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Marines in WW2 considered elite?

 
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Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/10/2010 6:52:51 PM   
cantona2


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Were Marines considered elite in WW2 in the same vein that some Waffen SS Divisions and some Red Army Guard units were? Or is regarding them as simply sea borne infantry trivialising them somewhat

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< Message edited by cantona2 -- 5/10/2010 6:54:00 PM >


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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/10/2010 7:23:05 PM   
Nikademus


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They would have considered themselves elite.

USMC had a strong core of "old breed" regulars, career soldiers who knew their stuff. According to Bergerud, the USMC emphasised rifle marksmenship to a greater degree vs. the Army, which moved more towards greater success through firepower as the ultimate formulae for success. Like the army though, the USMC had to expand by incorporating fresh drafts. The story of how the USMC 1st div was brought up to TO&E for WATCHTOWER made for interesting reading. (basically borrowing vets from other regiments to build a strong core....filled out by green drafts)

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/10/2010 7:23:46 PM   
John Lansford

 

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I think the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions were considered "elite"; as the war dragged on and more Marine divisions were added, the quality of the units probably went down somewhat due to draftees and other units being incorporated into them.  Even the later divisions would probably be thought of as high quality though.  The early Marine divisions had many good experienced men and officers in them, from the Central America brushwars and Philippines, and their training was top notch as well.  I read somewhere where the Marine commanders knew that in the event of a war, they'd be first out of the gate, and were constantly training and teaching the men rather than putting them in a garrison mentality.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/10/2010 8:26:39 PM   
topeverest

 

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Since the Marines were armed to assault enemy shores, they became the primary weapon in the pacific. I would agree they received the best of the equipment and training, and got the toughest assignments. In that I would call them elite. Certainly 1 & 2 USMC.

This does not discount other 'elite' ground units in the allied forces.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/10/2010 8:42:54 PM   
Andy Mac

 

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I would say results speak for themselves so the answer is yes.


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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/10/2010 8:56:20 PM   
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I would say yes. And one of the last, I thinnk the 5th, was the most experienced. They used a very high number of veterans for it. Many of the Raider unts were used.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/10/2010 9:12:57 PM   
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They were probably very skilled in assaulting islands, but overall they did not see very many continues combat weeks compared to most other formations that fought in WW2, and very little combat compared to most elite units of WW2.


< Message edited by RUDOLF -- 5/10/2010 10:19:10 PM >

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/10/2010 10:01:13 PM   
CarnageINC


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quote:

ORIGINAL: topeverest

Since the Marines were armed to assault enemy shores, they became the primary weapon in the pacific. I would agree they received the best of the equipment and training, and got the toughest assignments.



I beg to differ with you. More allied Army units made more naval assaults during the war then the Marines did. Also marines have rarely been given the best equipment, they always had second hand stuff mostly, even up til the Gulf War 1 they were using M60 tanks versus the Army's M1's. I will agree that they did get most of the toughest operations.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/10/2010 10:13:07 PM   
tocaff


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The Marines do more with less and if that makes combat formations elite then so be it.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/10/2010 11:34:00 PM   
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The sporadic action of the Pacific War also made it possible for troops to stay with their units much longer (bond together in between battles in some desolate island base). This improves their loyaly, esprit de corps and morale.

< Message edited by jomni -- 5/10/2010 11:36:47 PM >


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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/10/2010 11:34:14 PM   
Wirraway_Ace


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They were very successful formations with a specialized (but not too specialized) role.  Because of their early success, some believe they got a better class of draftees volunteering to serve in the Marines vs the Army.  Sounds elite; however, unlike the Waffen SS or the Guards Units, they did not receive the best of the available equipment at the expense of other line units nor, to my knowledge, was there a selection process that culled regular units for service in the Marines.  To my knowledge, again, a Marine was not paid more than a Soldier.  That being said, they performed at a very high level without robbing the rest of the ground forces of the best equipment or "best" personnel.  An ideal situation.

RUDOLF noted that they did not have nearly as much continuous combat time as say, the 2SS Panzer.  I would argue that the bulk of the US Marine formations had plenty of combat exposure and suffered relatively light casualties, so they were able to accumulate experience effectively.  By the end of the war, which formation had the most experienced leaders and soldiers, 1st Mar Div, 2SS Panzer, 1st GvSD?

