In February 1942, the U.S. Marine Corps embarked on a radical experiment by establishing the 1st and 2d Raider Battalions. The 1st Battalion, commanded by the cool and calculating Lieutenant Colonel Merritt “Red Mike” Edson, initially was stationed at Quantico, Virginia, while the 2d Battalion was based at Camp Pendleton, California, under the command of the enigmatic Major Evans Carlson. In part based on British Commandos and Chinese communist guerrillas, the elite Marine Raiders would serve as force multipliers while conducting unconventional as well as conventional operations against Japanese forces.1 While the Marine Corps of the interwar period, despite its relatively small size, maintained that its purpose was to conduct amphibious landings on hostile shores, the Raiders would be highly trained light infantrymen whose foreseen role was to execute strikes behind enemy lines and other special operations.
The Marines' Commando Experiment
Under the guidance of very different commanders, the 1st and 2d Marine Raider Battalions excelled when operating behind enemy lines or fighting as conventional infantrymen.
By Midshipman First Class Michael Tesluk, U.S. Navy