LineageEditThe 5th Marine Division inherited the traditions and lineage of the World War II and Vietnam 5th Marine Division. Pre-World War III battle honors included Iwo Jima, Operation Allegheny, Tet Offensive, and the relief of Khe Sanh.
FMFPAC Provisional Infantry UnitsEdit
On September 5th, 1985, guerrilla units that had infiltrated into the United States from Mexico staged an uprising across the Southwestern United States. In most cases, local authorities and citizens put down the revolts by September 10th. The exception was Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange Counties in southern California, where the guerrillas had taken advantage of large populations of illegal aliens and built a significant infrastructure. Several National Guard armories in the region were overrun, and guerrilla units raided across the three-county region. In response to a request from the Governor of California on September 9th, the newly-sworn-in President of the United States declared that a state of insurrection existed in the three counties, and imposing martial law in the affected area.
By that time, MCAS Tustin had already repelled one attempt to storm the base, although fighting had significantly damaged the Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16 headquarters building and several barracks along the Red Hill Avenue portion of the base perimeter. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Air Force Station (home to the Air Force Space and Missiles Office, an acquisition command) and Naval Air Station Los Alamitos had been successfully overrun by guerrilla elements, and Long Beach Naval Base & Shipyard were under continuous sniper & mortar fire. Additionally, as the outlines of the Communist invasion became clearer, Lieutenant General Charles G. Cooper, Commanding General of FMFPAC, realized that his rotary-winged aviation assets were at the wrong end of a tenuous supply line running to the East Coast. Further, securing the region would require more infantry than he had available.
Finally, Marine helicopters operating in the region were proving extremely vulnerable to enemy man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), such as the SA-7 Grail and the FIM-92 Stinger. Due to supply restrictions, Marine helicopter squadrons in CONUS were not issued infrared countermeasures equipment beyond a few aircraft sets per air group to allow crews to become proficient in their use. This resulted in over a dozen aircraft shot down, crashed, or damaged beyond feasible repair in the first week of combat operations, the equivalent of a full squadron. At least two of the losses were attributed to guerrilla units using "Smokey SAM" rockets to force helicopters into evasive maneuvers; in these cases, the result was controlled flight into terrain.
Accordingly, on September 15th, General Cooper ordered the cessation of rotary-winged aviation operations that were not "urgently required" (defined as CASEVAC and certain National Command Authority support missions). Additionally, General Cooper ordered Marines from the now-grounded rotary-winged MAGs in his AOR (MAG-16, MAG-24, MAG-39, and MAG-46) to be formed into casualty replacement companies (CRCs) and receive refresher training in infantry combat techniques. The CRCs were intended to provide a pool of manpower that could be fed into the 1st Marine Infantry Division as required. Training was conducted with the assistance of personnel from 42 Commando, Royal Marines. This unit had been caught in the United States at the start of the war, and volunteered to a man to serve with their "cousins," as they referred to United States Marines.
On September 30th, the commanders of the 1st Marine Division and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) requested that the CRCs be turned into provisional infantry units, as the CRC Marines were already showing signs of training together effectively and forming "primary groups" (small groups that were emotionally invested in each others' survival). General Cooper was a firm believer in the value of primary groups from his experiences in Korea and Vietnam, and agreed to the proposal.
Alpha Company (Provisional), MAG-16, 3rd MAW was placed in the I Marine Amphibious Force (MAF) operational reserve on 28 October, 1985, and was deployed into combat in Santa Ana, CA on 1 November. Their deployment was generally successful, and allowed the unit they relieved (Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment) to rest and refit. Follow-on provisional companies achieved similar results, resulting in the Tri-County Military Zone being officially secured on 18 March, 1986, although martial law remained in effect through the end of 1987.
Forming the DivisionEdit
Once the Tri-County Military Zone was secured, General Cooper consulted with Lieutenant General Karl Bundy, CG of I Marine Amphibious Force, regarding the future of the provisional infantry units. General Bundy replied in a memorandum to General Cooper that:
- In general, the "Provisionals" had performed extraordinarily well, especially given the haste in their formation and training;
- Due to the severe strategic-level logistics issues existing on the West Coast, rotary-winged aviation operations would be curtailed for at least one year, if not longer;
- Congress had directed an urgent expansion of the Marine Corps to six active divisions.
