ridge, the 1st Marine Parachute Battalion was relieved by the 7th Marines and withdrawn to New Caledonia outside the town of Noumea at Camp Kiser.

Scheduled to jump on the heavily defended Japanese airfields of Kahili and Kara on Bougainville, the American planners cancelled the jump for fear of heavy casualties. Instead, they chose diversionary attacks on the island of Choiseul, 30 miles east of Bougainville. The 2nd Parachute Battalion was selected for this operation under the command of Lt Colonel Victor H Krulak. For the next month the 2nd Parachute Battalion raided Japanese positions on the island.

Meanwhile, on November 23rd the 1st Parachute Battalion now commanded by Major Richard Fagan was attached to the 2nd Raider Regiment and conducted raids on Japanese supply bases along Bougainville's coast. On December 3rd, the 3rd Parachute Battalion along with the rest of the 1st Parachute Regiment landed on Bougainville and attached to the 3rd Marine Division. The regiment fought as regular infantry until January 11, 1944 when it was relieved by the Army's 132nd Infantry Regiment.

While participating in several bloody actions during the course of the war, they were utilized as infantry and there were no Marine parachute combat jumps during W.W.II. Eventually, the need for a parachute corps in the Marines was questioned. The fact that Marines were generally assigned to attack small heavily defended islands which were not suitable for para type operation, the lack of transport aircraft required for a massed parachute drop and the cost led the Commandant to order the 1st Marine Parachute Regiment to be disbanded on December 30, 1943. It officially ceased to exist on February 29, 1944.

( Source: "SILK CHUTES AND HARD FIGHTING: US. Marine Corps Parachute Units in World War II" by Lieutenant Colonel Jon T. Hoffman {USMCR})

R E L A T E D   B O O K S

Ambrose, Stephen E D-DAY June 6,1944: The Climatic Battle of WW II. 6/93, Simon & Shuster ISBN: 0671673343
Annussek, Greg Hitler's Raid to Save Mussolini: The Most Infamous Commando Operation of World War II. Sept 1, 2005, Da Capo Press, 353 pp. ISBN: 0306813963
Archer, Clark Paratroopers Odyssey : A History of the 517th Parachute Combat Team. 266p., 1985, ISBN: 0961601507
Astor, Gerald 'Battling Buzzards': The Odyssey of the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team 1943-1945. 338p., 7/93, Donald I Fine Pub, ISBN: 0440236932
Badsey , Stephen & Chandler, David G (Editor)  Arnhem 1944: Operation "Market Garden" (Campaign No.24) 1993 96p. ISBN: 1855323028
Bradley, James Flags of Our Fathers Bantam (May 2,2000), 384 p. ISBN: 0553111337
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Brooks, Victor Hell is Upon Us: D-Day in the Pacific-Saipan to Guam, June-August 1944. Da Capo Press, (Sept 2005) 384 p. ISBN: 0306813696
Davis, Donald A Lightning Strike: The Secret Mission to Kill Admiral Yamamoto and Avenge Pearl Harbor. New York: St. Martin Press, (March, 2005) 400 p. ISBN: 0-312-30906-6
D'Este, Carlo  Patton: A Genius for War 1024 pp ISBN: 0060927623
De Trez, Michel  American Paratrooper Helmets: Mediterranean & European Theater of Operations  June, 2010, Histoire & Collections, 272 p. ISBN: 2352501415
De Trez, Michel  American Warriors: Pictorial History of the American Paratroopers Prior to Normandy  July, 1998, D-Day Pub, 212 p. ISBN: 2960017609
De Trez, Michel  Cpl Forrest Guth: E Company 506 PIR 101st Airborne Division (WW II American Paratroopers Portrait Series)  March, 2002, D-Day Pub, 56 p. ISBN: 296001765X
De Trez, Michel  Orange is the Color of the Day: Pictorial History of the American Paratroopers in the Invasion of Holland April, 2004, D-Day Pub, 506 p. ISBN: 2960017633
De Trez, Michel  At the Point of No Return : Pictorial History of the American Paratroopers in the Invasion of Normandy 7/98, D-Day Pub, 200 p. ISBN: 2960017617
Devlin, Gerard S  Paratrooper! St Martin's Press, (P) c1976 ISBN: 0312596529
Gavin, James M.  On to Berlin : Battles of an Airborne Commander, 1943-1946 ISBN: 0670525170
Golden, Lewis Echoes From Arnhem Penguin ISBN: 0718305213
Hove, Duane T American Warriors: Five Presidents in the Pacific Theater of WW II Burd Street Press (Oct 2003) 224 pp.  ISBN: 1572493070
MacDonald, Charles B  A Time For Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge Wm Morrow & Co (P), 720 p. ISBN: 068151574
McKenzie, John  On Time, On Target Novato, CA: Presidio, May 15,2000. 304 p. ISBN: 089 141 714 1
O'Donnell, Patrick K. Beyond Valor  Free Press, 2001, 384 p. ISBN: 0684873842
O'Donnell, Patrick K. Into the Rising Sun: In Their Own Words, World War II's Pacific Veterans Reveal the Heart of Combat  Free Press, 3/13/2002, 320 p. ISBN: 0743214803
Ryan, Cornelius  A Bridge Too Far 670p. ISBN: 0684803305
Yardley, Doyle R  Home Was Never Like This. Yardley Enterprises, Aug, 2002, 312 p. ISBN:0971743908

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