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1st Reconnaissance Battalion
1st Recon Bn Color.jpg
1st Reconnaissance Battalion insignia
Active March 1, 1937 – present
Country United States
Branch United States Marine Corps
Type MarDiv Recon.png Marine Division Recon
Part of IMEFlogo.jpg I Marine Expeditionary Force
1st MARDIV 2 insignia.png 1st Marine Division
Garrison/HQ Seal of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.png MCB Camp Pendleton, California
Patron US-O5 insignia.svg LtCol William "Wild Bill" Whaling
Motto(s) "Swift, Silent, Deadly"
Colors Black and Gold
Mascot(s) Reconnaissance Jack
Engagements World War II
Battle of Guadalcanal
Battle of Okinawa
Korean War
Vietnam War
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Iraqi Freedom
2003 invasion of Iraq
Operation Vigilant Resolve
US-O5 insignia.svg LtCol R. J. Von Herbulis

1st Reconnaissance Battalion (abbreviated as 1st Recon Bn) is a reconnaissance battalion in the United States Marine Corps. It falls under the command of the 1st Marine Division and the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF).

1st Recon Battalion was reactivated on July 5, 2000 as part of Marine Corps Commandant General James L. Jones’ mission to revitalize Marine Corps reconnaissance.

Mission and training

The mission of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion is to provide task organized forces in order to conduct amphibious reconnaissance, ground reconnaissance, battlespace shaping operations, raids, and specialized insertion and extraction.[1]


1st Reconnaissance Battalion currently consists of four Reconnaissance companies: a Headquarters and Service Company, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Force Reconnaissance Company. While the Force Reconnaissance Company is an organic element of the battalion, Operational Control of the company resides with the I MEF commander.


When the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions were created in 1941, each had a Scout Company 7 officers and 132 NCOs and enlisted men divided into a headquarters unit and three platoons.[2] The unit had M3 Scout Cars and a motorcycle platoon.[3]

World War II

In 1941, Lieutenant Colonel William "Wild Bill" Whaling, the executive officer of 5th Marine Regiment visualized and perceived the use for specialized missions encompassing reconnaissance at the division-level, which would be conducted above the normal infantry battalion-level in scouting and patrolling.[4] He recommended to General Alexander Vandegrift the need of a special "Scout and Sniper unit" for the 1st Marine Division's operations on Guadalcanal. Upon approval, by February 1, each of the three companies were created for each regiment.

New Britain, December 1943

Forming the southern of the Bismarck Sea and the Bismarck Archipelago, the island of New Britain was focused for seizure by General MacArthur as it would mean control of the Vitiaz and Dampier Straits. Planning began and decision was made to first seize Arawe Peninsula, an island, a town, a plantation and the Japanese occupation forces situated on the southern coast, sixty miles south across island from Cape Gloucester. Cape Gloucester was tasked for seizure by Major General William H. Rupertus, the landing force commander of the northern elements.

General Rupertus turned to his scout company's chief, 1st Lieutenant John D. Bradbeer, to lead a team of several Marine scouts to conduct amphibious reconnaissance patrols of New Britain. D-Day was determined on December 26, 1943. They landed on New Britain on September 24, 1943 at night by rubber boats from three PT boats #110, #325 and #327 of Motor Torepedo Boat Squadron 21, bringing Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Kirkwall Smith, a former Australian coastwatcher who knew the area, and two natives.

For nine days, they paddled throughout the prospective landing beaches, locating coastal-defense guns, sketched the beaches and evaded the Japanese patrols in the area. Upon time of return to their PT boat pickup, they couldn't establish radio contact, so they paddled out into the Dampier Strait until they were able to get contact by radio to arrange recovery. Bradbeer's patrol were able to uncover that Japanese troop strength on New Britain was about seventy-five hundred men.

Forty-five days later of November 1943, Bradbeer accompanied Lieutenants Firm and Smith, and Ensign Gipe (a Navy hydrographer) and their small team and again landed from three PT boats on other proposed beaches. However, never landing on the proposed landing beach, it was quickly negated due to the cliffs just inland from the beach.

By December 26, 1943, six days prior to D-Day, or D-6, Bradbeer and 1st Lieutenant Joseph A.L. Fournier split the recon patrol, taking their six Marines to reconnoiter remaining portions of the island; Bradbeer and his team went north, Fornier's team reconned the south. Hours later, they both confirmed the usability of the selected landing beaches, reporting them only lightly defended. Momentarily within a few more hours both teams were recovered by their PT boats. While returning, a Japanese barge opened fire onto Bradbeer's PT boat, injuring three of the PT crew personnel. US Navy Lieutenant Paul T. Rennell, the PT boat's captain, was able to break contact and evade the Japanese safely. The reconnaissance they provided was the third and the last preliminary amphibious reconnaissance for the New Britain operation.

