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6th Marine Division
6th Marine Division insignia
Active 7 September 1944 – 31 March 1946
Country  United States of America
Branch United States Marine Corps
Type Infantry
Role Locate close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver
Nickname(s) The Striking Sixth

World War II

Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.

The 6th Marine Division was a United States Marine Corps infantry division that formed in September 1944 during World War II for the Battle of Okinawa where it was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.[1] The 6th Division also had prepared for the invasion of Japan before the war ended. The division disbanded on March 31, 1946, and was the only Marine division to be formed and disbanded overseas.[1]

Division components[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

World War II[edit | edit source]

The 6th Marine Division wade ashore to support the beachhead on Okinawa, 31 March 1945.

A 6th Division Marine demolition crew watches explosive charges detonate and destroy a Japanese cave, May 1945

A patrol of Marines from the 6th Marine Division searches the ruins of Naha, Okinawa in April 1945.

Sugar Loaf Hill as seen from the north.

Solomon Islands[edit | edit source]

The 6th Marine Division was formed on Guadalcanal in the southern Solomon Islands on September 7, 1944.[1][2] The 6th division had been formed from three infantry regiments, the 4th, 22nd and 29th Marines, and other units such as Engineer, Medical, Pioneer, Motor Transport, Tank, Headquarters, and Service battalions.[1] The core about which the division was formed was the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, which included the 4th and 22nd Marine Regiments, plus their supporting artillery battalions - these artillery battalions were later combined into the 15th Marine Regiment.[1]

The Battle of Guam ended in August 1944 and the brigade was called to Guadalcanal with the 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, which had served with the 2nd Marine Division in the Battle of Saipan on the Mariana Islands. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 29th Marines disembarked from the United States on 1 August 1944, and landed on Guadalcanal on 7 September 1944.[1]

Okinawa[edit | edit source]

(Presidential Unit Citation, April 1 to June 21, 1945)

The 6th division trained on Guadalcanal before it was shipped 6,000 miles to land with the III Amphibious Corps on the island of Okinawa on 1 April 1945.[1] By 15 April, the division had swept through the northern Ishikawa Isthmus, where it came under fire by the Imperial Japanese Army. After heavy fighting in the south, the division replaced the Army 27th Infantry Division on the western island. The 6th division advanced south to partake in the assault against the strong Japanese defense line, called the Shuri Line, that had been constructed across the southern coastline. The Shuri Line was located in hills that were honeycombed with caves and passages, and the Marines had to traverse the hills to cross the line. The Marines that had assaulted the line were attacked by heavy Japanese mortar and artillery fire, which made it more difficult to secure the line.[1]

The division advanced to the southern island until 16 May and ran onto Sugar Loaf Hill located near the Okinawan capital of Naha.[3] The division was ordered to capture the hill, which formed the western anchor of the Shuri Line defense.[3][4] The 22nd Marines had been ordered to capture the hill before the 29th Marines started fighting on the hill on 16 May. After two days of fighting, the hill had been taken.[3] The battle on Okinawa ended on 21 June 1945.[1][3] The 6th Marine Division had suffered 2,662 Marines and Navy corpsmen killed in action and 7,470 Marines and Navy corpsmen wounded in action.[1][3]

Guam & China[edit | edit source]

In July 1945, the 6th division was withdrawn from Okinawa to the island of Guam to prepare for Operation Coronet, the planned invasion of Honshū, Japan that was supposed to occur in April 1946. The Japanese surrendered in August 1945 and the 6th division had been sailed to Tsingtao, China to accept the surrender.

The 6th division remained in China until it was disbanded in Tsingtao on 31 March 1946.

Unit decorations and other awards[edit | edit source]

The 6th Marine Division members were awarded three unit awards for World War II:

  • The 6th Marine Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the Battle of Okinawa on April 1 to June 21, 1945.
  • The 22nd Marines was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for the Battle of Eniwetok on February 17 to 22, 1944 while serving as a Marine regiment of Task Force Tactical Group One.
  • The 4th and 22nd Marines received the Navy Unit Commendation for participating in the Battle of Guam on July 21 to August 10, 1944, while serving as a Marine regiment of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade which was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for that period.

The Combat Action Ribbon (1969) is a personal decoration awarded by the Navy & Marine Corps retroactively from December 7, 1941. Members of the 6th Division are entitled to the following decorations and awards in the order of precedence:

Service Ribbons[edit | edit source]
Combat Action Ribbon
Presidential Unit Citation
Gold star
Navy Unit Commendation with one gold 5/16 inch star (updated from one bronze service star)
China Service Medal ribbon.svg
China Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg
World War II Victory Medal

Medal of Honor recipients[edit | edit source]

The Medal of Honor was awarded to five Marines and one Navy corpsman assigned to the 6th Marine Division during World War II:


See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Rottman, Gordon L. (2002). U.S. Marine Corps World War II Order of Battle: Ground and Air Units in the Pacific War. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-31906-5. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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