Located under the authority of the Department of the Navy, the US Marine Corps (USMC) serves as a land and air “force in readiness.” Since the late 19th Century, Marines have been used by the US government to execute foreign policy objectives and protect American interests overseas. USMC forces have been at the center of major wars and key military operations, garnering them a reputation as an elite fighting force.
Like the Navy, the US Marine Corps can trace its origins to before the United States was founded. On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution
creating two battalions of Marines for service as landing forces with the newly established fleet. Serving on land and at sea, Continental Marines conducted several military operations during the Revolutionary War, including their first amphibious raid into the Bahamas in March 1776. The first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines was Samuel Nicholas, who served as the senior Marine officer throughout the American Revolution and is considered to be the first Marine Commandant
When the Treaty of Paris was signed in April 1783, the Revolutionary War came to a close. Fearing that a standing military might prove a threat to the new United States government, the Army, Navy and Marines were disbanded. Lawmakers began to reconsider this decision not long afterwards, as the lack of any military force on the high seas left American shipping vulnerable to seizure by pirates and European powers warring with one another. In 1798 the Marines were re-established as a standing military force and have remained so ever since.
During the turn of the late 1700s/early 1800s, Marines saw action in the quasi-war with France, landed in Santo Domingo and took part in multiple operations against the Barbary pirates in North Africa. It was this latter campaign upon which a legendary phrase of the Marine Corps anthem was based, the “Shores of Tripoli.” Marines also took part in numerous operations during the War of 1812, including the Battle of New Orleans.
Although the United States was still a long ways from becoming a world power, the early 19th Century saw the first attempts by the US to protect its overseas interests. These attempts involved using the Marines as projections of power because of their original duty as combat soldiers aboard US naval vessels. In the decades following the War of 1812, Marines were used to protect American interests in the Caribbean, the Falkland Islands, Sumatra, off the coast of West Africa and at home in operations against the Seminole Indians in Florida.
During the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), Marines seized enemy seaports along the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific coast of Mexico. A battalion of Marines fought with Army General Winfield Scott’s army at Pueblo and fought all the way to Mexico City, referred to as the “Halls of Montezuma” in the USMC anthem.
Military actions of the Civil War were mostly fought by the Army. However, Marines did participate in a few battles, including Bull Run. Most actions came as part of efforts by Union naval forces to blockade Confederate ports. Marines participated in missions at Cape Hatteras, New Orleans, Charleston and Fort Fisher.
It would be almost 40 years before the Marines participated in another war. But that conflict, the Spanish-American War (1898), proved momentous for the Corps. The sinking of the USS Maine, which provoked the outbreak of war with Spain, prompted many young men to enlist in the Marines to fight on behalf of the country. This included a sixteen-year-old Quaker named Smedley Darlington Butler, who would go on to become one of the most famous generals and most decorated Marines in USMC history. Butler lied about his age in order to be commissioned as a lieutenant and serve in key campaigns in Cuba and the Philippines during the war, which also saw Marines fighting in Puerto Rico and Guam. From this point on, the Marine Corps became a key component of American “gunboat diplomacy” that was used increasingly to fulfill foreign policy ambitions. The invasion of the Philippines ultimately led to the islands becoming a de facto colony of America’s until after World War II.
During the Boxer Rebellion
in China (1900), Marines, including Butler, helped put down the uprising against Western countries that opened up China to foreign trade, and included the importation of opium and an influx of Christian missionaries who had come to convert the Chinese. Butler was wounded twice during fighting against the Boxers (Tihetuan
) and would have been awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing a wounded officer had it not been for a provision that made officers ineligible for the medal. This provision was later changed, and Butler went on to receive the Medal of Honor twice for heroics in other campaigns, making him one of only three Marines in USMC history to receive such distinction.
Butler quickly moved through the ranks of the Corps as he continued to impress his superiors with his leadership in campaigns involving Central American countries. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the United States began exerting its power and influence throughout Central America. Again, the Marines were called upon to enforce American economic and political interests in the region. Seemingly, wherever the Corps was at key moments, so was Butler, who served with distinction in operations in Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Mexico, and Haiti, where he won his second Medal of Honor and organized the Haitian police force.
