The 2nd Marine Division was officially organized on February 1, 1941 at Camp Elliott, California by change of designation from the 2nd Marine Brigade. By mid-1941, because of the growing threat of a German invasion to Iceland, the 6th Marine Regiment, a battalion from 10th Marines and other units were pulled from the division and sent to Iceland.
Caption: 1/6 passes in review at MCB San Diego prior to departing for Iceland.
After the outbreak of war, the 8th Marine Regiment with an assortment of other division assets formed the 2nd Marine Brigade and were dispatched to American Samoa.
During World War II, the 2nd Marine Division (Headquarters) participated in authorized operations and engagements in the Pacific Theater of Operations:
The Battle of Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands campaign — 4 January to 8 February 1943.
2d Marines, reinforced:
Tulagi landings -- 7 to 9 August 1942
Capture and defense of Guadalcanal -- 10 August 1942 to 31 January 1943
Caption: Fresh troops from the 2d Marine Division during a halt on Guadalcanal, circa November, 1942.
8th Marines, reinforced:
Capture and defense of Guadalcanal -- 2 November 1942 to 8 February 1943
The Battle of Tarawa, in the Gilbert Islands campaign — 20 November to 4 December 1943
Caption: Marines move out to take Japanese position on Tarawa, right background of picture.
The Battle of Saipan, Mariana Islands campaign — 15 June to 24 July 1944
The Battle of Tinian, — 24 July to 10 August 1944
The Battle of Okinawa (floating Reserve) — 1 April to 10 April 1945. (Detachment of Headquarters and the 8th Marines, reinforced, from 1 to 30 June 1945).
1950s through the 1980s
2nd Marine Division next took part in a major action in 1958 when elements participated in the U.S. intervention into the Lebanon crisis of 1958. 2nd Marine Division units helped to reinforce Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and landed in the Dominican Republic in 1965 as part of Operation Power Pack.
Other peacekeeping operations carried on by the Division include being part of the Multi National Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon from August 1982 until February 1984. The Division suffered the loss of 241 Marines and Sailors during the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing. Towards the end of the 1980s, Division Marines participated in Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama.
Caption: Smoke rises from the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beruit.
The Gulf War & the 1990s
The 1990s began with elements of the Division participating in Operation Sharp Edge, the evacuation of American and allied civilians out of war torn Liberia. This was followed by deployments to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield and then the liberation of Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. Following the war, elements of the Division participated in Operation Provide Comfort.
Global War on Terror
Elements of the 2nd Marine Division deployed to Kuwait in early 2003 to reinforce the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. These units formed a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) and were called Task Force Tarawa. Task Force Tarawa crossed into Iraq on the first day of the ground war with the initial task of seizing Jalibah airfield in southern Iraq. Following this, the Task Force pushed north and took part in a major battle in the town of Nasiriyah. After the war, these Marines were moved north to Al Kut where they provided security and stabilization operations in central Iraq.
Caption: A Marine with Task Force Tarawa, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, maintains security as a group of Iraqi protesters move down the street toward him in Al Kut, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
The 2nd Marine Division deployed to Camp Fallujah, Iraq as the II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) headquarters in January 2005 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom III (OIF III) (later redesignated OIF 04-06) to relieve the 1st Marine Division in the Al Anbar province. The division again deployed for another year long tour at Camp Fallujah from 2007 to 2008.
The 2nd Marine Division deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan as the ground combat element, known as Task Force Leatherneck, for II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) in March 2011 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom to relieve the 1st Marine Division in the Helmand province.