Military Organization > United States > U.S. Marine Parachute Company (1942-1943)

U.S. Marine Parachute Company (1942-1943)

 

The following is an overview of the organization of the U.S. Marine Corps' Parachute Company, or Paramarine Company, from July 1942 to February 1943. This is the organization that would have been effective during the time of the Battle of Guadalcanal. Although the Paramarines didn't perform any combat jumps with their formations, they fought as battalions and as a regiment until the dissolution of the Paramarines in February 1944. If you are interested in what the U.S. Army's equivalent looked like, check out our article complete with every U.S. Army Parachute Infantry Rifle Company organization from the start to the end of World War II.

Contents:

  1. Organization

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

Paramarines July 1942-01.png

Organization (July 1942 to Feb. 1943)

  • Type: Marine Airborne Infantry Company

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

  • Time Frame (Battles): Guadalcanal

  • Personnel: 5 Officers and 148 Enlisted

Company Headquarters (3 Officers and 41 Enlisted)

​→ Combat Section (2 Officers and 16 Enlisted)

  • 1× Commanding Officer, Captain, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 1× Gunnery Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 1× Armorer, Corporal, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 1× Radio Telephone Operator, Corporal, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 4× Radio Telephone Operators, Privates, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 2× Messengers, Privates, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun
     

  • Attached Naval Personnel [A]:

    • 1× Hospital Corps Officer

    • 2× Hospital Corpsmen, Pharmacist's Mate 2nd Class

    • 2× Hospital Corpsmen, Pharmacist's Mate 3rd Class

    • 1× Hospital Corpsman, Hospital Apprentice 1st Class

​→ Administrative & Supply Section (1 Officer and 25 Enlisted)

  • 1× Executive Officer, First/Second Lieutenant, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun, not jump qualified

  • 1× First Sergeant, First Sergeant, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun, not jump qualified

  • 1× Supply and Property Sergeant, Sergeant, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun, not jump qualified

  • 1× Radio Maintenance Sergeant [B], Sergeant, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 1× Chief Rigger [B], Staff Sergeant, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 1× Rigger [B], Sergeant, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 2× Riggers [B], Corporals, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 1× Barber, Private, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun, not jump qualified

  • 1× Cobbler, Private, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun, not jump qualified

  • 1× Truck Driver, Private, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun, not jump qualified

  • 3× Supply Marines, Privates, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun, not jump qualified

  • 7× Other Duty, Privates, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun, not jump qualified
     

  • 1× Mess Sergeant, Mess Sergeant (Sergeant), armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun, not jump qualified

  • 1× Chief Cook, Chief Cook (Sergeant), armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun, not jump qualified

  • 1× Field Cook, Field Cook (Corporal), armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun, not jump qualified

  • 1× Assistant Cook, Assistant Cook (Private First Class), armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun, not jump qualified

​→ Additional Equipment: Each company's Administrative and Supply Section was allotted 1 Willys MB "Jeep". Each Combat Section was allotted a spare 3 M1 "Bazooka" anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launchers to be distributed to the rifle platoons.

[A] One hospital corpsman was attached to each rifle platoon.

[B] In the Administrative & Supply Section, only the riggers and radio maintenance sergeant were jump qualified until February 1943.

3× Parachute Platoons (1 Officer and 38 Enlisted each) 

​→ Platoon Headquarters (1 Officer and 3 Enlisted)

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Second or First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Platoon Sergeant, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 2× Messengers, Private, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun
     

​→ 3× Rifle Squads (10 Enlisted each)

  • 1× Squad Leader, Sergeant, armed with 1 M55 Reising (before Sep. 1942) or 1 M1941 Johnson rifle (after Sep. 1942)

  • Fire Team No. 1

    • 1× Assistant Squad Leader, Corporal, armed with (before Sep. 1942) or 1 M1941 Johnson rifle (after Sep. 1942)

    • 1× Machine Gunner, Private, armed with 1 M1941 Johnson light machine gun and 1 M55 Reising (before Sep. 1942)

    • 1× Assistant Machine Gunner, Private, armed with (before Sep. 1942) or 1 M1941 Johnson rifle (after Sep. 1942)

  • Fire Team No. 2

    • 1× Fire Team Leader, Private, armed with 1 M55 Reising (before Sep. 1942) or 1 M1941 Johnson rifle (after Sep. 1942)

    • 1× Machine Gunner, Private, armed with 1 M1941 Johnson light machine gun and 1 M55 Reising (before Sep. 1942)

    • 1× Assistant Machine Gunner, Private, armed with (before Sep. 1942) or 1 M1941 Johnson rifle (after Sep. 1942)

  • Fire Team No. 3

    • 1× Fire Team Leader, Private, armed with 1 M55 Reising (before Sep. 1942) or 1 M1941 Johnson rifle (after Sep. 1942)

