Marines and Sailors Celebrate 80 Years of ‘Third Fight’ with Okinawa Ceremony

Members of the 3rd Marine Division celebrate the division’s 80th anniversary with a ceremony at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. (Frank Andrews/Stars and Stripes)

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa – Born in the middle of World War II, the 3rd Marine Corps Division played a key role on Guam and Iwo Jima and again in Vietnam at Khe Sanh and the evacuation of Saigon.

Subsequent generations of its Marines fought in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Since its inception, the division has stood guard in the Western Pacific.

On Wednesday, Marines and sailors from the 3rd Marine Division, flanked by rocket launchers, artillery pieces and American flags, marked the division’s 80th anniversary with a ceremony under scorching September skies.

“I am proud of each of the thousands of young men and women who have volunteered and served honorably over these 80 years,” Division Commander Gen. Jay Bargeron told Marines during a parade. resting on the grounds of Camp Hansen and guests filling the bleachers nearby.

“Some are better known than others, but together they were the real strength of the division,” Bargeron said. “Men and women from different backgrounds but with one important thing in common: a selfless desire to serve their country as Marines and sailors.”

The 3rd Marine Division played a key role on Guam and Iwo Jima during World War II and again in Vietnam at Khe Sanh and the evacuation of Saigon.

The 3rd Marine Division played a key role on Guam and Iwo Jima during World War II and again in Vietnam at Khe Sanh and the evacuation of Saigon. (United States Marine Corps)

The 3rd Marine Division played a key role on Guam and Iwo Jima during World War II and again in Vietnam at Khe Sanh and the evacuation of Saigon.

The 3rd Marine Division played a key role on Guam and Iwo Jima during World War II and again in Vietnam at Khe Sanh and the evacuation of Saigon. (United States Marine Corps)

Activated on September 16, 1942 at Camp Elliott in San Diego, the division was permanently transferred to Okinawa in November 1969.

Along the way, the “Fighting Third” produced more than 40 Medal of Honor recipients, won 11 streamers for its unit flags, including two Presidential Citations, during World War II, Vietnam, World War against terrorism and humanitarian relief efforts in Indonesia. in 2004. He also participated in Operation Tomodachi, the effort to aid survivors of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that leveled communities in northeastern Japan in March 2011.

“Those decisions to sacrifice themselves and put others before themselves, those decisions are truly the cornerstone of our nation and those individual decisions to serve continue to be made today,” Bargeron said.

The 3rd Marine Division is now a “reserve force” ready to seize and control key maritime terrain in the island chain that stretches from northern Japan to Okinawa and the Philippines, according to the statement of division mission.

The division has five major components, including the recently formed 3rd Marine Regiment Littoral in Hawaii and the 12th and 4th Marine Regiments, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion and Headquarters Battalion in Okinawa, Japan.

Members of the 3rd Marine Division celebrate the division's 80th anniversary with a ceremony at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Wednesday, September 14, 2022.

Members of the 3rd Marine Division celebrate the division’s 80th anniversary with a ceremony at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. (Frank Andrews/Stars and Stripes)

launches the corporal.  Karl Schmidt, left, and PFC.  Aramis Sandoval of the 3rd Marine Regiment patrols through farmland in this undated photo taken in Afghanistan.

launches the corporal. Karl Schmidt, left, and PFC. Aramis Sandoval of the 3rd Marine Regiment patrols through farmland in this undated photo taken in Afghanistan. (Mark Fayloga/US Marine Corps)

“We are the first line of defense, we are the caltrap, with the Japanese and our mutual partners,” said Sgt. Matthew Wampler told Stars and Stripes after the ceremony. The caltrap, symbol of the division, is a spiked weapon deployed on the ground to slow down an enemy’s advance.

Wampler, 24, a Seattle native and a radio operator with the Headquarters Battalion Communications Company, has been in the Corps for six years. He said he joined the Marines because “they are the best of the best”.

sergeant. Apreanna Johnson, 28, of Chicago, a 10-year-old Marine who served in Afghanistan in 2014, wore the colors of 4th Marine Regiment during the ceremony at Hansen.

“For me, our motto means being strong mentally and physically, making sure to incorporate our [military occupational specialties] in the concept of the Marine Corps as a whole,” she told Stars and Stripes. “I work in supply, but I’m also a Marine, I’m a rifleman, so I have to be ready to deploy.”

Bargeron concluded the hour-long ceremony by thanking the division’s troops.

Together, every day, we operate within clear threats to our peace and security, and we do so with great confidence,” he said. “It is a trust that is rooted in the commitment of our allies and partners, in the confidence of our fellow Marines and sailors and in the legacy of loyalty, honor and bravery forged by those who have gone before us, we owe them a great debt past and present.”

Members of the 3rd Marine Division celebrate the division's 80th anniversary with a ceremony at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Wednesday, September 14, 2022.

Members of the 3rd Marine Division celebrate the division’s 80th anniversary with a ceremony at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. (Frank Andrews/Stars and Stripes)