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Marines in the Atlantic, Europe and Africa


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#1 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 06 April 2008 - 04:46 AM

Marines in the Atlantic, Europe and Africa

Researched by Alexander Molnar Jr., USMC/USA (Ret.). Excerpted from Marine Corps History on MarineLink the Official Homepage of the United States Marine Corps

Yes and no. Marines were involved in training Army troops for the D-day landings. They were also on some navy ships in Europe, and were posted to Iceland to prevent the Germans from taking it. But they did not participate for the most part in major combat operations in Europe. The USMC was used almost exclusively in the Pacific.

Overshadowed in history by Marines who fought World War II's Pacific island battles, fewer than 6,000 Marines participated in the Atlantic, North African and European campaigns.

Before World War II, Marines served in various European and North African embassies as attaches. However, that role changed with the outbreak of hostilities between the United States and the Axis powers in 1941.

The first Marine unit of combat troops to serve on land in the Atlantic theater was the 1st Marine Provisional Brigade. More than 4,000 Marines commanded by Brigadier General John Marston arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland, in July 1941. The Marines augmented the British forces already in place to prevent Iceland from falling to the Germans. Iceland was strategically located for air and naval control of the North Atlantic lifeline between the British Isles and North America.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Marines assigned under Marston received orders to leave Iceland. They began departing on Jan. 31, 1942, and were completely gone by March 9, 1942.

Masters of amphibious warfare tactics, Marines served as planners for the North African, Mediterranean and Normandy invasions. The brief and violent raid by a 6,000-man Canadian and British commando force on the French port city of Dieppe on Aug. 19, 1942, was planned in part by Marine Brigadier General Harold D. Campbell, the Marine Corps advisor to the British Staff of Combined Operations. He was awarded a Legion of Merit for his expertise in developing techniques for large-scale amphibious operations against heavily defended beaches.

Marines trained four Army infantry divisions in assault from the sea tactics prior to the North African landings. Leading the way during Operation Torch, the November 1942 North African invasion, Marines went ashore at Arzeu, Algeria, and moved overland to the port of Oran, where they occupied the strategic Spanish fortress at the northern tip of the harbor.

Another Marine detachment aboard the cruiser USS Philadelphia landed Nov. 10, 1942, at the port of Safi, French Morocco, and secured the airport against sabotage until Army forces arrived the following day.

Nine months earlier, on Jan. 7, Brigadier General Lewis G. Merritt, a Marine Corps pilot serving as an observer with the Royal Air Force in Egypt, was aboard a Wellington bomber shot down by ground fire behind German lines in the Halfya Pass. He and the crew were rescued by a special United Kingdom armored car unit that broke through enemy lines.

Assigned to the secretive world of spies and saboteurs were 51 Marines who served with the U.S. Office of Strategic Services to engage in behind-the-lines operations in North Africa and Europe from 1941 to 1945. These OSS Marines served with partisan and resistance groups in France, Germany, Yugoslavia, Italy, Austria, Albania, Greece, Morocco and Egypt; on the islands of Corsica and Sardinia; in Rumania; and in North and West Africa. Ten of these OSS Marines also served with forces in Ceylon, Burma, Malaya and China.

Marine Colonel Peter J. Ortiz was twice awarded the Navy Cross for heroism while serving with the French Resistance.

Shipboard detachments of Marines served throughout the landings in North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Normandy invasion as gun crews aboard battleships and cruisers. A 200-man detachment was normally carried aboard a battleship, and 80 Marines served aboard cruisers to man the secondary batteries of 5-inch guns providing fire for the landing forces.

During the June 6, 1944, Normandy invasion, Marines, renowned as expert riflemen, played a vital role reminiscent of the days of the sailing Navy when sharpshooters were sent to the fighting tops. Stationed high in the superstructures of the invasion fleet, Marine riflemen exploded floating mines in the path of the ships moving across the English Channel to the beaches of Normandy.

On Aug. 29, 1944, during the invasion of southern France, Marines from the battleship USS Augusta and the cruiser USS Philadelphia went ashore in Marseilles harbor to accept the surrender of more than 700 Germans who had fortified island garrisons.

Although few, these proud Marines played a vital role in the Atlantic, African and European campaigns of World War II.
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#2 ItemCo16527

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Posted 07 April 2008 - 05:58 AM

Hear hear!

Lest we forget: Actor Sterling Hayden served in the US Marine Corps during World War II under the name John Hamilton. He was assigned to the OSS and one of his jobs was supplying weapons to the Yugoslavian resistance. He eventually rose to the rank of Captain and was awarded the Silver Star for heroism.

Jeff C.

 

Honoring

 


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Killed In Action on Okinawa, 30 April 1945

 


#3 USArmySoldierMP

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 10:47 PM

Interesting info

#4 dutchy

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 09:03 PM

Very interesting info. Especially for me! Hi Im Martin from Holland, please read my story about my grandfather, a usmc ww2 sergeant fought in Europe and post a reply. Sorry for my english!

The father of my grandfather owned weapons in his garten in Holland during the war. One day the german kitchenmade told her german boyfriend about the weapons. They arrested him and sent him to a concentration camp in Poland (he would survive with 42 KG). My grandfather, 17, could escape through France, Spain to England where he met his grandfather, a Dutch General. My grandfather couldnt join the dutch army because of his age, so his grandfather let him join the us marines. He got his training on a lot of places, from Camp davis till California and back to Scotland,Roseneath. What is funny to tell that he had a nice evening in the "black"camp what was forbidden to enter for "white"soldiers. He spent the following 2 days in a small cell. Anyway, he became placed as a detachement on warships in Europe and first saw North Africa, Tunesia where he didnt saw action, only gard. He saw first action on the shores of sicily, near syracuse. He told me 3 times about this landing where many soldiers lay dead while he was running on the beach (many foreign soldiers too, algerians mainly). At this point he is always getting emotional, as a the result lack of details. Im not sure it is right, maybe he participated in the algeria landing, something is mentioned above. Some details are lost because his whole life he tries to forget the war, nightmares he often had.

He told me about the Italians, of how scared they where. When the italians appeared to lose the battle, they would join the US forces and fight against the germans. My grandfather only stormed the beachhead, and returned to the ship. He saw action somewhere else in italy, dont know where yet. But he got wounded there in his leg, bullet and got aid at gibraltar. He fought also at kaiserslautern and got wounded by a grenade fragment in his neck. You can still see the wounds he got. He was also talking about executing ss soldiers, all lined up and get shot down with his bren )very interesting story). That is another remarking detail, he used UK firearms like the enfield no4, stengun and brengun, but also the tommy gun. After europe the sergeant went to austrialia to train for the pacific war which he never fought on. He made a journey through Australia with a french ex/oss. After that he went to America and drove many miles. In 1946 he had the chance to become an American citizen, but returned to his family here in Holland. I can only ask him a few details once a while,because after a half an hour chat, he refuses to talk because of his emotions. One story he visualizes often is running out a foxhole towards a german soldier behind a tree, aiming his mp at my grandfather. He thought that this was it, but at that moment a bullet pierced the helmet and head of the german soldier. He leaned dead against the tree, with blood running over his face. My grandfather slashed him towards the ground and emptied his MG on him, because of adrenaline and shock.

He still lives here. He owns some american medals, I will place pictures soon. Added a picture of his dogtag.

Edited by dutchy, 20 May 2008 - 05:37 PM.

