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III Marine Expeditionary Force
III Marine Expeditionary Force insignia
Active October 1, 1942 – June 10, 1946
May 6, 1965 – present
Allegiance United States
Branch United States Marine Corps
Type Marine Air-Ground Task Force
Role Forward-deployed expeditionary force
Size ~27,000
Part of Marine Forces Pacific
Garrison/HQ Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan
Anniversaries Oct. 1, 1942
Activated as I Amphibious Corps
Engagements World War II
Vietnam War
Operation Desert Shield
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Provide Comfort
Operation Sea Angel
Operation Fiery Vigil
Operation Restore Hope
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Unified Assistance
Operation Tomodachi
Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler
July 19, 2013-present
Alexander Vandegrift

III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) is a formation of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force of the United States Marine Corps. It is forward-deployed and able to deploy rapidly conduct operations across the spectrum from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to amphibious assault and high-intensity combat.

It maintains a forward presence in Japan and Asia to support the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan (1960) and other alliance relationships of the United States. III MEF also conducts combined operations and training throughout the region in support of the National Security Strategy for Theater Security Cooperation.

The Marines and sailors of III MEF engage in more than 65 combined, bilateral and multi-lateral training exercises annually throughout the Asia-Pacific region, in countries including treaty allies Japan, the Kingdom of Thailand, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, and Australia. These exercises build partner capacity, develop and maintain strong regional alliances and military-to-military contacts. These exercises prepare III MEF to conduct operations ranging from major combat operations to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR).

III MEF has played a significant role in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions throughout the region. The MEF assisted the relief efforts led by the Government of Japan during Operation Tomodachi after an earthquake and tsunami struck Honshu March 11, 2011. III MEF also conducted HA/DR missions in Thailand in Oct. 2011, the Republic of the Philippines in Oct. 2010, and Indonesia in Oct. 2009.[1]


Commanded by a lieutenant general with its headquarters at Camp Courtney, III MEF's mission is to provide forward based and deployed forces to the commander, U.S. Pacific Command, to conduct Phase 0 engagement and theater secutiry cooperation events, support contingencies and emergent requirements, and prepare to rapidly execute existing operations plans in support of the theater and national military strategies.

III MEF is organized as a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) to provide a rapidly deployable, flexible self-contained fighting force. The Marines combine air, ground, and logistics forces to operate as a coherent, self-sufficient force. Each mission dictates the MAGTF's scale and structure, giving the Marine Corps the flexibility to respond to any crisis and making a "force in readiness." A MEF is the largest of all MAGTFs.[1]


III Marine Expeditionary Foce was activated as I Amphibious Corps Oct. 1, 1942 in Camp Elliott, San Diego, Calif. Later that month, they were deployed to Noumea, New Caledonia. The unit was redesignated as III Amphibious Corps April 15, 1944. III Amphibious Corps was deactivated June 10, 1946.

III Marine Expeditionary Force was activated May 6, 1965 at Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam. III MEF was redisgnated to III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF) May 7, 1965.

III Marine Amphibious Force deployed to Camp Courtney, Okinawa April 1971. III MAF was redesignated to III Marine Expeditionary Force Feb. 5, 1988.[1]

World War II

During World War II, III MEF was known as I Marine Amphibious Corps was renamed III Amphibious Corps on April 15, 1944, and took part in fighting against the Japanese Empire in the Pacific theater during World War II. It fought in some of the bloodiest battles, including the Solomon Islands Campaign, the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign and the Battle of Okinawa. III Amphibious Corps redeployed to Tientsin, China in Sept. of 1945 where it participated in the occupation of Northern China until June 1946. III Amphibious Corps was deactivated June 10, 1946.[1]

Vietnam War

III MEF was reactivated May 6, 1965 in Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam. May 7, 1965, III MEF was redisgnated as III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF) and consisted of the 1st Marine Division, 3rd Marine Division and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. The III MAF's area of operations was in the northern I Corps Tactical Zone. III MAF participated in the Vietnam War from May 1965-April 1971 operating from Quang Tri, Thua Thien, Quang Nam, Quang Tin, and Quang Ngai. III MAF deployed to Camp Courtney, Okinawa in April 1971.[2]

Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief

One of the biggest roles III MEF plays in the Asia-Pacifc region is humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR). III MEF elements participated in Operation Unified Assistance in response to the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia from Dec. 2004-Feb. 2005. III MEF has also assisted with the Pakistan earthquake response from Oct. 2005-March 2006; Philippine mudslide response in March and April 2006; Indonesia earthquake response in May and June 2006; Legazpi typhoon recovery in March 2007; Solomon Islands tsunami response in April 2007; Operation Sea Angel II in Bangladesh from Nov.-Dec. 2007; Operation Caring Response in Burma from May–June 2008; Taiwan typhoon relief in Aug. 2009; Philippine typhoon and Indonesian earthquake relief in Oct. 2009; Philippine typhoon relief in Oct. 2010; Operation Tomodachi in May 2011; Thailand flood relief from Oct.-Nov. 2011; and Philippine typhoon relief in Dec. 2012.[3]

Other Significant Events

Since III MAF was redesignated to III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) February 5, 1988, they have participated in many different operations. These operations include Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Provide Comfort in Southwest Asia and Iraq from Sept. 1990-April 1991 and May–June 1991. III MEF elements have also played a vital role in Operation Sea Angel in Bangladesh from May–June 1991; Operation Fiery Vigil in The Philippines June 1991; Operation Restore Hope and Operation Continue Hope in Somalia from Dec. 1992-March 1994. III MEF elements have also had a significant impact on Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.[4]


The III MEF is part of Marine Forces, Pacific.[Clarification needed]

Structure of the III MEF


Locations and Units

Unit Awards

Streamer Award Year(s) Additional Info
Navy Unit Commendation streamer.png Navy Unit Commendation Streamer with two Bronze Stars 1965-1968, 1968-1971, 2001–2003 Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Navy-Marine) Streamer.jpg Meritorious Unit Commendation Streamer 2004-2005 Iraq, Afghanistan
Streamer APC.PNG Asiatic-Pacific Campaign with one Bronze Star 1942-1946, 1965-1971 World War II, Vietnam War
Streamer WWII V.PNG World War II Victory 1945 World War II
Streamer CS.PNG China Service 1945-1946 Occupation of North China
Streamer NDS.PNG National Defense Service Streamer with two Bronze Stars 1942-1946, 1965-1971, 1988-2006 World War II, Vietnam War, Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom
Streamer VS.PNG Vietnam Service Streamer with two Silver and three Bronze Stars 1965-1971 Quang Tri, Thua Thien, Quang Nam, Quang Tin, and Quang Ngai
Streamer gwotS.PNG Global War on Terrorism Service Streamer 2001–present
VGCP Streamer.jpg Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Streamer 1965-1971 Vietnam War
Streamer RVMUCCA.PNG Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation Civil Actions Streamer 1965-1971 Vietnam


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "III MEF Lineage and Honors". United States Marine Corps History Division. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  2. Webb, Willard. "The Single Manager" (PDF; requires Adobe Acrobat). Retrieved 30 November 2006. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 III MEF/MCIPAC website
  4. USMC History Division.

External links

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