MARINES IN HAWAII IN 1941
Back in 1941, Hawaii was a Territory of the United States. The beautiful landscapes and ocean vistas had not been exploited by tourism as it is today. Life in the Islands was much slower. The advent of television in every home was years in the future and people depended on their radio or local newspaper for the latest news.
Approximately 65,000 Marines, many mobilized reserves, served throughout the world prior to 7 December 1941. The 4,500 Marines pulling duty in Hawaii served in three major areas of responsibility in the Islands.
Primarily, Marines were assigned to security detachments aboard many Pacific Fleet ships based at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, particularly on the major warships such as cruisers and battleships. Sixteen ships at Pearl Harbor mustered Detachments. Usual rosters required anywhere from 42 to 106 Marines assigned to each security detachment. The typical commanding officer of a security detachment would be a captain or a major. Their duties included securing the ships brig, protecting senior officers, Captain’s orderly, ceremonial details and manning anti-aircraft batteries as assigned, among other details. Uniform of the day was typically khaki dress shirt, dress blue trousers, white cover and side arms when required. Tours of duty were usually two years long.
Secondarily, Marines were responsible for security at all Naval land facilities, such as the Naval Airfield at Kaneohe Bay and the ship yard at Pearl Harbor, to name a few. Other Marine units were assigned duties such as air wing support, support battalions and of course the ‘mud Marines’ infantry units. Some of these units in the islands included the 2nd Engineer Battalion, 2nd Service Battalion, 3rd and 4th Defense Battalions, elements of the 1st and 6th Defense Battalions, a part of the 2nd Marine Division. Their main concern was the defense of Navy land facilities. Finally, there were the pilots and flight crews of Marine Aircraft Group 21 (2nd MAW) at the Marine Corps Air Station at Ewa Beach.
There were 109 Marines killed in action at Pearl Harbor and 69 wounded. Four Marines died at the Ewa Air Station, but the rest of the USMC casualties occurred aboard ships moored in Pearl Harbor that Sunday morning.