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#5 dutchy

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 09:07 PM

Is it possible to track down his number somewhere? thanks:)
Temminck
L. JAC.
4501412
PROT.
BL. GR. O

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#6 Lippert

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Posted 17 September 2008 - 02:22 PM

Greetings guys and gals,

Ran across this today while doing some research. It would appear that there were Marines involved (perhaps somewhat indirectly) in the Torch landings, as well as other things. I thought perhaps I'd start a forum for any other information y'all might have regarding Marines in the ETO during WWII.

A Different War: Marines in Europe and North Africa (Operation Torch)
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#7 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 17 September 2008 - 04:17 PM

http://www.ww2f.com/...ope-africa.html
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#8 jacob_historybuff

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Posted 01 January 2009 - 06:20 AM

I find it quite interesting your grandfather fought and was wounded in Kaiserlautern. I have lived there in that part of germany while i was growing up. Do you have any details about this? I find it hard to believe that Marines were ever in Kaiserlautern.

Very interesting info. Especially for me! Hi Im Martin from Holland, please read my story about my grandfather, a usmc ww2 sergeant fought in Europe and post a reply. Sorry for my english!

The father of my grandfather owned weapons in his garten in Holland during the war. One day the german kitchenmade told her german boyfriend about the weapons. They arrested him and sent him to a concentration camp in Poland (he would survive with 42 KG). My grandfather, 17, could escape through France, Spain to England where he met his grandfather, a Dutch General. My grandfather couldnt join the dutch army because of his age, so his grandfather let him join the us marines. He got his training on a lot of places, from Camp davis till California and back to Scotland,Roseneath. What is funny to tell that he had a nice evening in the "black"camp what was forbidden to enter for "white"soldiers. He spent the following 2 days in a small cell. Anyway, he became placed as a detachement on warships in Europe and first saw North Africa, Tunesia where he didnt saw action, only gard. He saw first action on the shores of sicily, near syracuse. He told me 3 times about this landing where many soldiers lay dead while he was running on the beach (many foreign soldiers too, algerians mainly). At this point he is always getting emotional, as a the result lack of details. Im not sure it is right, maybe he participated in the algeria landing, something is mentioned above. Some details are lost because his whole life he tries to forget the war, nightmares he often had.

He told me about the Italians, of how scared they where. When the italians appeared to lose the battle, they would join the US forces and fight against the germans. My grandfather only stormed the beachhead, and returned to the ship. He saw action somewhere else in italy, dont know where yet. But he got wounded there in his leg, bullet and got aid at gibraltar. He fought also at kaiserslautern and got wounded by a grenade fragment in his neck. You can still see the wounds he got. He was also talking about executing ss soldiers, all lined up and get shot down with his bren )very interesting story). That is another remarking detail, he used UK firearms like the enfield no4, stengun and brengun, but also the tommy gun. After europe the sergeant went to austrialia to train for the pacific war which he never fought on. He made a journey through Australia with a french ex/oss. After that he went to America and drove many miles. In 1946 he had the chance to become an American citizen, but returned to his family here in Holland. I can only ask him a few details once a while,because after a half an hour chat, he refuses to talk because of his emotions. One story he visualizes often is running out a foxhole towards a german soldier behind a tree, aiming his mp at my grandfather. He thought that this was it, but at that moment a bullet pierced the helmet and head of the german soldier. He leaned dead against the tree, with blood running over his face. My grandfather slashed him towards the ground and emptied his MG on him, because of adrenaline and shock.

He still lives here. He owns some american medals, I will place pictures soon. Added a picture of his dogtag.



#9 Wolfy

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Posted 01 January 2009 - 06:37 AM

What's so different about Marines' infantry training level/selection over different ("elite") arms like Airborne, Armored Infantry, etc.?

#10 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 01 January 2009 - 06:41 AM

http://www.ww2f.com/...y-training.html
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#11 IntIron

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Posted 01 January 2009 - 06:00 PM

'On Aug. 29, 1944, during the invasion of southern France, Marines from the battleship USS Augusta and the cruiser USS Philadelphia went ashore in Marseilles harbor to accept the surrender of more than 700 Germans who had fortified island garrisons.' - JCFalkenbergIII

I didn't know there was a battleship named the USS Augusta... That should most likely be the Cruiser USS Augusta(CA-31)?


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Bill
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#12 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 01 January 2009 - 06:16 PM

'On Aug. 29, 1944, during the invasion of southern France, Marines from the battleship USS Augusta and the cruiser USS Philadelphia went ashore in Marseilles harbor to accept the surrender of more than 700 Germans who had fortified island garrisons.' - JCFalkenbergIII

I didn't know there was a battleship named the USS Augusta... That should most likely be the Cruiser USS Augusta(CA-31)?


Yours,

Bill


I didn't notice that Im surprised that Alexander Molnar Jr. and the Marine Corps History on MarineLink the Official Homepage of the United States Marine Corps didn't catch that.
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#13 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 03:43 AM

A DIFFERENT WAR: Marines in Europe and North Africa
by Lieutenant Colonel Harry W. Edwards, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret)


A Different War: Marines in Europe and North Africa
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#14 Ripvulcan

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 10:05 PM

There was also a detachment of US Marines in Londonderry, Northern Ireland guarding US military installations set up in conjunction with the British at the Royal Navy base in Londonderrry which harboured and serviced RN, RCN, and other Allied navy's vessels engaged in anti-U-boat and convoy operations during the Battle of the Atlantic. Wartime Londonderry was vital to the naval war against the U-boat as it was the UK and the Allies' western-most European port. The US Marines in Londonderry were dubbed the Irish Marines by the US press.

#15 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 10:23 PM

MARFOREUR remembers the 'Irish Marines' of WWII
Submitted by: Marine Forces Europe
Story Identification Number: 20041304630
Story by Sgt. Michael Hjelmstad



LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland(January 28, 2004) -- In 1942 United States Marines forged a relationship with a Northern Ireland community so strong it remains to this day.

The Marines who came here in 1942 experienced a contrast to the events of World War II that were occurring elsewhere. That exceedingly pleasant atmosphere and genuine hospitality of these people toward Marines still exists today.

Recently approximately 40 Marines from Marine Corps Forces Europe experienced the friendliness that is legendary of this region. The Marines participated in a professional military education event that taught them the history and culture of this region.

“This is a tangible way of showing Marines that you can become fully accepted in a foreign community, even in a time of crisis,” said Col. Brendan Kearney, Chief of Staff, MARFOREUR. “The impact on the Derry community is a testament to the World War II Marines who came with an open minded approach to life.”

The ‘Irish Marines’ of World War II were part of the 1st Provisional Marine Battalion that landed in Northern Ireland on May 12, 1942. These Marines spent two years guarding the Naval Operations Base that was vital to the Battle of the Atlantic. In that time the Marines became an important part of the community. They hosted children’s parties and barbecues, put on boxing exhibitions with local champions, and even started the Marine Corps Pipes and Drums Band after being challenged that Marines couldn’t play the bagpipes.


These Marines made a very positive impact on the city of Derry. One child who lived near the camp was particularly impressed and enjoyed his time with the Marines. He learned to play baseball, and the Marines gave him candy. This young boy also saw that the Marines were able to see beyond politics and work together. That young boy was John Hume, and he grew up to become co-recipient of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize for his pivotal role in ending decades of violence in Northern Ireland. He is now a member of both the Westminster and European Parliaments.

Hume played a big role in the PME, this time himself teaching the importance of acceptance and diversity to the Marines.

“We are building our links with America very strongly,” said Hume. “Since modern technology has made it a smaller world, we are in a stronger position to work together.”

