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History of the 27th Marines

From Every Marine, Robert A. Simonsen
This article is authored by Bob Simonsen, please visit his site for more details: [3rd Bn 27th Marines]
                         Video clip of President Johnson addressing the 3/27 Marines  


   The 27th Marine Regiment was born out of World War II on January 10, 1944. It was formed at Camp Pendleton, California as part of the 5th Marine Division. In August of that year, the Regiment relocated to Camp Tarawa in the territory of Hawaii.

   In January 1945, the 27th Marines received its first combat assignment; the invasion of Iwo Jima. The seizure of Iwo Jima was considered vital to the American war effort as it was approximately 750 miles from the Japanese Islands. American authorities felt that the island would provide the United States with an excellent base from which fighter planes could protect and escort B-29's on their raids.

   The invasion of Iwo Jima began on 19 February, 1945. The 27th Marines stormed ashore at 0900 in its designated area of Beaches Red 1 and Red 2. The Regiment was initially assigned the mission of helping to cut off and isolate Mount Suribachi from the rest of the island. As the Marines pushed inland, resistance by the Japanese became more and more determined. Once Mount Suribachi was isolated, the Regiment was ordered to move north to join with the other units in continuing the attack on the main enemy defenses. Rugged terrain, heavy enemy fire, and well placed land mines all combined at times to hold the attacking Marines to a standstill. They repeatedly met the Japanese in hard, close combat.

   On 16 March, Iwo Jima was declared secure, although some resistance continued for about two months. The severity of the fighting left 566 killed and 1703 wounded in the 27th Marines alone. Four Marines from the Regiment earned the Medal of Honor (the nation's highest award for valor).

   In April 1945, the 27th Marines again found itself back at Camp Tarawa where it started to reform and prepare for the invasion of Japan.

   The capitulation of the Japanese cancelled the plans for the invasion and on 16 September, the Regiment sailed to Japan for occupation duty. Returning to the United States on 20 December, the 27th Marines was deactivated at Camp Pendleton on 10 January 1946.

             Video clip of the return of the 27th Marines from Vietnam to San Diego

   Due to the intensification of the American war effort in Vietnam, the 27th Marines was again activated at Camp Pendleton on 1 January 1966. The Third Battalion reformed on 10 November 1966 at Camp Pendleton's Camp Margarita. The Regiment embarked on a training program that was oriented towards operations in Vietnam. The primary goal was to bring the Regiment up to a high state of combat readiness. Not until the end of 1967, however, was this end accomplished. Personnel shortages and a high turnover of officers and men plagued the Regiment from its reactivation date. By the late fall of 1967, the overall strength of the 27th Marines had stabilized to the point where it had become an effective fighting force.

   Due to the infamous 1968 Tet offensive, President Johnson gave signals to the Joint Chief of Staffs that he was willing to commit more troops to the war effort. General Westmoreland and the Joint Chiefs of Staff responded with an Army Brigade from the 82nd Airborne and the 27th Marine Regiment. Notified on 12 February 1968, the Regiment began to reform immediately. Hundreds of Marines had to be transferred out due to underage, time between combat tours and sole surviving son limitations. These restrictions, combined with the fact that the 27th Marines was used as a pool for normal overseas replacements, left the Regiment vastly understrengthed. After taking every available infantry Marine assigned to the 5th Division, the Corps had to take another 400 Marines from the ranks of non-infantry related occupations, including cooks, drivers, engineers and you name it! The 3rd Battalion, being the last to be brought up to strength, took the brunt of these non infantrymen. A typical squad had only 1-3 infantrymen and maybe 1 Marine with combat experience. After being met by President Johnson at El Toro, California, the 27th Marines became the Corps first regiment to fly into a combat zone.

   These men were put together without any training as a group and began running combat patrols immediately upon their arrival in Vietnam. They were, however, professionals and they learned quickly. They would prove the old Marine saying that "Every Marine is a Basic Rifleman". They performed with distinction on a big operation, Allen Brook, where many were killed and wounded. They were credited with killing 270 NVA during Allen Brook and received the Meritorious Unit Citation. During this operation, members earned the Medal of Honor, 2 Navy Crosses and several Silver and Bronze Stars. The unit stayed in Vietnam just seven months before returning to the United States. The Marine Corps simply could not support units in Vietnam, as long as the 27th Marines remained overseas. Personnel shortages were affecting all combat regiments and unless there was a general draft increase, the 27th Marines had to return. Members who still had tour duty time left, were sent to other units while the others returned to the United States and were even given a parade in their honor in San Diego, California. The complete history of 3/27, a 350 page oral history, may be obtained thru the primary historians.


3rd Bn 27th Marines
81 Mortars and CP Group with Captured NVA Flag on
Go Noi Island - 19 May 1968

   Go Noi Island is located in the Dien Ban District, Quang Nam Province, I Corps, Republic of Vietnam. It is approximately 15 miles south of Da Nang, west of Hoi An and 5 miles east of An Hoa. Although it is not truly an island, it is surrounded by rivers, streams and roads. To the south is a large mountain range which is used as an NVA infiltration route from Laos. Although the civilian population is considered sparse, they were all strongly VC oriented. Most of the men of military age were active Viet Cong. Traditionally, Go Noi Island served as a staging area for NVA units building up for attacks against the Da Nang area. In May of 1968, the 36th Regiment of the 308th NVA Division and elements of three VC Battalions had found their way onto the Island. The NVA troops were well trained and equipped. Their field packs were stocked with medical supplies, munitions, and gas masks. Their uniforms were immaculate and neatly pressed. The men were young and had fresh haircuts. They possessed great fire power. They had rockets, crew served automatic weapons and mortars. The standard weapon was the AK-47 assault rifle. They had Polish rifle grenades and the new RPG rocket launchers. Their supply lines and leaders were excellent.

   By late April 1968, through reconnaissance observations and limited engagements, it was determined that the enemy had fed in an equivalent of an NVA Division in the area south of Da Nang. Major General Donn Robertson, the 1st Marine Division Commanding General, decided to change his tactics for the defense of Da Nang. Up to this time, the defense consisted of heavily patrolling the rocket belt extending in a semi-circle around Da Nang. With additional available troops(27th Marines), it was decided to fan out in deeper reaching, more mobile operations which would keep the NVA forces away from doing damage to the Da Nang area.

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