Military Organization > United States > U.S. Marine 2nd Raider Battalion Rifle Company (1942)

 

U.S. Marine 2nd Raider Battalion Rifle Company (1942)

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The U.S. Marine Corps' Raider Rifle Company was the close combat element of the Raider Battalion. This is the organization specific to the 2nd Raider Battalion under Evans Carlson from May 1942 to September 1942. This differed from the 1st Battalion under Merritt Edson which was organized differently.

 

The organization covered in this article would have been active during the raid on Makin Atoll, although the companies that went to Makin were modified slightly with platoons going from 4 to 3 rifle squads to fit on the submarines they were transported on. This change was formalized for the whole Battalion in September 1942.

 

The next level up was the 2nd Raider Battalion, which at the time consisted of an HQ Company and 6 Raider Companies (this). The battalion had 6 companies because 6 APD high-speed destroyers available for the battalion, with each APD meant to carry a company.

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1× Company Headquarters​

    • 2× Rifle Platoons

    • 1× Weapons Platoon

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

USMC 2nd BN Raiders May 1942-01.png

Organization

  • Type: Marine Light Infantry Company

  • Origin: U.S. Marine Corps (United States)

  • Time Frame (Battles): May 1942 to September 1942 (Makin Atoll)

  • Personnel: 4 Officers and 124 Enlisted

Company Headquarters (1 Officer and 10 Enlisted)

  • 1× Commanding Officer, Captain, armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun*

  • 1× First Sergeant, First Sergeant, armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun*

  • 1× Demolition Sergeant, Sergeant, armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun*

  • 1× Communications Corporal, Corporal, armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 4× Radio Operators, Corporal, armed with 1 M1 Rifle each

  • 1× Armorer, Private, armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Messenger/Signalman, Private, armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Messenger/Clerk, Private, armed with 1 M1 Rifle
     

  • Attached from Battalion HQ for Independent Operations:

    • 1× Hospital Corps Officer/Surgeon (US Navy)

    • 2× Hospital Corpsmen (US Navy)

    • 1× Squad Leader (Casual Section), Corporal, armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun

    • 3× Other Duty Marines (Casual Section), Private, armed with 1 M1 Rifle or M1918A2 Automatic Rifle each

    • 1× Scout-Observer, Corporal, armed with 1 M1 Rifle

    • 1× Scout, Private, armed with 1 M1 Rifle

    • 1× Supply Corporal, Corporal, armed with 1 M1 Rifle

    • 1× Field Cook, Field Cook (Corporal), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

    • 1× Assistant Cook, Assistant Cook (Private First Class), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

​→ Additional Equipment: 1 TBX radio and 1 SCR-536

* Officers and NCOs were often armed with M1911A1 or privately purchased pistols.

2× Rifle Platoons (1 Officer and 46 Enlisted each) 

​→ Platoon Headquarters (1 Officer and 4 Enlisted)*

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Second or First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun**

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Platoon Sergeant, armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun**

  • 2× Messengers/Signalmen, Private, armed with 1 M1 Rifle each

  • 1× Radio Operator, Private, armed with 1 M1 Rifle (carried an SCR-536 radio)
     

​→ 2× Rifle Sections (21 Enlisted each)

  • 1× Section Leader*, Sergeant, armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun**
     

  • 2× Rifle Squads (10 Enlisted each) consisting of:

    • 1× Squad Leader, Corporal, armed with 1 M1 Rifle
       

    • Fire Group No. 1:

      • 1× Group Leader, Private, armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun

      • 1× Automatic Rifleman, Private, armed with 1 M1918A2 Automatic Rifle

      • 1× Rifleman, Private, armed with 1 M1 Rifle

    • Fire Group No. 2:

      • 1× Group Leader, Private, armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun

      • 1× Automatic Rifleman, Private, armed with 1 M1918A2 Automatic Rifle

      • 1× Rifleman, Private, armed with 1 M1 Rifle

    • Fire Group No. 3:

      • 1× Group Leader, Private, armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun

      • 1× Automatic Rifleman, Private, armed with 1 M1918A2 Automatic Rifle

      • 1× Rifleman, Private, armed with 1 M1 Rifle

* Platoons were reduced to 3 Rifle Squads (essentially reducing the company be a Rifle Section in total) and the Section Leaders were left behind in Company A and B for the Makin Atoll raid so the companies could fit on the Nautilus and Argonaut submarines they would be inserted in.

