Military Organization > United States > ​​U.S. Marine Rifle Company (1944-45)

U.S. Marine Rifle Company (1944-45) 

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

 

The following is an overview of the Rifle Company of the U.S. Marine Corps from January 1944 to May 1945. This is the organization that would have been effective for the battles on Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. This was also known as the F-Series organization. The next level up was the Marine Infantry Battalion, which consisted of 3 Rifle Companies and the Battalion Headquarters & Service Company.

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Company HQ

    • 3 Rifle Platoons

    • 1 Machine Gun Platoon

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

f series marine platoon-01.png

Organization (January 1944 to May 1945)

  • Type: Marine Infantry Company

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

  • Time Frame (Battles): Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa

  • Personnel: 7 Officers and 228 Enlisted (217 Enlisted before March '44)

Company Headquarters (3 Officers and 49/50 Enlisted)

​→ 1× Company HQ Section (2 Officers, 31 Enlisted) [30 Enlisted before March '44]​​​

  • 1× Commanding Officer, Captain (OF-2), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Executive Officer, Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× First Sergeant, First Sergeant (OR-8), armed with 1 M1 Carbine
     

  • 1× Gunnery Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Mess Sergeant, Technical Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Supply Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Demolition Sergeant [added in March '44], Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Armorer, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Signalman, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Carpenter, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 2× Field Musicians, Field Music (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine each

  • 2× Messengers, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Rifle each

  • 1× Barber, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Cobbler, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Driver, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 11× Other Duty Marines, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Rifle
     

  • 1× Chief Cook [removed March '44], Chief Cook (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Field Cook, Field Cook (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 4× Assistant Cooks [only 3 before March '44], Assistant Cook (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

​→ 1× Mortar Section (1 Officer, 19 Enlisted)

  • 1× Section Commander, Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Section Leader, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Carbine
     

  • 3× Mortar Squads (6 Enlisted):

    • 1× Squad Leader, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

    • 1× Gunner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 60mm mortar and 1 M1 Carbine

    • 1× Assistant Gunner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

    • 3× Ammo Bearers, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine each
       

​→ Attachments:

  • 1× Hospital Corpsman (U.S. Navy)
     

​→ Additional Equipment: Each company headquarters section had 1 jeep with trailer, 3 Bazookas (reserve), and 6 M2 Browning heavy machine guns (reserve). The jeep would often be used to support the Mortar Section as they lacked a handcart.

3× Rifle Platoons (1 Officer and 44/45 Enlisted each) 

​→ 1× Platoon Headquarters (1 Officer and 6 Enlisted) [5 Enlisted before March '44]​​​

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Second or First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Platoon Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Platoon Guide, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Demolition Corporal [added in March '44], Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 3× Messengers, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Rifle each

 

​→ Attachments:

  • 2× Hospital Corpsmen (U.S. Navy)

​→ 3× Rifle Squads (13 Enlisted each)

  • 1× Squad Leader, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Carbine
     

  • 3× Fire Teams of:

  • 1× Fire Team Leader, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Automatic Rifleman, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifle

  • 1× Assistant Automatic Rifleman, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Rifleman, Private (OR-1) to Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Rifle
     

  • Additional Equipment: All men in the Rifle Squads with M1 Carbines were authorized M8 grenade launchers on paper. All men in  the Rifle Squads with M1 Rifles were authorized M7 grenade launchers although these were usually used by fire team leaders.

1× Machine Gun Platoon (1 Officer and 36/43 Enlisted each) 

​→ 1× Platoon Headquarters (1 Officer and 4 Enlisted) [3 Enlisted before March '44]​​​

  • 1× Platoon Commander, First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Ammunition Corporal [added in March '44], Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 2× Messengers, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Rifle each

​→ Attachments:

  • 1× Hospital Corpsman (U.S. Navy)

​→ 3× Machine Gun Sections (13 Enlisted each) [11 Enlisted each before March '44]​​​

  • 1× Section Leader, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Carbine
     

  • 2× Machine Gun Squads of:

    • 1× Squad Leader, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

    • 1× Gunner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1919A4 machine gun and 1 M1 Carbine

    • 1× Assistant Gunner, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

    • 3× Ammo Bearers [only 2 before March '44], Private (OR-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine each

​→ Additional Equipment: Each Machine Gun Squad was authorized 1 hand cart for the machine gun.

 
 

Discussion

In the lead up to operations in mid- to late-1944, the U.S. Marine Rifle Company received a significant change to its TO&E under the F-Series (more specifically the F-1 table). The company consisted of 1 Company Headquarters (itself including the Company HQ Section and a Mortar Section), 3 Rifle Platoons, and 1 Machine Gun Platoon. Up to 8 U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsmen (medical personnel filling the combat medic/aidman role) were attached to each Rifle Company, with 1 for the Company HQ, 1 for the Machine Gun Platoon, and 2 per Rifle Platoon.

