Storied Marine infantry regiment deactivated as Corps carries on with force redesign

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The Marine Corps deactivated one of its storied infantry regiments Thursday as the Corps moves forward with force design changes.

The 8th Marine Regiment originally was founded on Oct. 9, 1917, in Quantico, Virginia, as part of the nation’s buildup to World War I.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger released his force design plan in early 2020, which included a total force reduction of 12,000 Marines by 2030, the axing of all tank battalions and the “divestment” of three infantry battalions and one regimental headquarters.

The reductions are meant to clear up more money for new investments like long-range missiles and light armored reconnaissance, which will better prepare the Marine Corps for the future battlefield.

A smaller, faster and more mobile Marine Corps will fight in a distributed fashion in the littorals of the future battlefield, acting as a skirmish line for the joint force, in Berger’s vision.

Though the cuts mean fewer Marine infantry units, the Marine Corps intends to ensure every unit is fully manned, Marine spokesman Maj. Joshua Benson told Marine Corps Times in November.

Deactivation is nothing new for 8th Marines. The unit has been deactivated a total of four times in its history.

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The first was only two years after the unit was created for World War I.

Though the Marines were never sent to France, the Marines in the regiment were used to defend oil fields and navy yards, until the first deactivation in 1919, according to the unit’s history page.

The unit was then reactivated in 1920 and sent to fight in Haiti as part of the Banana Wars, the unit history said.

Deactivated a second time in 1925, the unit was re-formed in 1940 in San Diego. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the unit became the first Marine regiment to be sent to the Pacific, fighting in the Samoan Islands before taking part in Guadalcanal.

Deactivated for a short time in 1949 the unit was once again brought back in 1950. Since its activation the unit has played a part in Marine Corps history, most notably when the unit deployed to Beirut in the 1980s.

In October 1983 Marines with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, were based at the Beirut airport when a truck loaded with explosives blew up their barracks, in total killing 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers.

“Whether its combat, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, or here in (the continental United States), whatever the mission, we’ve always risen to the occasion, and the Marines are better for that, and they can take that with them on to their next unit,” Sgt. Maj. Keith Hoge said in a release from the 2nd Marine Division.

On Thursday the most recent deactivation took place with the headquarters element shutting down shop.

“Today’s deactivation of 8th Marines signifies a transition, the transition of a storied regiment that has performed so well since 1917,” Maj. Gen. Frank Donovan, the commander of 2nd Marine Division, said in a statement released by the Marine Corps. “It’s just a natural transition that we go through as we contract or expand the Marine Corps in certain locations and places, either by skillset or by geographical location, that fits with force design.”

Though the headquarters element shut down Thursday, the three battalions in the regiment are still activated.

In November 1/8 was sent to 6th Marines, earning them the right to wear the French Fourrege, Marine Corps Times reported. The battalion is currently deployed as part of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Previously, 2/8 had been “task-organized within 2nd Marines and 3/8 is currently deployed to Okinawa, Japan as part of the unit deployment program, a release from the 2nd Marine Division said.

When 3/8 returns to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the unit will be deactivated, a release from the unit said.

“I hope that we’ve made them proud, those of the past and those who have now moved out of the (regiment) to other battalions and units. They can take with them the 8th Marine Regiment fighting spirit and go on and do good things in the Marine Corps,” Hoge said in the release.

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