Photo by Lance Cpl. Michael Taggart
14 Sep 2022 | 3rd Marine Division
The 3rd Marine Division commemorated its 80th Anniversary during a battle colors rededication ceremony at Camp Hansen, Okinawa Sept. 14, 2022.
The Division, which earned the nickname “The Fighting Third,” was activated at Camp Elliot in San Diego, Sept. 16, 1942.
“We are honored to recognize and celebrate the anniversary of 3rd Marine Division and the service and sacrifice of the Marines and Sailors who have stood in these ranks and – war by war, battle by battle, and day by day – built the great legacy of fidelity, honor, and valor that we stand on today,” said Maj. Gen. Jay Bargeron, the 3rd Marine Division Commanding General, as he addressed an audience featuring hundreds of U.S. Marines and Sailors along with multiple senior leaders from the Japan Self-Defense Force.
Since its inception, the 3rd Marine Division has primarily operated in the Indo-Pacific region. During World War II, it fought in the campaigns on Bougainville, Guadalcanal, Guam, and Iwo Jima where many Marines like CWO4 Hershel “Woody” Williams demonstrated extraordinary heroism on the battlefield.
Following World War II, the Division was deactivated Dec. 28, 1945 and then reactivated Jan. 7, 1952. In August 1953, 3rd Marine Division arrived in Japan, supporting peace and security throughout the region. In March 1956, the Division moved to Okinawa where it remained as an expeditionary force-in-readiness until 1965.
On May 6, 1965, the 3rd Marine Division opened the Marine compound at Da Nang Air Base in Vietnam. The Division subsequently operated combat bases at Da Nang, Phu Bai, Quang Tri and Dong Ha. The Division departed Vietnam in November 1969 and moved to Camp Courtney, Okinawa, where it is presently located. During the Vietnam War alone, 32 Caltrap Marines and Sailors earned the Medal of Honor.
“The troops I commanded in Vietnam [and] the ones that I commanded throughout my career have always been top of the line, well trained, disciplined, motivated, and flexible,” said Col. Robert Modrzejewski, who earned the Medal of Honor in Vietnam during one of multiple tours with 3rd Marine Division. “Marines are adaptable … the technology [and] the weapons are more sophisticated [today] … as far as ability, I can’t tell the difference.”
The legacy of 3rd Marine Division continued on through the Global War on Terrorism, supporting combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“To be a part of The Fighting Third means being mentally strong and physically strong,” said Sgt. Apreanna Johnson, an Afghanistan veteran and Chicago native currently serving as the color sergeant and supporting logistics for 4th Marine Regiment. “My specialty may be Supply, but I understand that I am also a Marine rifleman and must always be ready to deploy and fight.”
In the midst of emerging threats, the 3rd Marine Division continues to play a significant role in the evolution of the Marine Corps – from furthering concepts such as expeditionary advanced base operations to standing up the Corps’ first Marine Littoral Regiment.
“We remain a Fight Now force today. We stand ready – along with the rest of III MEF, our Allies and Partners, and the entire Joint Force – from mainland Japan to the Philippines and beyond,” Bargeron said. “Together, we operate within range of clear threats to peace and security; and we do so with great confidence – a confidence that is rooted in the commitment we share with our Allies and Partners, in the trust of our fellow Marines and Sailors, and in the legacy forged by those who went before us.”