Peleliu and the Palaus, September 1944

The III Amphibious Corps, led by Major General Geiger tasked MGen Rupertus's 1st Marine Division for the main assault landing on Peleliu. Originally, the 1st Tank Battalion's scout company were part of the "floating reserve", but was ordered ashore on D-Day, September 15, 1944. Early in the afternoon, the Company D (Scout) reinforced Colonel Herman Hanneken's 7th Marines to cover the 5th Marines. The island was declared secured on November 27.

Northern Okinawa, April 1945

On April 3, 1945, 1st Marine Division sent their scout company in front of their zone of action along the boundary of the 6th Marine Division to their north. The recon company, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Robert J. Powell, Jr., traversed by motorized patrols to the eastern shore of Okinawa, reaching the base of Katchin Peninsula by 1300. They received further orders to advance north up the east coast toward Hiazaonna. Along the way they encountered a lightly held tank trap, then returned to 1st Marine Division before dark. Colonel Edward Snedeker 7th Marine Regiment followed the recon action report of 1st Marine Division's Company D (Scout) and pushed across the island to the town of Hiazaonna, reaching it at 1830 on April 3, 1945.[5]

Korean War

A selected platoon of Kenny Houghton's 1st Marine Division Reconnaissance Company was dispatched to Korea as part of 1st Marine Brigade (5th and 11th Marines) landing at Pusan.[6] The remainder of the Company arrived with the remainder of the Division, and all landed at Inchon. Recon Marines from the 2nd Marine Division Recon later arrived to augment the reconnaissance unit including Lieutenant "Bull" Francis Kraince. Barry Crossman was the Executive Officer.[7]

The organization was quickly altered from an amphibious unit of nine-man boat teams to a motorized unit of four-man jeep teams[8] utilizing jeeps loaned by the United States Army.[9] Using these vehicles the Company dispatched motorized patrols on a deep reconnaissance to scout from Wonsan and Hungnam to Huksori, an enemy supply depot some forty miles distant.[8] An element of the Company acted as a point for Tobin's B/1/5 push on August 13, 1950, travelling by jeep about a mile forward of the infantry force.[10]

In January 1951, the unit dispatched patrols to search out guerrillas in the Andong area and later, on one occasion, stayed concealed in a town for two nights tracing enemy cavalry and infantry patrols, and ended up by directing air strikes on them.[8]

Marines from the 1st Recon Company made seven raids into North Korea from the USS Horace A. Bass (APD-124),[6] one of which was conducted 12—16 August 1950, in which a combined force of sixteen Marines and twenty-five Navy Underwater Demolition Teams raided the Posung-Myon area destroying three tunnels and two railway bridges without losing one man.[11] Deactivated in June 1953 and reactivated in 1957. The 1st Recon Company conducted a dozen or more covert missions into North Korea seeking to find and rescue American and Allied Prisoners of War. The Recon patrols were dispatched by helicopter and the teams repelled to the ground as the helicopters kept moving in order not to be spotted as easily.

Interim Years

Cuban Missile Crisis

1st Reconnaissance Battalion (Forward) deployed to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba and Haiti in October–November 1962 to await the invasion of Cuba. Upon the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the battalion returned to MCB Camp Pendleton.

Vietnam War

Operation Kansas, June 1966

By June 1966, the 1st Marine Division had plans to expand its assigned tactical area of responsibility (TAOR) northward to the Da Nang at Tam Ky, the capital of the Quang Tin province. Pressure from the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) had placed Brigadier General William A. Stiles, the assistant division commander (ADC), position to respond by conceiving an operation by ordering an extensive reconnaissance effort between Tam Ky and Hiep Duc.[12]

BGen. Stiles had divided the operation into two phases. The first phase was to send in his recon assets in an area in the vicinity of the Hiep Duc district. The division's intelligence (D-2) section had sources of a headquarters of 2nd North Vietnamese Army lying somewhere near the western border of I Corps in the Que Son Valley. The second phase consisted of a massive exploitation of the recon team's findings, by sending in a joint show-of-force; four infantry battalions from both of each III MAF's and the 2nd ARVN's divisions.[12]

On the afternoon of June 13, a thirteen-man recon team, accompanied by the command group, of 1st Recon Battalion landed by helicopters in the middle of the Que Son Valley onto the small mountain of Nui Loc Son. In the course of the next 24-hours, six more recon assets were deployed in different strategic positioning sites, ringing the valley. This enabled the teams to actively report on enemy activity, and if possible, forward observe for ordnance payload delivery; either in air strikes or artillery fire coordination support. Up to eight battalions were on full standby— four battalions of Marines and ARVN each, ready to mount for force against any hostile forces encountered. One recon team worked their way south of Hiep Duc after they set up positions along the heavily wooded Hill 555. They spotted several groups NVA forces of varying size that appeared to be training in the area.[12]

