“No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy”
In addition to boasting a compliment of approximately 1,000 Naval officers and enlisted sailors, the USS Texas was the first warship to feature a permanent contingent of U.S. Marines. The 1st Marine Division, which is still one of the most exalted units in the U.S. Marine Corps, was activated aboard the Texas on February 1, 1941. Marines routinely raided beaches since the Revolutionary War, but were never permanently assigned to a U.S. Naval warship until the outset of WWII. The leathernecks of the 1st MARDIV, much like their shipmates aboard the USS Texas, were no strangers to war.
The forerunner to the 1st Marine Division was the 1st Advanced Brigade, activated during the winter of 1913. This organizational ancestor of the 1st MARDIV underwent many restructurings and redesignations over the years, seeing action in Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and France. This “Old Breed” of Marines fought over a dozen battles in WWI, including bloody engagements at Belleau Wood, Chateau-Thierry, and St. Mihiel. The unit was deactivated and recommissioned twice prior to WWII. Marines assigned to the unit alternated between infantry and artillery assignments just years prior to the activation of the 1st MARDIV aboard the USS Texas.
During the Second World War, Marines of the Division saw sporadic action across the Pacific. The Guadalcanal Campaign was the first engagement where the 1st Marine Division fought as a single, unified unit. Codenamed Operation Watchtower, Guadalcanal was America’s initial counteroffensive against Imperial Japan. Although a costly engagement, the Battle of Guadalcanal is widely regarded as a major turning point in the Pacific War.
The Texas later supported the 1st MARDIV during the bloody Battle of Okinawa, by first bombarding Japanese emplacements and later delivering on-call fire support for Marines fighting ashore. Combined, the Texas and the “Blue Diamond” delivered a knock-out one-two punch to the Empire of Japan.