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World War II

The 2nd Marine Division was officially organized on February 1, 1941 at Camp Elliott, California by change of designation from the 2nd Marine Brigade. By mid-1941, because of the growing threat of a German invasion to Iceland, the 6th Marine Regiment, a battalion from 10th Marines and other scattered units were pulled from the division and sent to garrison Reykjavik. After the outbreak of war the 8th Marine Regiment with an assortment of other division assets formed the 2nd Marine Brigade and were dispatched to garrison American Samoa.


  • During World War II, the 2nd Marine Division (Headquarters) participated in authorized operations and engagements in the Pacific Theater of Operations:
  • The Battle of Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands campaign | 4 January to 8 February 1943.
    • 2d Marines, reinforced:
      Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings, 7 to 9 Aug. 1942;
      capture and defense of Guadalcanal, 10 Aug.1942-31 Jan. 1943.
    • 8th Marines, reinforced:capture and defense of Guadalcanal, 2 November 1942 to 8 February 1943.
  • The Battle of Tarawa, in the Gilbert Islands campaign | 20 November to 4 December 1943.
  • The Battle of Saipan, in the Mariana Islands campaign | 15 June to 24 July 1944.
  • The Battle of Tinian, | 24 July to 10 August 1944.
  • The Battle of Okinawa (floating Reserve) | 1 April to 10 April 1945. (Detachment of Headquarters and the 8th Marines, reinforced, from 1 to 30 June 1945).

The 2nd and 8th Marines (reinforced by other units of the 2nd Marine Division) were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation while attached to the 1st Marine Division from 7 August and 4 November 1942, respectively, for the Guadalcanal operation.

The 2nd Marine Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, 20-24 November 1943.

Major General Julian C. Smith, USMC

Click here for an overview of Major General Julian C. Smith, USMC  and his accomplishments.

Major General Julian C. Smith commanded the 2nd Marine Division during the assault on Betio Atoll in the Gilbert Islands and exercised tactical control of the battle for Tarawa, November 20-23, 1943. (That was our division's most notable battle in WW II.) He was Commander of the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, in 1944 and returned to the U.S. where he assumed command of Parris Island Marine Base in South Carolina. He retired as a Lieutenant General in 1946. He started our association in 1949

1950s through the 1980s

The Division didn't take part in a major action again until 1958 when elements participated in the U.S. intervention into the Lebanon crisis of 1958. 2nd Marine Division units helped to reinforce Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and landed in the Dominican Republic in 1965 as part of Operation Power Pack. Other peacekeeping operations carried on by the Division include being part of the Multi National Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon from August 1982 until February 1984. The Division suffered the loss of 241 Marines and Sailors during the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing. Towards the end of the 1980s, Division Marines participated in Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama.

The Gulf War & the 1990s

The 1990s began with elements of the Division participating in Operation Sharp Edge, the evacuation of American and allied civilians out of war torn Liberia. This was followed by deployments to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield and then the liberation of Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. Following the war, elements of the Division participated in Operation Provide Comfort.

Global War on Terror

Elements of the 2nd Marine Division deployed to Kuwait in early 2003 to reinforce the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. These units formed a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) and were called Task Force Tarawa. Task Force Tarawa crossed into Iraq on the first day of the ground war with the initial task of seizing Jalibah airfield in southern Iraq. Following this, the Task Force pushed north and took part in a major battle in the town of Nasiriyah. After the war, these Marines were moved north to Al Kut where they provided security and stabilization operations in central Iraq.

The 2nd Marine Division deployed to Camp Fallujah, Iraq as the II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) headquarters in January 2005 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom III (OIF III) (later redesignated OIF 04-06) to relieve the 1st Marine Division in the Al Anbar province. The division again deployed for another year long tour at Camp Fallujah from 2007 to 2008.

Unit awards
A unit citation or commendation is an award bestowed upon an organization for the action cited. Members of the unit who participated in said actions are allowed to wear on their uniforms the awarded unit citation. The 2nd Marine Division has been presented with the following awards:

Presidential Unit Citation
Navy Unit Commendation
Marine Corps Expeditionary Streamer
American Defense Service Streamer with one bronze star
China Service Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Streamer with one silver Star and three bronze stars
World War II Victory Streamer
Navy Occupation Service Streamer with Asia & European clasps
National Defense Service Streamer with three bronze stars
Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamer with thee bronze stars
Southwest Asia Service Streamer with three bronze stars
Iraq Campaign Streamer
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Streamer
Global War on Terrorism Service Streamer