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/10/2010 11:38:09 PM   
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Marines are expendable troops... Why give them top of the line equipment if they're just going to die on the beach without firing a shot.
Just give enough equipment to get the job done.


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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 12:12:40 AM   
Cajun Tifoso

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: jomni

Marines are expendable troops... Why give them top of the line equipment if they're just going to die on the beach without firing a shot.
Just give enough equipment to get the job done.



Actually, the Marines now, as then, did not get the best equipment. What makes the Marines what we are is (1) knowing how to do the most with the least, and (2) an Esprit de Corps built upon tradition and comradery. And they were NOT expendable. The word you must have been looking for is "reliable."

If you don't believe it, check out the 1st MarDiv's campaign in the Chosin Reservior in 1950.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 1:50:23 AM   
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Marine units don't have the logistics or support tail that comparable Army units had, so they were somewhat smaller.  However, nearly every man in the division was considered combat worthy, so the amount of available manpower for the combat regiments was much higher than in an Army division.  Equipment in WWII for the divisions started off inferior, but by the later years were getting comparable stuff to the Army units. 

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 2:30:44 AM   
Bradley7735


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Cajun Tifoso


If you don't believe it, check out the 1st MarDiv's campaign in the Chosin Reservior in 1950.


Yes! I read a book about the battle at Chosin Reservoir in college (military history class) and all I can say is "Wow." The retreat from Chosin, and the role the marines played was epic! I'd bet on a Marine division vs any of the elite German or Russian divisions any day.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 2:44:09 AM   
Blackhorse


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By any reasonable standard, the marines were "elite."

Training and Attitude: In the 1920s and 1930s the Marines adopted the mission, and developed the doctrine, of taking and seizing hostile shores and bases. The saw themselves as an offensive force. And trained to the dicta of "every marine a rifleman." The Army has no equivalent to General Geiger, who commanded both air wings and ground forces, and, after the death of US Army General Simon Bolivar Buckner on Okinawa, led the Tenth Army -- the only non-US Army General to ever command a (US) Army.

In WitP-AE you will notice that Marine Generals tend to have much higher 'aggressiveness' ratings than their Army counterparts. [MacArthur is one of the few early-war Army Generals with high aggressiveness.]

Esprit de Corps: The Marines started the war as a small force. The "Old Breed" (pre-war Marines) numbered two understrength divisions. The Corps never had more than 6 divisions, and elements of those were created by canabalizing other elite non-divisional Marine units; such as ranger and parachute battalions. The wartime expansion - 2 divisions to 6 - was proportionally small enough, especially compared to the US Army, that there were always enough seasoned veterans to set the tone for a new unit.

Most importantly, in the first year of the war, when the big rush of recruits came in, the Marines accepted only volunteers, and could reject those that did not meet their exacting standards. It wasn't until the end of 1942 (IIRC) that the Marines were forced to draw from the same pool of conscripts as the army.

Equipment. It is true that Marines started the war with some obsolete weapons. They had Springfield '03 rifles; no Army division shipped out until the soldiers carried semi-automatic M1s. But in the weapons that mattered, the Marines were ahead of the game. A Marine division has a *lot* more machine guns than its Army counterpart -- at the beginning of the war, Marine Divisions even had dozens of 'reserve' (i.e. unmanned) machine guns in the TO&E, to be used if their regular machine guns broke down. [The reserve machine guns are not included in the Marine TO&Es in WitP-AE, btw]. A Marine Division had more artillery tubes than an Army division. By 1945, a Marine Division had as many bazookas and flamethrowers as squads (an Army division had half as many).

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 4:26:01 AM   
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One word. Stryker.




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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 4:34:57 AM   
rogueusmc


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Blackhorse


By any reasonable standard, the marines were "elite."

Training and Attitude: In the 1920s and 1930s the Marines adopted the mission, and developed the doctrine, of taking and seizing hostile shores and bases. The saw themselves as an offensive force. And trained to the dicta of "every marine a rifleman." The Army has no equivalent to General Geiger, who commanded both air wings and ground forces, and, after the death of US Army General Simon Bolivar Buckner on Okinawa, led the Tenth Army -- the only non-US Army General to ever command a (US) Army.

In WitP-AE you will notice that Marine Generals tend to have much higher 'aggressiveness' ratings than their Army counterparts. [MacArthur is one of the few early-war Army Generals with high aggressiveness.]