The next day on June 14, a scout dog accompanying an enemy patrol caught scent of the nearby Marines and the patrol advanced towards their position; the recon team's leader immediately called for an extraction. A helicopter was inbound within minutes and the team hastily scrambled aboard and were safely flown back to Chu Lai.[12]

The other five recon teams remained undetected and continued reporting on the enemy for the next two days, until the moment Team 2 spotted a large enemy formation as they took up positions on Nui Vu hill, at the east end of the valley. Staff Sergeant Jimmie E. Howard (a decorated Korean War veteran), called in numerous fire coordination support, from an ARVN artillery battery located at an Army Special Forces camp site seven-kilometers to the south.[12]

The NVA quickly adapted when they realized the barrage of artillery fire were more than mere coincidence; a battalion-size force was heading toward Nui Vu. On the night of June 15, a Special Forces team spotted the advancing enemy presence and alerted headquarters. However, they relayed the information too late. SSgt Howard had heard the enemy forces approach them as they amassed below them at the bottom of the hill. While the next few hours were quiet, by midnight, several of Howard's men spotted silhouettes as dozens of NVA soldiers furtively climbed up the hill in the darkness. The NVA instigated the fight by throwing grenades at the Marines. Greatly outnumbered, Howard's men held off the attackers.[12]

Howard understood that they would soon be overwhelmed and radioed to his commander, Lt. Colonel Arthur J. Sullivan, for an immediate extraction. A short time later, the UH-34 Choctaws were inbound. However, the helicopters were under immediate attack from machine gun fires, forcing them to return. Sullivan relayed the bad news back to Howard that they would not be able to be extracted until daylight.[12]

Throughout the night, close air support, artillery strikes, and gunship fire support pounded the enemy, but the NVA didn't lighten up as they launched three strong attacks against Team 2. By 0400 that morning, six out of eighteen Marines were killed in action and Howard was temporary immobilized from shrapnel wounds. Every other man was hit at least once. While they were suffering from ammunition shortages, some recon Marines resorted to throwing rocks at the enemy. Others managed to pick up captured AK-47 rifles.[12]

By dawn, Company C of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (1/5) landed at the base of Nui Vu and reinforced recon Team 2. The Marines of 1/5 forced their way up the small mountain through scattered but strong resistance to reach Howard and his recon team. Howard and the surviving Marines were immediately evacuated; however, Charlie Company of 1/5 continued to battle for control of Nui Vu. The NVA finally disengaged and withdrew, leaving behind forty-two killed in action.[12]

The first phase of Operation Kansas had ended, however, the second phase of the operation was changed. On June 17, the day before the first assault was scheduled, General Walt advised Gen. Stiles that the ARVN units would be unavailable due to an uprising in Hue. Although aware of the circumstances, both Generals Walt and Stiles decided to continue the effort. Overall, the recon teams reported over 141 sightings of enemy forces. The second phase of the operation commenced artillery and air strikes, dispersing the enemy. Operation Kansas ended on June 22, 1966.[12]

Operation Washington, July 1966

On 6 July 1966, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur J. Sullivan, battalion commander of 1st Recon Battalion, moved his battalion headquarters to Hau Doc, a location 25-km west of Chu Lai. For eight days his recon teams covered four-hundred square kilometers of his area of operation (AO); sighting forty-six enemy forces that were scattered throughout the dense, rugged double- and triple- canopy jungle terrain, roughly ranging of 200 soldiers at most. The ground combat and supporting elements resulted only in thirteen of the enemy soldiers dead, with four prisoners. Because of the ill results, General Lewis J. Fields, the commanding general of the Chu Lai TOAR, ended the operation on July 14, 1966.[12]

Operation Scott Orchard, April 1971

Operation Scott Orchard was the last major operation of the Vietnam War, issued by the III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF) commander, Major General "Herman the German" Nickerson. The operation began when Marines of 1st Recon Bn. commenced a heliborne assault into abandoned Fire Support Base (FSB) Dagger at 1045 on 7 April 1971. After the brief firefight, the fire support base was declared secured. The plan was to reopen FSB Dagger in the Que Sons by emplacing a provisional composite battery of 105-mm and 155-mm howitzers from the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines (1/11). FSB Dagger was used the previous autumn during the multi-battalion operation of "Operation Catawba Falls". The intelligence sources from MACV had included reports of American prisoners-of-war were being held at an isolated camp in the mountainous region of the Quang Nam province.[12]

Persian Gulf War

In 1990—1991, the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion participated in the Persian Gulf War. 1st Reconnaissance Battalion was redesignated as 1st Reconnaissance Battalion (Light Armored) with all assets turned over in June 1992. Recon Marines with less than two years left in service formed the 5th Marine Regiment/5th Marines Recon Company. Delta Company was disbanded and folded into Charlie Company, which was then assigned to the newly re-designated 1st Recon Battalion, Light Armored. 1st Recon Company, which was then overstaffed and redesignated 1st Recon Battalion again in 2000, with only 50 unfilled billets on its first day.