At the company level, major changes include the shifting of the Mortar Section from the Weapons Platoon to the Company HQ, and the reflagging of the Weapons Platoon to just the Machine Gun Platoon. Each of the company's 3 Mortar Squads served 1 60mm mortar and carried 40-45 mortar rounds on hand. These squads were grouped into 1 Mortar Section with an officer Section Commander and Sergeant Section Leader. The officer would liaison with the Company HQ, while the Sergeant would actually lead the section. However, the greatest change came to the Rifle Squad.

The basic structure of the Rifle Platoon (Platoon HQ + 3 Rifle Squads) stayed the same. The Platoon was commanded by a grade of Lieutenant, assisted by the Platoon Sergeant (literally the rank of Platoon Sergeant. Staff Sergeant wouldn't apply to the infantry until 1948). The Platoon Guide was a Sergeant and essentially acted as an assisted Platoon Sergeant. A Demolitions Corporal was added in March 1944 (later to be removed in May 1945). The structure of the Rifle Squad, on the other hand, changed almost entirely and an additional M1918A2 BAR was added, bringing the squad's total firepower to 3 BARs. By contrast, the U.S. Army was fielding 1 BAR per squad until 1953, although squads would attempt to get their hands on a second BAR in practice.

The squad now consisted of a Squad Leader (Sergeant) armed with an M1 Carbine and 3 Fire Teams of 4 men each. Each Fire Team was led by a Fire Team Leader (Corporal), who directed his Automatic Rifleman (Private), Assistant Automatic Rifleman (Private), and Rifleman (Private). At this time, the Assistant Automatic Rifleman was armed with an M1 Carbine to allow for greater ammo carriage. This was later changed to an M1 Rifle in May 1945 with the G-series organization. The Rifleman was armed with an M1 Rifle and was intended to act as a scout, rifleman, and/or rifle grenadier depending on mission requirements. This replaced the E-series Rifle Squad, which consisted of 1 Squad Leader, 1 Assistant Squad Leader, 2 Automatic Riflemen, 2 Assistant Automatic Riflemen, and 6 Riflemen. In theory, this squad (used on Tarawa and Bougainville) could be split up into 2 equal teams of 6 men, each with an NCO leader. In practice, 5 men plus the Assistant Squad Leader was too much for the Squad Leader to handle, and this type of fire and maneuver was not often achieved.

When the Marines changed their Rifle Squad organization in April 1943 with the E-series to include 2 BARs and notionally 2 equal teams of 6, it was not based on combat experience on Guadalcanal. The Marines had been looking to implement the E-series prior than the war, but were ultimately unable to. Thus, the F-series organization (the one covered here) was the first to be implemented that actually learned from combat experience in the Pacific.

The fire team concept was revolutionary as far as command and control was concerned. Keep in mind most countries, including the U.S. Army and U.S. Marines at the beginning of the war, were fielding squads of riflemen based around one light machine gun. The concept of small subunits originated—for the Marines at least—during operations in Nicaragua in the 1930s. The Paramarines and Raiders had implemented a 3 fire team system in their squads, with the Assistant Squad Leader and the most capable privates leading the fire teams. This proved to be very effective—much more so than the standard squad layout. Following an investigation by the Griffiths Board, a a squad with 3 fire teams of 4 men was adopted. This was slightly different from the Raiders and Paramarines, adding an extra man to each fire team to improve their ability to absorb casualties.

Although the U.S. Army had partially implemented the Able (security), Baker (fire), and Charley (maneuver) team system late in the war, it was rarely used and most of the time the rifle squad acted as one entity. In most instances, except on small patrols, fire and maneuver occurred at the platoon level. This was more or less the case of the U.S. Marine squads as well even in late World War II, but command and control was especially hampered by dense jungle faced by the Marines in the Pacific Theatre. If a Squad Leader lost visual with his squad in dense vegetation, or if command and control was challenged in any way, the Fire Team Leaders were capable of maintaining control of their smaller elements. Thus, the Squad Leader was only directly in command of the 3 Fire Team Leaders, as opposed to each squad member individually.

 

Although the Army also fought in the Pacific, most of its divisions were engaged in Europe, and those divisions were continuously engaged. Thus, the Army did not have as much room to make significant changes to its TO&E. Compare this to the Marines (and even the U.S. Army Airborne) who made significant changes to their TO&Es throughout the war. The Marines (and Army Airborne) would be afforded significant downtime in between operations/campaigns. After an island was captured, there was no frontline to maintain with the enemy, unlike in Europe. You can walk to Berlin, but you can't swim to Tokyo. This gave a realistic amount of time for changes to be made. Thus, the Marines changed their Rifle Company layout at least once every year of the war.

An additional factor to the updates was the Marine's doctrine which prioritized fire over maneuver, whereas the Army valued these equally. The Marines started the war with a squad similar to the U.S. Army's (with 1 BAR) and ended it with 3 BARs per squad. In contested amphibious operations, it was found that Marine units, with limited heavy weapons support, needed to project as much firepower as far ahead of the beachhead as possible to be successful. The implementation of the fire team system allowed this.

