The historic 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, known as the Island Warriors, cased its colors and deactivated Friday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, part of the Corps’ plan to downsize and modernize.
“Although our battalion colors will no longer fly tomorrow, our spirit — the nature and character of the Island Warrior — spreads throughout our Corps,” said Lt. Col. Brandon H. Turner, the unit’s final commander, in a press release.
“Our Marine Corps moves forward, and we, ever faithful to the cause, move forward as well. Fortune Favors the Brave. We are and always will be the Island Warriors,” Turner added.
The unit was founded on May 1, 1942, as the 3rd Training Battalion during the Corps’ expansion during World War II.
The battalion was redesignated as 2/3 the following month, and in 1943 it was the first to land on Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.
Though the battalion was deactivated from 1945 to 1951, it had earned a well-known legacy in the Corps.
“The Island Warriors have served bravely and fought well in Bougainville, Guam, the Republic of Vietnam, Kuwait and Afghanistan,” said Lt. Gen. James Bierman, commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force, in a memo about the unit.
Between 2005 and 2011 the battalion deployed to Afghanistan three times and to Iraq twice.
The battalion is “one of the finest and most storied battalions currently in the Marine Corps,” Bierman said.
The battalion was deactivated as 3rd Marines is slated to become the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment.
The Marine littoral regiment is a new formation the Corps is debuting that will be specifically designed for a dispersed fight in the littorals of any future war.
The 3rd MLR will be the Corps’ first official Marine littoral regiment and the final makeup of the unit will be based on experiments it conducts in the coming years.
“While today is a somber day in history as the Island Warriors deactivate, today symbolizes a critical shift for the Marine Corps; a necessary shift to once again answer the call,” said Col. Timothy S. Brady Jr., the commander of 3rd Marines, said during deactivation ceremony. It is “a shift that enables the Marine Corps to reorganize and establish new formations like the Marine littoral regiment, a unit ready to fight and win against any rising threat in the Pacific.”
Though it was a somber day for some, Bierman looked back at the battalion’s initial deactivation after World War II for clues to the unit’s future.
“There is every likelihood that we have not seen the last of 2/3; it may be the page is only being turned on the latest chapter,” the III MEF commander said in his memo.
“If, at some time in the future, Corps and Nation again call, the proud colors and streamers of 2/3 will once again be uncased,” he added.