    • 1× Machine Gunner, Private, armed with 1 M1941 Johnson light machine gun and 1 M55 Reising (before Sep. 1942)

    • 1× Assistant Machine Gunner, Private, armed with (before Sep. 1942) or 1 M1941 Johnson rifle (after Sep. 1942)

​→ 1× Mortar Squad (5 Enlisted)

  • 1× Squad Leader, Corporal, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 1× Mortar Gunner, Private, armed with 1 60mm mortar and 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 1× Assistant Mortar Gunner, Private, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

  • 2× Ammunition Bearers, Private, armed with 1 M55 Reising submachine gun

[A] M55 Reisings may have been substituted by M1903 Springfields in some cases during the Battle of Guadalcanal if there was a shortage. Generally, after the Battle of Guadalcanal, the Paramarines from the 1st Battalion ditched their M55 Reisings in favor of the M1941 Johnson rifle.

[B] M1941 Johnsons could be substituted with M1919A4 machine guns if unavailable.

 
 

Discussion

Overview

The U.S. Marine Corps' Parachute Battalions, or "Paramarines", were airborne formations stood up in 1940⁠—the same year the U.S. Army developed a test platoon to develop airborne tactics prior to forming multiple parachute infantry regiments (Graybeal 2007). As per doctrine developed in 1942, the Paramarines were meant to be used as vanguards ahead and in support of amphibious operations, to capture critical points like airfields, and conduct reconnaissance behind enemy lines. However, these light forces would not be able to withstand attrition when isolated, and thus would rely on follow-on forces to relieve them. In practice, to increase their flexibility and usability, the Paramarines were trained in the same skills as the Raiders, with an emphasis on seaborne raids in addition to their airborne capabilities (Hoffman 1999).

 

This is the U.S. Marine Corps' Parachute Company organization adopted in July 1942 and retained until minor reorganization in February 1943. All the information contained within is based on the Table No. D-81 for the Parachute Company. Any reference to a February 1943 reorganization is based on Table No. D-315. The D-81 organization represents what would have been in service around the time of the Battle of Guadalcanal, which the 1st Parachute Battalion participated in. Although the Paramarines never performed a combat jump in the Pacific, with only a handful of Paramarines jumping with the OSS in Europe, they fought as amphibious infantry until 1944 when the Paramarines were dissolved and folded into other Marine units. The Parachute Company was the primary maneuver formation of paramarine battalions, each consisting of a Company Headquarters (split into a Combat Section and Administration & Supply Section) and 3 Rifle Platoons.

The Company Headquarter's Combat Section consisted of the Company Commander, Gunnery Sergeant, Armorer, 5 radio operators (RTOs) and 2 messengers. Additional supporting personnel, as well as the Company First Sergeant, were in the Administration & Supply Section. At this time, the Gunnery Sergeant and First Sergeant were in the same rank grade and had the same rank insignia. It wasn't until February 1943 when the First Sergeant rank was moved up to the same rank grade as the Sergeant Major and Master Gunnery Sergeant, and it did not receive its characteristic 3 stripes and 3 rocket insignia with a diamond until February 1944. All paramarines were armed with M55 Reising submachine guns, with the official tables describing a .45 caliber submachine gun with a folding stock. In practice these may have been supplemented with M1903 rifles or M1928A1 Thompson submachine guns, although it is likely that Thompsons were uncommon around the time of Guadalcanal. Only 5 members of the Administration and Supply Section were jump qualified: the radio maintenance sergeant and the riggers. This would be changed with the February 1943 reorganization which required all company headquarters personnel to be jump qualified. Each Combat Section had a spare 3 M1 "Bazookas" for issue to the rifle platoons as needed. Additionally, the Administration & Supply Section had one Willys MB "Jeep" 1/4 ton truck with a dedicated truck driver.

Six medical naval personnel were also permanently attached to the Company Headquarter's Combat Section. These personnel included a Medical Corps Officer (jump qualified doctors) and 5 Hospital Corpsman (4 petty officers and 1 junior enlisted). Three of the Corpsmen would be attached to each of the company's 3 rifle companies.

Each Rifle Platoon consisted of a Platoon Headquarters, 3 Rifle Squads, and 1 Mortar Squad. This made for 1 officer and 38 enlisted personnel. This is similar to the organization of the U.S. Army's parachute infantry rifle platoons at the time, although the Army equivalent only had 2 rifle squads.

 

The inclusion of a mortar squad in each platoon likely served 2 functions: (1) it decreased the likelihood of the company losing its entire mortar section if one of its transport planes went down and (2) it decreased the total number of personnel in the company. The Paramarine rifle company had 3 mortar squads in total, versus the 4 mortar squads of the standard Marine rifle companies which concentrated them in the weapons platoon mortar section (Table D-1). It is likely that once the company regrouped, the mortar squads would be combined into one mortar section which would provide support to their company.

