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Battle Orders 7: US Marine Corps Pacific Theater of Operations 1943–44

by Gordon L Rottman

Published by Osprey Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1-84176-651-8, 96 pages.


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This is the second book of a trilogy began by the author as the premiere volume in the Battle Orders series. As the title suggests, this book covers the organization of the Marine Corps in the mid-war era. Together with the first book in the series, this continues to present a very complete and highly detailed description of the way the Corps evolved to meet the threat; particularly how it armed, equipped, organized and commanded the six Marine Divisions that fought the war against Japan on the islands of the Pacific. Note, however, that the special Raider and Parachute units are not covered, but will be in a forthcoming title in this series.

The book is broken down into the following sections: Introduction, Combat mission, Unit organization, Tactics, Weapons and equipment; Command, control, communications and intelligence; and, finally, Combat operations. The final chapter discusses “Lessons learned”. The book also has a chronology, a bibliography, an index, key to map symbols, and finally notes on abbreviations and linear measurements. There are 51 B&W photos, 14 maps, and dozens of tables and charts. Three color photos depict the “battle blaze” (shoulder patch) of the III and V Amphibious Corps, as well as the 4th Marine Division. Quite a few of the photos are too small to give anything but a taste of the item depicted, while there are a number that will prove to be an inspiration for dioramas and vignettes. However, too many of the photos are very “soft”, rendering some of them useless. It also appears that some rather amateurish effort was expended to enhance quite a few photos. In short, the overall photo reproduction is what I’d call “poor”.

The text is very well written with only a very few obvious errors (see below). When one considers the sheer amount of the data supplied, the errors immediately recede into the background. The main source of data resides within the dozens of tables spread throughout the book. These typically detail general organizations of all units from the very largest command elements, all the way down to the basic elements of the Marine rifle squad. They consist of diagrams that are more commonly known as TO&Es (Tables of Organization and Equipment) as well as OOBs (Orders of Battle). In particular, the OOBs will prove to be extremely valuable to researchers who wish to know which unit fought in a given campaign at a given time (and, in most cases who commanded the unit). This translates into answers to questions that modelers frequently ask about such units and their deployments.

The text itself describes in some detail the reasons that certain organizations were changed to reflect the changing nature of the war, as well as how command relationships evolved over time. Parent units covered are the III and V Amphibious Corps, as well as the newly raised 4th Marine Division. Probably more interesting to visitors of this site are descriptions of changing weapons and tactics, and how the lowest elements of the Corps constantly changed with the times. The last parts of the text deals with the Marines’ campaigns, mostly by describing the units involved and their times of involvement. This title begins with the seminal campaign to take Tarawa atoll, and the later campaigns for New Britain, Roi-Namur, Eniwetok, Saipan and Tinian. There are loads of other bits of hard information sprinkled throughout, so a careful reading will be most rewarding.

With the wealth of detail that the author presents, and considering his credentials, I am constantly surprised at his less-than-informed treatment of the armored and un-armored vehicles used by the Marines in the Pacific. For instance, in this book, he states that the Marine’s fielded M3A3 Stuart light tanks, something which I cannot confirm in either Ed Gilbert or Ken Estes’ books on the subject. Another, perhaps less-forgivable apparent error is this: Marine Lt. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith has his nom de guerre presented as “Holling Mad”. This is contrary to every other reference (including some of the author’s) that I have ever seen. It is hard to tell who may have dropped the ball on this one (either the author or the editors), so I’ll let it alone.

Regardless of the criticisms that I may have, there is much here to reward the careful researcher and some that a figure or diorama modeler will find useful. However, I felt let down by the quality of the photographs, especially when one conside rs the publisher’s reputation for delivering a product with superior graphic presentation.


Frank V. De Sisto

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