MARINE HISTORY AND TRADITION

by Lieutenant Colonel Pete Brown, USMC (Ret)

The beginnings of the Marine Support Battalion can be traced to mid-1954. In an exchange of correspondence amongst the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) and the Director, National Security Agency (DirNSA), it was determined that the U.S. Marine Corps would furnish some 19 officers and 39 enlisted Marines for duty at the NSA (then located at the Naval Security Station (NSS), Washington, DC, and Arlington Hall Station (AHS), Arlington, Virginia) as the Marine Corps' contribution to the Department of the Navy supporting the NSA. These personnel were not organized as a separate and distinct unit, but rather were carried on the rolls of Headquarters Battalion (HqBn), Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC) primarily in Casual Company.

On 10 April 1956 CMC directed the activation of two special communications platoons and on 15 May 1956 the 1st and 2nd Special Communication Platoons were activated at Marine Corps Recruiting Depot, San Diego, California. These platoons each had an authorized strength of 43 Marines (officers, five staff NCOs and 36 sergeants and below. {S.E. Editor's note: see roster for a list of personnel assigned to the 1st platoon}. These were the first organizational units in what was to become the Marine Support Battalion (MarSptBn). The 1st Platoon commanded by Captain Alfred M. Gray, Jr. (Commandant Marine Corps) relocated during June 1956 to the then Naval Communications Facility, Yokosuka (later NAVCOMFAC Kami Seya), Japan, where it eventually evolved into Company E, MarSptBn. The 2nd Platoon commanded by Captain Bill H. Allen relocated during July 1956 to the U.S. Advanced Naval Base, Bremerhaven, Germany, where it eventually evolved into the present Company B, MarSptBn.

By March 1957, the Marine Corps participation in the Department of the Navy cryptologic activities had increased to 25 officers and 121 enlisted Marines and on 19 March 1957 a billet was established for a Marine Officer in the Naval Security Group Headquarters with duties as an Assistant to the Director, Naval Security Group (DirNavSecGru) for Marine Corps Plans.

By March of 1958, the increasing number of personnel and locations of Marines participating in NavSecGru activities had grown to the extent that separate single headquarters to coordinate and administer the units was required, and on 1 April 1958 Company G, HqBn, HQMC was activated at the U.S. Naval Security Station, 3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. The first Unit Diary (Diary No. 1-58, dated 1 Apr 58) submitted by this newly formed Company listed an authorized Marine Corps strength of 62 officers and 958 enlisted. This same Unit Diary listing of personnel actually assigned to the Company showed an on-hand strength of 27 Officers and 102 Enlisted Marines.

When Company G was activated the 1st and 2nd Special Communications Platoons were re-designated as detachments of Company G and, between April 1958 and June 1960 at least eight such Detachments were formed. In late-1958/early-1959 the authorized strength of Marine Corps participation in the Department of the Navy cryptologic activities was reduced. The previous authorized strength of 62 officers and 950 enlisted Marines was reduced to 55 officers and 695 enlisted Marines. Actual manning would never reach this new authorized strength. (It should be noted this reduction of some 7 Officers and 263 Enlisted provided the billets, not the personnel, needed for the new Radio Company, which was activated on 15 September 1958 at Camp Smith, Hawaii).

In early-1960 the detachment at Sidi Yahia, Morocco had been deactivated and the other detachments of Company G were redesignated as separate detached, self-administrating sub-units of the Company. By June 1960, in addition to the personnel at NavSecSta and NSA, Company G had seven numbered sub-units located as follows:

 

Sub-Unit #1

 

Adak, Alaska

Sub-Unit #2

 

Bremerhaven, Germany

Sub-Unit #3

 

San Miguel, Philippines

Sub-Unit #4

 

Hanza, Okinawa, Japan

Sub-Unit #5

 

Kami Seya, Japan

Sub-Unit #6

 

Karamursel, Turkey - with a detachment on Cyprus

Sub-Unit #8

 

Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico

On 1 October 1961, Company G, HqBn, HQMC was re-designated as the Marine Support Battalion by SecNav Notice 5450 of 23 September 1961 with the mission of "providing for Marine Corps participation in the operations of the Naval Security Group." The Marine Support Battalion was to function as a separate command, responsible to and under the direct control of the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The Commanding Officer also performs duties as a Special Assistant to the Commander, Naval Security Group Command. At the same time Company G was re-designated as Marine Support Battalion, the sub-units were re-designated as letter companies and the Officers-in-Charge were designated as commanding officers of their respective letter companies. The re-designations were as follows:

 

Company G

 

Marine Support Battalion, NavSecSta

Sub-Unit #1 Company "A"

 

Adak, Alaska

Sub-Unit #2 Company "B"

 

Bremerhaven, Germany

Sub-Unit #3 Company "C"

 

San Miguel, Philippines

Sub-Unit #4 Company "D"

 

Hanza, Okinawa, Japan

Sub-Unit #5 Company "E"

 

Kami Seya, Japan

Sub-Unit #6 Company "F"

 

Karamursel, Turkey

Sub-Unit #8 Company "G"

 

Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico

On 1 September 1962, the Detachment of Company "F" located on Cyprus was redesignated and activated as Company "I" and twelve years later, on 28 March 1974, Company I was relocated to Adak, Alaska. On 1 February 1963, Company "H" was activated at Key West, Florida and on 1 August 1967 this Company relocated to Homestead AFB, Florida. On 20 April 1963, Company "B" relocated from Bremerhaven, Germany to RAF Edzell, Scotland. The next company to be established was Company "K", the company responsible for cryptologic training. Cryptologic training for Marines was originally conducted at the Naval Radio Station, Imperial Beach, California starting in 1956. During 1960 the Naval Communications Training Center with Marine instructor personnel moved to Corry Field, Pensacola, Florida, and the first class convened there on 3 January 1961. Initially, the Marine staff and instructor personnel were carried as a detachment of Headquarters Company, MarSptBn with the student personnel being administered by the Marine Aviation Detachment, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida. On 1 September 1963, the detachment was re-designated and activated as Company "K", MarSptBn. Company "K" was at various times responsible for two subordinate detachments: one at Defense Language Institute (DLI) at Monterey, California, and one at Goodfellow AFB, Texas, to handle the cryptologic language training at those two locations. The two detachments have since become separate Marine Corps administrative detachments.

