The Marines of World War II are best known for their island hopping campaign in the Pacific at battles such as Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, but they also had a small presence in the war’s other theaters.
A Marine brigade occupied Iceland during the early stages of the war, and Marines later served as advisors and trainers during British and American amphibious operations in Africa and Europe. During the Normandy invasion, Marine sharpshooters used their rifles to detonate floating mines and clear the way for Navy ships.
At least 50 members of the Corps also served as intelligence agents and saboteurs for the Office of Strategic Services. They included Colonel Peter J. Ortiz, who parachuted into Nazi-occupied France and was later twice awarded the Navy Cross for his efforts in aiding the Resistance.
All told, roughly 6,000 Marines took part in the European and African Theaters in some capacity during the war.
Britain's King George VI inspects the Marine detachment of Washington (BB 56) on 7 June 1942. From left are: RAdm Robert C. Giffen, commanding Task Force 39; King George; Adm Harold R. Stark, special naval observer; and Capt Howard H. Benson, commander of the Washington. Commanding the Marine Detachment is Capt James D. Hittle, who retired as a brigadier general; commanding the 1st Platoon is 1stLt Jonas M. Platt, who retired as a major general; commanding the 2d Platoon is 2dLt Robert Knox. Photo courtesy of The Admiralty, London.
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