Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
Allocation of Forces
Assignment to London
After Pearl Harbor
Operation Torch
Operation Overlord
Changing of the Guard
Colonel Walter I. Jordan
General Franklin A. Hart
Colonel Peter J. Ortiz
Colonel William A. Eddy
Major General Homer L. Litzenberg
Colonel Francis M. Rogers
Brigadier General Richard H. Jeschke
Major General Robert O. Bare
Special Subjects
Marine Detachment: American Embassy, London, England

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

Allocation of Forces

The urgency of military events in early 1941 made it appear that, despite its Pacific orientation, the Marine Corps, as a ready, all-volunteer force, would actually become part of the U.S. deployment to the Atlantic to join Allied forces in the campaign against Germany.

The prewar period was a difficult time in international relations, since the U.S. was coming under increasing pressure from France and Great Britain to provide assistance. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was increasingly disposed to do so, but lacked both Congressional mandate and public support.

Colonel Walter I. Jordan, USMC

Walter Jordan became a Marine officer after graduation from the Virginia Military Institute in 1924. He served a tour in Nicaragua and another on sea duty before his assignment as the first commander of the Marine Detachment, American Embassy, London, July 1941 to November 1942.

This was the first organized unit of American armed forces to be sent to Britain during World War II. Colonel Jordan was in charge of the advance echelon when the ship carrying it was torpedoed and sunk on the way to England. While in England he was instrumental in arranging for the U.S. Marines to undergo joint training with the Royal Marines.

In 1943, Colonel Jordan received the Silver Star Medal for his leadership of a combat unit (2d Battalion, 2d Marines) in the Tarawa assault. For his services on the 4th Marine Division staff at Saipan and Tinian, he was awarded the Legion of Merit. As the commander of the 24th Marines at Iwo Jima, he received a second award of that medal.

He retired from the Marine Corps in 1946 and died on 16 October 1947.

The terms of the armistice after the fall of France in June 1940 forced that country to accept alignment with the Axis. This arrangement posed important questions on the future status of French territory in the Western Hemisphere. Of particular significance was the island of Martinique, which harbored major elements of the French fleet, plus more than 100 American-built aircraft that were in transit to Europe, and a storehouse of gold bullion.

American Ambassador to the Court of St. James's, John Winant, gives instructions to orderly PlSgt John H. Allen, Jr. Marines provided security for the Embassy following recommendations by its security officer, Maj John C. McQueen. Photo courtesy of Col Roy J. Batterton, USMC (Ret)

Other Atlantic islands of strategic interest to the U.S. were those of the Portuguese Azores and Iceland. They appeared to be both strategically valuable and vulnerable. Marine forces were alerted in 1941 to the possibility of assignment to Martinique or the Azores. Protecting Iceland became a top priority as British intelligence reports revealed Germany's plans to attack Russia.

To help deal with these concerns and to facilitate amphibious training, the Commandant of the Marine Corps established a provisional corps in May, commanded by Major General Holland M. Smith. It included the 1st Marine Division and the Army's 1st Infantry Division. When the Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet, was commissioned at Norfolk, General Smith was the first commander of its ground component, Amphibious Corps, Atlantic Fleet. Through the efforts of General Smith's amphibious training staff, the 1st, 3d, 7th, and 9th U.S. Infantry Divisions were given amphibious training in time for the North African landings. When the call came in June 1941 for the first major deployment of American combat forces in the Atlantic Theater, it was the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, comprised of the 6th Marines and the 5th Defense Battalion, which was dispatched to Iceland.

The brigade landed there on 7 July and remained on occupation duty for 10 months, until May 1942. The details of the operation are covered in Outpost in the North Atlantic: Marines in the Defense of Iceland, another pamphlet of this series. The threat of German occupation of any of the Atlantic bases was greatly lessened on 22 June, when Hitler ordered his forces to invade Soviet Russia.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division