The U.S. Marine Corps just got a blast from the past: Its elite Special Operations Command will adopt the iconic “Raiders” name used by commandos during World War II to describe its Special Operations troops in the 21st Century.
The Marine Corps announced the decision Wednesday, saying Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, decided it was time for “the official continuation of our Corps’ Special Operations heritage from the Raiders of World War II to our modern day Marines.” Rank-and-file troops have called for the move for years, saying they wanted to embrace the heritage of the original Raiders.
The original Raider units were established as the Marine Corps took part in the U.S. military’s brutal island-hopping campaign across the Pacific. Raiders participated in dangerous operations frequently, often landing on hostile beaches in small rubber boats.
The proclamation announcing the change came as a new commanding general, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, took over Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC, at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The command will continue to be called MARSOC, officials said, but smaller units in the command will get the Raider name, with Raider regiments, battalions and support groups, among other elements.
“We are proud and honored to adopt the name Marine Raider, carrying on the rich heritage passed along to MARSOC by the Raiders of World War II,” the outgoing general, Maj. Gen. Mark Clark, said in a news release. “As with every Marine Corps unit, MARSOC desires a moniker that creates its own unique identity that is based on Marine Corps heritage and enables Marines to trace the legacy of those Marines who served before them.”
The Raiders name has been used unofficially for years by Marine Special Operations troops. At times, MARSOC has flown a massive banner featuring the iconic red, white and blue Raider logo at its headquarters at Camp Lejeune. It features a white skull on a red diamond over a blue field with white stars.
The Marine Corps announced the decision with these tweet, including photos of the original Raiders and modern MARSOC troops, along with both logos:
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) August 6, 2014
The Marine Corps went decades without a full Special Operations component after World War II, until MARSOC was established in 2003. They didn’t adopt the name at the time, and Amos denied a proposal by MARSOC to be re-flagged as the Raiders in 2011. Marine officials said at the time that the commandant wanted it to be clear to his troops that they were “Marines first.”
The proposal came back up this year. In a Facebook “town hall” forum, the commandant said in March that he was reconsidering MARSOC’s request.
The unofficial nature of the Raiders name has caused controversy in the Marine Corps. Marine commandos wore a Raiders patch on their uniforms in Afghanistan even though they weren’t authorized to do so, and a member of a Raiders veterans group slapped a red-and-blue patch on the shoulder of the commandant’s shoulder last year at a dinner.
Amos, who has committed to expanding MARSOC as the conventional Marine Corps declines in size, received the patch warmly, a spokesman for the commandant and the president of the U.S. Marine Raider Association, Andy Koehler, said at the time. A photograph of Amos wearing the patch on his dress blue uniform went viral.