The last point, according to Bundy, was crucial. The Marine Corps had gathered up the remnants of the 4th Marine Division (the prewar reserve division), and was hastily training up replacements for those Marines who had been lost in either the initial nuclear strikes or the subsequent invasion. Bundy estimated that raising an additional two divisions to combat readiness would take almost three years. However, the Tri-County Military Emergency had given the Corps the unexpected gift of what amounted to an understrength Marine Division of combat-tested infantrymen; all that remained was to overlay the appropriate Table of Organization & Equipment (TO&E) and make good the remaining training gaps, which could be complete in less than three months.
General Cooper concurred with Bundy's assessment and, pursuant to the terms of the Hartman-Stryker Act, issued an order forming the 5th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton on April 13th, 1986. Provisional units were reorganized as follows:
- Marine Air Group 16 units (home base: MCAS Tustin, CA) were redesignated as elements of the 26th Marine Regiment.
- Marine Air Group 24 units (home base: MCAS Kaneohe Bay, HI) were redesignated as elements of the 27th Marine Regiment.
- Marine Air Group 39 units (home base: MCAS Camp Pendleton, CA) were redesignated as elements of the 28th Marine Regiment.
Immediately after this initial assignment, the Division Chief of staff noted that the Division was, in his term, "lopsided." This was due to the fact that Marine Air Group 16 contained Marine Helicopter Training Squadron 301, known informally among Marines stationed at Tustin as "MAG-301" because it contained over fifty aircraft and the Fleet Readiness Aviation Maintenance Program training cadre, thus being about triple the size of a typical fleet squadron; the 26th Marines were thus about 140% of their Table of Organization Strength, while the 27th and 28th were at about 80% of TO strength. After some discussion among the Division staff, the majority of HMT-301's personnel were diverted to form the 5th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
Aiding in the formation of the division were officers and men of 42 Commando, Royal Marines. After receiving approval from the British Ministry of Defense, 42 Commando personnel were incorporated into the 5th Marine Division organization. 42 Commando's service with the division was relativley brief, the unit being withdrawn in late 1986 as the Royal Marines prepared for the liberation of first Gibraltar and later Iceland, however several RM specialists stayed with the division for the duration of the war, several being awarded US decorations.
Battalion-level training was conducted at the Camp Pendleton Infantry Training School (previous training only encompassed company-level operations); regimental and divisional training would be conducted at the Marine Air Ground Combat Center in 29 Palms, California.
Integration Into the National Warplan, 1986Edit
Proposed Participation in Operation WATCHTOWER IIEdit
The 5th Marine Division was slated for participation in Operation WATCHTOWER II, a multi-division raid on the Soviet Far East. This operation was officially withdrawn from consideration on July 17th, 1986, and the Division was returned to the US Strategic Reserve.
Attachment to III Corps and the Decision to Mount the DivisionEdit
During their time in the Strategic Reserve, the 5th Marine Division completed its division-level training at 29 Palms, California.
Following the collapse of Operation ADVENT CROWN and the start of the Soviet 1986 Spring-Summer Offensive, the Joint Staff began planning for a strategic defensive posture that would last until the conclusion of the next Communist offensive. In essence, the Joint Staff proposed trading efforts to seize the initiative for dissipation of the enemy's strength; once this dissipation reached a culminating point, the US counteroffensive would launch.
Operational-level planning revolved around equipping three United States Armies. In the Southwest, Sixth Army HQ had deployed from San Francisco to Douglas, Arizona; assigned units included III US Corps, based in Gallup, New Mexico.
On 2 April 1986, The commander of III Corps, General Fred Franks, requested a "hybrid leg infantry/mechanized division." He proposed mounting the full strength of the 5th Marine Division in Army-issued M60 tanks and M113 personnel carriers. This was rejected for the following reasons:
- Reserves of these vehicles were already insufficient for equipping mobilized Army and National Guard units;
- The Marine Corps lacked the logistical base for supporting these vehicles in large numbers, and Army logistical units were already overburdened supporting their "regular customers."
