The 2nd Marines was originally activated on 19 June 1913 as the 1st Advance Base Regiment at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles G. Long. The unit became part of the Advance Base Brigade in December 1913 and was redesignated the 1st Regiment, Advance Base Brigade, on 18 February 1914. The regiment had participated in a number of training maneuvers in Puerto Rico, Florida, and Louisiana when political conditions began to deteriorate in Mexico. Marine Corps forces were ordered to land at Veracruz after President Woodrow Wilson received word that a German merchant ship was going there with a cargo of arms. On 22 April 1914, the 1st Regiment landed at Veracruz and joined other forces in clearing the city. Two of the regiment’s officers, Major Smedley D. Butler and Lieutenant Colonel Wendell C. Neville, who would later become 14th Commandant of the Marine Corps, received Medals of Honor for distinguished conduct in the battle. The regiment remained there as part of an occupation force for the next seven months, but with the advent of a new and stable government, left Veracruz on 23 November for Philadelphia.
On 3 December 1914, the Advance Base Brigade was reorganized. The 1st Regiment, the fixed defense regiment, was assigned a fire control unit and eight companies, which included four 5-inch gun companies, a searchlight company, a mine company, an engineer company, and an antiaircraft company. The increase of firepower inherent in this reorganization strengthened the regiments capabilities for the further developments of the Marine Advance Base Force.
By the summer of 1915, internal disorder and revolution in the Republic of Haiti had become critical, jeopardizing American lives and property. On 15 August, the 1st Regiment landed at Cap Haitien, to begin a long period of occupation and “bush” warfare. The regiment carried out extensive patrolling into the interior of the country, in search of Caco bandits. Gunnery Sergeant Daniel J. Daly received his second Medal of Honor for his outstanding contribution to the success of these operations. The Marines had many encounters with the Haitian rebels. These included the attack and capture of Fort Riviere on 17 November 1915, where Major Butler received his second Medal of Honor. Marines assaulted the old French bastion, located on the summit of Montagne Noir, and overwhelmed the enemy in the fort during a vicious hand-to-hand fray.
After the capture of Fort Riviere and other forts, Haiti became relatively stable. Even as the regiment continued to garrison a number of Haitian towns, some of its rifle companies were sent to the neighboring Dominican Republic. During the early months of 1916, internal disorders there had threatened American lives and property. After order had been restored, the regiment was redesignated as the 2nd Regiment, 1st Brigade, on 1 July 1916. Its primary activity then shifted to training of the newly formed Haitian Constabulary; as well as its own Marines.
With the decrease in bandit activity, the 2nd Regiment spent the World War I years in routine barracks duty in the tropics. By March 1919, however, rebellions had erupted again in Haiti. The 2nd Regiment took to the field, as the native gendarmerie failed to contain the increasing disorder. During May, the regiment mounted a concerted drive to clear the country of bandits. Within a few months, it had mopped up most rebel strongholds.
The next decade in Haiti was relatively peaceful. The 2nd Regiment continued to perform duties that included training and supervising the native constabulary, patrolling and mapping, and quelling political disturbances. On 1 January 1933, as part of a Marine Corps-wide redesignation of units, the 2nd Regiment was redesignated as the 2nd Marines and assigned to the 1st Brigade. Slightly more than a year later, the 1st Brigade left Haiti, and the 2nd Marines was disestablished on 15 August 1934.
The regiment was reactivated 1 February 1941, at San Diego, California, as part of the 2nd Marine Division. Under the command of Colonel John M. Arthur, it deployed to Koro Island on 25 July 1942, in time for the final rehearsal for the Guadalcanal landing. Although its mission was one of division reserve, elements of the regiment landed on Florida Island on 7 August 1942, prior to the main assault on Guadalcanal, to support the Tulagi landing. Other elements landed on Gavutu and Tanambogo, to reinforce units engaged in clearing operations. Two infantry battalions of the regiment landed on Tulagi on 9 August and secured the small islands in the area.
On 29 October the 2nd Marines moved to Guadalcanal, to take part in the attack towards Kokumbona. Through 11 January 1943, the regiment occupied several defensive positions within the Guadalcanal perimeter, reinforcing the front lines where most needed. It launched a final three-day offensive drive to the west of Point Cruz on 12 January, before reassembling in a reserve area. On 31 January 1943, the regiment left Guadalcanal for New Zealand, arriving in Wellington a few weeks later. Here, for the next nine months, the 2nd Marines would rest, train, and reorganize.