** Officers and NCOs were typically also armed with pistols.

1× Weapons Platoon (1 Officer and 22 Enlisted) 

​→ Platoon Headquarters (1 Officer and 4 Enlisted)

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Second or First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun*

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant, armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun*

  • 2× Messengers/Signalmen, Private, armed with 1 M1 Rifle each

  • 1× Radio Operator, Private, armed with 1 M1 Rifle (carried an SCR-536 radio)

→ 2× Machine Gun Sections (9 Enlisted each)

  • 1× Section Leader, Sergeant, armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun*

  • 2× Gunners, Corporal, armed with 1 M1919A4 Machine Gun and 1 M1911A1 Pistol each

  • 2× Assistant Gunners, Corporal, armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol each

  • 4× Ammo Bearers, Corporal, armed with 1 M1 Rifle each

→ 1× Mortar Section (9 Enlisted)*

  • 1× Section Leader, Sergeant, armed with 1 M1928A1 or M50 Submachine Gun*

  • 2× Gunners, Corporal, armed with 1 60mm Mortar and 1 M1911A1 Pistol each

  • 2× Assistant Gunners, Corporal, armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol each

  • 4× Ammo Bearers, Corporal, armed with 1 M1 Rifle each

* The mortar section was left behind for the Makin raid.

 
 

Discussion

At the beginning of World War II, there was a flash of commando mania in the United States military inspired by the British Army Commandos. The Army created their equivalent, the US Army Rangers, and in short order the Marine Corps created their Raider at the behest of Major James Roosevelt based on observations of the British Commandos by Captains Wallace Green and Samuel Griffith. There was a little more institutional resistance from the Marine Corps and Navy, as it was thought the regular Marine units were equipped and trained to a degree that made them capable of any type of raiding operations that would be required in the Pacific. Still, 2 battalions were formed. The 2nd Separate Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Evans Carlson and Major Roosevelt as XO was stood up at Camp Elliott, California in February 1942. Unlike the Rangers, who were limited in unit size by the capacity of British LCA landing craft, the Raiders would be limited by the size of the converted APD high-speed transports (a necessity in waters where naval and air supremacy was not a guarantee). Also unlike the Rangers, the Raiders actually closely cooperated with their parachutist brethren in the Marine Parachute Battalions in the formation of doctrine. Both the Raiders and Paramarines essentially filled similar roles with different delivery methods, although the Paramarines also trained in Raider methods as the viability of parachute operations in the Pacific was fairly limited when compared to light amphibious insertion.

 

In 1942, the two Raider battalions organized themselves independently from each other based on the schools of thought of their individual commanding officers. The 1st Raider Battalion under Edson formed first and essentially took the form of a stripped down Infantry Battalion, complete with a Weapons Company. On paper this Weapons Company would have an 81mm mortar section, among other things, but Edson never formed an 81mm mortar section in practice on grounds of lack of space and the mobility problems a large mortar and its ammunition would bring (the 81mm mortars were pushed on him by Marine Corps brass). Carlson organized the 2nd Raiders after the 1st, with himself and Griffith being critical of Edson's approach. They favored and organization that more closely resembled the work of the British Commandos for raiding operations. Edson's battalion was essentially analogized as having a similar dynamic to glider infantry when compared to parachute infantry. The paratroopers would drop in first (Carlson's ideal, although through an amphibious delivery method), followed quickly by glider infantry to support and reinforce the initial raid (allegedly the ideal role for Edson's unit from that side of the argument), followed by the main force (regular Marine units). Carlson wanted a lighter force, axing the Weapons Company from the 2nd Raiders entirely under the assumption that a light raiding force would not need battalion-level fires—especially as companies were meant to be able to operate independently. The 2nd Battalion would consist of an HQ Company and 6 Raider Companies (6 because there were 6 APD destroyers available and not for any other particular reason). According to Sayen, "Having a rifle company aboard each APD would increase the battalion’s flexibility and resistance to losses. Any APD or group of APDs could be assigned an independent mission, as none would be carrying units that could only operate as part of a larger group. If one or more APDs were lost a true raider battalion might still be able to accomplish its mission whereas a battalion of the Edson type that had lost its headquarters, heavy weapons, or too large a proportion of its riflemen in any particular ship would be crippled."

The Company Headquarters was the command element of the company and was fairly light compared to a regular rifle company HQ, largely to reduce the amount of unnecessary personnel so they could fit on an APD. When deployed the companies would receive attachments from the Battalion Headquarters (itself split into forward and rear echelons that would assault and stay back on the ship respectively). These attachments included a Surgeon (US Navy Medical Officer)  and 2 Hospital Corpsman. The Surgeon, in addition to being the company's own surgeon, would serve as the surgeon for the ADP warship as the ship was too small for its own. Additionally, the company would receive 4 replacements from the battalion Casual Section. The Casual Section was a concept picked up from Edson's 1st Raiders and essentially replaced both other duty privates that acted as replacements in normal Marine units and mitigated the inexperience from replacements sent directly from a replacement depot. It would essentially act as a transitional unit within the battalion to give the unit time to train replacements up to Raider standards, although it was a fairly small replacement pool due to the restricted space of the ADPs and likely wouldn't be enough to keep a company at full-strength. The company also received 2 cooks, a supply corporal, scout-observer, and scout as attachments. For the Makin raid specifically, a 2-man Boys anti-tank rifle team was also created within the Company HQ to test the weapon system's use (although there were no tanks on Makin to use them on).

