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Battle Orders 1: US Marine Corps Pacific Theater of Operations 1941-43

by Gordon Rottman

Published by Osprey Publishing Ltd. Soft covers, 96 pages, 7.25 x 9.75-inches, 38 B&W photos, five color photos, one page of color art, 13 color and three B&W maps, six sidebars, two map symbols charts, 21 organization charts, 45 tables, chronology, index and bibliography. MBI order number: 136630AO. ISBN 1-84176-518-X. Price: $19.95 USD.

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When faced with the war in the Pacific, the US Marine Corps was not caught totally unawares. While constrained by pre-war budgets and available technology, the Corps was, nevertheless firmly on the road to their future as the world’s premier combined arms force. In essence, they were caught in transition from the small elite units used in the Banana Wars and in China, to the large six division Corps, specializing in amphibious assault, they would soon become. This book describes this critical period in the evolution of the Corps in great detail.

This latest work by Mr. Rottman, an acknowledged authority on the Corps’ organization describes a service in transition, as well as the early battles in which it fought from December, 1941 through the end of 1943. These consisted of actions in the Philippines, China and Guam, the epic defense of Wake Island, as well as Midway. The campaigns in the Solomons Islands, which produced the first Allied land victory against the Japanese on Guadalcanal, are covered in a fairly detailed fashion. Although the watershed event of the assault on the Tarawa atoll also occurred in 1943, the author has rightly left that story for the next part of this series.

The text is densely packed with facts and figures, which are all supplemented by orders of battle charts and tables of equipment and personnel. The campaigns described are further embellished upon by using maps depicting the 4th Marine Regiment’s stand on Corregidor Island in Manila Bay, various actions on Guadalcanal and other campaigns such as Vella Lavella, New Georgia and Bougainville.OOB charts describe the following units: 1st, 2nd and 3rd MarDivs, “D” and “E”-series infantry regiments, battalions, companies, platoons and squads; weapons companies, artillery and engineer regiments, special and service troops; airdrome, defense, parachute and raider battalions; and finally, light tank battalions. In addition, many of these charts are backed by tables detailing the various TO&E, as authorized.

Several sidebars provide details on the Corps’ intended (and evolving) roles throughout its existence, the Higgins boat (LCVP), the LVT Amtrack, tank types in service (which mentions, erroneously I think, use of the M3A3 light tank, but does not mention that Marmon Herrington “tanks” were, in fact, deployed to the Pacific) and weapons used by the 4th Marines on Corregidor. Other sidebars explain the origin and the meaning of the divisional shoulder patches of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Marine Divisions, as well as the 1st Marine Amphibious Corps (IMAC).

All weapons organic to the various units are described in greater or lesser detail, but virtually no mention is made of attached air assets, which (especially on Guadalcanal) were a vital feature of the Corps’ combined arms doctrine. In addition, the organization of all organic units, from corps level all the way down to the rifle squads, are detailed.

The photos are well chosen and properly captioned, although reproduction suffers, no doubt due to the quality of some of the originals. Although, to be honest, the format of this book really does not require exhaustive “catalog-like” photographic coverage. There is also an interesting color CAD illustration, which very graphically shows the effective ranges of the various weapons (from .45 cal. pistol to 81mm mortar) available to an infantry battalion. All-in-all, this book is a proper means to answer many questions figure and vehicle modelers may have on such things as: what weapons would have been used by which units, during a specific action, at a given point in time.


Frank De Sisto

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