The regiment sailed on 28 October 1943, for Efate, south of Espiritu Santo, for final rehearsals of the landing at Tarawa. On 20 November, under the command of Colonel David M. Shoup, the 2nd Marines assaulted Betio Island, the defensive bastion of the Japanese force on Tarawa Atoll. The assault waves mounted in amphibian tractors crossed the large coral reef which surrounded the island and moved steadily to shore. The 3d Battalion of the 2nd Marines was the first unit to reach its assigned beach and gain a foothold. Later waves embarked in landing craft, had trouble crossing the reef, and were forced to wade hundreds of yards to shore under intense fire. Despite heavy losses, the landing force managed to secure Betio within three days. Colonel Shoup was awarded the Medal of Honor.
On 24 November the 2nd Marines left Tarawa for Hawaii, where a new camp awaited it at Kamula. Here at Camp Tarawa, the regiment began the task of rehabilitation, reorganization, and intensive training for battles still ahead. Six months later it left Hawaii for the attack on Saipan. Now under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Walter J. Stuart, the 2nd Marines were to feint a diversionary landing on 15 June 1944 in the Tanapag area, then to operate in support of the main landing force. Once ashore, the 2nd Marines launched an attack toward Garapan on 17 June. A week later, advancing against stiff enemy opposition, the regiment reached the outskirts of Garapan. Here it remained, patrolling and consolidating its lines, while other elements of the division moved into position for a push northward, On 2 July the regiment began its attack through Garapan, taking the town within two days. From 6 to 11 July, the 2nd Marines continued to advance, finally helping to compress the enemy into a small area on the northern tip of the island. Saipan was declared secure on 9 July, but isolated pockets of resistance kept mop-up operations going until 23 July.
On the following day, the 2nd Marines conducted another feint landing, this time off Tinian Town, in support of landing forces to the north. A day later, the regiment landed and advanced rapidly against sporadic enemy resistance to help capture the island. After Tinian was declared secured on 1 August, the regiment once again began the task of mopping up.
After the Tinian operation, the 2nd Marines returned to Saipan for rehabilitation and reorganization. The regiment remained there for the next seven months, training under semi-battle conditions, as Japanese stragglers continued to emerge from the jungle long after the fighting was officially over.
The 2nd Marines sailed for Okinawa on 25 March 1945, under the command of Colonel Richard M. Cutts, Jr. With other forces the regiment was again executing a diversionary landing when a Japanese kamikaze smashed through one of the landing ships, killing and wounding a number of Marines. After withdrawal of this diversionary force, the 2nd Marines returned to Saipan, once again for intensive training, in anticipation of landings on the Japanese home islands.
At the war’s end the regiment landed at Nagasaki, for occupation duty. After nine months, the 2nd Marines relocated to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, during June and July 1946. By late 1946 the regiment had an advanced amphibious training program underway, but on 19 November 1947, the 2nd Marines was reduced to battalion strength, with the designation “2nd Marines” kept intact. Upon the request of the Navy for a battalion-sized unit to be deployed with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, the 2nd Marines embarked on 5 January 1948 for the island of Malta. As part of the first amphibious unit to reinforce the Sixth fleet, the 2nd Marines took part in landing exercises until relieved in March. The regiment returned to Camp Lejeune, where it regained two-battalion strength on 17 October 1949.
During the 1950s, the regiment engaged in numerous training exercises in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. From 31 October to 3 November 1956, Battalion Landing Team 3/2 assisted in the evacuation of United States observers and other foreign nationals from Alexandria and the Gaza Strip, as war threatened between Egypt and Israel.
In the summer of 1958, political tensions increased in Lebanon. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, complying with a request from the Lebanese president, decided to intervene with military force. Battalion Landing Team 2/2 made the initial landing in Lebanon on 15 July 1958. When tensions began to ease, the Marines withdrew on 15 August. By 23 October the unit had returned to Camp Lejeune.
In October 1962, after President John E Kennedy’s ultimatum that Soviet offensive missiles be removed from Cuba, the 2nd Battalion and other elements of the 2nd Marines embarked once again. They sailed for the Caribbean as part of a larger task force ordered to impose a naval quarantine against arms shipments to Cuba. After the crisis had subsided, the Marines returned to Camp Lejeune in early December.
In late April 1965, internal problems in the Dominican Republic led to intervention by forces of the United States. As part of a joint task force, Battalion Landing Team 1/2 sailed on 1 May and remained offshore as a floating reserve for one month.
Through the 1970s and into the 1980s, the 2nd Marines continued to deploy units in a high state of readiness for a wide variety of training exercises and contingency responses. With the advent of the Corps’ Unit Deployment Program in 1982, the regiment assumed a truly worldwide posture, periodically deploying battalions to the Pacific for the first time since World War II.