Like the Army, the Marine Corps saw limited action in World War I due to the late entry of the United States into the conflict. Marine units nevertheless distinguished themselves on the battlefields of France, especially the 4th Marine Brigade, which became known as the “Devil Dogs” after seeing action during 1918 at Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Michiel, Blanc Mont and in the final Meuse-Argonne offensive. By WWI the Marine Corps had also established the beginnings of an aviation section. Marine pilots flew bomber missions over France and Belgium. All in all, more than 30,000 Marines served in WWI and more than a third were killed or wounded in six months of intense fighting.
Following the end of the war, some of the most noteworthy episodes for the Corps again involved Butler, who had risen to the rank of major general faster than any other officer in USMC history. In 1931, Butler publicly recounted gossip about Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in which Il Duce allegedly struck a child with his automobile in a hit-and-run accident. The Italian government was furious about Butler’s public recount and demanded of President Herbert Hoover that he do something about the outspoken general. Hoover, who wasn’t a fan of “Old Gimlet Eye,” instructed the Secretary of the Navy to court-martial Butler, who briefly wound up under arrest. Butler at first bristled at the idea of apologizing for his remarks, but later did and was given a reprimand instead of being court-martialed. He retired later that year after he was passed over for the position of commandant of the Marine Corps.
Although out of the service, Butler was often asked to speak at events around the country. His heroics and frankness had won him a national following, and he frequently called upon the government to honor the bonus promised to WWI veterans, many of whom were unemployed and homeless as a result of the Depression. The reverence veterans had for Butler caught the attention of some Wall Street interests who approached the maverick former Marine about a scheme to force President Franklin Roosevelt, who had angered the country’s elite with his populist New Deal, out of power by leading an army of veterans on Washington, DC. The fantastic-sounding coup made headlines in 1934 after Butler went public about the plot and testified before a House committee investigating rumors that had been circulating Washington. Butler was labeled a quack in the press and quietly slipped from the public eye, although not before a publishing a book that renounced the United States’ imperialistic efforts involving the Marines. In War is a Racket
, Butler called himself a “high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers” during his days commanding Marines in Central America and Asia.
When World War II came along, the reputation of the Marine Corps reached new heights. Prior to the US declaring war on Germany and Japan, the Corps began developing the doctrine, equipment and organization needed for amphibious warfare. This work paid off in the Pacific, where American military commanders set off on an “island hopping” strategy against Japanese forces. Marines established a reputation for tenacity and success in combat on Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Tarawa, New Britain, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Marines became famous not only for their heroics on land but in the air, thanks to the dog-fighting exploits of the “Black Sheep Squadron” led by ace pilot Gregory “Pappy” Boyington
. By the end of the war in 1945, the Marine Corps had suffered 87,000 killed or wounded, and 82 Marines were presented the Medal of Honor, many of them posthumously.
In spite of its contributions to the success of the US military during WWII, the Marine Corps suffered severe cutbacks after peace was declared. President Harry Truman disliked the Corps and saw it as little more than the Navy’s police force. From a high of almost 300,000 men, the Corps shrunk to just over 27,000 and much of its landing craft and amphibious carriers either were sold off, scrapped or transferred to the Army. This left the Corps in a weakened state when it was called upon by Army General Douglas MacArthur to help with the risky amphibious landing at Inchon, Korea in 1950. The mission proved successful and Marines helped liberate Seoul from North Korean forces. Marines then advanced to the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea only to see the Chinese Communists enter the war, which ultimately became a stalemate after that. An armistice was declared in 1952, but the last Marine ground troops weren’t withdrawn until 1955. More than 25,000 Marines were killed or wounded during the Korean War.
During the rest of the 1950s and into the 1960s, Marines were deployed numerous times as part of American strategic moves during the Cold War. In 1958 Marines landed in Lebanon to help bolster the pro-Western government that was confronted by a brewing civil war. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, a large amphibious force of Marines was marshaled but not landed in Cuba. In April 1965, a brigade of Marines landed in the Dominican Republic as part of the US invasion to keep the country from falling into allegedly Communist hands.