However, I MAF headquarters forwarded the request on to HQMC, asking whether sufficient LAVs could be found to equip at least part of the division. HQMC sent an RFI to US & Canadian vehicle manufacturers, asking whether sufficient capacity could be found to manufacture a large number of LAV variants, Cadillac Commando reconnaissance vehicles, and Stingray "light tanks." The response was overwhlemingly positive; within 30 days, HQMC had firm commitments for enough vehicles to fully mount the division by the end of 1986, and authorization to do so from Congress.
The 5th Marine Division TO&E was modified as follows:
- End strength of the Division went from 15,000 to 20,000; all billets added were directly related to operation & organizational maintenance of the new vehicles.
- All units would be fully mounted as Light Armored Infantry, per the existing TO&E for same.
- Regimental "tank companies" would be equipped with the LAV-105 assault gun.
- The attached tank regiment would be equipped with Stingray light tanks, followed by M60A4/M1 series tanks as soon as possible.
The proposed TO&E changes were approved by I MEF and III Corps on June 4th, 1986. The division was formally attached to III Corps on September 9th, 1986.
Campaign and Battle HistoryEdit
Operations in the I-40 Corridor, Fall 1986—Spring 1987Edit
"Dalworthington:" Securing the Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington MetroplexEdit
ANVIL FIRE: 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines in San FranciscoEdit
On April 1st, 1988, members of the People's Autonomous Coalition (PAC) staged an uprising in the City and County of San Francisco, California. The uprising began with a time-on-target strike using vehicle-borne explosive devices against City Hall, the County Administration Building, the Emergency Operations Center, Police Headquarters, Fire Department Headquarters, and most police precinct offices. The strike was timed to coincide with the morning police shift change; over 30% of the police department was killed outright, and another 35% was rendered unfit for duty. The Presidio was overrun with 100% of all personnel there being killed, most after surrendering. PAC "auxiliary formations" (most based on street gangs based the Hunters Point region, along with gang members brought in as reinforcements from Oakland) proceeded to engage in looting, arson, and violence under the orders of the PAC's Executive Council.
Following this, the PAC Executive Council announced that they were forming a "Liberated People's Revolutionary Government," and appealed to "Our Fraternal Socialist Allies currently fighting to liberate America" for military support.
Response to the events was relatively swift, even though the destruction of the City/County government as a functioning entity caused some delay. Within two hours, the Governor of California issued a proclamation of a state of insurrection in San Francisco, activated the State Defense Force, and requested Federal troops to restore duly constituted authority.
2/26 Marines RespondEdit
2nd Battalion, 26th Marines was officially undergoing mountain warfare refresher training at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California (unofficially, they had been sent to Bridgeport for much-needed rest & recuperation following the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington campaign). By noon Pacific War Time, 2/26 had received orders to mount up and proceed to Oakland, California and await further orders. Also summoned to the area was 2nd Brigade, 40th Infantry Division (Mechanized), California National Guard, which had been undergoing rest and recuperation at Camp Roberts, California.
2/26 executed a road march from Bridgeport to Oakland via California Highways 108 and 120, and Interstates 205 & 580, arriving in the early morning of 2 April 1988. By this time, Brigadier General Brian Horrocks, commanding general of 2nd Brigade, 40th Mechanized Division, had been designated the on-scene tactical commander by I Marine Amphibious Force (Rear), who had been in turn designated the overall commander for Operation ANVIL FIRE. BG Horrocks stated in his memoirs:
- "I was greatly heartened by the swift arrival of the Marines; this one battalion, at a stroke, doubled our dismounted strength. The liberation of San Francisco had moved from 'extraordinarily difficult' to merely 'very difficult.' Knowing that the Marines had bottled up the east end of the Bay Bridge was enormously reassuring; the fight would now be confined to San Francisco itself."
BG Horrocks, satisfied that the situation was now contained, decided that an offensive response was needed; a siege would inflict enormous casualties on civilians trapped in San Francisco. Initial concepts for Operation PERCHERON involved using heavy-lift helicopters to insert F/2/26 and H/2/26 on the west end of the Bay Bridge while E/2/26 and G/2/26 assaulted from the east; this was rejected after a "dicing" (tactical reconnaisance) mission over the west end of the bridge by Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 531 was fired on with man-portable SAMs. The MANPADs were not a significant threat to fixed-wing strike aircraft, but they were potentially lethal to heavily-laden helicopters. The final concept for the assault involved using all four of 2/26's line companies to drive west on the Bay Bridge; E/2/26 and H/2/26 would take the upper deck, while F/2/26 and G/2/26 would take the lower. Some attached LAV-105s from the Mountain Warfare Training Center's school cadre would provide heavy fire support if needed. However, the rules of engagement for the LAV-105s were extraordinarily tight, as their 105mm guns could easily damage the structure of the bridge. Planning and preparation for the assault went on throughout the day and night of 2 April.
