Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
Creating the Raiders
Shaping the Raiders
Getting to the Fight
Edson's Ridge
The Long Patrol
Reshaping the Raiders
New Georgia
The Raider Legacy
Major General Merritt A. Edson
Brigadier General Evans F. Carlson
Special Subjects
Destroyer Transports
Raiders Weapons and Equipment
The Raider Training Center
The Raider Patch

FROM MAKIN TO BOUGAINVILLE: Marine Raiders in the Pacific War
by Major Jon T Hoffman, USMCR

Reshaping the Raiders

The 2d Raiders boarded a transport on 15 December and returned to Camp Gung Ho on Espiritu Santo. There they recuperated in pyramidal tents in a coconut grove along the banks of a river. The camp and the chow were Spartan, and the only relief came when a ship took the battalion to New Zealand in February 1943 for two weeks of liberty. The 1st Raiders had returned to Camp Bailey in New Caledonia in October 1942. Their living conditions were similar, except for a slightly better hillside site looking over a river. They spent a month in New Zealand over the Christmas holidays.

These were no longer the only raider battalions in the Marine Corps. Admiral Turner had tried to force each Marine regiment to convert one battalion to a raider organization, but General Holcomb, with an assist from Nimitz, put a stop to that interference in the Corps' internal affairs. However, the Commandant did authorize the creation of two additional battalions of raiders. The 3d Raiders came into being on Samoa on 20 September 1942. Their commander was Lieutenant Colonel Harry B. "Harry the Horse" Liversedge, a former enlisted Marine and a shotputter in the 1920 and 1924 Olympics. The battalion drew on volunteers from the many Marine units in Samoa, and also received small contingents from the 1st and 2d Raiders.

The Corps activated the 4th Raider Battalion in Southern California on 23 October 1942. Major Roosevelt commanded this new unit. The 3d and 4th Raiders both arrived in Espiritu Santo in February 1943.

There as yet existed no common raider table of organization. Carlson retained his six companies of two rifle platoons and a weapons platoon. Griffith adopted the fire team concept, but added a fourth man to each team and retained the four rifle companies and a weapons company established by Edson. Roosevelt's battalion had four rifle companies plus a Demolition and Engineer Company.

Col Harry B. Liversedge
Col Harry B. "Harry the Horse" Liversedge brought the 3d Raider Battalion into existence in September 1942 and then became the first commander of the 1st Marine Raider Regiment upon its activation in March 1943. Here he cuts a cake for his raiders in honor of the Marine Corps birthday on 10 November 1943. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 67934

On the anniversary of the creation of the 2d Raiders, Carlson addressed his men in a "Gung Ho" meeting. He issued a press release later to publicize his words. In addition to announcing his decision to establish Marine Raider Organization Day, he reviewed the battalion's first year of existence. He noted that his morale had been "low" at times, as the officers and men struggled to learn and implement the philosophy of "Gung Ho." In his mind, the tactical successes of the outfit were less significant than the way in which he had molded it. "Makin brought the story of our methods of living and training to the world. Perhaps this fact was of even greater importance than the material gains of the raid." However, the days of Carlson's influence on the raiders were numbered.

On 15 March 1943 the Marine Corps created the 1st Raider Regment and gave it control of all four battalions. Liversedge, now a colonel, took charge of the new organization. A week later, Lieutenant Colonel Alan Shapley took over command of the 2d Raiders. He was an orthodox line officer who had earned a Navy Cross on board the Arizona (BB 39) on 7 December 1941. He thought the Makin Raid had been a "fiasco," and he had no interest in "Gung Ho." Shapley wasted no time in turning the unit into "a regular battalion." Carlson temporarily became the regimental executive officer, but served there only briefly before entering the hospital weak from malaria and jaundice. Soon thereafter he was on his way stateside. A month later Lieutenant Colonel Michael S. Currin, another officer with more orthodox views, took command of the 4th Raiders from Roosevelt.

2d Raider Battalion
MajGen Alexander A. Vandegrift (with riding crop) troops the line of the 2d Raider Battalion in New Caledonia in 1943. LtCol Alan Shapley, the battalion commander, is on Vandegrift's left. Shapley ended Carlson's "Gung Ho" experiments. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 60133

The regiment enforced a common organization among the battalions. The result was a mixture of Edson and Carlson's ideas. Carlson bequeathed his fire team and squad to the raiders (and later to the Corps as a whole). But each battalion now had a weapons company, and four rifle companies composed of a weapons platoon and three rifle platoons. Edson's other imprint was the concept of a highly trained, lightly equipped force using conventional tactics to accomplish special missions or to fill in for a line battalion. The 1st Raider Regiment was no guerrilla outfit. Given the changing thrust of the Pacific war, the choice was a wise one. In the future the Marines would be attacking Japanese forces holed up in tight perimeters or on small islands. Guerrilla tactics provided no answer to the problem of overcoming these strong defensive positions.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division