The Paramarine rifle squad was significantly different from the standard Marine rifle squad of the time. The Paramarines and Marine Raiders were pioneers of the fire team system (Frank & Shaw 1968)—something the rest of the Marine Corps wouldn't adopt until 1944 (Table F-1). The Marine Corps had started the war with a squad composition similar to that of the US Army: 12 enlisted personnel with 1 automatic rifleman with an M1918A2 BAR and 11 rifles, although the Marines had authorized their squad leaders submachine guns as of July 1942 which the Army never did (Table D-1). Further, because the Marine Corps was late to adopting the M1 Garand, partially due to initial unfounded scepticism of its performance during amphibious operations, standard Marine infantry were armed with bolt-action M1903 Springfield rifles at the time of the invasion of Guadalcanal. The only Marine units to have the M1 at this time were rear echelon Defense Battalions (1 of which landed at Guadalcanal on the first day of the battle), Carlson's 2nd Raider Battalion, and the 3rd Marine Division (USMCweaponry.com). The Paramarines, by comparison, were meant to be armed almost entirely with the M55 Reising submachine gun—a .45 caliber submachine gun with a folding stock. This was a common theme of the Paramarines and Raiders: acknowledgement and prioritization of automatic weapons.

The Paramarine rifle squad was led by a sergeant Squad Leader, while squad leaders in the Marine infantry were typically corporals at this time (although the mortar squad's leader was indeed a corporal, likely do to its fewer personnel). The squad consisted of 3 fire teams. The concept of small teams for enhanced command and control were first implemented by Marine units geared towards countering riots in China around 1938. This concept had been adapted by the Paramarines as early as 1941, when 3-man fire teams based around 1 M1918A2 BAR each were implemented (although informally, a result of there being a surplus of BARs at the battalion level) (Frank & Shaw 1968).

 

By July 1942, each fire team would be based around the M1941 Johnson light machine gun. Although not a widespread replacement for the BAR in general service, the Johnson was particularly advantageous for paratroopers, as it was lighter and had a detachable barrel. The primary units to use it were the Paramarines and the joint American-Canadian First Special Service Force—both special airborne forces. The Army airborne by contrast had the M1919A4 Browning belt-fed machine gun at the squad level, with the BAR only being added in late 1944 for added firepower. All other personnel in the platoon had M55 Reisings. In the TO&E, there are no fire team leaders explicitly authorized, meaning that the introduction of the fire team system was likely down to individual company- and battalion-level officers. The assistant squad leader (a corporal) and 2 submachine gunners (privates) are assumed to be the fire team leaders. Thus, each squad consisted of a squad leader and 3 fire teams, each with 1 fire team leader, 1 machine gunner, and 1 assistant machine gunner. Meanwhile, standard Marine infantry rifle squads had no subdivisions for better command and control, and this deficiency—especially in jungle environments where the squad leader's ability to control his entire squad is even further tested—was reflected in incremental squad TO&E changes every year from the start of World War II to 1944.

 

There was variation in the availability of certain firearms depending on the battalion. For instance, based on weapons inventories from 1942 published by USMCweaponry.com, it is likely that the 2nd Parachute Battalion, which had not fought at Guadalcanal, was fielding the M1941 Johnson semi-automatic rifle in place of the officially authorized M55 Reising as of late 1942. Due to heavy casualties during their time on Guadalcanal, the 1st Parachute Battalion was withdrawn to the U.S. and received the M1941 Johnson rifle in replacement of the unpopular M55 (Hoffman 1999). Prior to this, the 1st Battalion also had M1903 Springfields, although no M1 Garands (USMCweaponry.com). Thus, the M1941 Johnson rifle did not serve on Guadalcanal, but the light machine gun did. The Johnson rifle would not serve with the Paramarines until action on Bougainville by which point this organization would have been defunct. Despite this, 3 submachine guns were retained per squad in the official TO&E change in February 1943. Based on the tables, the M1941 Johnson light machine gun could be substituted with an M1919A4 Browning if not enough Johnsons were available. However, if no Johnsons were available, it is hard to believe that a Paramarine squad would be armed with 3 belt-fed machine guns. According to USMCweaponry.com, as of November 1942, the 2nd Parachute Battalion had 650 Johnson rifles, 109 Johnson light machine guns, 26 M1919A4 machine guns, and 62 M55 Reisings in the field. No M1 Garands or Thompsons were listed, and the M1 Garand was not mentioned once by Hoffman (1999).

Minor changes would come to the Parachute Company in February 1943 with Table D-315. Included was the increase of squad size to 11 men, with a separate squad leader and assistant squad leader from the 3 3-man fire teams. Further, the large amount of M55 Reisings in the mortar squads and platoon and company headquarters were replaced with M1A1 Carbines or, in the case of some Company HQ personnel, M1911A1 pistols. The company headquarters was shuffled, and all personnel were made jump certified.

 

Sources

 

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

      - Marcus Aurelius

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