“There’s no better friend, no worse enemy than a United States Marine. That type of philosophy has been with us since our inception.” said Sgt. Joseph Forbes, who attended the PME. “It was with us in WWII. It impressed and inspired a great many people at that time, to include Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume. Although Derry has seen three to four generations since WWII, this youngest group continues to cherish and embrace the spirit of the Marine Corps. Sixty years later they still know who we are, and they love us. Makes you feel good to be a Marine, doesn’t it?”

“The information obtained was overwhelming,” said Staff Sgt. Jeffery Lamey. “A Nobel Peace Prize recipient was inspired by U.S. Marines stationed here. I learned from him that the impact of the teamwork and comradery of the Marines helped him to bring the people of Northern Ireland to peace.”

Author and filmmaker, Dr. Mary Pat Kelly recognized the strong ties of this community to the Marine Corps. Through her efforts along with the O’Kane/Donnely family of the Beach Hill Country House Hotel, former site of the Marine Corps Headquarters, interest has grown in restoring this connection.

“The relationship with the people here is very positive and very genuine,” said Gunnery Sgt. Juan Allen. “You really feel like the relationship is growing. We were welcomed with warm hospitality by all the people, I felt very comfortable there.”

Allen chose Derry as the place to perform his re-enlistment along with Sgt. Major Carlton Kent, Sgt. Major MARFOREUR.

“It was something very special to not only be on this historic ground, but to be piped in to a re-enlistment in Derry Ireland. Not a lot of people get to experience something like that.” said Gunnery Sgt. Juan Allen.

“I am truly touched being able to stand on these grounds,” said Kent. “I wish every Marine could experience this.”

In 1997 the Hon. John H. Dalton, Secretary of the Navy, dedicated a monument to the 1st Provisional Marine Battalion, and the Beech Hill US Navy-Marine Corps Friendship Association was formed and the Hon. John Hume was named Chairman.

“You may no longer hear the strains of bagpipes being played by American Marines at the Beech Hill Headquarters,” said Dalton at the dedication ceremony. “You may no longer hear the sound of young Marines teaching the children of Derry how to play baseball in their off-duty hours. But the sound of their time here, and what they gained, echoes for all time.”

Since the dedication, an annual ceremony has been held for those who embody the spirit of friendship shared by the Marines and the people of the community during the war. This year the Marines involved in the PME participated in a wreath laying ceremony that honored the WWII Marines.

“I really enjoyed the closing ceremony,” said Kearney. “All in uniform, wearing service alphas, which are very similar to the uniform of the WWII Marines. It really evidenced the linkage between what we did here and what went on 60 years ago. This was a great experience Socially it was a good time, but it was also a time of listening and learning.”

http://www.usmc.mil/...le/wreathLR.jpg

Marines from Marine Corps Forces Europe took part in what has become an cerimony at the Beech Hill Country House Hotel in Londonderry, Northern Irelnd. The event is held to honor the spirit of friendship shared by U.S. Marines and the people of the community since WWII. Photo by: Sgt. Michael Hjelmstad

http://www.usmc.mil/...C0?opendocument

Post War patch for the MARINE DETACHMENT LONDONDERRY

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#16 formerjughead

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 02:14 AM

What's so different about Marines' infantry training level/selection over different ("elite") arms like Airborne, Armored Infantry, etc.?


Having been in the Marines and the Army the biggest difference is the leadership and focus on small unit tactics.

Marine Infantry units also train on a wide variety of equipment. There are very few "specialized" units within the Marine Corps and every Infantry unit is capable of performing any task assigned, wether it be mechanized, amphibious or air assault.

#17 Ripvulcan

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 03:01 AM

That's interesting. So since the 1940s the Marines' roles have increased from naval or amphibious light infantry to include air-assault, which was predictable since the advent of the troop-carrying utility helicopter, and mechanized-infantry roles, which is perhaps a considerably less-expected role.

So to what extent are the Marines duplicating the Army's role in the mechanized-infantry field? I assume that there is considerable and intense competition between the Marines and the Army, or their respective administrative bureaucracies, for resources in this role and associated tasks, is this right? Does America, in effect, have two armies tasked for armoured- or mechanized-infantry roles?

Edited by Ripvulcan, 26 January 2009 - 03:20 AM.


#18 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 03:24 AM

If you want to discuss the non- WWII you could create a thread in the Military History Forum.The place for non-WWII military history discussion.

Military History - World War II Forums
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#19 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 04:25 AM

Atlantic Theater

Because the British had fought the Germans since 1939, their combat know-how and experience in air, land, and sea battles were invaluable to the American military. A steady stream of American observers, largely unheralded to the public, visited Britain and British and Allied forces in the field during 1940-41 to learn what they could of such new warfare innovations as radar, pioneered by the British; to see how antiaircraft defenses were operating; to learn what constant air raids and battles could teach; and to see how Britain's land forces were preparing for their eventual return to Europe. The Marine Corps Commandant, Major General Thomas Holcomb, made sure that his officers played a strong part in this learning process from the British.
Posted Image Gen Thomas Holcomb, 17th Commandant of the Marine Corps, was a decorated World War I combat leader. From 1936, when he became Commandant, to December 1943, when he retired, he guided the Corps and led it into war.
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 12444-B
----------------------------------------

Holcomb, who had ably commanded a battalion of the 6th Marines in the fighting in France in 1918, had initially been appointed Commandant by President Roosevelt on 1 December 1936. After serving with distinction through the European outbreak of World War II and the Corps' initial buildup, he was reappointed Major General Commandant by the President for a second four-year term on 1 December 1940. The Commandant, besides being a dedicated Marine who championed the Corps during trying times, was also an astute player of the Washington game. A respected colleague and friend of the admirals who commanded the Navy, Holcomb was equally at ease and a friend to the politicians who controlled the military budget. He understood the President's determination to see Great Britain survive, as well as his admiration of the British peoples' struggle. Always well aware of the value of the public image of the Marine Corps as a force "first to fight," Holcomb at times yielded to pressures to experiment with new concepts and authorize new types of organizations which would enhance that image. The Marines whom he sent to Great Britain were imbued with the desire to gain knowledge and experience that would help the Corps get ready for the war they felt sure was coming.

page 7
The British, who shared the view that the Americans would eventually enter the war on their side, were open and forthcoming in their cooperation.
In 1941 particularly, the Marine observers, ranging in rank from captains to colonels, visited British air stations and air control centers, antiaircraft command complexes and firing battery sites, and all kinds of troop formations. The weapons and equipment being used and the tactics and techniques being practiced were all of interest. Much of what was seen and reported on was of immediate value to the Americans and saw enhanced development in the States. On the air side, briefings on radar developments were invaluable, as were demonstrations of ground control intercept practices for night fighters and the use of night fighters themselves. Anything the British had learned on air defense control and antiaircraft usage was eagerly absorbed. The Marine air observers would note on their return that they had dealt with numbers of aircraft and concepts of command and control that were not remotely like Marine Corps reality, but all knew that these numbers of aircraft and their control equipment were authorized, funded, and building.

