FORMATION OF THE DIVISION
With the arrival of the Third Regiment, the Third Division was a complete unit, and the officers and key men of the Ninth Marines took part in several Division command post exercises. Problems of supply and logistics were worked out on the New Zealand beaches, and the troops took part in landing maneuvers to perfect their already smooth-working technique.
Just prior to the regiment's departure for Guadalcanal, it lost its reinforcing units, which reverted to their original organizations. The Ninth Marines was no longer a reinforced regiment. However, the purpose for which the reinforcing units had been attached was accomplished. All units had carried out coordinated training, and the troops had become familiar with the personnel of their supporting elements. The Ninth Marines was prepared to strike.
THE TWELFTH MARINES
The Twelfth Marines, the artillery regiment of the Third Marine Division, was activated at Camp Elliott, California in September 1942, under the command of Col. J. B. Wilson. At the time of its activation, it was actually necessary to form only H&S Battery, commanded by Major Guy E. Tannyhill, and the 4th Battalion, under Major Bernard H. Kirk. The 1st, 2d and 3d Battalions, organized as 75mm pack howitzer battalions, were already formed as part of the reinforced regiments that became the regimental combat teams of the Third Division.
At the time of activation, the pack howitzer battalion attached to the Ninth Marines (Reinforced), and commanded by Lt. Col. John S. Letcher, was designated the 1st Battalion, Twelfth Marines. The pack howitzer battalion activated as part of the Twenty-first Marines (Reinforced), and commanded at first by Major A. V. Gerard and later by Major A. L. Bowser, became the 2d Battalion, Twelfth Marines under Lt. Col. R. F. Grist, Jr. The pack howitzer battalion, activated as part of the Twenty-third Marines (Reinforced), and commanded by Lt. Col. Randall M. Victory, was initially designated as the 3d Battalion, Twelfth Marines. With the detachment of the Twenty-third Marines, reinforced, from the Third Division and the substitution of the Third Marines (Reinforced), as the third regimental combat team of the Division, the First Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion, attached to that regiment and commanded by Col. James D. Waller, became the 3d Battalion, Twelfth Marines.
The officers and men of the Twelfth took up their duties with vigor. Most of the experienced personnel of the cadres had served together at one time or another in the Tenth Marines and knew each other from long association. Shortly after activation, H&S Battery and the 4th Battalion moved from Camp Elliott to the Marine Corps Base at San Diego where new recruits were acquired and the equipping of the new units was completed. Here on September 7 they were joined by the 1st Battalion detached from the Ninth Marines (Reinforced). On October 12 the regiment less its 2d and 3d battalions moved to Camp Dunlap at Niland, California, for extensive field training and firing. This was to be the Twelfth's home until it moved overseas.
Camp Dunlap is in the vast desert of the Imperial Valley and the half-made camp looked anything but inviting—a sprawling, sandy stretch of wasteland. Bulldozers had leveled the ground in spots but there were no buildings, only tents. The rugged camp compared in no way to the comfort of the San Diego base with its barracks and good liberty. It afforded what every artillery unit needs, however— plenty of space for firing and maneuvering. There the crews of the 75s and 105s could bang away to their heart's content disturbing only the desert lizards. The rugged terrain and the desert country, with its summer heat, its cold winter nights and warm days, gave a variety of climatic conditions excellent for physical training. Besides gun drill and physical workouts, regimental personnel we-e schooled in their organic weapons other than howitzers, the M-l, carbine, Reising submachine gun, 37mm self-propelled AT guns, caliber .30 and .50 machine guns.
On November 25 the 2d Battalion joined its parent organization at Niland having arrived from New River, North Carolina, as part of the Twenty-first Marines (Reinforced). The training of the 2d Battalion at New River had necessarily been basic. It fact it had not received its pack howitzers until the middle of October. A demonstration had been fired for the Marine Corps Schools Artillery Class, however, prior to the departure of the battalion from New River.
The period of desert training at Camp Dunlap was invaluable in the development of the Twelfth into an artillery regiment. It was culminated on December 26 by a three-day combined exercise with all infantry command and staff groups at Niland in which all types of concentrations were actually fired by the Twelfth. On January 1, 1943, the 1st Battalion, Twelfth, was attached again to the Ninth Marines to become part of the advance echelon of the Third Division preparatory to moving overseas. On January 25 the 2d Battalion was attached to the Twenty-first Marines (Reinforced) to move overseas with that regimental combat team.
Once again the regiment consisted of H&S Battery and the 4th Battalion, which moved back to San Diego prior to shipping overseas. On February 22 the regiment less the 1st, 2d and 3d Battalions embarked aboard ship and on the following day the ship slipped out of the harbor bound for New Zealand.
While the New Zealand Army Band alternately played the U. S. National Anthem and the "Beer Barrel Polka" the Twelfth disembarked at Auckland, New Zealand on March 11 and the following day moved by train to its camp near Whangarei about eight miles from Auckland.
During its sojourn in New Zealand the lack of suitable terrain for actual firing coupled with the fact that the 1st, 2d and 3d Battalions were attached to regimental combat teams and thus widely dispersed over the northern part of the island greatly hampered the operations of the regiment. Training was mainly taken up by weapons schools, gun drill and physical conditioning. In May, however, when the 3d Battalion had arrived from Samoa, the entire regiment fired a problem.
The training of the Twelfth Marines had been thorough; the speed, flexibility and accuracy of its supporting fires in the Bougainville campaign were to become a worthy example of the employment of artillery in modern battle.
THE NINETEENTH MARINES
The Nineteenth Marines was a war-born outfit organized to meet the needs of the rapidly expanding Marine Corps. Formed on September 16, 1942, at Camp Elliott, the Nineteenth was organized from a cadre taken from the Eighteenth Marines, then a part of the Second Marine Division. Among the officers and men in the original personnel of the regiment were many who had received their baptism of fire at Pearl Harbor as members of the Second Engineers, parent organization of the Eighteenth Marines. On the date of activation regimental H&S Company and the headquarters of the 1st Battalion (engineers) and 2d Battalion (pioneers) were organized. The lettered companies of these battalions had been formed as part of the regimental combat team that comprised the newly activated Third Marine Division.
The 25th Naval Construction Battalion joined the Nineteenth from the U. S. Naval Advance Base Depot, Port Hucneme, California. Upon joining, the Seabee battalion's designation was changed to 3d Battalion, Nineteenth Marines.