The 1st Battalion, 1st Marines is one of the most decorated and distinguished units in the Marine Corps. It is an integral part of America’s premier force-in-readiness that has historically been first to the fight whenever conflict arises. The unit has played a major role in some of the most important military campaigns throughout our Nation’s history. The motto “Ready to Fight” not only reflects 1/1’s ability to respond to any crisis on short notice, but also its eagerness to support and defend the rights and freedoms of every American.
1st Battalion 1st Marines was officially activated on March 1, 1941 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A month later they redeployed to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina but were quickly deactivated on June 18, 1941.
1/1 was reactivated on February 7, 1942 at New River, North Carolina. After a few months of training they were deployed to Wellington, New Zealand in July 1942. The Battalion would play a major role in some of the bloodiest and most important battles of the War in the Pacific. August 1942, the Battalion landed on the island of Guadalcanal where it participated in the first major Allied ground offensive of World War II. 1/1 captured the island’s critically important airfield and delivered the decisive blow against a large Japanese force at the Battle of the Tenaru. December 1943, the Battalion saw action on Cape Gloucester, New Britain where it faced some of the most challenging environmental conditions of the war. In addition to fighting the enemy, the Marines also battled malaria, monsoon rains, and triple canopy jungle.
September 1944, the Battalion landed on the island of Peleliu. Forced to attack into the very heart of the Japanese defenses on “Bloody Nose Ridge”, the unit sustained over 70% casualties, the highest ratio of combat losses by any Marine Corps battalion in history. April 1945, the Battalion participated in the Battle of Okinawa. There it would find itself engaged in the largest and bloodiest battle of the War in the Pacific.
September 1945, the Battalion was sent to Tientsin to protect civilians and infrastructure in North China during the Communist takeover of that country.
September, 1950, the Battalion took part in the amphibious landing at Inchon. Soon after, the Battalion captured the key town of Yongdungpo and helped spearhead the drive to recapture Seoul.
October 1950, the Battalion was sent to the Eastern Central Front near Wonsan where it engaged North Korean forces operating in that area. November 1950, the Battalion was sent north toward the Chosin Reservoir area. When the Division was suddenly attacked and surrounded, the Battalion fought enemy forces in the Koto-Ri area and prevented the Chinese from cutting off the Division’s withdrawal through Funchilin Pass. From 1951-1953, the Battalion repeatedly engaged in heavy fighting throughout the hills and ridges of the Korean Peninsula. It also participated in the defense of the Korean Demilitarized zone from 1953-1955 before relocating back to Camp Pendleton.
In 1965, the Battalion deployed to Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, where it was reassigned to the 3rd Marine Division. The Battalion found itself engaged in major combat operations every year from 1965-1970, and played a key role in some of the largest and most important battles of the Vietnam War. 1/1 operated throughout Con Thien, Quang Tri, Da Nang, Dong Ha, and Phu Bai, conducting a number of major operations t include Hastings, Virginia, Cherokee, Trinidad, Union, County Fair, Kentucky, and Medina. The Battalion also played a major role in the fighting at Khe Sanh in 1967, and during the Battle for Hue City in 1968. The Battalion finally relocated back to Camp Pendleton in 1971.
December 1990, the Battalion was sent to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield. In February 1991, the Battalion participated in Operation Desert Storm, seeing considerable action against Iraqi forces to include a pitched armored battle at Al Burquan. The Battalion consolidated at Kuwait International Airport on February 27, 1991 and returned to Camp Pendleton in April.
Shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Marines of BLT 1/1 landed in Afghanistan during the early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Battalion helped secure an airstrip outside of Kandahar, established Camp Rhino, and performed security operations in support of the Northern Alliance’s efforts to remove the Taliban. The Battalion deployed four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2003 the Battalion operated in Southern Iraq alongside British and local Iraqi forces to help secure the Um Qasar and Basra areas. In 2005 the Battalion conducted combat operations south of Baghdad in the Al-Mahmoudiyah area. In 2006, the Battalion conducted operations in Al Anbar Province, in an area that extended from northern Fallujah to the outskirts of Baghdad. The Battalion would see extensive fighting during this deployment, suffering 17 KIAs and over 50 wounded. In 2007 the unit once again deployed to Al Anbar Province, this time to support stability operations in the Habbaniyah area.
BLT 1/1 is currently the Ground Combat Element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.