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 A Summary History of the 3rd Marine Division


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"The Fightin' Third"

3d Mar Div patch(Updated 1-20-09)

The 3rd Marine Division is a marine infantry division in the United States Marine Corps based at Camp Courtney, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler on the island of Okinawa, Japan. Part of the III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF), the "Fighting Third" also operates the Jungle Warfare Training Center at Camp Gonsalves on Okinawa. Currently, the 3d MarDiv has assigned as subordinate units the Headquarters Battalion, the 3d Marine Regiment, the 4th Marine Regiment, the 12th Marine Regiment, the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, and the Combat Assault Battalion. The Division currently has subordinate units stationed in Okinawa, Japan and the state of Hawaii. Division elements are deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The primary mission of the 3rd Marine Division is to execute amphibious assault operations and other such Click to preview or purchase "The Boldest Plan is the Best" from Amazon.comoperations as may be directed. The Division is supported by Marine aviation, and force service support units and is prepared to be employed, in conjunction with a Marine aircraft wing, as an integral part of a Marine Expeditionary Force in amphibious operations.

The 3d Marine Division was activated on September 16, 1942 at Camp Elliott in San Diego, California. The Division was formed with cadre from the 2nd Marine Division and built around the 9th Marine Regiment. The first Commanding General of the Division was Major General Charles D. Barrett. By January of 1943 the 3rd Marine Division was moved by echelon to Aukland, New Zealand. This movement was completed by March and in June the 3MarDiv deployed to Guadalcanal to train for the invasion of Bougainville.

On November 1, 1943 the 3rd Marine Division landed at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville. For approximately two months the Division participated in the fight against stiff and heavy enemy resistance. On January 16, 1944, with the transfer of command in the area to the Army's XIV Corps, the last elements of the Division returned to Guadalcanal. During the course of the Battle of Bougainville the Division had approximately 400 Marines killed.

The Fighting Third returned to Guadalcanal in January, 1944 to rest, refit, and train. During the spring of 1944 the Division trained for several operations that were subsequently cancelled. The 3rd Marine Division was also held in reserve for the invasion of Saipan during June of 1944.

The next operation the 3d Marine Division took part in was the Battle of Guam. From July 21, 1944 until the last day of organized fighting on August 10, the Division fought through the jungles on the island of Guam. During these 21 days of fighting, the Division captured over 60 square miles of territory and killed over 5,000 enemy soldiers. The next two months saw continuous mopping up operations in which the Marines of the 3rd MarDiv continued to engage remaining Japanese forces. At the end of the battle for Guam, the Division had sustained 677 Marines killed, 3,626 wounded and 9 missing.

By the middle of February 1945 the Division had left Guam preparatory to participation in the Iwo Jima operation. Initially, the Division was held in reserve for the battle of Iwo Jima. However, the Division was committed one regiment at a time beginning with the 21st Marine Regiment on February 20th. The 9th Marine Regiment followed on February 25th. The 3d Marine Division, at this time consisting of the 21st and 9th Regiments, the artillery support of the 12th Marine Regiment, and the armor support of the 3rd Tank Battalion, launched an attack in its zone between the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions. The 3d Marine Division faced well-organized and determined enemy resistance. The terrain, ideal for defense, was heavily fortified by pillboxes, caves, and covered artillery emplacements. Progress was slow and casualties heavy during the first few days of fighting. The Division slowly pushed the enemy back and fought on Iwo Jima until the end of organized resistance on March 16th. Mop up operation continued into the next month. On 4 April the 3d Marine Division was relieved by Army units. By April 17th all of the 3d MarDiv units were back on Guam. Iwo Jima cost the Fighting Third 1,131 killed in action and another 4,438 wounded. Back on Guam the Division prepared for the invasion of Japan that never occurred. Japan surrendered in August of 1945. The 3rd Marine Division was deactivated on December 28, 1945.

The 3rd Marine Division was reactivated on January 7, 1952 at Camp Pendleton, California. This was the Korean War era, but the Division did not deploy to the theater. Instead they undertook training that involved both experimental tactics and lessons learned from Korea. In August of 1953 the Division arrived in Japan to support the defense of the Far Eastern area. In March of 1956 the 3d Marine Division moved to Okinawa and remained there until their deployment to Vietnam in 1965.

On May 6, 1965, the 3d Marine Division opened the Marine Compound at the Danang Air Base, Vietnam. The original mission of the marines in Vietnam was to protect the American air base. However, as the United States' role in Vietnam expanded, the units of the 3rd Marine Division were given permission to run offensive operations in areas that were critical to the security of American bases.

The 3rd Marine Divisions first major fight was OPERATION STARLITE and the Battle of Chu Lai in the Quang Ngai Province, August 18-21, 1965. The heavy fighting resulted in 700 enemy dead to and expensive 242 marines killed in action. However, the operation demonstrated what the marines could do when the enemy met them in a stand up fight.

The Division Headquarters operated in Vietnam from May of 1965 with 3d Mar Div elements participating in operations from Danang to Phu Bai to Quang Tri/Dong Ha Combat Base. During their over four years of continuous combat operations, the 3rd Mar Div lost more than 3,000 marines killed in action. The Division departed Vietnam in November 1969 and moved to Camp Courtney, Okinawa, where it is presently located.

Since their return from Vietnam, elements of the 3d Marine Division has participated in numerous humanitarian relief missions as well as noteworthy combat deployments that include Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom in both Afghanistan and the Philippines, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. The Division celebrated its 66th birthday on September 16, 2008. During their entire history, the marines of the 3rd Division have lived up to their motto of Fidelity, Valor, and Honor.


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