But the Marine Corps’ largest and most important action during the Cold War came in Vietnam. The landing of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Da Nang in 1965 marked the beginning of large-scale Marine involvement in the growing conflict. Instead of engaging in large-scale amphibious landings as in other wars, Marines frequently entered battle through a different means: helicopters. This resulted in the Corps expanding its aviation section to include greater numbers of rotary-wing aircraft, including the iconic Huey helicopter whose image became synonymous with the war.
During the second half of the 1960s, Marines played key roles at battles such as Da Nang, Hué City and Khe Sanh. The Marines operated in the northern I Corps regions of South Vietnam and fought both a constant guerilla war against the Viet Cong and a conventional war against the North Vietnamese Army. Marines also implemented the Combined Action Program
, a counterinsurgency warfare plan in which a squad of Marines would deploy at a village to work with locals on pacifying the area.
By the summer 1968, after the Tet Offensive by North Vietnam, Marine Corps strength in country rose to a peak of approximately 85,000. The next year Marines began withdrawing, as the US turned more to the South Vietnamese Army to fight the war. By 1971, the last Marine ground forces had left Vietnam, leaving behind only guards for the US Embassy and other diplomatic posts. These Marine guards left in 1975 when the US pulled out the last of its military and diplomatic personnel. More than 13,000 Marines died in the war, with another 88,000 wounded.
Two months after the withdrawal from South Vietnam, a US merchant ship, the SS Mayaguez, was captured off the coast of Cambodia by forces of the Khmer Rouge. President Gerald Ford ordered a detachment of Marines stationed on Okinawa to conduct a rescue operation. Little did the Marines know that upon landing by helicopter to seize the ship, the crew of the Mayaguez had already been released. The Marines wound up being pinned down by Khmer Rouge forces before they were evacuated. Fourteen Marines died during the fighting and another three were accidentally left behind and executed by the Khmer Rouge. Although it had nothing to do with the Vietnam War, the Mayaguez incident is considered by many as the last battle of that conflict. In fact, all of the names of the Marines who died in the attempted rescue were inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.
Unfortunately for the Corps, the next major incident Marines were involved with proved even costlier. In August 1982, Marines once again landed in Lebanon, this time as part of a multi-national peace-keeping force sent by the US and European powers to help stop the civil war that had ravaged the country since the 1970s. The following year, on October 23, a multi-story building at the Beirut International Airport that housed hundreds of Marines was blown up in a truck bombing that killed 220 Marines and 21 other US service members. The incident proved a huge embarrassment for the administration of President Ronald Reagan, which subsequently withdrew the remainder of US military personnel from Lebanon.
Two days later, Marines participated in the invasion of Grenada, a tiny Caribbean country that had recently come under the control of a leftist government. Many observers saw the Grenada
invasion as little more than a face-saving gesture on the part of the Reagan administration, coming so soon after the Beirut truck bombing. The administration justified the invasion by claiming America lives were at risk in Grenada. Whether they were or not, the military operation marked the continued use of Marines by the US to exert political power over the Western Hemisphere. Six years later, American military forces, including Marines, launched Operation Just Cause
to oust Manual Noriega from power in Panama.
Less than a year later, in August 1990, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait set in motion events that would lead to the largest movement of Marine Corps forces since World War II. Between August 1990 and January 1991, some 24 infantry battalions, 40 squadrons and more than 92,000 Marines deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield
, followed by Operation Desert Storm
. The main attack to liberate Kuwait was led by the 1st and 2d Marine Divisions. In a little more than four days after the offensive began, almost the entire Iraqi Army in Kuwait had been encircled, with 4,000 tanks destroyed, by Marines and other coalition forces, effectively ending the conflict.
The 1990s saw Marine deployments across a wide part of the globe, both for military and humanitarian operations. Non-combat missions took place in Liberia, Bangladesh and the Philippines, among others. In Somalia, Marines spent two years participating in famine-relief operations and military missions to help stabilize the war-torn African country. Just as Marines pulled out of Somalia, others went ashore in September 1994 in Haiti as part of the US force participating in Operation Restore (Uphold) Democracy
to end the internal strife that gripped the small Caribbean country and to allow Jean-Bertrand Aristide to return to power.
