Marine Corps History about burned Colors...
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    Marine Corps History about burned Colors...

    In the history of the US Marine Corps, and the Continental Marines before they were US Marines, Marine Combat Units have surrendered 3 times.

    These surrenders occurred in December 1941 on the Pacific Islands of Guam, and Wake, and in May 1942 on Corregidor in the Philippines.

    In all three cases, Marines were ordered to surrender by non-Marine officers who were in charge of the Marine units.

    As well, on these occasions, the Marines BURNED THEIR COLORS before surrendering. Indeed, it’s a major point in Marine Corps history that Marine combat units have never LOST, i.e., SURRENDERED, their colors in combat.

    On Guam, Marines were ordered to surrender 10 Dec 1941 by US Navy Captain George McMillin who wore two hats, Governor of Guam, and Military Commander.

    Marines on Wake Island were ordered to surrender on 23 Dec 1941 by US Navy Commander Winfield Cunningham who was the overall military commander on Wake.

    And Marines on Corregidor were ordered to surrender 6 May 1942 by US Army General Jonathan Wainwright who became the overall military Commander in the Philippines after Douglas MacArthur left for Australia on 11 March 1942.

    I don’t know much about the guerrilla fighters in the Philippines during WW2, but it’s logical that military personnel would take to the hills, if they could, rather than become a POW.

    In the various US Conflicts since 6 May 1942, including Korea and Vietnam, no US Marine Combat Unit has surrendered, and, as noted above, in the history of the Marine Corps, no Marine unit has surrendered its colors!

    Why Not?

    Quite simply it’s not in a US Marine’s DNA to surrender.

    This is because US Marines do not quit the fight!

    This means, of course, that unless they are ordered to do otherwise, US Marine Combat Units will fight to the last man! That said, fighting to the last man, rather than withdrawing to fight another day, is not always the best tactics or the best strategy.

    In the history of warfare, this has been proven many times, perhaps most notably at Stalingrad in 1943 when 500,000 German troops who could have withdrawn to fight another day were overrun by Soviet troops and sent to the Gulags in Siberia.

    Unfortunately, Hitler didn’t understand the difference between withdrawal and surrender. To him, these two possibilities were one and the same, and represented cowardice in the face of the enemy. When the war ended in May 1945, most of these German troops had died of starvation, and neglect in captivity at the hands of the Soviets.

    So Kudos to US Marine Maj General O.P. Smith in ordering and conducting a successful, and legendary, fighting withdrawal of UN Forces at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in Dec, 1950. NOTE:

    UN Forces at Chosin meant mostly the reinforced US 1st Marine Division consisting of over 30,000 men. Naysayers want to call the withdrawal a retreat, but the reality is that it was a successful fighting withdrawal of UN Forces who withdrew so, as mentioned above, they could fight another day.

    And fight they did in the early months of 1951, such that by March 1951, the Chinese PVA (People’s Volunteer Army) was reduced to 18 very beat-up combat infantry divisions consisting of less than 150,000 men minus their tanks, artillery, and rolling stock from an Army that began in January 1951 with 30 reinforced combat infantry divisions totaling over 300, 000 men that included tanks, artillery, and rolling stock.

    The destruction of China’s PVA was so complete that China was unable to field Army infantry units until late May, 1951. All of this occurred because the vastly outnumbered UN Forces under O.P. Smith’s command conducted a successful fighting withdrawal, instead of either surrendering, or fighting to the last man.

    The fighting withdraw was so successful that it is studied to this day in military academies around the world. The Chosin Battle reminds me of another place where a fight occurred during a miserably cold December against overwhelming opposition intent on complete destruction, and where the commander said, “Nuts” to an offer of surrender. You may have heard of the place. Bastogne!

    The action involved the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division at a crossroads in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium in December, 1944. The parallels between Bastogne and Chosin are remarkably several, but are notable for the following four: 1) subzero cold, 2) month of December, 3) overwhelming opposition, 4) an enemy intent on complete destruction. In both situations the good guys did not surrender, nor were they destroyed, and most important, they lived to fight another day!

    Semper Fi,

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  2. #2
    Super Moderator Platinum Member USMC 2571's Avatar
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    Jun 2007
    southern Missouri
    Thanks, Mike.

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