Posted ImageMarines in ships' detachments, such as this one on board the carrier Lexington, served in major combatant ships of the pre-war Navy. Many seagoing Marines were either commissioned or became senior staff noncommissioned officers in the war.
Depart of Defense Photo (USN) 51363The fascination of the time, although focused on the Battle of Britain's aerial defenses, was not only with the air war but also with the "elite" troops, the sea-raiding commandos, as well as the glider and parachute forces so ably exploited by the Germans in combat and now a prominent part f Britain's army. The role of the commandos, who were then Army troops but who eventually would be drawn exclusively from Royal Marines ranks, raised a natural favorable response in the American Marines. Most of the observers were enthusiastic about the commando potential, but at least one U.S. Marine senior colonel, Julian C. Smith, who watched commando exercises at Inverary, Scotland, was not overly impressed. Smith, who later commanded the 2d Marine Division at the epic battle for Tarawa, told General Holcomb that the commandos "weren't any better than we; that any battalion of Marines could do the job they do."
For the moment at least, Smith's view was a minority evaluation, one not shared, for instance, by commando enthusiast President Roosevelt, and the Marine Corps would see the raising of raider battalions to perform commando-like missions.

page 8
In similar fashion, and for much the same reasons, Service enthusiasm for being at the cutting edge and popular acclaim of elite formations, the Marine Corps raised parachute battalions, glider squadrons, and barrage balloon squadrons, all of which were disbanded eventually in the face of the realities of the island-dominated Pacific theater. They might have served their purpose well in Europe or North Africa but the Marine Corps' destiny was in the Pacific.

HyperWar: Opening Moves: Marines Gear Up For War
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#20 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 04:25 AM

Atlantic Theater

Because the British had fought the Germans since 1939, their combat know-how and experience in air, land, and sea battles were invaluable to the American military. A steady stream of American observers, largely unheralded to the public, visited Britain and British and Allied forces in the field during 1940-41 to learn what they could of such new warfare innovations as radar, pioneered by the British; to see how antiaircraft defenses were operating; to learn what constant air raids and battles could teach; and to see how Britain's land forces were preparing for their eventual return to Europe. The Marine Corps Commandant, Major General Thomas Holcomb, made sure that his officers played a strong part in this learning process from the British.
Posted Image Gen Thomas Holcomb, 17th Commandant of the Marine Corps, was a decorated World War I combat leader. From 1936, when he became Commandant, to December 1943, when he retired, he guided the Corps and led it into war.
Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 12444-B
----------------------------------------

Holcomb, who had ably commanded a battalion of the 6th Marines in the fighting in France in 1918, had initially been appointed Commandant by President Roosevelt on 1 December 1936. After serving with distinction through the European outbreak of World War II and the Corps' initial buildup, he was reappointed Major General Commandant by the President for a second four-year term on 1 December 1940. The Commandant, besides being a dedicated Marine who championed the Corps during trying times, was also an astute player of the Washington game. A respected colleague and friend of the admirals who commanded the Navy, Holcomb was equally at ease and a friend to the politicians who controlled the military budget. He understood the President's determination to see Great Britain survive, as well as his admiration of the British peoples' struggle. Always well aware of the value of the public image of the Marine Corps as a force "first to fight," Holcomb at times yielded to pressures to experiment with new concepts and authorize new types of organizations which would enhance that image. The Marines whom he sent to Great Britain were imbued with the desire to gain knowledge and experience that would help the Corps get ready for the war they felt sure was coming.

page 7
The British, who shared the view that the Americans would eventually enter the war on their side, were open and forthcoming in their cooperation.
In 1941 particularly, the Marine observers, ranging in rank from captains to colonels, visited British air stations and air control centers, antiaircraft command complexes and firing battery sites, and all kinds of troop formations. The weapons and equipment being used and the tactics and techniques being practiced were all of interest. Much of what was seen and reported on was of immediate value to the Americans and saw enhanced development in the States. On the air side, briefings on radar developments were invaluable, as were demonstrations of ground control intercept practices for night fighters and the use of night fighters themselves. Anything the British had learned on air defense control and antiaircraft usage was eagerly absorbed. The Marine air observers would note on their return that they had dealt with numbers of aircraft and concepts of command and control that were not remotely like Marine Corps reality, but all knew that these numbers of aircraft and their control equipment were authorized, funded, and building.

Posted ImageMarines in ships' detachments, such as this one on board the carrier Lexington, served in major combatant ships of the pre-war Navy. Many seagoing Marines were either commissioned or became senior staff noncommissioned officers in the war.
Depart of Defense Photo (USN) 51363The fascination of the time, although focused on the Battle of Britain's aerial defenses, was not only with the air war but also with the "elite" troops, the sea-raiding commandos, as well as the glider and parachute forces so ably exploited by the Germans in combat and now a prominent part f Britain's army. The role of the commandos, who were then Army troops but who eventually would be drawn exclusively from Royal Marines ranks, raised a natural favorable response in the American Marines. Most of the observers were enthusiastic about the commando potential, but at least one U.S. Marine senior colonel, Julian C. Smith, who watched commando exercises at Inverary, Scotland, was not overly impressed. Smith, who later commanded the 2d Marine Division at the epic battle for Tarawa, told General Holcomb that the commandos "weren't any better than we; that any battalion of Marines could do the job they do."
For the moment at least, Smith's view was a minority evaluation, one not shared, for instance, by commando enthusiast President Roosevelt, and the Marine Corps would see the raising of raider battalions to perform commando-like missions.

page 8
In similar fashion, and for much the same reasons, Service enthusiasm for being at the cutting edge and popular acclaim of elite formations, the Marine Corps raised parachute battalions, glider squadrons, and barrage balloon squadrons, all of which were disbanded eventually in the face of the realities of the island-dominated Pacific theater. They might have served their purpose well in Europe or North Africa but the Marine Corps' destiny was in the Pacific.

HyperWar: Opening Moves: Marines Gear Up For War
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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#21 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 06:03 AM

Rivalry at Normandy
U.S. Marines barred from the June 6, 1944 landings.

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Sixty-years-ago, along a 60-mile stretch of France's Normandy coastline, a combined force of American, British, and Canadian soldiers began streaming ashore as German artillery, mortar, machine-gun, and rifle fire ripped into their ranks. The mission of the Allied force was to kick down the door of Nazi Germany's Fortress Europe, and then launch a drive toward the heart of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.




Overseen by American Gen. Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower, the operation was — and remains to this day — the largest amphibious assault in history.

Since then, the question has often been raised as to why the U.S. Marine Corps did not play a leading role in the landings. After all, the Corps's raison d'être was amphibious warfare. Marines had been perfecting the art of the amphibious assault since the 1920's, and between 1942 and 1944, they had put their skills to practical use at places like Guadalcanal, Makin, Bougainville, and Tarawa, in the Pacific.

In the Atlantic, Marines had trained Army forces for seaborne landings prior to the North African campaign in 1942, and then made landings during the same. Marines trained Army forces for the Sicilian-Italian landings in 1943. Marine Corps amphibious experts were on Ike's staff. And most Normandy-bound Army units were in fact instructed by Marines prior to the 1944 invasion.

So why didn't U.S. Marines storm the French coast with their Army counterparts?

First, the Marine Corps was then — as it has always been — much smaller than the Army. During World War II, the Corps swelled to a force comprising six divisions, whereas the Army expanded to 89 divisions. The Corps' resources were stretched thin, and much of its efforts were focused on the fighting in the Pacific.

Second, a deep-seeded rivalry between the Army and Marines was in full bloom: Its origins stretching back to World War I; the defining period of the modern Marine Corps.

Following the 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood (France), in which Marines played a leading role, newspapers in the U.S. credited much of the success of the American Expeditionary Force to the Marines. This occurred at the expense of deserving Army units even when referring to actions in which Marines did not participate.

