May 01, 2006
‘Raider’ retired: MarSOC units will not use ‘legendary’ name

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — The crowd of strong-armed men and eager young Marines who gathered at Camp Pendleton three years ago for Marine Corps Special Operations Command Detachment 1’s standup included a handful of gray-haired veterans, men who saw combat six decades ago during raids and specialized missions in the jungles and on the beaches of the South Pacific.

They were called U.S. Marine Raiders, members of two battalions formed during the latter half of World War II as an unconventional, special forces-type of unit similar to British commandos.

The June 20, 2003, activation of Det 1 paid homage to the Marine Raiders. The Det’s insignia, designed by Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Siciliano, incorporated the Raiders’ famous knife, a Fairbairn Sykes stiletto, and the Raiders’ insignia as a tribute and link to the famed battalions, which existed for only two years after their 1942 inception.

So the leathernecks quietly hoped they, too, would carry on the Marine Raider legacy.

Some 8,600 men became Raiders and earned numerous combat distinctions, including seven Medals of Honor and 136 Navy Crosses, according to the Marine Raider Association.

When they went into combat in Iraq, as part of a Navy SEAL task group, Det 1 called itself Task Unit Raider.

But that’s where the name ends. Marine Corps officials have decided that Marines and units in the new Marine Corps Special Operations Command, which was stood up in February, won’t be called Raiders.

The decision signals the end of the line for the shrinking Raider association, whose small community gets smaller as its men age. Its hope had been to draw more Marines and expand its membership, which the bestowing of “Raider” on a Corps unit would certainly do.

But that’s not to be. “We debated that, long and hard,” said Lt. Gen. Jan Huly, director of plans, policies and operations, in a recent interview.

The Marine Raiders Association “would have liked to have seen SOCom Det 1 called the Raiders,” Huly said. The prevailing opinion is that what the Raiders did for the Corps in World War II “was legendary.”

“Even though we know that the SOCom Det and the MarSOC guys are going to make as equally a great contribution to the future, they still will be different,” Huly said. “We thought that it would be hard to live up to that image, but the guys in the SOCom Det and the guys who are yet to come do deserve to make their own legend. Let the Raiders keep what was unique to them. That was ultimately what swayed the commandant’s mind.”

When officials explained that to the Raiders, he said, “they bought off on it.”

“I think their legacy is going to live on,” he added.