Operation PERCHERON began at 0445 Pacific War Time, 3 April 1988. A battalion of LAV-mounted Marines confronted approximately 500 defenders behind various improvised barriers made up of automobiles and scrap wood. Jonathan Hardcastle, then commanding E/2/26, stated in an interview:
- "Almost immediately, the assault went off script--2nd platoon shot up the barricade and crashed into it rather than dismount and clear it the slow way. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of the entire campaign. Once they smashed through the barricade, they dismounted and took it from the rear--we'd expected ten minutes to clear the first barricade, and it was over in less than three; meanwhile, another platoon had passed 2nd platoon's lines and smashed into the next barricade. Afterwards, 2nd platoon's leader estimated that remounting the vehicles was the pacing element for the assault, not the clearing activities. I think he was right."
The bridge was cleared and declared safe for transit by 0830. Over the remainder of the campaign, it mainly served as an evacuation route for San Franciscans who'd been trapped by the uprising.
"The Long Slog"
After PERCHERON secured the Bay Bridge, 2/26 had to fight their way through the Embarcadero and Downtown area, frequently measuring their gains in rooms or floors of buildings. Sergeant Hector Ortiz, a squad leader in Hotel Company, described the situation in mid-April:
By 10 April, fighting had reached the George Moscone Center. G/2/26 managed to gain entry to the exhibit hall (they used HESH rounds fired from LAV-105s to breach the wall) and drove through a major PAC assembly area with guns blazing. Over 200 PAC auxiliaries were captured and remanded to Camp Romeo in Cartago, CA (previously established to hold prisoners taken during the pacification of Los Angeles in 1985).
- "Right now, we own this room. That's all I can say for sure. We don't know if anyone's in the next room, or the room after that. We could be right next door to a heavy weapons point or an ammo cache. And the PAC clowns love to use booby traps. So, right now, we move very, very carefully--which is exactly what the PAC wants."
BORDER FURY and CeasefireEdit
Withdrawal of Brevet CommissionsEdit
On 1 December, 1989, Headquarters Marine Corps issued a directive withdrawing all brevet commissions (officers with a secondary MOS of 9999). These personnel reverted back to their rank as of 1 September 1985; 277 officers were stripped of their commissioned rank and reverted to their enlisted ranks, and another 141 were reverted back to officer ranks that were held on 1 September 1985.
Relocation to Camp PendletonEdit
The 5th Marine Division began its road march back to Camp Pendleton on 1 March 1990, arriving on 14 April. As the 1st Marine Division was on Guam in the aftermath of Operation FORAGER II, the 5th Marine Division took up duties as the West Coast ready division under I Marine Expeditionary Force.
Reversion to Standard USMC Division TO&EEdit
On 1 October, 1990, the 5th Marine Division was officially reverted to the standard USMC Divisional TO&E. The surplus LAVs assigned to each of the regiments were shipped to the Yermo Annex of the Marine Corps Logistics Base, Barstow, California and placed in long-term storage. In 2011, with the replacement of the 4th Marine Division's last LAV-25s with LAV IVs, the stored vehicles were officially declared surplus to Marine Corps requirements.
Relocation to Baja CaliforniaEdit
In the wake of Baja California's secession from Mexico and its request for protectorate status, the 5th Marine Division was relocated to Santa Rosalia in March, 1991. During the Baja War, the Division provided security for LeMay Air Force Base (co-located with La Paz International Airport) and other key military facilities on the Baja Peninsula. The Divisional Color Guard and Band were featured in the opening ceremonies for the first Baja Bowl, held on Janury 6th, 2012 at University of Baja California Cabo San Lucas. As of February 2012, the 5th Marine Division is expected to stay permanently in Baja California.