The remainder of the 1990s saw Marines deployed again to the African continent, including the Central African Republic, Zaire and Eritrea to provide security and assist in the evacuation of American citizens during periods of political and civil instability in those nations. Humanitarian and disaster relief operations were also conducted by Marines in Kenya, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. In 1999, Marine units deployed to Kosovo in support of Operation Allied Force, and following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Marines were sent to the Arabian Sea and to southern Afghanistan.
In 2003 the US invasion of Iraq involved the largest deployment of Marine forces since the Persian Gulf War. Approximately 76,000 Marines deployed to the Central Command area for combat operations against Iraq. The I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), including Task Force Tarawa and the United Kingdom’s 1st Armored Division, were the first conventional ground units to enter Iraq. Fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft from the 3d Marine Air Wing provided continuous close air support to Marine and other American and British units as they drove deeper into Iraq. On the ground, Marines from I MEF moved nearly 400 miles from the Kuwait border to Baghdad and Tikrit and eliminated the last organized resistance by Iraqi military forces. In early 2005, the II Marine Expeditionary Force replaced I MEF in Iraq as American forces concentrated on battling insurgents and other guerrilla fighters opposed to the United States’ military presence in Iraq.
Located under the authority of the Department of the Navy, the US Marine Corps serves as a land and air “force in readiness” capable of supporting US military operations and executing national political objectives. Deploying for combat as combined-arms air-ground task forces (MAGTFs), the Marine Corps consists of both ground units that function similarly to Army units and air units that include both rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft, like the Navy and Air Force.
The Marine Corps is led by the Marine Commandant, each of whom is numbered to demonstrate the leadership’s lineage dating back to the first commandant in 1798. While the chain of command dictates that the Marine commandant report to the Secretary of the Navy, Marine Corps forces can serve under the command of Army, Navy and Air Force commanders in charge of large-scale military commands. The structure of Marine Corps units is a blend of the structures employed by the Army, Navy and Air Force, due to the Corps’ ground and aviation capabilities. For ground forces, Marines units range from squads (smallest) to divisions (largest). For Marine pilots, the order from smallest to largest goes squadron-group-wing. Marine Corps wings are larger than their counterparts in the Navy, consisting of multiples types of aircraft, from F/18 fighters to attack aircraft to helicopters.
Three major commands oversee all Marine units and air wings. Marine Forces Pacific
(MARFORPAC), headquartered at Camp H. M. Smith in Hawaii, is the largest field command in the Marine Corps. MARFORPAC commands all Marine bases and stations on the west coast of the United States and throughout the Pacific. MARFORPAC commands two-thirds of the Corps’ combat power and is responsible to two geographical US unified military commands, Pacific and Central Command, and one sub-unified command in Korea. MARFORPAC has two major subordinate commands: First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF)
, headquartered at Camp Pendleton, CA; and Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF)
, headquartered on the island of Okinawa, Japan. Most of III MEF is in Japan.
The commander of MARFORPAC also commands Marine Forces Central Command (MARCENT)
, also headquartered at Camp Smith, Hawaii. MARCENT supports American military operations in the Central Command Theater, which covers the Middle East and parts of Africa and southwest Asia. Among its many operations, MARCENT provides Marine units for US missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Marine Expeditionary Forces
Marine Expeditionary Forces serve as the principle warfighting organization. The three MEFs - I MEF, III MEF, and III MEF - are located near major naval bases and airports, ensuring the rapid deployment of Marine combat power worldwide. Normally commanded by a lieutenant general, a MEF can include one or more divisions in its ground combat element, one or more aircraft wings in its air combat element and one or more force service support groups in its combat service support element.
- I MEF includes the 1st, 5th, 7th and 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigades and the 11th, 13th and 15th Marine Expeditionary Units.
- II MEF includes the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Marine Ground Task Force 4.
- III MEF includes the 2nd and 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigades and the 22nd, 24th and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Other Marine Corps Organizations
Established in October 1995, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory
conducts concept-based experiments to test new tactics, techniques, procedures and technologies designed to improve the combat capabilities of Marine forces. Included in its work is development of the Chemical and Biological Incident Response Force.