Esprit de Corps: The Marines started the war as a small force. The "Old Breed" (pre-war Marines) numbered two understrength divisions. The Corps never had more than 6 divisions, and elements of those were created by canabalizing other elite non-divisional Marine units; such as ranger and parachute battalions. The wartime expansion - 2 divisions to 6 - was proportionally small enough, especially compared to the US Army, that there were always enough seasoned veterans to set the tone for a new unit.

Most importantly, in the first year of the war, when the big rush of recruits came in, the Marines accepted only volunteers, and could reject those that did not meet their exacting standards. It wasn't until the end of 1942 (IIRC) that the Marines were forced to draw from the same pool of conscripts as the army.

Equipment. It is true that Marines started the war with some obsolete weapons. They had Springfield '03 rifles; no Army division shipped out until the soldiers carried semi-automatic M1s. But in the weapons that mattered, the Marines were ahead of the game. A Marine division has a *lot* more machine guns than its Army counterpart -- at the beginning of the war, Marine Divisions even had dozens of 'reserve' (i.e. unmanned) machine guns in the TO&E, to be used if their regular machine guns broke down. [The reserve machine guns are not included in the Marine TO&Es in WitP-AE, btw]. A Marine Division had more artillery tubes than an Army division. By 1945, a Marine Division had as many bazookas and flamethrowers as squads (an Army division had half as many).

The Blue Uniform: Chicks dig it.

Bravo on the props...and from a Blackhorse, it means something.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 5:40:00 AM   
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One reason for the mystique is that Marines were and are better at PR than the Army (with just a couple of notable exceptions like MacArthur and Patton).

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 7:39:06 AM   
Blackhorse


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Commander Cody

One reason for the mystique is that Marines were and are better at PR than the Army (with just a couple of notable exceptions like MacArthur and Patton).

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 8:51:30 AM   
mike scholl 1

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Blackhorse

Esprit de Corps: The Marines started the war as a small force. The "Old Breed" (pre-war Marines) numbered two understrength divisions. The Corps never had more than 6 divisions, and elements of those were created by canabalizing other elite non-divisional Marine units; such as ranger and parachute battalions. The wartime expansion - 2 divisions to 6 - was proportionally small enough, especially compared to the US Army, that there were always enough seasoned veterans to set the tone for a new unit.




Probably the most important factor. The US Marines FELT the were special..., a "cut above" as it were---so they tended to fight that way.

Napoleon found the same "trick" worked with his "Young Guard". Basically just conscripts, but given a fancier uniform and distinctions, they performed better than other conscripts trying to live up to the "Guard" tradition. Marine training and indoctrination has always emphasized that Marines were different and better than everyone else, and the average "jarhead" has strived to live up to the "rep".

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 11:18:16 AM   
xj900uk

 

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Don't forget the UK's Royal Marine Commando's. These days they are considered an elite fighting/deployment force (2nd only to the SAS, whom take a lot of their recruits from RMC's) and the same was true in WWII (when my father was a member of 'X'-Troop, 4th Commando Brigade, which ironically was composed almost entirely of Germans...)

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 12:29:37 PM   
JeffK


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No, the USMC were not elite.

Their fighting ability bears no relevance to having an "elite" status.

Many other Divisions could claim as good a fighting record without being elite.

To be elite implies a special selection criteria, a la SAS Rgt, Rangers, LE, Brandenburgers, Selous Scouts, Sayaret Maktal etc and may include some forces with far from respectable fighting records.


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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 12:55:29 PM   
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Of course the United States Marines were an elite organization in World War II (and afterwards).

In addition to the factors mentioned above (esprit de corps, training, and record), they had a reputation for toughness in the enemy camp.

And while green recruits replaced veterans as the war dragged on, undeniably reducing the overall quality of a Marine unit, enemy strength and condition was also deteriorating and probably at a faster rate.  So vis-a-vis the enemy, the elite status of Marine units probably increased as the war continued.

Perception is a big, big part of "eliteness," and the Marines have it (and have earned it over and over again). 

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 2:06:05 PM   
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I am not sure if it qualifies them as elite or not, but the Marines were trained as assault troops, and not just on the beaches. In the larger island campaigns they regularly gained more ground than adjacent US Army troops because they were willing to accept losses in the short term if it gained ground and accelerated the overall victory.

