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3rd Reconnaissance Battalion
3rd Reconnaissance Battalion insignia
Active 16 September 1942 – present
Branch United States Marine Corps
Type MarDiv Recon.png Marine Division Recon
Part of III Marine Expeditionary Force
3rd Marine Division
Garrison/HQ Camp Schwab (satellite of Camp S.D. Butler), Okinawa

World War II

Vietnam War
Operation Desert Storm

Operation Iraqi Freedom

The 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion conducts amphibious and ground reconnaissance in support of the 3rd Marine Division and Marine Forces Pacific (MarForPac), operating in the commander's areas of influence. The Battalion is based out of Camp Schwab, a satellite base of Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler. It is geographically located on the Okinawa Prefecture in Japan.

Mission and training


The 3rd Recon Battalion consists of approximately 450 Marines and Sailors that falls under the command of the 3d Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Company B was formed from the 5th Force Reconnaissance Company due to the formation of the Marine Special Operations Teams (MSOT) in 2006.

3rd Recon Battalion supports the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit by augmenting a Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R&S) Platoon.


  • The 3rd Reconnaissance Company was activated on 16 September 1942 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California as the Company E (Scouts), 3rd Tank Battalion, and assigned to the 3rd Marine Division.
  • On 20 April 1943, they were redesignated as 3rd Scout Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division.
  • On 1 July 1943, they were redesignated as Company D (Scout), 3rd Tank Battalion.
  • On 1 April 1944, they were redesignated Division Reconnaissance Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division.
  • Reactivated on 1 March 1952 at Camp Pendleton, they were designated as Reconnaissance Company, Headquarters Battalion and assigned to the 3rd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force.
  • In August 1953, they deployed to Camp McGill, Japan; and subsequently redeployed in April 1956 to Camp Hauge, Okinawa.
  • They were deactivated on 14 April 1958 and reactivated the following day, 15 April 1958, at Camp Schwab, Okinawa, as the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division.
  • In December 1963, they returned to Camp Schwab, Okinawa.
  • 3rd Recon Battalion deployed to various locations in the Western Pacific until its stand down and deactivation in 1992.
  • After de-activation, 3rd Recon Battalion companies devolved to three Regiments in 3rd Marine Division: A co - Recon Company, 3rd Marine Regiment, B co - Recon Company, 9th Marine Regiment, and D co - Recon Company, 4th Marine Regiment. C co personnel were folded into B and D companies prior to disbandment.
  • In January 1994, Recon companies, 4th Marine Regiment and 9th Marine Regiment merged to form Recon Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division at Camp Schwab, Okinawa. Recon Company, 3rd Marine Regiment remained at the Regimental level.
  • On 2 June 2000, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion was again reactivated by combining the force and company reconnaissance elements.


World War II

In January–February 1943, they deployed to Auckland, New Zealand.

During the recapture of Guam, the 3rd Marine Division and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade each had its own reconnaissance company. Major General Lemuel C. Shepherd split the 3rd Division's scout and sniper company into its three platoons to attached each to the brigade's regiments, the 4th and 22nd.[1] The 22nd Marine Regiment's commander, Colonel Merlin F. Schneider, kept his regiment's assigned recon platoon close to the command post (CP). They were used to for rapid deployment on recon missions for the regimental commander, or when not being used on a specific mission, they guarded the CP.[1] Colonel Schneider retired with the rank of Brigadier General after receiving the Navy Cross and Bronze Star.

At night, a landing was made on W-Day, General Shepherd and each of his regimental commanders waited for the usual nightly Japanese counterattacks. The Japanese forces was led by Japanese Colonel Tsunetaro Suenaga of the 38th Regiment from the Imperial Japanese Army's 29th Division. At 2130, Colonel Suenaga probed his attacks at the juncture of the regimental boundaries between the 3rd Marine Division's 4th Marines and the Marine Brigade's 22nd Marines. The enemy charged in force and overran the forward Marine lines and began to penetrate the thinly held rear areas. Using grenades, small arms, mortars, bayonet and close quarters combat, they were able to hold of the attacking Japanese army.

