3rd Marine Division celebrates 71 years
CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa, Japan -- The 3rd Marine Division celebrated its 71st birthday Sept. 16 at a ceremony on Camp Courtney.
“The history of this division is rich and amazing,” said Sgt. Maj. Paul McKenna, the 3rd Marine Division sergeant major. “By reserving a few moments once a year to honor the service and sacrifice of those who came before us, reminds us that what you do today will not be forgotten.”
Officially activated Sept. 16, 1942, the 3rd Marine Division was stationed at Camp Elliott, San Diego, Calif.
The division was soon ordered to Guadalcanal where its training intensified as it prepared for the Battle of Bougainville. This training helped the division during the two months it spent battling for ground against heavy enemy resistance.
The battle-tested 3rd Marine Division went on to participate in other crucial World War II Pacific campaign battles to include the Northern Solomon Islands, Guam and Iwo Jima.
Following lessons learned during the Korean War, the 3rd Marine Division started participating in innovative training to included helicopter-borne and airborne operations.
The new skill-sets paid-off during the division’s operations in the Vietnam War. The division was heavily involved in key operations across South Vietnam in areas such as Danang, Phu Bai and Dong Ha.
“In 1965, the 3rd Marine Division’s first major fight was Operation Starlite and the Battle of Chu Lai in the Quang Ngai province, Aug. 18-21,” said McKenna. “The heavy fighting resulted in 700 enemy dead. The operation demonstrated what the U.S. Marines could do when the enemy met them in a stand-up fight.”
The division is currently comprised of the 3rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Regiment, 12th Marine Regiment, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion and the Combat Assault Battalion.
The representatives of each of these units stood at attention as a ceremonial detail guided the birthday cake into position in front of the commanding general.
Maj. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy III, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Division, cut a piece of cake and presented it to Master Sgt. David J. Doten, the longest-tenured Marine in the division. The piece of cake was shared with Pfc. Avery Estrada, the newest member of the division. The passing of the cake symbolizes the passing of knowledge, tradition and experience from old to new.
“It’s a big deal to bear the weight of the future of this division on my shoulders,” said Estrada, an intelligence specialist with G-2, intelligence, Headquarters Bn., 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “I’m extremely honored to have been allowed to be a part of this tradition.”