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 A Summary History of the 4th Marine Division

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"The Fightin' Fourth"

4th Mar Div patch(Updated 11-5-12)

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 Freedom.

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 operation.

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.

Click to preview or purchase "The Boldest Plan is the Best" from Amazon.comIwo 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 Faithful.

 

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