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WWII: Marines In Europe

A Photo of Marines from the London Detachment, normally serving at the American Embassy.

Marines from the London Detachment, normally serving at the American Embassy in London, traveled north to Scotland for a seven-week commando training course before setting off into battle during World War II. - Photo Courtesy of Col. Roy J. Batterton

Wherever war is waged, Marines will be found – guarding or fighting.

Although the Marine Corps’ battle was mostly in the Pacific during World War II, some Marines were assigned to serve with certain Navy units and operated in Europe.

Some of these Marines were part of small detachments serving as barracks guards or on naval operating bases. Other Marines would volunteer for more secret operations in Europe and North Africa.

In July of 1941, Marines were tasked to escort state department couriers and provide security for the American embassy in London, according to retired Lt. Col. Harry W. Edwards’ book “A Different War: Marines in Europe and North Africa.” Marine aviators also visited the embassy and met with England’s Royal Air Force. These meetings had a significant effect on the techniques and tactics developed for the use of Marine aviation during the war and the upcoming operation, Operation Overlord — a prelude to the D-Day invasion in World War II.

The objective of Operation Overlord was to mount and carry out an invasion with forces and equipment already established in the United Kingdom, according to Furthermore, the mission’s goal was to secure an area for a forward operating base, so further offensive operations could be developed and launched. This helped plan a concentrated assault on the Germans occupying parts of Europe.

More than 13,000 paratroopers were dropped near the Cherbourg area at 1:30 a.m., June 6, 1944. This was to support the Force U troops landing over the beaches
of the Cotentin Peninsula.

Twenty-six assault waves were rushed through the peninsula in order to secure the area and press forward, according to Edwards’ book.

A photo of Marines arriving at the Marine Barracks, Naval Operating Base, Londonderry, Northern Ireland

In June 1942, the Marine Barracks, Naval Operating Base, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, was established with the arrival of its Marine personnel. - Photo Courtesy of George O. Ludcke

The success of Operation Overlord opened the door to allow 130,000 more allied troops to land safely on D-Day, according to Edwards’ book.

The 80-man Marine detachment’s next mission was more limited — providing security for the Naval Radio Station in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, which was a key communications facility for all naval operations in the area, according to Edwards’ book. The security of the station was imperative and done successfully.

Many of the Marine officers who served with the Marine Detachment at the American Embassy in London during WWII continued to serve in the Corps, most later becoming colonels and generals. Maj. Wallace M. Greene went on to become Gen. Greene, the 23rd Commandant of the Marine Corps.

The London detachment received recognition for its war time service in the form of service streamers for the detachment colors:

■ American Defense Service Streamer with one Bronze Star
■ European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Streamer
■ World War II Victory Streamer

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3 Responses

  1. JEFF H says:

    Ahhh, but the question for today is, how many Marine pilots were shot down over Europe and what were the circumstances?

  2. Ryan says:

    Definite Storm Trooper look to it…

  3. Yes, Lord Vader.