In one instance, a number of newspapers covering the fighting at the Marne River bridges at Chateau-Thierry (a few days prior to the Battle of Belleau Wood) published headlines that read "Germans stopped at Chateau-Thierry with help of God and a few Marines." The headlines contributed to the Corps' already legendary reputation, and the Army was justifiably incensed. The Germans in fact had been stopped at Chateau-Thierry by the U.S. Army's 7th machinegun battalion.

Army leaders — including Generals George C. Marshall, Eisenhower, and Omar N. Bradley — were determined not to be upstaged by Marines, again. Thus, when America entered World War II in late 1941, the Marine Corps was deliberately excluded from large-scale participation in the European theater. And when the largest amphibious operation in history was launched, it was for all intents and purposes an Army show.

In the wee hours of June 6, 1944, paratroopers from the American 82nd, 101st, and British 6th Airborne divisions began jumping over France. Hours later, the first assault waves of the initial 175,000-man seaborne force began hitting the Normandy beaches at the Bay of Seine. Five beaches comprised the landing areas: Sword, Juno, and Gold Beaches were struck by Lt. Gen. Miles Christopher Dempsey's Second British Army. Omaha and Utah Beaches were stormed by Gen. Bradley's First U.S. Army.

Between Omaha and Utah, 225 men of the U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion were tasked with scaling the 100-foot cliffs of Pointe du Hoc. There, five 155-millimeter guns were emplaced in reinforced concrete bunkers. As such the position encompassed "the most dangerous battery in France." It had to be knocked out to protect the landings.

When the Rangers began suffering heavy losses, brief consideration was given to sending-in the Marines from one of the offshore ships' detachments.

Those slated to go were leathernecks from the 84-man Marine Detachment aboard the battleship U.S.S. Texas. On the morning of June 7 (D-plus-one), the Texas's Marines began making last minute preparations: Wiping down weapons, distributing grenades, waterproofing field packs, and sharpening K-Bar fighting knives. Others were on the mess decks eating the traditional pre-landing breakfast of steak and eggs: A fact that concerned the Navy's medical corpsmen who feared they would be treating stomach wounds later in the day. Those anxious to go ashore, watched the ongoing action from the ship's railings.

In his book, Spearheading D-Day, Jonathan Gawne writes, "Most of these Marines had no combat experience and had only been in the Corps for a few months [the same could have been said of many of the soldiers who had just landed]. One of them [the Marines] commented: 'This is going to be the biggest slaughter since Custer got his at the Little Big Horn.'"

At the last minute, word was passed down through the Army chain of command that no Marines would be allowed to go ashore, not even riding shotgun on landing craft ferrying Army troops or supplies. Rumors quickly spread that the Army leadership feared a repeat of the media gaffes in 1918. They did not want to see headlines that read, Marines save Rangers at Normandy. Consequently, the Marines were ordered to "stand down."

Though little-known outside of special-operations circles, Marines did however play a few combat roles in the invasion.

Prior-to, during, and after the landings, Marines assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) — the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency — planned and led sabotage and resistance operations with the French underground against the occupying Germans. On D-Day, Marines helped pave the way for British and American pathfinders and paratroopers who dropped behind enemy lines. Additionally, a handful of Marine Corps observers were attached to Army landing forces.

Offshore, Marines were positioned high in the superstructures of American warships in the English Channel. From their lofty perches, the riflemen fired at and detonated floating mines as the ships moved in close to "bombardment stations" along the French coastline. It was reminiscent of the Old Corps during the age of sail when sharp-shooting Marines climbed the masts and riggings and battled enemy crews from the "fighting tops."

Normandy was indeed big, but the war itself was far bigger. There was enough action in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters for everyone, and everyone got to play. But that failed to stanch the growing interservice rivalry between the Army and Marines.

The day before the invasion of Normandy, a restless Army Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. addressed his troops (the shorter, less-profane version of that address was made famous by actor George C. Scott, who ironically was a former U.S. Marine).

Publicly, Patton was full of fire and an unsated desire to kill the enemy. Privately, he was disappointed. Neither he nor his 1st U.S. Army Group — a skeleton host formed to deceive the Germans into believing that the Americans would land at Pas de Calais — were going to participate in the landings. But unbeknownst to the general, the coming weeks would see Eisenhower bring Patton off the sidelines, give him command of the U.S. Third Army, and then hurl that force against the reconstituted German defenses beyond the Normandy beachhead. In that capacity, Patton was destined to make headlines of his own.

Outlining his colorful albeit controversial vision of the future, Patton said, "The quicker we clean up this g**damned mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple pissing Japs and clean out their nest, too. Before the g**damned Marines get all of the credit."

— A former U.S. Marine infantry leader and paratrooper, W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in a variety of national and international publications. His third book, Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to American Airborne Forces, has just been published.
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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#22 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 06:03 AM

Wow!! Another Dupe post!! Whats up with that??
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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#23 formerjughead

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 06:47 AM

The Marines have gone to great lengths not make any part of the Marine Corps any more "elite" than the other.

Edson's Raiders are really the only "elite" unit that eventually evolved into the Recon Battalion and Force Recon.

The "Para-Marines" didn't last long at all and were folded back into regular units by 1944.

Given the Mission and Tactics of the Marines in WW2 developing mechanized or air deliverable units wasn't necessary; considering the size of most of the Islands that were assaulted.

As tactics and equipment evolved so did Marine training.

Each Marine division had it's own Amphibious Tractor battalion that would be "attached" to which ever regiment was on the initial assault. Prior to the invasion Marines would train on how to embark and disembark and that was pretty much it.

The Marine philosophy of "Mechanization", pretty much, revolves around the best way to deliver a bayonet to the guts of an enemy; that's the mission.