However, one Japanese element during their counterattack managed to reach the 75 mm pack howitzer artillery position before they were ultimately stopped by the gun crews. A Japanese company of infiltrators approached the regimental command post. At this point, the Marine defenders, all hands—clerks, cooks, and supernumeries, rallied around 1st Lt. Dennis Chavez, Jr. recon platoon. They too immediately stopped the Japanese attack.[1] By dawn, the Japanese 28th Infantry Regiment was eliminated. Colonel Suenaga was wounded and later killed in these attacks.[2]

Within the 1st Marine Prov. Brigade, on the night of 25–26 July 1944, Colonel Craig, the commanding officer of 9th Marines and the adjoining 21st Marines were concerned about the front line that was left open.[3] Craig opted to use his regimental scout platoon to help fill the gap between the regiments. At about 2330, a forward operating post reported increased activity. By midnight, artillery and mortar fire bombarded the area starting another major counterattack by the Japanese. As a consequence, the lightly armed scout platoon was forced to fall back.[2]

The last reconnaissance on Guam was conducted by a mechanized reconnaissance-in-force. A force consisted of Alpha, Echo (Scouts), and H&S Company of 3rd Tank Battalion; and I Company of 21st Marines. During the last major actions beginning 3 August 1944, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines (1/9) had secured a series of roads that junctioned in Finegayan Village, in the northern section of the islands. Lieutenant Colonel Hartnoll J. Withers led the group, moving north-northwest. Two M3 Half-track, two jeeps for communications purposes and one platoon of tanks supported by an infantry platoon were maneuvering toward Road Junction 177.[1]

Their column was immediately hit by heavy concentrated fire from 75-mm and 105-m artillery, tanks, mortars and heavy small-arms and machine guns. The Marines returned fire and after two hours, the Marines managed to destroy two of the 75 mm guns, one Japanese tank, and several machine-gun nests. Recognizing the Japanese held the advantage in terrain and cover, the Marines withdrew their forces back. Later it was determined that the attack was against a full Japanese battalion of Rikusentai, the elite Special Naval Landing Force. Guam was finally declared secured on 10 August 1944, after an intense three-week battle.[1]

In December 1945, they returned to Camp Pendleton, and were deactivated on 31 December 1945.

Vietnam War

The first U.S. military force that landed during the Vietnam War were two Marine units. On 10–14 April 1965, two battalion landing teams (BLT) of 3rd Marine Regiment landed on the beaches of Da Nang in Vietnam unopposed. They were the 2nd and 3rd Battalion from the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Their objectives were to secure an airfield at Phu Bai and establish an effective beachhead.[4]

The Marines made their first firefight encounter on 22 April 1965, against a small company of Viet Cong. A patrol of men from Company D of 3rd Recon was scouting 13 kilometers southwest of Da Nang. The Marine patrol was accompanied by a few platoons from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). After a brief intense exchange of small-arms fire, the outnumbered recon Marines radioed in for support. An infantry company from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines (BLT 1/3) reinforced the small group of Company D and the ARVN. The combined force was able to push the hostile force back several kilometers before losing them in the heavily foliaged terrain.[4] Two days later on 24 April, a recon squad positioned two kilometers south of Phu Bai fell under a surprise attack by VC as the Marines were setting up defensive positions for the night. Although the firefight lasted for only a few minutes, each side lost two men.[4]

The beachhead was secured a couple of weeks later. In the later afternoon of 7 May 1965, elements of 3rd Recon Battalion arrived at Chu Lai from Da Nang and secured the beachhead's southern flank as BLT 1/4 was setting up several kilometers inland. A few days later, BLT 3/3 arrived from Okinawa, and 3rd Recon Battalion returned to Da Nang.[4]

Actions that summer led to a Marine, 1stLt Frank S. Reasoner, becoming the first Marine in South Vietnam to earn the Medal of Honor. On 12 July 1965, an 18-man patrol from Company A was under fire about 20 kilometers southwest of the Da Nang Air Base. Reasoner, the patrol leader, and his patrol were under a barrage of heavy fire. His radio operator was hit by enemy fire. Reasoner came to the operator's aid as he provided cover, killing two VC and interrupting hostile automatic weapons fire. As Reasoner was about to render hasty first aid to his radioman, he was mortally wounded.