The final company of MarSptBn to be established was Company "L", which was originally established at Phu Bai, Republic of Vietnam. The Marine cryptologic unit at Bhu Bai was originally established by the 1st Radio Battalion in January 1962. By 1964 these personnel had been replaced by Marines of MarSptBn from Company "C" in the Philippines and was designated Sub-Unit 1, Company "C" MarSptBn. On 15 January 1965, Company "L", MarSptBn was activated at Bhu Bai and Sub-Unit 1, Company "C" was deactivated.

By 1965 the organizational structure of the Marine Support Battalion was completed. Changes since then have been in the location of the various companies, and companies being deactivated, relocated and reactivated. These changes include the following:

  • Company "A", Adak, Alaska, was deactivated on 15 July 1965. Company "F", Karamursel, Turkey relocated to Bremerhaven, Germany. Headquarters Company, located at Fort Meade, Maryland, was redesignated as Company "A" and on 1 July 1966, Headquarters Company was activated at NavSecSta, 3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.

  • Company "L" relocated in December 1970, when Sub-Unit 1, Company "L" was activated at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In June 1971, Company "L" at Phu Bai was deactivated and Sub-Unit 1 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was redesignated as Company "L". In July 1971, Company "L" assumed the command and responsibility for Naval Security Activity Guantanamo. Although the command relationships changed somewhat, the CO of NavSecGruActy, Guantanamo, was still a Marine with a separate command structure for Company "L".

  • Company "E" was relocated from Kami Seya, Japan to Misawa, Japan, on 20 June 1971. Company "C" was relocated from San Miguel, Philippines, to Naval Communications Area Master Station, Guam, on 25 June 1972.

  • Company "F" was relocated from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Rota, Spain, on 6 August 1972.

  • Company "G", located at Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico, was deactivated on 24 February 1974, but was later activated again. On 1 September 1985, Sub-Unit 1, Company "E" was established at Pyong Taek, Korea. In September 1989 this Sub-Unit was redesignated as Company "G", MarSptBn.

  • Company "D", commencing on 1 October 1984 began relocating from Hanza, Okinawa, Japan, to Galeta Island, Republic of Panama, and by January 1985 had completed the move.

That completes the Lineage of Marine Support Battalion to date. In case you are still confused as to where each unit is located, the following list is provided (until some units are relocated again):

 

Hqs & Hqs Company

 

NavSecSta, Washington, DC

Alpha Company

Fort Meade, Maryland

Bravo Company

Edzell, Scotland

Charlie Company

NAVCAMSWESTPAC, Guam

Delta Company

Galeta Island, Panama

Echo Company

Misawa, Japan

Foxtrot Company

Rota, Spain

Golf Company

Pyong Taek, Korea

Hotel Company

Homestead AFB, Florida

India Company

Adak, Alaska

Kilo Company

Pensacola, Florida

Lima Company

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

ROSTER OF 1st SPECIAL COMMUNICATIONS PLATOON - June 1956
Located at Naval Communications Facility, Yokosuka, Japan (later moved to NAVCOMFAC Kami Seya, Japan):


 

GRAY, Alfred M.
HEDRICK, Joseph C.
BOWLING, Thomas B.
CRAMER, Donald C.
HUNTER, Walter F., Jr.
STARCALA, John E.
POLLMILLER, Lawrence A.
BRYANT, Frederick A.
FLATTERS, James G.
HAYDEN, Charles W.
KITT, Edgar (n)
LINTHICUM, Charles J.
MARTIN, Charles T.
TIMM, Leland K.
YATES, Buddy D.
BANGS, Lawrence N.
BEHNKE, Donald G.
BOWMAN, William A.
CARNAKO, George (n)
CATER, Francis C.
COGSWELL, Kenneth G.
EGAN, Roger F.
GASSAWAY, Arthur W., Jr.
HARVICK, Albert S.
HIGHSMITH, Reginald B.
HILL, Elijah (n), Jr.
HOWELL, Harry "J"
JENSEN, Ronald K.
JONES, Donald S.
KRUGER, James F.
LATVALA, Paul S.
MARCY, Lyle D.
McCLELLAND, Norman L.
McMANUS, Robert E.
MEYERING, Thomas J.
PAGE, Robert W.
PAYNE, Robert A.
ROCKENBACH, Floyd M.
SNODGRASS, Jack B.
SMITH, Oscar L.
SULLIVAN, Michael L.
TROK, Richard A.
WILEY, David O.
ZEMBLES, Jerry F.

 

Capt
1stLt
1stLt
MSgt
TSgt
TSgt
SSgt
SSgt
Cpl
Cpl
Cpl
Cpl
Cpl
Cpl
Cpl
Pfc
Pfc
pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc
Pfc

(The above article appeared in the Marine Corps Cryptologic Association (MCCA) Newsletter RADIO LOG, Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 1991. Our thanks to the MCCA and Lieutenant Colonel Brown.)