The Marine Raiders were elite units of the US Marine Corps created during World War II to conduct amphibious operations against the Japanese, landing and infiltrate behind enemy lines. The 1st battalion of the 5th Marine regiment was designated and trained as the 1st Marine Raider Battalion. The remaining three battalions would be composed of volunteers recruited from the ranks of the Marine Corps and picked out after being interviewed for sound mind, motivation, and body fitness.
At the beginning of World War II, President Roosevelt realized that the United States Forces needed a small highly trained special force like the British Commandos. In February 1942, the Marine Raiders were created by an executive order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who acted on proposals from Colonel William Joseph Donovan and Major Evans Fordyce Carlson, when the new commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Chester Nimitz, requested commando units for raids against lightly defended Japanese-held islands.
The 1st Battalion saw action for the first time at Tulagi in August 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal. Transported to their landing zone by four destroyers, the Marine Raiders landed with only few problems, making territorial gains as they ferociously fought against the Japanese. At the same time, the 2nd Battalion left Hawaii in two mine laying submarines – ‘Nautilus’ and ‘Argonaut’. In all, 222 men attacked Makin atoll in the Gilbert Islands. Their objective was intelligence gathering, the destruction of military installations and also to divert attention away from a landing at the Solomons. The men in the battalion left the two submarines offshore and got to Makin using rubber boats.
Four Marine Raider battalions served operationally during the war but all were disbanded in February 1948 when the Corps made the doctrinal decision that standard Marine infantry battalions would be trained to perform their missions. One criticism of the units was that the Raider replacement system was too hard to manage. A unit that had been formed and trained together did not assimilate replacements well. The personnel from the Raider battalions were then used to reform the 5th Marine Regiment, which had been lost in the Battle of Corregidor early in the war.