The newest of the Special Operations forces, the US Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC)
was launched in October 2005 to form a unit of approximately 2,500 personnel. MARSOC consists of the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion headquartered at Camp Pendleton, CA, and the 2d Marine Special Operations Battalion at Camp Lejeune, NC. Each is commanded by a Marine major and capable of conducting special reconnaissance, unconventional warfare and counter terrorism, among other functions. MARSOC also contains the Marine Special Operations Support Group, which provides combined arms planning and coordination, K-9 support and communications support, and the Marine Special Operations School, which screens, recruits, trains and assesses Marine Corps candidates for MARSOC.
Marine Corps Reading Lists
Weapons, equipment and supplies used by the Marine Corps are provided through defense contractors
. According to USAspending.gov
, in FY 2007, 79,087 different companies received Department of Defense contracts totaling $312 billion. However the top six companies, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon and BAE Systems, received almost one third of that money.
In March 2008 the Marine Corps announced contracts with several different companies for a new type of armored vehicle capable of withstanding attacks involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The IED has been the most lethal weapon used by guerilla fighters in Iraq, accounting for almost 70% of all casualties suffered by American military forces. Instead of relying on Humvees, the Marine Corps will deploy Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles
, designed to withstand small arms fire, IEDs and other explosive threats.
The contracts involve the following companies:
- International Military and Government LLC (IMG) awarded $410,730,320 for delivery of 743 MRAP Category I vehicles. The Category I is an MRAP vehicle used by the Marine Corps and other Joint Forces for convoy operations.
- Stewart & Stevenson Tactical Vehicle, division of Armor Holdings, Sealy, TX, awarded $481,835,008 for delivery of 1,024 MRAP Category II vehicles with CAT I seating configuration.
- BAE Systems Land & Armaments, LP, Ground Systems Division, York, PA, awarded $234,043,500 for delivery of 393 MRAP Category II vehicles, along with three modified MRAPs, known as “variants,” for Marine Corps Special Operations forces and 51 MRAP ambulance variants.
- Force Protection Industries, Inc., Ladson, SC, awarded $9,849,420 for delivery of 12 MRAP Category I vehicles and 6 MRAP Category II vehicles. The company was awarded a second contract for $7,690,529 for delivery of 11 MRAP Category III (Buffalo) vehicles
In addition to the MRAP, other equipment and weapons provided to the USMC include the M16, the primary assault rifle used by Marines since Vietnam, built by Colt
, which also builds the M203 Grenade Launcher used by Marines. The military is gradually replacing the M16 with the XM8 Light Assault Rifle, produced by Alliant Techsystems
and Heckler & Koch.
The main battle tank used by USMC armored units is the M1 Abrams
, manufactured by General Dynamics.
Other key weapons systems and equipment used by USMC forces are as follows:
While defense contractors represent a critical support element for the Marine Corps, the USMC will no longer allow them to don Marine clothing, called “cammies,” in theaters of operation. For several years the Corps allowed contractors, technicians and some government civilians to suit up and blend in with Marines in places like Iraq.
Now, civilians are permitted to wear the Defense Department-issue three-color desert utility uniform. Some Marine Corps loyalists praised the announcement.
“You can’t have any slob wearing the uniform,” said Owen Conner, curator of uniforms and heraldry at the National Museum of the Marine Corps
in Triangle, Virginia. “If you have too many people wearing it, they start looking like park rangers or postal employees rather than military.”
Contractors can no longer wear Marine cammies
(by Andrew Tilghman, Marine Corps Times)
Troop Surge, Part II
Following the decision in 2007 by the Bush administration to send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq to help stem attacks against American military forces, military experts began talking of another, smaller surge for ongoing military operations in Afghanistan.
The conservative American Enterprise Institute, which was instrumental in designing the current surge strategy in Iraq, convened an “Afghanistan Planning Group” in January 2008 that was expected to announce recommendations for an influx of troops into Afghanistan. “It’s clear to everyone who looks at it that more troops are necessary in Afghanistan,” said Frederick Kagan, an AEI fellow and an architect of the surge strategy in Iraq.
