A DIFFERENT WAR: Marines in Europe and North Africa
by Lieutenant Colonel Harry W. Edwards, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret)
After Pearl Harbor
The Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December 1941, followed
by a declaration of war on Germany and Japan, greatly accelerated the
mobilization of U.S. naval forces in the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters.
On 30 June 1941, the Marine Corps had 3,642 officers and 41,394 enlisted
Marines, and was expanding at the rate of 2,000 enlistments a month.
After Pearl Harbor, the enlistments exploded with 8,500 in December
1941, 13,000 in January 1942, and 10,000 in February. By June of that
year, the strength of the Marine Corps had more than tripled.
On 5 February 1942, the U.S. Navy established its
first base on the European side of the Atlantic, in Londonderry,
Northern Ireland, on the banks of the River Foyle. That forward base had
become necessary be cause the fleet could not operate efficiently for
any length of time more than 2,000 miles from a naval base.
Jack Risler, left, and Sgt John P. Bodnar, in Paris, look at the orders
giving them top priority for a flight back home after their release from
a Nazi prisoner of war camp in northern Germany. Department of Defense
Photo (USMC) A412365
Upon arrival in Ireland, the unit was designated the
Orders quickly followed for a Marine unit to provide
security for this "naval operating base" (NOB) and the 1st Provisional
Marine Battalion was organized in 1941 at Quantico, under command of
Lieutenant Colonel Lucian W. Burnham. His executive officer was Major
Louis C. Plain. In preparation, the Marines of that battalion received
some rigorous and varied training, because one could not predict what
duties their assignments would require of them.
The 400-man battalion left the U.S. in May 1942, on
the Santa Rosa, a converted cruise ship of the Italian-American
line, headed across the North Atlantic for a destination known to very
few. A month later, an augmentation force of 152 enlisted Marines
arrived on board the SS Siboney, led by Second Lieutenant John S.
Marine Barracks, NOB, Londonderry, and assigned the mission to guard the
dispersed facilities of the large base, which was about three miles from
the city. Initially, the Marine Barracks was organized as follows:
Headquarters and Service Company, under command of Major James J. Dugan;
Company A, commanded by Captain John M. Bathum; and Company B, with
Captain Frank A. Martincheck in command. In late October 1942, another
draft of more than 200 men, with Second Lieutenant James B. Metzer in
charge, arrived from the States on board the U.S. Army transport
Boringuen. It became Company C. Meanwhile, several promotions
took place in the unit Bathum to major, Plain and Dugan to
lieutenant colonel, four company officers to captain and the
battalion reorganized to add an additional company. Captain Donald R.
Kennedy took over Company B and Captain George O. Ludcke received
command of Company C.
Colonel William A. Eddy, USMCR
Another distinguished scholar who made his mark as a
Reserve officer in the Marine Corps was Colonel William A. Eddy.
Eddy became a Marine officer in 1917, after
graduation from Princeton University. He saw action in France in World
War I and received two Purple Hearts, a Navy Cross, the Distinguished
Service Cross, and two Silver Star Medals.
Between wars, he became a professor of English at
Dartmouth College and, in 1936, the president of Hobart College and
William Smith College, both in Geneva, New York.
Returning for active duty with the Marines in 1941,
he served successively with the Office of Naval Intelligence, as naval
attache in Cairo, Egypt, and later in Tangier, and finally he assumed
duties with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Eddy was fluent in
Arabic, having been born in Lebanon in a missionary family.
He was released from active duty as a colonel in
August 1944 to accept an appointment as U.S. Minister to Saudi Arabia,
where he served until July 1946.
He died on 3 May 1962 in Lebanon at the age of 66
while serving as a consultant for the Arabian American Oil Company and
was buried in Lebanon.
assigned to the Office of Strategic Services was LtCol William A. Eddy,
a well-decorated veteran of World War I, where he earned the Navy Cross
and two Silver Star Medals. Born in Lebanon of missionary parents, Eddy
was fluent in Arabic, and acted as interpreter for President Roosevelt
when he met King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. Eddy was photographed with
the king on board the destroyer Murphy (DD 603) while in the Red
Sea. The naval officers shown here are not identified. Photo courtesy of Mrs.
