"The Fightin' Fourth"
The 4th Marine Division is the ground combat element of
the Marine Forces Reserve (i.e. the Marine Corps Reserve). The Division is a
reserve unit whose headquarters is in New Orleans, but its subordinate units
are located throughout the United States. The mission of the 4th MarDiv is to
"provide trained combat and combat support personnel and units to augment and
reinforce the active component in time of war, national emergency, and at other
times as national security requires; and have the capability to reconstitute
the Division, if required."
Currently the 4th Marine Division's subordinate units are
the Headquarters Battalion, the 14th Marine Regiment, the 23rd Marine Regiment,
the 24th Marine Regiment, the 25th Marine Regiment, the 4th Assault Amphibian
Battalion, the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, the 4th Light Armored
Reconnaissance Battalion, the 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, the 4th Tank
Battalion, and the Anti-Terrorism Battalion. Although the 4th Marine Division
and its components are currently in reserve status, the "Fighting Fourth" has a
storied combat history from the Pacific Theater during World War II through
Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring
The 4th Marine Division was formed during WWII for the
specific purpose of deploying into combat in the Pacific Theater. The process
took over a year, beginning at Camp Lejeune in New River, North Carolina.
There, the lower echelons of the Division were formed starting with 23rd Marine
Regiment that was activated in July 1942. The twenty-third regiment originally
trained with the Third Division. On February 15, 1943 the 23rd Marines were
detached from the 3rd MarDiv and added to the Fourth Division. The same month
an artillery battalion of the 12th Marines was used to cadre the newly formed
14th Marines. Engineer elements of the 19th Marines were used to form the core
of the 20th Marine Regiment. The 24th Marine Regiment was activated in March
1943. The following May the 24th Marines was split in two in order to cadre the
formation of the 25th Marines. Have of the new Division's subordinate elements
were at Camp Lejeune and the other half was on the west coast at Camp Pendleton
in Oceanside, California. All of the East Coast contingents moved to Camp
Pendleton during the summer of 1943. The 4th Marine Division, commanded by
Major General Harry Schmidt, was formally activated on August 14, 1943. The 4th
MarDiv started from California with 17,831 men assigned.
By January 13, 1944 all of the 4th Marine Division
elements were aboard ship and sailing across the Pacific. Eighteen days later
they arrived at their destination: Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. As
part of Operation Flintlock, the 4th MarDiv made amphibious landings, beginning
on February 1, 1944, on the twin islands of Roi and Namur while the U.S. Army's
7th Infantry Division invaded the island of Kwajalein. The 4th Division set
three new records on its first operation. First, they became the first Division
to go directly into combat from departing the States. Second, they were first
to capture Japanese mandated territory in the Pacific (islands that Japan had
claimed as her own territory). Finally, the 4th Marine Division secured its
objectives in the shortest amount of time of any major operation since Pearl
Harbor. Roi Island was secured in six hours after landing and Namur Island was
declared secure in just 24 hours and 15 minutes. The 4th MarDiv lost 190
marines killed in action and 547 wounded during their first operation. The
"Fighting Fourth" killed approximately 3,472 of the enemy and captured another
264 Japanese soldiers. By the end of February, all of the Division's units were
on the Hawaiian island of Maui for rest, refit, and stage for the next
On May 29, 1944 the Fourth Marine Division departed Maui,
sailing for Saipan in the Marianas Islands. Saipan was 3,715 miles across the
Pacific from Pearl Harbor, but it was only 1,485 miles from Tokyo. That made
Saipan a perfect base to launch B-29 long-range bombers to strike Japan. The
taking of Saipan would also cut the enemy lines of communication and supply
between Japan and her other strongholds in the Southwest Pacific. The invasion
of the Marianas Island chain involved the landings on Saipan, Guam, and Tinian.
It was the largest operation in the Pacific war under Marine Corps command,
involving approximately 165,672 marines and soldiers. Of those, 21,618 belonged
to the 4th Marine Division.