Global War on Terror

A U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman attached to the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion watches his footing as he rappels down a cliff during a training exercise in October 2007.

In January 2003, the battalion deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 1st Reconnaissance Battalion participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq from March 2003 to June 2003. The battalion redeployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom from February 2004 to October 2004; September 2005 to April 2006, March 2007 to October 2007, and October 2008 to April 2009.[13] In January 2006, the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion was in the national news for leading Operation Green Trident, which discovered over ten metric tons of insurgent munitions, hidden in caches throughout a large area south of Fallujah in the Euphrates River Valley. Marines of 1st Recon have told military reporters that about 90 percent of their time in Operation Iraqi Freedom has been spent in mounted patrols, using their Humvees. The 1st Recon were also deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2010 where they did not lose a single man in their seven months deployment. The unit conducted a battalion-sized helicopter insert into the area of Trek Nawa, operating for 32 days straight, away from friendly lines, during that period there was contact with Taliban forces for 28 of those days using tactics and offensive action that stunned the local enemy forces. Following the missions in Trek Nawa and surrounding areas, The BN deployed two companies to the Upper Saingin River Valley, again during the intense fighting in the area the Taliban gave 1st Recon the nickname "Black Diamonds" for the diamond shaped Norotos night vision goggles mounts on their helmets, additionally sensitive reporting on Taliban radio ICOM traffic recorded a Taliban member referring to the Marines of The Force Recon platoon, and Bravo Company operating in the area as "the Sons of Satan" for their fierce fighting ability. The statement was close to " We will not fight them, they are not normal Marines, they run at us when we shoot at them..if we fight them we die..they are worse than the sons of satan."

In February 2012, there was controversy when a September 2010 photograph was published showing members of Charlie Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, posing in front of a flag with a logo resembling that of the German Schutzstaffel while serving in Afghanistan. The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force inspector general found that there was no racist intent on the part of the Marines to identify themselves with the organization as the symbol was in fact representative of the U.S. Marine Corps' scout sniper military occupational specialty.[14]

Notable Marines

Medal of Honor recipients

Denver Sanders 1966, 1967,1968 1st recon VietNam also did diving

Navy Cross recipients
  • Cpl Ricardo C. Binns,Vietnam War, 16 June 1966[17]
  • Capt Brent Morel, Global War on Terror, Operation Iraqi Freedom, 7 April 2004 (posthumously)[18]
  • Sgt Willie Copeland, Global War on Terror, Operation Iraqi Freedom, 7 April 2004[19]
  • GySgt Brian Blonder, Global War on Terror, Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan, 8 August 2008[20]

See also


  1. NAVMC 3500.55a Reconnaissance Training and Readiness Manual, p 2-2
  2. p. 5 Melson, Charles D. & Hannon, Paul Marine Recon 1940-90 Osprey Publishing
  4. Bruce F. Meyers, Swift, Silent, and Deadly: Marine Amphibious Reconnaissance in the Pacific, 1942-1945, (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2004).
  5. Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle, (New York, NY: Penguin Books 1990).
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ray W. Stubbe, AARUGHA!: History of Specialized and Force-level Reconnaissance Activities and Units of the United States Marine Corps, 1900-1974, Fleet Marine Reference Publication 12-21 (MCB Quantico, HQMC: Historical Division, 1981).
  7. Interview of MGen Kenneth B. Houghton, (San Diego, CA: MCRD, 18 November 1975).
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Paul B. Martin, "We Stalk the Enemy," (Marine Corps Gazette 37:5; May 1953); pg. 29.
  9. Interview of LtCol Ernest DeFazio, (Oceanside, CA: 12 September 1974).
  10. Andrew Geer, The New Breed: The Story of the U.S. Marines in Korea, (New York City, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1952) pg. 116.
  11. James A. Field, History of United States Naval Operations, Korea. (Wash, DC: General Public Office (GPO), 1962); pgs. 76 and 146.
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 12.11 Edward F. Murphy, "Semper Fi—Vietnam; From Da Nang to the DMZ: Marine Corps Campaigns, 1965—1975", (New York City, NY: Ballantine Publishing Group, 1997).
  14. The Guardian 09/02/12
  15. Jimmie Earl Howard, Medal of Honor
  16. Ralph Henry Johnson, Medal of Honor
  17. Ricardo C Binns, Navy Cross
  18. Brent Lee Morel, Navy Cross
  19. Willie L Copeland, III, Navy Cross
  20. Brian M Blonder, Navy Cross


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.


Further reading

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