In the way of other particulars, provision was made in March 1944 for 1 flamethrower and 1 demolition pack to be issued to each Rifle Squad if needed. On paper, this were held in reserve at the Battalion Headquarters & Service Company's Supply Section. Before then, flamethrowers were less common (24 per division under the 1943 TO&E as opposed to 27 per battalion) and mostly used by combat engineers. In reality, more often than not the battalions would form Assault Platoons by drawing extraneous personnel from the rifle companies (including the demolitions sergeants/corporals and other duty privates) who would then man the flamethrowers and demolition packs. This was codified in May 1945 with the G-series tables, which created a battalion-level Assault Platoon with 12 flamethrowers and 9 bazookas.

This is the organization that would serve the U.S. Marines until May 1945. However, the only change to the Rifle Squad at that time was the replacement of the Assistant Automatic Rifleman's M1 Carbine to an M1 Rifle. Aside from updates to their weapons and equipment, this basic squad structure has remained the same ever since for the Marine Corps, only to be changed in 2020 with a new organization based around the M27 IAR.

Ammo Loads

 

Basic Rifle Squad Ammo Load (1944-1945)​

  • Squad Leader (125 rounds for Carbine)

    • 5 M1 Carbine magazines (1 in gun, 2 per carbine mag pouch), 15 rounds per magazine

    • 1-2 Mk. II fragmentation grenades
       

  • Fire Team Leaders (88 rounds for Rifle, 40 rounds for BAR) 

    • 10 M1 rifle* clips in M1923 cartridge belt, 8 rounds per clip

    • 1 M1 rifle* clip in gun, 8 rounds

    • 2 BAR magazines, 20 rounds per magazine

    • 1-2 Mk. II fragmentation grenades

  • Automatic Riflemen (180 rounds for BAR) 

    • 9 BAR magazines, 20 rounds per magazine

    • 1-2 Mk. II fragmentation grenades

  • Assistant Automatic Riflemen (125 rounds for Carbine, 160 rounds for BAR) 

    • 5 M1 Carbine magazines (1 in gun, 2 per carbine mag pouch), 15 rounds per magazine

    • 8 BAR magazines, 20 rounds per magazine

    • 1-2 Mk. II fragmentation grenades

  • Riflemen (88 rounds for Rifle, 40 rounds for BAR) 

    • 10 M1 rifle* clips in M1923 cartridge belt, 8 rounds per clip

    • 1 M1 rifle* clip in gun, 8 rounds

    • 2 BAR magazines, 20 rounds per magazine

    • 1-2 Mk. II fragmentation grenades
       

  • Squad Total: 1,260 rounds for BARs, 528 rounds for Rifles, 500 rounds for Carbines
     

*Cited figure for rifles is the basic load. Additional disposable cloth bandoliers were available that each held 6 clips for a total of 48 rounds per bandolier. If a bandolier was worn in addition to the cartridge belt, the total load would be 136 rounds per rifleman.

Summary of Changes (from April 1943)

  • In the Company Headquarters:

    • Mortar Section was moved from the Weapons Platoon to the Company Headquarters​. One additional ammo bearer was added to each Mortar Squad.

    • 1 Demolition Sergeant, 1 Assistant Cook, 3 Other Duty Marines added

    • 1 Clerk and 1 Chief Cook removed

    • Mess Sergeant position changed from a Sergeant billet to a Technical Sergeant
       

  • In the Rifle Platoons:​

    • 1 Demolitions Corporal added​ to the Platoon HQ

    • Rifle Squads reorganized into 3 fire teams of 4 men all led by a separate Squad Leader. An additional BAR was added (now 3 BARs), the Fire Team Leader billets were created replacing the Assistant Squad Leader, and the squad was overall increased from 12 to 13 men (see Discussion for more details).
       

  • In the Machine Gun Platoon​

    • The Weapons Platoon was renamed the Machine Gun Platoon after the Mortar Section was moved to the Company HQ​

    • 1 Ammunition Corporal was added to the Platoon HQ

    • The number of Ammo Bearers per Mortar Squad was increased from 2 to 3

    • The Platoon Sergeant was increased in rank to a Gunnery Sergeant

 
 
 

Sources

  • Marine Corps Table of Organization F-1 “Rifle Company, Infantry Battalion, Infantry Regiment”, published 12 January/27 March 1944.

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

  • Frank, Benis and Shaw, Henry Jr. (1968) "Victory and Occupation: History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II Volume V", Part VI: Conclusion, Headquarters Marine Corps

  • Hashim, Ahmed. (2000) “Development of the Squad: Historical Analysis.” Center for Naval Analyses

  • Marine Corps Table of Organization E-1 “Rifle Company, Infantry Battalion, Infantry Regiment”, published 15 April 1943.

  • Marine Corps Table of Organization G-1 “Rifle Company, Infantry Battalion, Infantry Regiment”, published 1 May 1945.

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

      - Marcus Aurelius

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