Mary Eddy Furman
Headquarters and Service Company was billeted at
Springtown Camp, as was Company B, which was assigned to guard the
repair facilities. Company C, which guarded the Quonset storage
ammunition dump at Fincairn Glen (five miles outside 'Derry), was
billeted on the grounds of an old estate called "Beech Hill." Company A
guarded the Naval Field Hospital at nearby Creevagh, a couple of
strategically located radio stations, and a major supply depot at
Lisahally. Those Marines were billeted in Quonset huts on the grounds of
"Lisahally House," an estate on the River Foyle.
The Marines were needed in Londonderry not only to
protect the naval base from sabotage from German units which might have
been landed by submarine, but also from local infiltrators. The Irish
Free State (Eire), just across the border from Ulster, maintained its
neutrality throughout the war. With German and Japanese embassies in
full operation in Dublin, there was the fear of sabotage attempts
against Allied installations, prepared with the cooperation of militant
elements of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). There were no IRA-supported
sabotage attempts, however, and history reveals that the number of
voluntary Irish enlistments in the British Army from Eire equalled the
number from Ulster, where the draft was in effect.
motor pool detail of the London detachment in 1944-1946 used their
Harley-Davidson motorcycles to provide courier service for Commander,
Naval Forces, Europe, and also furnished armed escorts for U.S.
Department of State couriers. Photo courtesy of Col Roy J. Batterton, USMC
An interesting incident took place during this
period, which underscored the high degree of cooperation between the two
Irish governments. A New Zealand bomber crash-landed in Eire and its
crew expected to be interned for the duration of the war by the Irish
Free State. However, with the unofficial blessing of the Irish
Government, the RAF with the assistance of a detail from the Marine
Barracks, dismantled the plane and removed it and its crew across the
Marines could be found in Londonderry at: 1) Lisahally, at the mouth of
Lough Foyle, a guarded dock area; 2) Fincairn Glen, an ammunition dump;
3) Beech Hill, where units consolidated after moving from Springtown
(Company A and Hq Company) and Lisahally (Companies B and C) in 1944; 4)
main naval repair base, which serviced U.S. destroyers and Canadian
corvettes on the North Atlantic run; 5) Springtown, original site of the
headquarters and Company A; and 6) Creevagh Naval Hospital. Marine
sentries also were posted at two radio transmitting sites.
Major James J. Dugan, the barracks adjutant, was a
colorful member of the original "Irish Marines," a nickname given to the
Marines serving in Londonderry. He was a red head from Boston who
brought with him several members of his Boston reserve unit. He retained
good rapport with the Irish and formed from the barracks drum and bugle
corps a bagpipe band which became a trademark of this unit. The Marines
were a welcome sight to this area, which had sent most of its young men
off to war in 1939 in the British Army, and from which many never
Since rain falls on average 240 days out of the year
in this area, Marines learned quickly to do without clear days. They
also learned to respect the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), which did a
very efficient job of maintaining law and order in this historic city of
48,000 people. The Marines on shore patrol duty, commanded by Captain
William P. Alston, established a good working relationship with the RUC,
and also with Superintendent of Police Tom Collins, from Londonderry's
neighboring County Donegal, who be came a frequent guest at battalion
June 1942, the Marine Barracks, Naval Operating Base, Londonderry,
Northern Ireland, was established with the arrival of its Marine
personnel. From left to right, the officers arriving at this time were
Maj Louis Shoemaker, Maj John Bathum, Capt Frank Martincheck, and LtCol
James J. Dugan. Their mission was to deter saboteurs, of whatever
origin. Photo courtesy of George O. Ludcke
Just as the "Irish" battalion arrived in Londonderry,
the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade was relieved in Iceland by an Army
unit and returned to the 2d Marine Division at Camp Pendleton. A
continuing Marine presence was maintained in Iceland, however, with the
organization of a Marine Barracks stationed at the Fleet Air Base in
Reykjavik. This 100-man unit was initially commanded by Major Hewin O.
