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Battle Orders 8: US Marine Corps Pacific Theater of Operations 1944-45

by Gordon L Rottman

Published by Osprey Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1-84176-659-3, 96 pages.


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This last book completes the trilogy began by the author early in the Battle Orders series’ inception. As the title suggests, it covers the organization of the Marine Corps in the late-war era. Together with the first two books in the series, this presents 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.

The bulk of 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 deals with (force) “Reduction and occupation duty”. The book also contains a chronology, a bibliography, an index, key to map symbols, and finally notes on abbreviations and linear measurements. There are 55 B&W photos, 14 maps, two line drawings and literally dozens of tables and charts. As is the case with the previous books in this series, quite a few of the photos are too small to give anything but the barest idea of the item depicted, while some may prove to be an inspiration for dioramas and vignettes. Unfortunately, many of the photos are very “soft” and they also exhibit the same lackluster attempts at enhancement seen in the previous book in the series.

As was the case with the first two books in the series, the text is very well written with only a very few obvious errors. The emphases here is on the creation of the last two divisions to become active during the war, the 5th and 6th marine Divisions. The main source of data resides within the dozens of tables spread throughout the two books. 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. 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 part of the text begins with the battle to recover the US territory of Guam, and continues with the legendary struggles that took place on Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

The author continues to have problems when it comes to accurately describing US AFVs. When discussing the use of the M7 105mm HMC, he wrongly asserts that the M7 was a “riveted hull” and the M7B1 was a “cast hull”. Of course, this is certainly not the case, as the hull was all-welded, although very early production M7s had a riveted lower hull. The designations referred to the engines: the M7 was powered by a Wright radial engine; the M7B1 was powered by the Ford gasoline engine. He further states that the M7’s frontal armor was the same as a standard M4 Sherman (upon which it was based), when in fact the M4’s thickest hull armor was 2.5-inches, while the M7’s was a half-inch thick (according to Hunnicutt’s Sherman “bible”). The only place armor thicknesses matched was in the area of the transmission/final drive covers. He also states that in the designation M29C (the amphibious utility vehicle commonly known as the “Weasel”), the “C” stood for “conversion”. I can find no reference to that in my library, which includes the official US catalog of equipment. In short, the author needs to buy a few books on USMC tanks and vehicles. As in the second book in this series, the author again incorrectly presents Marine Lt. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith as “Holling Mad”.

It should be understood that any criticism I have made here ought not to measurably detract from what is, in essence, an outstanding body of work relating to the legendary US Marine Corps, and their travails in the Pacific Theater of Operations in World War II. However, the repetition of certain errors, the lack of sufficient knowledge in a vital area (AFVs) and a continued penchant for less-than-acceptable photo reproduction, detract markedly from what otherwise would have been an outstanding series.


Frank De Sisto

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