Battle for the Punchbowl: The U. S. 1st Marine Division 1951 Fall Offensive of the Korean War

A Marine Division in 1950 numbered approximately 22,000 men. (See Charts # 6
and 7) It was the main unit for infantry combat in the Marine Corps. It was a force of
combined arms organized, basically, in triangular fashion (i.e., by threes: three
regiments per division, three battalions per regiment, three companies per battalion,
three rifle-platoons per company, etc.), however, Marine aviation was not organic to a
Marine division, contrary to popular misconception, despite the "inseparable" makeup of
the Marine air-ground team (addressed later). More than half of the 20,000 plus men
comprised the teeth of the division, the three infantry regiments. In addition, a Marine
division included organic artillery (one regiment), "a service regiment, a tank battalion,
special teams to control air and naval gunfire support, engineers, shore party, motor
transport, medical, signal, and other units normal for a force of combined arms."9
The 1st Mar Div (reinforced) in the Korean War was very big indeed. It was
almost "a corps within a corps." It actually numbered almost 30,000 men in 1951 with
the KMC regiment attached.10
The division was definitely equipped for heavy combat, though its organic motor
transport was inadequate for long term land operations far from the sea. A Marine
division was no light-weight. Robert D. Heinl included an appendix to his Victory at High
Tide, entitled, "the Sinews of Battle," that compared the 1st Mar Div of 1950 during the
Inchon/Seoul campaign to the standard Army infantry division. Some excerpts from that
appendix are useful here:
Although the Chromite operation [Inchon landing] was conducted, at least
nominally, under a corps headquarters, it was nonetheless a campaign in which
the division, either Marine or infantry, was the dominant fighting organization. In
modern warfare, the division is said to be the smallest unit (comparatively
9 Thomas, Heinl, and Ageton, Marine Officer's Guide, 88.
10 Allan R. Millett, Many a Strife, 293, 306.

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Montandon, Joshua W. Battle for the Punchbowl: The U. S. 1st Marine Division 1951 Fall Offensive of the Korean War. Denton, Texas. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc3938/. Accessed November 22, 2014.