Hammond. It would remain in Iceland until 22 October 1945, when it was
Meanwhile, in London, Naval Forces Europe welcomed
its commander (ComNavEu) on 17 March 1942, with the arrival of Admiral
Harold R. Stark. He had been Chief of Naval Operations until he was
replaced by Admiral Ernest J. King after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Marine Detachment, which had been on duty in
London at the same location in Grosvenor Square since June 1941, became
also a naval security detachment. However, it retained its American
Embassy designation and continued to perform security duties for the
Embassy. Additional duties included: providing security for the naval
headquarters; supplying orderlies for several flag officers, including
ComNavEu; and augmenting the motorcycle courier service linking the
various military headquarters in London. In their capacities as special
naval observers, the detachment commander, Major Jordan, and his
executive officer, Captain John Hill, continued to visit various Allied
commands throughout the United Kingdom.
Lord Mayor of Londonderry, Sir Frederick Simmons, inspects a detachment
from the Marine Barracks at a parade in 1943. With the Lord Mayor is Maj
John Bathum, and to his rear is the barracks commander, Col Lucian W.
Burnham. Photo courtesy of George O. Ludcke
Colonel Franklin A. Hart, who had been on duty in
London since June as an assistant naval attache at the American Embassy,
now joined the ComNavEu staff as Chief of Naval Planning Section. Hart
and Marine aviator Lieutenant Colonel Harold D. Campbell were assigned
to duties as liaison officers to the Commander of Combined Operations,
Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. These duties involved them in the
planning and preparation for the combined British-Canadian forces'
amphibious raid on 19 August 1942 at Dieppe, on the northeastern coast
of France. They both observed this operation from the deck of a British
destroyer, HMS Fernie.
The Dieppe landing was originally scheduled for 3
July. The elaborate amphibious raid was to involve more than 6,000
troops, mostly Canadian, and more than 250 ships. Royal Marine
commandos, American rangers, and Free French soldiers also were to
participate. Had it taken place on the scheduled date, three U.S.
Marines would have participated as part of a Royal Marine commando,
landing from HMS Locust. Captain Roy Batterton, Sergeant Robert
R. Ryan, and Corporal Paul E. Cramer were the three Marines who boarded
the ship at Portsmouth, England, in preparation for a landing that was
then postponed because of bad weather. After further postponements,
their participation was cancelled, and they went on to complete their
commando training on 30 July, and prepared for reassignment in the
States. In retrospect, we know that these Marines were fortunate to have
missed out on the Dieppe raid, because it was a fiasco.
the steps of Londonderry's historic Guild Hall, LtCol Dugan addresses an
Ulster war bond rally in 1943, as his battalion commander, Col Burnham
listens. Photo courtesy of George O. Ludcke
Planned as a surprise attack without benefit of air
or naval gun fire preparation, it was designed to test Allied ability to
assault and seize a port, to test new types of assault craft and
equipment, and to continue to keep the Germans on edge as to Allied
plans for a cross-channel invasion.
However, tactical surprise was not achieved and the
landing party was overwhelmed. After five hours of heavy fighting, the
landing force withdrew, suffering a loss of 3,648 men killed, wounded,
missing, or captured. Possibly the best that can be said of this costly
lesson is that it was a part of the price paid to help to ensure the
highly successful landing at Normandy on 6 June 1944. There, unlike
Dieppe, there would be no attempt to seize a heavily defended port, and
the assault would be made in daylight, preceded and covered by the
heaviest naval and air bombardment that could be devised.
During their stay in Northern Ireland and influenced by
their surroundings, members of the battalion drum and bugle corps took
bagpipe lessons and formed a pipe band. The adjutant, then-Maj Dugan, a
red-haired Bostonian, was chief booster. When the barracks was
deactivated, the band returned to the States as a unit and performed in
War Bond drives. Photo courtesy of George O. Ludcke
Shortly after the Dieppe operation, Colonels Hart and
Campbell returned to Washington, where they were able to draw upon their
experiences in planning for amphibious operations in the Pacific. Hart
was succeeded by Marine Colonel William T. Clement in October 1942.
Clement, who had narrowly escaped capture by the Japanese at Corregidor,
was assigned to the Intelligence Division of ComNavEu to work on naval
planning for the cross-channel invasion of Europe. Admiral Stark, in a
letter of 13 July 1943 to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, praised
Colonel Clement for his work in setting up the Intelligence Section of