Title of Oral/Poster Presentation

Always Faithful, Always Forward?: The Marine Raiders and Intra-Service Tensions in the United States Marine Corps

Presenter Information

Carlie GreerFollow

Class

Article

Department

History

Faculty Mentor

Jeannie Johnson

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

The Marine Raiders of World War II are considered the first United States special operations forces to organize and see combat. Theirs is a unique and storied history, known for egalitarianism, "gung-ho" camaraderie, small unit assault tactics, and incredible bravery. But the four Raider battalions were demobilized soon after their formation; becoming "a luxury that the Marine Corps could not afford." Historians posit numerous reasons for the Raiders' disbandment, chief of which was the fact that Marines resented the idea of such an elite force within a military organization already known for its elitism. Nearly seven decades after the disintegration of the Raider Battalions, the Marine Corps created the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) in response to increasing pressure from the Department of Defense to join the Special Operations Community. MARSOC has many of the same missions and areas of responsibility the Raiders once did, and this normative similarity is augmented by MARSOC's belief that it is the direct progeny of the Raiders. When Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC) officially renamed MARSOC units "Raider Battalions" in August of 2014, many Marines saw the action as an endorsement of a "clannish, internal subculture" threatening the Corps' esprit. Marines' disdain for these subcultures stems from the Corps' historical paranoia. Multiple experiences of facing near extinction caused the Corps to develop what can be euphemistically termed "institutional vigilance." This "abiding sense of vulnerability" pressures Marines to constantly "excel to insure the survival of the institution." Marines are all too aware that America has a Marine Corps not because she needs one, but because she wants one. The Corps therefore places importance on innovation and, above all, unity. Having the "beloved Corps" weakened by allegiance to subsidiary identities makes it that much easier for policy makers to justify legislating the institution out of existence entirely, a risk that HQMC wants to avoid at all costs. With that understanding in mind, my research utilizes archival documents, primary and secondary writings, and interviews with living Raiders and current MARSOC operatives to examine the link between the two units through a critical cultural lens and to argue that the Raider legacy and the continuing institutionalization of MARSOC can be used to strengthen, rather than undermine, greater Marine Corps culture.

Start Date

4-9-2015 9:00 AM

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Apr 9th, 9:00 AM

Always Faithful, Always Forward?: The Marine Raiders and Intra-Service Tensions in the United States Marine Corps

The Marine Raiders of World War II are considered the first United States special operations forces to organize and see combat. Theirs is a unique and storied history, known for egalitarianism, "gung-ho" camaraderie, small unit assault tactics, and incredible bravery. But the four Raider battalions were demobilized soon after their formation; becoming "a luxury that the Marine Corps could not afford." Historians posit numerous reasons for the Raiders' disbandment, chief of which was the fact that Marines resented the idea of such an elite force within a military organization already known for its elitism. Nearly seven decades after the disintegration of the Raider Battalions, the Marine Corps created the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) in response to increasing pressure from the Department of Defense to join the Special Operations Community. MARSOC has many of the same missions and areas of responsibility the Raiders once did, and this normative similarity is augmented by MARSOC's belief that it is the direct progeny of the Raiders. When Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC) officially renamed MARSOC units "Raider Battalions" in August of 2014, many Marines saw the action as an endorsement of a "clannish, internal subculture" threatening the Corps' esprit. Marines' disdain for these subcultures stems from the Corps' historical paranoia. Multiple experiences of facing near extinction caused the Corps to develop what can be euphemistically termed "institutional vigilance." This "abiding sense of vulnerability" pressures Marines to constantly "excel to insure the survival of the institution." Marines are all too aware that America has a Marine Corps not because she needs one, but because she wants one. The Corps therefore places importance on innovation and, above all, unity. Having the "beloved Corps" weakened by allegiance to subsidiary identities makes it that much easier for policy makers to justify legislating the institution out of existence entirely, a risk that HQMC wants to avoid at all costs. With that understanding in mind, my research utilizes archival documents, primary and secondary writings, and interviews with living Raiders and current MARSOC operatives to examine the link between the two units through a critical cultural lens and to argue that the Raider legacy and the continuing institutionalization of MARSOC can be used to strengthen, rather than undermine, greater Marine Corps culture.