Each Rifle Platoon consisted of a Platoon HQ and 2 Rifle Sections, with each Rifle Section further consisting of 2 Rifle Squads. There were only 2 platoons in the company, mainly because of space concerns on board the APDs and an unwillingness to sacrifice platoon strength. For the raid on Makin Island specifically the Rifle Platoons were reduced to 3 Rifle Squads total and the Section Leaders were left behind so the A and B Companies could fit on the Nautilus and Argonaut submarines they'd be inserted by. The 2nd Raiders platoons would be officially reduced to 3 Rifle Squads in September 1942.

 

The Platoon HQ was the command element of the platoon and was fairly slim, with a Platoon Commander, Platoon Sergeant, 2 Messengers/Signalmen, and a Radio Operator with an SCR-536 hand-held radio.

 

Each Rifle Section was led by a Sergeant who was armed with a submachine gun. All Marines in the company ranking Sergeant and above were armed with either Thompson or Reising submachine guns. Documents published on USMCweaponry.com show that in November 1942 the rear echelon of the 2nd Ranger Battalion's HQ Company had 116 Reisings and 34 Thompsons on hand at that time. As the document references the rear echelon specifically, it is uncertain whether these numbers represent the weapons the battalion had in reserve rather than the proportion of weapons they actually had in the forward echelon. Gordon L. Rottman's book on Carlson's Raiders claims that the 2nd Raider didn't get the "inferior" Reising, but these primary source documents seem to suggest otherwise. Take into consideration the Reising was an emergency substitute for the Thompson due to a lack of numbers, so if the Marines wanted subguns, even if inferior (not that they would have had combat experience to suggest that) they likely wouldn't have had an option.

Meanwhile, each Rifle Squad consisted of a Corporal Squad Leader and 3 Fire Groups of 3 men each. The Raiders, together with the Paramarines, pioneered the fire team concept years before the Marine Corps adopted it generally in 1944 favoring it for its flexibility, firepower, and benefits in command and control. Although, 3-man teams probably were not the best for remaining combat effective when casualties were taken, which is why the Marines adopted 4-man fire teams generally. It is likely that Carlson was influenced by the tactics of Chinese communist forces, who used 3-man cells (usually 3 cells per squad) as a political tool, while he was serving as an intelligence officer in China. Each Fire Group consisted of a Group Leader (with a submachine gun), an Automatic Rifleman (with an M1918A2 BAR), and a Rifleman (with an M1 Rifle). The Raiders were hoping to substitute the M1918A2 BAR with a lighter M1941 Johnson light machine gun, which the Paramarines had done with their fire groups, but this would ultimate not achieved. It should be noted that this was significantly more automatic firepower when compared to the 1st Raider Battalion's Rifle Squads, which consisted of 1 Squad Leader (M1903), 1 Sniper (M1903), 2 BAR Men (M1918A2 BARs), and 5 Riflemen (M1903s). Edson's squads also didn't use fire groups at this time, as Edson was keen on following the normal Marine organization as closely as possible at this level (although removing BAR squads and adding a 2nd BAR to squads as a space saving measure). Lack of automatic firepower was one of the chief criticisms of Edson's organization. The heavy use of BARs and submachine guns, combined with the fact that the 2nd Raiders were widely using the M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle early on while the 1st Raiders still principally used the M1903 Springfield bolt-action rifle, made the 2nd Raiders' squad all the more versatile. This was especially true for densely vegetated Pacific environments where sight lines are short and during amphibious operations where light automatic firepower is at a premium. 

Meanwhile, the Weapons Platoon consisted of a Platoon HQ, Mortar Section, and 2 Machine Gun Sections. The Mortar Section was equipped with 2 60mm mortars, while the 2 Machine Gun Sections had 2 M1919A4 Machine Guns each (4 total). According to Rottman, the Mortar Section was not deployed on the raid on Makin, and the M1919A4 machine gun crews made ample use of incendiary and tracer ammunition to destroy seaplanes moored at the island.

Sources

  • Sayen, John. (2001) “Battalion: An Organizational Study of the United States Infantry”. Working paper, Marine Corps Combat Development Command
     

  • Rottman, Gordon. (2014) “Carlson’s Marine Raiders: Makin Island 1942”. Osprey Publishing
     

  • "Pre-War/WWII Era USMC M1 Garands", published by USMC-Weaponry.com

 

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

      - Marcus Aurelius

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