It wasn't that they were careless with lives, their style of warfare just emphasized speed and close in fighting to unhinge the enemy. The US Army on the other hand believed in pre-attack bombardments and a more orchestrated set-piece type of battle that often sacrificed momentum for lower casualties.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 2:13:27 PM   
bjmorgan


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Maybe somebody should have defined "elite" before you started the argument. Blackhorse made a good effort to define it in his treatise, but I think he overlooked a few points.

Personally, I think the word is overused, and in practice by military "experts" is usually reserved for mythical units on the other side to instill determination in one's own side. "Ok, gentlemen, were up against the 'elite' 1st Panzer Division. Get your stuff [sic] together."

The mass media, of course, use the term for no good reason, ever. To them, "elite" means the unit can march and chew gum at the same time. "The (insert country) _________ 'elite' 5th division stands in the US troops way," they say, as the 5th Division retires in utter disorder at a level unseen since Bull Run. Or, alternatively, they use it as a way to say that the other side's troops are superior and will kick our patoots. "President Jones has US units facing 'elite' troops from ____________, and must therfore take this into consideration before ordering in the Marines."

The most frequent use, however, is by individual soldiers and marines who are in a bar with a woman, or very soon, another man. "I'm in the 'elite' mess section of the 1st battalion," one might say. "We're deploying in the morning." It always worked in the past. Well, sometimes.

So, are the gyrines elite? I don't know. Maybe. Probably. Were they well trained? Well, maybe. But not by today's standards. There was a war to fight and deployed units needed replacements. What I do know is that they had more "warrior spirit" than just about any army unit at the time. Maybe the espirit de corps they had qualifies them. Maybe.

So, there, I've givein a definitive answer. Maybe.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 2:38:56 PM   
Swenslim

 

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I think US marines WON their right to call themself as elite. Same was for example with russian marines and seamen  of Chernomorsky and Baltiyskiy fleet wich fought against regular german troops  with their light weapons but made brave and deadly attacks, and earned nickname from the enemy  - Black Death.

Same happened with airborne units, like US 101th and 82th, german paratroopers and russian desantniki who stromed Dnepr river in late 1943.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 2:58:36 PM   
herwin

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Nikademus

They would have considered themselves elite.

USMC had a strong core of "old breed" regulars, career soldiers who knew their stuff. According to Bergerud, the USMC emphasised rifle marksmenship to a greater degree vs. the Army, which moved more towards greater success through firepower as the ultimate formulae for success. Like the army though, the USMC had to expand by incorporating fresh drafts. The story of how the USMC 1st div was brought up to TO&E for WATCHTOWER made for interesting reading. (basically borrowing vets from other regiments to build a strong core....filled out by green drafts)



This takes me back to when I was chief engineer for one of their command and control systems. At that time, I was also doing a sociological study of morale. Their tactics emphasised high tempo, tactical mobility, and initiative, which were dependent for success on having intelligent soldiers with strong character. They *were* elite, and necessarily selective in who they recruited.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 3:01:08 PM   
herwin

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: RUDOLF

They were probably very skilled in assaulting islands, but overall they did not see very many continues combat weeks compared to most other formations that fought in WW2, and very little combat compared to most elite units of WW2.



Their tactics involved high tempo advance over a short period. Their leadership figured they lost less of their men that way. Long-term continuous combat would have worn them out.

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RE: Marines in WW2 considered elite? - 5/11/2010 4:45:20 PM   
sfbaytf

 

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All I have to say is this: if you take an average unit, lead it well and keep it supplied after a battle or 2 it will become "battle hardened" and capapble of taking on an elite unit on equal terms. Many "average units" not considered "elite" stood up to elite units under equal or disadvantegous conditions simply due to the fact they were very battlehardened- the Bloody Bucket 28th infantry division, Go for broke 442 RCT are just a couple of examples. Even a green division like the 99th did well in the Ardenes.

As for amphibious landings as another poster mentioned the Army did as many if not more. You also had Normandy. Those Army units trained extensively for amphibious landings and many had previous amphibious experience from North Africa and Italy. I'd consider those untis as good as anyone else when it came to the art of amphibious landings.

The overall effectiveness of an nations military is based on the effectiveness of regular units, not just a few select units.

< Message edited by sfbaytf -- 5/12/2010 1:29:58 AM >

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