Already the US has sent an additional 3,200 Marines into the country. Half of them serve as trainers, and the other half serve as combat troops backing up British troops in the violent, drug-producing Helmand province
On November 19, 2005, a squad of Marines was on patrol in the Iraqi town of Haditha when a roadside bomb exploded, killing one Marine. The explosion provoked a brutal response, according to witnesses and military prosecutors, in which Marines killed 24 Iraqi men, women and children. News reports of the killings brought about condemnations of US military operation in Iraq and reminded some of a similar episode during Vietnam at the village of My Lai (which involved Army soldiers, not Marines).
Following an investigation by the military, eight Marines were arrested and faced courts-martial. Over the next three years, while prosecutors prepared for trial, charges against five of the eight Marines were dropped, with the latest involving Lance Corporal Stephen B. Tatum. Initially, Tatum faced charges of unpremeditated murder and negligent homicide which later were downgraded to involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault.
Some Marines had told investigators that Tatum was among those who “cleared” two Iraqi houses, while another Marine testified Tatum told him to shoot a group of Iraqi women and children he found on a bed in a closed room. That Marine said he walked away but saw Tatum return and heard a loud noise, possibly gunfire or a grenade.
USMC officials offered little explanation for why the charges against Tatum were dropped. Tatum’s attorney said his client had not struck a plea deal to testify against the remaining three Marines awaiting trial.
Lack of Armor, Equipment for Marines
In 2005 the Marine Corps’ inspector general (IG) issued a report saying USMC units fighting in some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq didn’t have enough weapons, communications gear or properly outfitted vehicles. The report said an estimated 30,000 Marines in Iraq needed twice as many heavy machine guns, more fully protected armored vehicles and more communications equipment to operate in a region the size of Utah.
The IG investigation also accused Marine Corps leadership of understating the needs of its units. One of the biggest concerns was a shortage of properly armored vehicles to protect Marines from roadside bombs, the single biggest killer of military personnel in Iraq.
Three years later, the issue of insufficient armored vehicles arose again. In January 2008 allegations surfaced that the Marine Corps leadership had been slow to respond to requests for more protection for combat Marines. The allegations were made by Franz Gayl, a Corps civilian employee, who worked in the Plans, Policies and Operations Department of USMC Headquarters. Gayl wrote in a Jan. 22 report
(PDF) that a 2005 request for new specially-built vehicles, or MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected), fell victim to the Corps’ “Byzantine” procurement system. He also alleged that USMC officials turned down the 2005 request for MRAP vehicles, in part because they were more concerned with budget constraints than they were with the safety of Marines.
Based on statistics from iCasualties
, Gayl’s report concluded that deaths from roadside bombs could have been reduced by 50% had the request for MRAPs been approved. Gayl’s assertions prompted the Marine Corps to ask the Defense Department Inspector General’s Office to look into the allegations.
Two months after Gayl’s report, the Marine Corps announced several contracts to purchase MRAPs (see Stakeholders)
Private Contractors Killed in Fallujah
On March 31, 2004, four men working for Blackwater USA as security guards were ambushed by guerilla fighters in the Iraqi town of Fallujah. The security contractors were killed, their bodies burned and mutilated, and two were strung up on a bridge over the Euphrates River. Images of the horror were broadcast around the world, and four days later Marine Corps units were ordered to invade the city and find the killers. The attack resulted in heavy fighting, and Marines left a few days later, only to return again to try and quell insurgent attacks.
Marine Corps General James Conway, who would later assume command all of all USMC operations as commandant, was the top Marine officers in Western Iraq during the Fallujah attacks. Upon relinquishing his command of the First Marine Expeditionary Force for a new assignment, Conway criticized US military and civilian superiors for first being overly aggressive in responding to the Blackwater killings and then vacillating by pulling out Marine Corps units so quickly. Conway said he had not wanted to mount an offensive against the town after the killing of the four guards.
“We felt that we probably ought to let the situation settle before we appeared to be attacking out of revenge,” he told reporters. “I think we certainly increased the level of animosity that existed.”
Conway also was critical of the decision to turn over Fallujah to a US-trained Iraqi security force, known as the Fallujah Brigade. Not only did the brigade fail to combat militants, it actively aided them, surrendering weapons, vehicles and radios to the insurgents, according to senior Marine officers. Some brigade members even participated in attacks on Marines ringing the city, the officers said.
The High-Risk Contracting Business
Annual Budget: $20 billion
United States Marine Corps
Amos, James F.