#24 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 06:58 AM

Colonel Peter Julien OrtizOSS Marine, Actor, CalifornianbyBenis FrankPosted ImageWhile preparing the Marine POWs appendix for Victory and Occupation, vol. V of History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II, to locate the names and places of the various POW camps in which Marines were incarcerated, I had to use the casualty report prepared by the Reports and Statistical Unit, Personnel Service Branch at Headquarters Marine Corps. This report was prepared in 1952, and is the final accounting of Marine casualties in World War II. It was one of these very wide machine records printout with a large number of columns, each one having its own code for a prison camp or for POWs, or whether the individual was KIA, WIA, or Missing in Action Presumed Dead. As I went from the printout to the code sheet, I was surprised to find that a handful of Marines had been captured in Europe. I immediately assumed that these may have been OSS Marines, and to validate this assumption, I randomly selected the name of one of the POWs, Major Peter J. Ortiz, and retrieved from the St. Louis personnel records center his officer's qualification jacket.
A review of the jacket revealed to me a brand new area of Marine Corps history, i.e., the story of the Marines who served in Europe with the OSS. I had previously known that such Marines existed, but not very much about their activities, because they were for the most part classified and besides, as a Marine Corps historian of Marine operations in the Pacific, that is where my attention was focused. As it turned out, Ortiz' exploits before he enlisted in the Marine Corps were as spectacular as his World War II experiences. So dramatic were his adventures--that is a very weak word when describing what he did, but it will have to suffice--that two movies were made about his accomplishments. One was not too bad a movie, "13 Rue Madeleine," with James Cagney, and the second, a not too good one. This was "Operation Secret," with Cornell Wilde. As I later learned, Ortiz worked on the script of "13 Rue Madeleine," and for many Hollywood OSS and Foreign Legion pictures, he was the technical director. (Jacq': He also acted in several pictures.) However, as I researched and read about Ortiz' exploits in Europe, I became convinced that in his case, there was no way by which art could imitate life.
Peter Julien Ortiz was born in New York on 5 August 1913, of a French father with a strong line of Spanish forebears, and an American mother. Ortiz père was well connected socially and otherwise in France, and had his son, who spent much of his youth in that country, educated there. He was a student at the University of Grenoble when the adventure bug apparently bit him. As I was told recently, "Pete enlisted in the Legion just for adventure. Held read a lot of romantic tales. He had a Polish girl friend at the time (who was also at Grenoble) and she accompanied him to Marseilles. He enlisted under her name." His father made an attempt to buy him out, and when he arrived in Morocco to take his son home, "Pete would have none of it," and he remained in the Legion until 1937. During this time, he rose through the ranks from private to acting lieutenant, and was offered a permanent commission as second lieutenant if he agreed to reenlist for five years and consider eventual naturalization as a French citizen. He turned down the offer and returned to the United States. He was acting lieutenant in charge of an armored car squadron when he resigned. While with the Legion, he fought in a number of engagements in Africa and was wounded in 1933. He was well decorated for this first tour--he received the Croix de Guerre with two palms, one gold star, one silver star, and five citations; the Croix des Combatants; the Ouissam Alouite; and the Medaille Militaire.
He returned to the States and went to California, where his mother lived. He soon became employed in Hollywood as a technical director on military matters. When the war broke out in Europe, Ortiz returned to the Legion. He enlisted in October 1939, got a battlefield commission in May 1940. For his service 1939-1940, he was decorated with the Croix de Guerre (one palm, one silver star, two citations), Croix des Combattants, 1939-1949. In June 1940, he was wounded and captured. Ortiz was taken when he learned that some gasoline had not been destroyed before his men had withdrawn. He returned to that area on a motorcycle, drove through the German camp, blew up the gasoline dump, and was on his way back to his lines when he was shot in the hip, the bullet exiting his body, but hitting his spine on the way out. He was temporarily paralyzed and easily taken.
He spent 15 months as a POW in Germany, Poland, and Austria. He attempted a number of escapes, and finally succeeded in October 1941. He reached the United States by way of Lisbon on 8 December, and was interrogated by Army and Navy intelligence officers, and was promised a commission. It didn't come through immediately.
He had been offered commissions by the Free French and the British in Portugal, but he wanted to wear an American uniform. In any case he was not fit for immediate active duty and, besides, wanted to see his mother in California. By June 1942, when nothing further was heard about the commission, he enlisted in the Marine Corps on the 22d and was assigned to boot camp at Parris Island.
Ortiz was tall, athletically built, handsome, and had a military carriage, which is understandable since he had served over five years with the Legion, and it is also understandable that he stood out from the rest of the recruits in his boot platoon. In addition, he wore his decorations, which caused no little interest by his DIs and the senior officers at Parris Island. Colonel Louis R. Jones, a well-decorated World War I Marine and at this time Chief of Staff at the Recruit Depot, wrote the Commandant of the Marine Corps about Ortiz on 14 July. He enclosed in his letter copies of Ortiz' citations for the French awards together with Ortiz' application for a commission. In his letter, Jones wrote:

Private Ortiz had made an extremely favorable impression upon the undersigned. His knowledge of military matters is far beyond that of the normal recruit instructor. Ortiz is a very well set up an and makes an excellent appearance. The undersigned is glad to recommend Ortiz for a commission in the Marine Corps Reserve and is of the opinion that he would be a decided addition to the Reserve Officer list. In my opinion he has the mental, moral, professional, and physical qualifications for the office for which he has made application.

On 1 August 1942, Ortiz was commissioned, with a date of rank of 24 July. He was kept at Parris Island for two months as an assistant training officer and then sent to Camp Lejeune to join the 23d Marines, and then, despite the fact that he was a qualified parachutist from his time in the Legion, he was sent to the Parachute School at Camp Lejeune, but not for long. In all, counting his jumps with the Legion, at Camp Lejeune, and with the OSS, he made a total of 154 of all types.
Meanwhile, Headquarters Marine Corps had become very interested in his record, his duty with the Foreign Legion, and the fact that he was a native French speaker, and less so with German, Spanish, and Arabic. On 16 November, Colonel Keller E. Rockey, of the Division of Plans and Policies, sent a memo to Major General Commandant Thomas Holcomb, stating that "The rather unique experiences and qualifications of Lieutenant Ortiz indicate that he would be of exceptional value to American units operating in North Africa. It is suggested that the services of Lieutenant Ortiz be offered to the Army through COMINCH {Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations/Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet)." Colonel Rockey also recommended Ortiz' promotion to first lieutenant or captain. As a matter of fact, he was promoted to captain from second lieutenant on 3 December. On the 21st he left Washington for Tangier, Morocco, where he was assigned duty as assistant naval attaché. That was just a cover.
He was ordered to organize a patrol of Arab tribesmen to scout German forces on the Tunisian front. Major General William J. Donovan, Director of the Office of Strategic Services, forwarded to the Commandant a message from Algiers which read, "While on reconnaissance on the Tunisian front, Captain Peter Ortiz, U.S.M.C.R. was severely wounded in the right hand while engaged in a personal encounter with a German patrol. He dispersed the patrol with grenades. Captain Ortiz is making good recovery in hospital at Algiers. The (P)urple (H)eart was awarded to him." In April 1943, he returned to Washington to recuperate and in May was assigned to the Naval Command, OSS. In July he flew to London for further assignment to missions in France.
He was to spend most of his time in France in the southeastern region known as the Haute Savoie. In that region is the Vercors plateau, which was of special interest to General Charles de Gaulle, as well as to the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the OSS. Not only were there some 3,000 Free French Maquisards in the area, but it was planned to turn Vercors into a redoubt against which the Germans would attack in vain and which would be a major center of French resistance in the area to be called upon when D-Day arrived. It was vitally necessary to contact and arm this group. To attempt this task, SOE decided to form an inter-allied team consisting of English, French, and American agents. The mission was codenamed UNION and it was to determine the military capabilities of the units reported active in Savoie, Isere, and Drome. The team's mission was to impress the leaders of such units with the fact that "organization for guerrilla warfare activity, especially after D-Day, is now their more important duty." The British team member was Colonel H.H.A. Thackwaite, a prewar schoolmaster; the French radio operator was "Monnier," purportedly the best in the business. Ortiz was the American.
The team dropped into France on the moonless night of 6 January. Per standard SOE practice, they wore civilian clothes, but carried their uniforms with them. Once they linked up with the maquis on the ground, they identified themselves as military men on a military mission. Accordingly, as M.R.D. Foot wrote in SOE in France, they were the first Allied officers to appear in uniform in France since 1940. Thackwaite later wrote that "Ortiz, who knew not fear, did not hesitate to wear his U.S. Marine captain's uniform in town and country alike; this cheered the French but alerted the Germans and the mission was constantly on the move." Parenthetically, I have seen pictures of Ortiz in uniform in France at this time, and was shocked to see that he had removed the grommet from his cap, so that he wore it like Air Corps pilots wore their "30 mission" caps. Incidentally, Ortiz always thought that Thackwaite's statement that he "knew not fear," was absolutely ridiculous. Considering all that he had been through with the Legion and now with the OSS, of course he knew fear.
UNION found several large groups of maquisards willing and ready to fight, but lacking weapons. It took the team considerable time to arrange for clandestine arms drops and weapons instruction for the maquis. As Lieutenant Colonel Robert Mattingly wrote in his prize-winning monograph, Herringbone Cloak--GI Dagger: Marines of the OSS:

It might be reasonable to suppose that the team remained hidden in the high country, but this was not the case. Ortiz in particular was fond of going straight into the German-occupied towns. On one occasion, he strolled into a cafe dressed in a long cape. Several Germans were drinking and cursing the maquis. One mentioned the fate which would befall the filthy American swine when he was caught. (The Nazis apparently knew of Ortiz' existence in the area with the maquis) This proved a great mistake. Captain Ortiz threw back the cape revealing his Marine uniform. In each hand he held a .45 automatic. When the shooting stopped, there were fewer Nazis to plan his capture and Ortiz was gone into the night.

