United States Marine Corps Reserve 106th Birthday
Reported By B.Perez
The USMC Reserve was established on August 29th, 1916 with the Naval Appropriations Act of 1916. With America’s involvement in the Great War likely, President Woodrow Wilson sought to create a centralized national reserve force to replace the state naval militias that had existed prior as far back as the Civil War. Rapid growth was seen, with over six thousand reservists in service by the end of 1918, including 300 women. Marine Reserve units had integrated with both ground and aviation elements during the war, helping turn the tide. U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Karl S. Day, a junior officer at the time, spoke highly of the integration of Reserve Marines: “Nobody gave a damn and few, if any, knew who were regulars, temporaries, duration reserves, what have you.” After the First World War, however, most of the force had been demobilized until the late ‘20s when political support had allowed the Reserves to better organize, administrate and maintain itself. By 1930, over 10,000 Marines were in the Reserve organized into 18 battalions, this growth all the more notable due to the lack of pay during the Depression years as many were quite loyal to the Corps.
When the US entered the Second World War with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there was a massive swell of Marine reservists integrated into regular forces, necessary for the Pacific campaign. Of the 589,852 Marines to serve during World War II, approximately 70 percent were Reserves. Marine reservists had endured harsh climates, limited supplies, and fanatical Japanese forces in the island campaigns. They performed well, with 44 of the 82 Marine Medals of Honor during WW2 being awarded to Reservists. One such Marine included the aviator Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, the Marine Corps’ Ace of Aces. He was squadron leader of the Black Sheep, VMF-214, and had shot down 26 planes during the course of the war.
After the end of the Second World War, the Reserves had seen another demobilization until the Korean war, when reservists had again provided seamless reinforcement into active units, giving needed aid to the fight and providing exemplary service, with thirteen Medals of Honor being awarded and every third aviation combat mission being flown by either a Naval or Marine aviator reservist. During the ‘50s and ‘60s, several training and organizational changes were made which gave over 200 occupational specialties and allowed the deployment of whole battalions, regiments, squadrons, and even divisions/wings instead of smaller integration units. While the Marine Reserve was not deployed to Vietnam despite the draft, several hundred Reserve Officers did volunteer for service, including the first combat artist in Vietnam. On the home front Marine Reservists helped by fundraising over $784,000 to buy tools, clothing, school and medical supplies for hearts and minds campaigns in Vietnam.
Now, the Marine Forces Reserve has become the largest command in terms of personnel in the Corps, having organized themselves to mirror the Active Duty structure and supporting combat operations in both the Gulf War and the War on Terror. Every Reserve unit at the battalion and squadron level has deployed at least once during this time, and have also assisted in theater security cooperation, counter-narcotics, and crisis response operations around the globe. Bringing with them their civilian skills and education to the table, Marine Reservists will “Augment, Reinforce, and Support” their nation in times of war and emergency, as those of their past generations have done before.