Army vs. Marines tactics in the Pacific theater of World War II

What were the big differences in approach to amphibious combat and general ground assault? I recall reading somewhere alot of criticism to the Marine’s approach and that it caused alot of unnecessary deaths but my memory may be hazy on that.


The Battle of Saipan had some pretty contentious Army versus Marines comparisons. Marine General Holland Smith actually relieved Army Commanding Officer General Ralph Smith of his command of the Army 27th ID, for not advancing enough in the battle. I guess it turned out that Gen Ralph Smith actually had to push through some of the more heavily defended and rugged areas, and his plan for getting through and improvising was implemented to success after his being relieved, Speaks more to the inter-service rivalry than tactics differences between he Marines and Army, but it always pops into my mind when these questions come up.

Also, I think it is important to point out that the Marines were kind of like the police force for the US in the late 1800s early 1900s throughout the world, and honed a specific skill set in operating expeditionary forces…they even literally wrote the book on it (Small Wars Manual). This greatly influenced both tactics and strategy (doctrine), and no doubt had an effect on how they approached the island hopping campaigns of the pacific…maybe even sometimes to their detriment. But as a force, I would say that the Marines were better prepared at the beginning of the war and throughout, to face the type of fighting that occurred on the islands in the Pacific. They were expeditionary by design, trained guerilla warfare and tactics, and improvisation and adaption on the fly was a normal part of their culture.

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In to be educated

In to learn!

I always assumed it kind of went: Marines go in first to secure a beachhead then Army floods in with more men and equipment.

from what I recall, the army was more apt to attempt to flank whereas the marines would attack head on.

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TFK said it well, the Marine Corps from its inception, existed essentially to seize and defend advanced naval bases. The war in the Pacific was perfectly suited for the kind of tactics that the Marine Corps had been developing, specifically those written by LtCol Earl “Pete” Ellis in the 1930s. Amphibious Operation expertise was organic to the Marine Corps and, due to the integration with US Navy assets, a natural fit. The Army ultimately conducted more and larger amphibious assaults in WWII but the subject matter experts were Marines. As for the differences in tactics I believe, like TFK said, it was more due to service culture than actual differences in doctrine.

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