The 4th Marine Division landed on Saipan 15 June 1944. The
more than 2,000 casualties suffered in the first two days of the battle is an
indicator of the ferocity of the combat on Saipan. The island was secured after
twenty-five days of combat. The 4th MarDiv sustained 5,981 casualties killed,
wounded, and missing. This represented over 27 percent of the Division's
strength. Japanese casualties were estimated at 23,811 dead and 1,810 taken
prisoner. The Fighting Fourth's reward was a mere two-week break before
assaulting the beach at Tinian.
On July 12, 1944, Major General Clifton B. Cates replaced
Major General Harry Schmidt as the 4th Marine Division commander. Schmidt took
over as the Commanding General of the Fifth Amphibious Corps. Tinian, the next
island in the Marianas chain, was also the perfect base for launching B-29s. A
little more than a year after taking the island, the B-29 Enola Gay would take
off from Tinian on its mission to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. In
the meantime, the Fighting Fourth had work to do. The 4th Marine Division
landed on Tinian on July 24, 1944. The island was defended by over 9000
Japanese troops. Nine days later the battle was over. The assault on Tinian had
cost the 4th MarDiv 290 men killed, 1,515 wounded and 24 missing in action. The
Marines only took 250 prisoners on Tinian, meaning that about 9,000 Japanese
troops died defending the island. The 4th Marine Division was awarded the
Presidential Unit Citation for their actions on Saipan and Tinian. On August
14, 1944 the Division left the Marianas for their staging base on Maui.
Jima was 758 miles from Tokyo and part of the final offensive phase of the war.
Iwo Jima was needed as a staging area for an eventual (as was believed at the
time) ground invasion of Japan. There were about 23,000 Japanese troops
defending Iwo Jima. The Air Force and Navy began bombing Iwo Jima on August 9,
1944, six months and ten days before the first Marine landed. On February 19,
1945 the 4th Marine Division, along with the 3rd Marine Division and 5th Marine
Division, began landing on Iwo Jima. By the end of the second day casualties
had totaled 2,011. The fighting was some of the most horrific in the Pacific
Theater. The famous picture of the Marines raising the American flag on Mount
Suribachi was taken on Iwo Jima. The island was declared secure at 1800 hours
on March 16, 1945, after 26 days of combat. The 4th MarDiv's casualties
numbered 1462 killed in action and 7636 wounded, which was almost half the
Division's strength. An estimated 22,000 Japanese had been killed by the three
Marine Divisions, 8,982 were counted in the 4th Division's area of operations.
The Fighting Fourth took only 44 Japanese soldiers prisoner.
In only one year and nineteen days of overseas service,
the 4th Marine Division participated in four major amphibious assaults and was
awarded two Presidential Unit Citations. The Division suffered a total of
17,722 battle casualties during the four assault landings on Roi-Namur, Saipan,
Tinian, and Iwo Jima (14,424 wounded and 3,298 killed or died of wounds). After
the Japanese surrendered, the Fighting Fourth was the first Marine division
selected to return to the United States. The 4th Marine Division was
deactivated at Camp Pendleton on November 28, 1945.
On February 16, 1966, the 4th Marine Division was
reactivated as the ground component headquarters for the Marine Corps Reserve.
The Division headquarters colors were uncased in June at Camp Pendleton. The
4th MarDiv headquarters moved to its present location in New Orleans, Louisiana
on August 3, 1977. The Division shares facilities with the 4th Marine Aircraft
Wing at the F. Edward Hebert Defense Complex, a U.S. Navy installation.
During Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, a number
of the 4th Marine Division's subordinate units were deployed to Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, and other parts of the Persian Gulf. These units provided combat and
combat support which contributed to the victory of allied forces. Many other
MARFORRES units under the 4th Division were brought to active status and
backfilled deploying Marine units around the world.
As part of the Marine Forces Reserve, many of the units
assigned to the 4th Marine Division have deployed since 2001 to Afghanistan in
support of Operation Enduring Freedom and to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom
as part of the Global War on Terror. When not deployed in their "real world"
mission, 4th MarDiv units participate in approximately 60 training exercises
annually. These exercises include training in desert, jungle, mountain, urban,
and cold weather environments. It is not uncommon for these exercises to
include conducting training in amphibious assaults and security support.
The men and women, the Marines, of the 4th Marine Division
and Marine Reserve Forces stand ready to serve in time of war or national
emergency; keeping true to the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis, Always
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