The US Marine Raiders were formed in February 1942 as the Allied war in the Far East reached a difficult phase. The Marine Raiders were meant to replicate the work done by the British Commandos and other special forces units within the Pacific theatre of war. However, the Pacific presented its own unique problems and the Marine Raiders proved most useful when fighting alongside other regular units.
Two men were charged with creating two battalions of US Marine Raiders - men who could perfect the art of hit-and-run tactics. Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt Edson of the US Marine Corps and Major Evans Carlson of the US Marine Corps Reserves. Each man was to have his own ideas as to what his battalion should be, so both of the newly formed battalions were quite different from the other. F D Roosevelt's son, James joined Carlson's unit as its executive officer. Major Samuel Griffith II, who had trained with the British Commandos, was Edson's executive officer.
Edson's unit was designated the 1st Raider Battalion and by July 1942, they were in New Caledonia preparing for the Guadalcanal operation. Carlson's unit was designated the 2nd Raider Battalion. The battalion's rallying call was 'Gung Ho' - Chinese for 'Work Together'. Carlson decided to relax the traditional methods of military discipline to develop greater esprit de corps.
In May 1942, the 2nd Battalion moved from its base in San Diego to Hawaii. Ironically, for a special forces unit, neither battalion was initially well received. There were those in the Marine Corps who argued that the Corps already specialised in amphibious raids and that the two new battalions were not needed as they did not offer anything new. The Marine Raiders had lasted just two years. Senior commanders in the Marine Corps never fully supported the specialised purpose of the Raiders. There were many in the Marine’s hierarchy who believed that ‘normal’ Marines could do the work that the Raiders did. It was also...