USMC 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion memorial, center marble stone is for Medal of Honor recipients, red bricks above and below: team "Flight Time" Ocala, Florida

The 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion lost its last full team, call sign "Flight Time," on 4 June 1969. No other full team was lost during the remaining six years of the Vietnam War.[5] The team's "Last Known Activity" report reads:

2 June 1969 Recon Team "Flight Time" from D Company, 3rd Recon Battalion, was inserted on Hill 471[6] about a kilometer south of Khe Sanh in the Quảng Trị Province, Vietnam. On the night of 3/4 June 1969 the team was attacked by an enemy force and requested both emergency extraction and immediate reinforcement. Communications with the team were lost at 0320. When the reactionary force arrived a little after 0400 they were too late ... the six members of '"Flight Time" were killed in action. Five members of the team were in a small trench; the sixth, was approximately 10 meters further down the hillside. It was apparent from the state of the battle area that "Flight Time" had been overwhelmed in fierce hand-to-hand combat.

—Declassified document: 3/JEK/wjc 5750.6 003A1911969 of 10 July 1969[7]

Team members were: 1stLt Michael M. O'Connor, Cpl William A. Buck Jr., Cpl William M. Wellman Jr., LCpl Douglas W. Barnitz, Pfc Robert L. Pearcy and Pfc Harold A. Skaggs.[8]

Interim Years, 1975–present

Marines from Deep Reconnaissance Platoon, Bravo Company, wait for the word to begin an exercise during Crocodile 2003.

The battalion served in the Gulf War including being involved in the Battle of Khafji. In March 2004, elements of Company B deploy to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On 13 February 2005, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion deployed to Iraq to conduct combat operations in the Anbar Governorate, and was the focus of the documentary film Alpha Company: Iraq Diary. From September 2006 to April 2007, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion deployed to Iraq to conduct combat operations in the Al Anbar Province. From April to November 2008, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion deployed to Iraq to conduct combat operations in Al Anbar Province for its third combat tour. In November 2009, elements of the Battalion deployed in support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In May 2011, the Battalion deployed again to Afghanistan, this time to the Sangin District of Helmand Province. They conducted a Relief-In-Place (RIP) with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, taking over Patrol Base (PB) Alcatraz and began conducting operations in early June, returning home to Okinawa in fall 2011.

Notable members

Medal of Honor recipients
Navy Cross recipients
  • Alpha Company – Vietnam War, Cpl Bryant C. Collins, LCpl Manuel A. Estrada, PFC Steven D. Lopez, Cpl Roger D. See, & Sgt James N. Tycz (KIA)
  • Bravo Company – Vietnam War, LCpl Robert C. Barnes, Cpl Charles W. Bryan (KIA), & Sgt Jose G. Lopez
  • Charlie Company – Vietnam War, Cpl Steven M. Lowery, & LCpl Norman W. Vancor
  • 3rd Force Company – Vietnam War, Cpl Harry J. Corsetti, Pvt James E. Honeycutt (KIA), & Cpl. Charles T. Sexton

See also


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

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Bruce F. Meyers, "Swift, Silent, and Deadly: Marine Amphibious Units in the Pacific, 1942–1945", (Annapolis, MD: Naval Press Institute, 2004).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Robert Aurthur and Kenneth Cohlmia, "The Third Marine Division", ed. Robert T. Vance (Wash., DC: Infantry Journal Press, 1948), 151.
  3. Benis M. Frank and Henry I. Shaw, Jr., "History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II"; Volume 5: Victory and Occupation (New York City, NY: Penguin Books, 1990).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 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).
  5. Kozlowski, Stan (2009). "Remembering Team Flight Time, Page 2" (pdf). 3rd Reconnaissance Association. Retrieved 18 April 2010. 
  6. From site of Old French Fort looking NW toward Hill 471
  7. "3d Reconnaissance Battalion. 3d Marine Div. Pg. 41 of 202" (pdf). Vietnam Archives Declassified document: 3/JEK/wjc 5750.6 003A1911969 of 10 July 1969. 1969. Retrieved 19 April 2010. 
  8. "Recollections Of Vietnam". 3rd Reconnaissance Association. 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 

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