This story has appeared in several forms, but in any case it appears that there was this confrontation, with the Nazis the losers. Ortiz appeared to be truly fearless and altogether brave. He had another talent, that of stealing Gestapo vehicles from local motor pools. His citation for the British award making him a Member of the Most Honourable Order of the British Empire reads in part:

For four months this officer assisted in the organization of the maquis in a most difficult department where members were in constant danger of attack...he ran great risks in looking after four RAF officers who had been brought down in the neighborhood, and accompanied them to the Spanish border (at the Pyrenees). In the course of his efforts to obtain the release of these officers, he raided a German military garage and took ten Gestapo motors which he used frequently...he procured a Gestapo pass for his own use in spite of the fact that he was well known to the enemy....

The UNION team experienced great problems in getting the area organized. Money was short and there was a lack of transportation. Security at the regional and departmental levels was poor, and there was the country-wide problem of getting resistance organizations with divergent political views to cooperate. The maquisards lacked heavy weapons, basic gear such as blankets, field equipment, radios, ammunition, and the list goes on. In the midst of all this, in late May 1944, before D-Day at Normandy, the UNION team with withdrawn to England for further assignments.
In England, he was decorated with the first of two Navy Crosses he was to earn. The citation for the first read:

For extraordinary heroism while attached to the United States Naval Command, Office of Strategic Services, London, England, in connection with military operations against an armed enemy, in enemy-occupied territory, from 8 January to 20 May 1944. Operating in civilian clothes and aware that he would be subject to execution in the event of his capture, Major Ortiz parachuted from an airplane with two other officers of an Inter-Allied mission to reorganize existing Maquis groups and organize additional groups in the region of Rhone. By his tact, resourcefulness and leadership, he was largely instrumental in effecting the acceptance of the mission by the local resistance leaders, and also in organizing parachute operations for the delivery of arms, ammunition and equipment for use by the Maquis in his region. Although his identity had become known to the Gestapo with the resultant increase in personal hazard, he voluntarily conducted to the Spanish border four Royal Air Force officers who had been shot down in his region, and later returned to resume his duties. Repeatedly leading successful raids during the period of this assignment, Major Ortiz inflicted heavy casualties on enemy forces greatly superior in number, with small losses to his own forces. By his heroic leadership and astuteness in planning and executing these hazardous forays, Major Ortiz served as an inspiration to his subordinates and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Ortiz, who had been promoted to the rank of major, returned to France on 1 August, the head of a mission entitled UNION II. This was a new type of OSS mission, an Operational Group. These were heavily armed contingents which were tasked with direct action against the Germans. They were not only to conduct sabotage, but also were to seize key installations to prevent retreating German units from destroying them. Team members were always in uniform. Accompanying Ortiz on this mission were Army Air Forces Captain Francis Coolidge, Gunnery Sergeant Robert La Salle, Sergeants Charles Perry, John P. Bodnar, Frederick J. Brunner, and Jack R. Risler, all Marines, and a Free French officer, Joseph Arcelin, who carried false papers identifying him as a Marine.
Posted ImageThis was a daylight drop near the town of les Saises in the Haute Savoie region. In addition to the team, a large supply of weapons and ammunition and other supplies in 864 containers for the French Bulle Battalion operating in the region were also dropped. The mission began badly, for Perry's steel parachute cable snapped, and he was dead in the drop zone. His comrades buried him with military honors.
During the week after they arrived in France, UNION II instructed the members of the Bulle Battalion on the functioning and maintenance of the new weapons they had just received. Then they began a series of patrols in order to link up with other resistance groups believed to be operating in the area. In an activity report, Brunner later stated:

On 14 August we proceeded to Beaufort where we made contact with other F.F.I. (Forces Francaises de liInterieur) companies and from there went on to Montgirod where we were told there were heavy concentrations of Germans. We were able to enter the town but had no sooner done so than we were heavily shelled by German batteries located in the hills around the city. We were forced to retire and hid out in the mountains near Montgirod with the Bulle Battalion. The Germans quickly surrounded the area.

Two days later, Ortiz and his group were surprised in the town of Centron by elements of the 157th Alpine Reserve Division, consisting of 10-12 heavy trucks in which there were several hundred troops. The convoy was headed for the garrison of Bourg-St. Maurice, northeast of Centron. (Ironically, by 20 August, the Germans were in confused retreat after the Allied landing in Southern France on 15 August. Also ironically, the first American jeep entered Albertville, in the Haute Savoie, on 22 August.) The surprise was mutual. Spotting the Americans, the trucks screeched to a halt and soldiers tumbled out and began firing. Brunner later recalled:
Major Ortiz, Sergeant Bodnar and Sergeant Risler withdrew into the southwest section of the town. Captain Coolidge, Jo-Jo, (the French member of the team) and I took the southeast. We retaliated as best we could, working our way under fire toward the east. I called out to Jo-Jo to follow us but he remained in the town. At this time, Captain Coolidge received a bullet in the right leg but he kept going. By then we had reached the bank of the Isere. I dived in and swam across under fire. I had some difficulty as the current was very swift. It was then that I became separated from Coolidge and did not see him again until we met...on 18 August (at the location of another resistance group).
Ortiz, Risler, and Bodnar were receiving the bulk of the German fire. As they retreated from house to house in Centron, French civilians implored them to give up in order to avoid reprisals. Ortiz ordered the two sergeants to get out while they could, but neither would go without him. Ortiz recognized that if he and his men shot their way out of the entrapment, local villagers would undoubtedly suffer for Germans deaths which a firefight surely would have produced. He knew of the massacre at Vassieux and the destruction of the town of Oradur-sur-Glane and all of its inhabitants. In his after-action report given after his liberation from a POW camp, Ortiz stated:

Since the activities of Mission Union and its previous work were well know to the Gestapo, there was no reason to hope that we would be treated as ordinary prisoners of war. For me personally the decision to surrender was not too difficult. I had been involved in dangerous activities for many years and was mentally prepared for my number to turn up. Sergeant Bodnar was next to me and I explained the situation to him and what I intended to do. He looked me in the eye and replied, "Major, we are Marines, what you think is right goes for me too."