During the 1980s, the 2nd Marines took part in many training exercises, which included participation in North Atlantic Treaty Organization exercises, in order to maintain the regiment’s traditional high standards of operational readiness.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 threatened the stability of the entire Persian Gulf region, and President George U. Bush immediately ordered American forces to the area in order to prevent a possible Iraqi invasion of Saudi Arabia. On 23 August, the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, was assigned to the operational control of the 6th Marines, and subsequently deployed with that regiment in late December to Saudi Arabia for participation in Operation Desert Shield.
The 2nd Marine Division, meanwhile, assigned Regimental Landing Team 2 (RLT 2) to the operational control of the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (4th MEB). During mid-August, RLT 2, consisting of the 1st and 3d Battalions, 2nd Marines, along with supporting ground units and aviation assets, deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of 4th MEB for participation in Operation Desert Shield. In late September, the two battalions participated in training and amphibious rehearsals for possible employment as a landing force along the Kuwaiti coast. In early January 1991, elements of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines participated in the evacuation of American civilians and other foreign nationals during Operation Eastern Exit in Somalia. The Battalion Landing Team then returned to the Persian Gulf region to continue planning for contingency operations.
On 24 February, RLT 2’s ships sailed north into the Persian Gulf to await tasking, prior to the beginning of the ground portion of Operation Desert Storm. Contingency planning and last minute plans for an amphibious landing in Kuwait continued. With the announcement, however, of the 28 February ceasefire, it was realized that the call for an amphibious landing in Kuwait would not occur. In mid-March, RLT 2 sailed for home, and was briefed and congratulated by the Commanding General, 4th MEB, on its critical role during Operation Desert Storm in deceiving Iraqi forces as to a possible amphibious landing in Kuwait. The RLT’s sister battalion, the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, participated, however, in the ground assault portion of Operation Desert Storm.
By 23 February, the battalion had moved to its final assembly area prior to the major Allied Coalition assault. On 24 February, the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, was among the units leading the 2nd Marine Division assault into Kuwait, by breaching the center sector of the Iraqi minefields and subsequent defensive lines. Throughout the three-day attack, the battalion met and overcame every challenge and obstacle that was encountered. A 28 February ceasefire ended the fighting, with Iraqi forces thoroughly defeated. In late March, the battalion moved back to Al Jubayl, Saudi Arabia, and returned home to Camp Lejeune in April to a warm welcome.
Meanwhile, on 23 March, the USS Shreveport (LPD-12), carrying RLT 2, transited the Suez Canal and entered the Mediterranean Sea, enroute to Rota, Spain. On 15 April, HIT 2 arrived at Morehead City, North Carolina, and was greeted by an enthusiastic and supportive crowd which lined the docks to show its appreciation and to welcome the Marines back home. On 6 May the HIT reverted to the operational command of the 2nd Marine Division.
During the remainder of the decade, the 2nd Marines participated in operations in locales as diverse as the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. Elements of the regiment deployed during the 1990s to Cuba, Haiti, Liberia, Somalia, Sierre Leone, Zaire, and Albania. The 2nd Marines’ versatility and rapid response capability in these operations, which included disaster and humanitarian relief, along with non-combatant emergency evacuations, and support for civil authority; demonstrated the regiment’s historic versatility and operational readiness.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the initial stage of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Regimental Combat Team 2 formed the core of Task Force Tarawa. Its most notable action occurred during the battle of An Nasiriyah, as elements of RCT 2 supported the rescue of Army prisoner of war, Jessica Lynch, and the recovery of Army 507th Maintenance Company personnel and equipment.
During subsequent stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 2nd Marine Regiment deployed to Al Anbar Province in western Iraq from January 2005 to February 2006 and again from December 2006 to January 2008 as part of the 2nd Marine Division. The regiment’s area of operations included Al Asad and Camp Korean Village.
2nd Marine Regiment again formed the core of RCT 2 in early 2010, and deployed to Afghanistan in February 2010 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Based at FOB Delaram II, the RCT conducted combat operations across three provinces and nine districts, from Zaranj on the border with Iran, to Musa Qaleh, Sangin and Kajaki in northern Helmand province. During the RCT’s deployment, this was the most kinetic area of operations within Afghanistan for this period. The RCT consisted of not only US military personnel but also UK Royal Marines, soldiers from the Republic of Georgia, Department of State personnel and for a brief period, an Italian Task Force in addition to its partnered Afghan Brigade.