Ortiz began shouting to the Germans in an attempt to surrender. When a brief lull ensued, he stepped forward and calmly walked toward the Germans as machine gun bullets kicked up dust around him. Finally the firing stopped, and Ortiz was able to speak to the German officer in command. The major agreed to accept the surrender of the Americans and not harm the townspeople. When only two more Marines appeared, the major became suspicious and demanded to know where the rest of his enemy were. After a search of the town, the Germans accepted the fact that only three men had held off a battalion.
Bodnar and Risler were quickly disarmed and Ortiz called them to attention, and directed that they give only their names, ranks, and serial numbers as required by the Geneva Convention's terms relating to the treatment of prisoners of war. This greatly impressed the Germans, who began treating them all with marked respect.
From that time, until 29 September, when he reached his final destination, the naval POW camp Marlag/Milag Nord located in the small German village of Westertimke outside Bremen, Ortiz looked for every opportunity to escape, but none presented itself. Fortunately for Ortiz and the other prisoners, this prison camp was loosely controlled in that outside of periodic searches and roll calls three times a day, the POWs were left to themselves. Still, Ortiz tried to escape several times, despite the fact that the senior Allied POW was a Royal Navy captain who made it plain to the new arrival that escapes were out. Ortiz then declared himself the senior American POW present and that he would make his own rules.
Allied forces were drawing closer each day, and suddenly, on 10 April, the camp commandant ordered all POWs to prepare to leave within three hours. The column left with such haste, that a number of the prisoners were left behind. Not Ortiz, for special watch was kept over him. En route, the column was attacked by diving Spitfires, whereupon Ortiz, and three other prisoners made for a nearby wood, and waited for the column to continue on, which it did, leaving him and his fellows behind unnoticed. Allied progress was slow, and the escapees were not rescued as quickly as they thought they would be.
Ortiz later reported:

We spent ten days hiding, roving at night, blundering into enemy positions hoping to find our way into British lines. Luck was with us. Once we were discovered but managed to get away, and several other times we narrowly escaped detection...By the seventh night, we had returned near our camp. I made a reconnaissance of Marlag O....There seemed to be only a token guard and prisoners of war appeared to have assumed virtual control of the compounds.

The escapees were in bad physical shape. On the tenth day, the four men decided it might be better to live in their old huts than to starve to death outside. They walked back into the camp, no commotion was raised by the guards, and the remaining POWs gave them a rousing welcome. Among the reception committee were Bodnar, Risler, and the French "Marine," Jo-Jo--Joseph Arcelin. The battle reached Westertimke on 27 April, and two days later, the British 7th Guards Armoured Division liberated the camp. Along with Bodnar, Risler, and Second Lieutenant Walter Taylor, another OSS officer who had been captured in Southern France, Ortiz reported to a U.S. Navy radar officer assigned to a Royal Marine commando attached to the Guards Division. The Marines wanted to join this unit in order to bag a few more Germans before the war was ended. Their request was refused.
Ortiz and his fellow Marines were sent to staging areas behind the front, and then to Brussels where he reported to the OSS officer-in-charge. He then was sent to London, where he was awarded his second Navy Cross, the citation for which read:

For extraordinary heroism while serving with the Office of Strategic Services during operations behind enemy Axis lines in the Savoie Department of France, from 1 August 1944, to 27 April 1945. After parachuting into a region where his activities had made him an object of intensive search by the Gestapo, Major Ortiz valiantly continued his work in coordinating and leading resistance groups in that section. When he and his team were attacked and surrounded during a special mission designed to immobilize enemy reinforcements stationed in that area, he disregarded the possibility of escape and, in an effort to spare villagers severe reprisals by the Gestapo, surrendered to this sadistic Geheim Staats Polizei (sic). Subsequently imprisoned and subjected to numerous interrogations, he divulged nothing, and the story of this intrepid Marine Major and his team has become a brilliant legend in that section of France where acts of bravery were considered commonplace. By his outstanding loyalty and self-sacrificing devotion to duty, Major Ortiz contributed materially to the success of operations against a relentless enemy, and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Ortiz returned to California and civilian life in the movie industry as both a technical advisor and as an actor. He was a good friend of director John Ford, who put him in a couple of John Wayne movies. He wasn't the greatest of actors, and he never really liked seeing the movies he was in.
He remained in the Marine Corps Reserve, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was offered the command of a reserve tank battalion located in San Diego, but had to turn it down because his commitments in Hollywood kept him quite busy. In April 1954, he wrote a letter to the Commandant, volunteering to return to active duty to serve as a Marine observer in Indochina. The Marine Corps was unable to accept Ortiz' offer because "current military policies will not permit the assignment requested."
He retired in March 1955 and was promoted to colonel on the retired list for having been decorated in combat. In October 1945, the French government decreed him a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He also received the Croix de Guerre with five citations, the Medaille de Blesses, Medaille d'Evades, Medaille Coloniale. In addition to his two Navy Crosses, his American awards included the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" and two Purple Heart Medals. And, as noted earlier, he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (Military Division).
On 16 May 1988, Colonel Peter J. Ortiz, USMCR (Ret) died of cancer, and in doing so, lost the only battle of the many he fought. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery, with military representatives of the British and French governments present.
While the name of Peter Ortiz may not be well known to present-day Marines or to the American people, it is certain that the citizens of les Saisies or of Centron will never forget him and the Marines who fought with him in France. Both towns commemorated the anniversaries of the major events which occurred in each place 50 years earlier. Invited to attend the ceremonies in August 1994 were Colonel Ortiz' wife, Jean, and their son, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Peter J. Ortiz, Jr., retired Sergeant Major John P. Bodnar, and former Sergeant Jack R. Risler. Also present at the ceremonies were Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Parnell II, USMC, assistant Naval Attaché in Paris, and Colonel Peter T. Metzger, commander of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, then in the Mediterranean, together with a color guard and an honor guard from his unit.
On 1 August 1994, the ceremonies at les Saisies began in the afternoon with a parachute drop made by French troops. Members of the famous Chasseurs Alpins together with the 26th MEU Marines rendered honors as a monument acclaiming the 1994 event was dedicated. Twelve days later, the town of Centron held its own ceremonies when it unveiled a plaque naming the town center "Place Peter Ortiz." This event was attended by many former members of the local maquis unit in the region, as well as the Marine contingent and Mrs. Ortiz and her son. As an aside, during CBS's coverage of the last Winter Olympics in Albertville and the surrounding region, Charles Kuralt had a 20-minute spot about Peter Ortiz, telling of his exploits.

Peter Julien Ortiz was a man among men. It is doubtful that his kind has been seen since his time.

Fact or Fiction?
Leatherneck magazine of January 1991, reported that:

In the course of his duties he began frequenting a nightclub in Lyons that catered to German officers. This enabled Ortiz to gain much information regarding German activities in the area, which he turned to good use against the Germans. This Marine had worn his Marine uniform when leading Maquis groups in raids. To have an Allied officer leading them bolstered their morale immensely, especially when the uniform bore such impressive decorations.
One night, while Ortiz sat with the German officers at the club in Lyons, an enemy soldier damned President Franklin Roosevelt. He then damned the United States of America. And then, for whatever reason, he damned the United States Marine Corps (Ortiz later wrote that he "could not, for the life of me, figure why a German officer would so dislike American Marines when, chances were, he'd never met one.")
Perhaps Ortiz was bored. Perhaps he......he excused himself from the table and returned to his apartment where....changed into the uniform of a U.S. Marine....he then shrugged into a raincoat and returned to the club....he ordered a round of drinks ... refreshments were served.... removed his raincoat and stood brandishing his pistol. "A toast, he said, beaming, respendent in full greens and decorations, "to the President of the United States!" As the pistol moved from German officer to German officer, they emptied their glasses. He ordered another round of drinks and then offered a toast to the United States Marine Corps! After the Germans had drained their glasses, the Marine backed out, pistol levelled at his astonished hosts. He disappeared into the rainy, black night.

Colonel Peter Julien Ortiz: OSS Marine, Actor, Californian


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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#25 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 07:05 AM

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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.




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