National Geographic : 1950 Nov
664 U. S . Marine Corps, Official The "Old Man" Gives His Opinion of Marine Performance in "Operation Portrex" Standing before a battle map, Maj. Gen. Franklin A. Hart, then commanding the Second Marine Division, addresses his officers at a critique held after amphibious maneuvers at Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, in 1949. The exercises were the largest since World War II. Before a landing force assaulted Vieques, the island was softened up with live aerial bombs, rockets, and shells from the guns of Navy vessels. figuring out how such an island-hopping war would have to be fought. And, remark ably, almost step by step, that is exactly how it was fought, using Marines to spearhead the beach landings and to seize advanced naval bases. The Marine landing force was helped out by Marine and naval planes from both carriers and adjacent land bases, and by bombardment from naval vessels shooting over the heads of the Marine landing parties. An Intelligence Officer Vanishes Attached to these 1921 war plans I saw a fascinating study of "Advanced Base Opera tions in Micronesia" prepared by Lt. Col. Earl Hancock Ellis, USMC. About 1923, while doing further intelligence work in con nection with the Japanese-mandated Pacific islands, Ellis mysteriously disappeared on Koror Island, in the Palau group. Perhaps the Japs killed him. War plans for tomorrow are of course "top-top-top secret." Frankly, however, say the planners, "We've stopped fighting the Japs, island to island fashion." Vaster and different problems of transport and logistics arise when, for example, we study Eurasia as a possible stage of future fighting. "You hear a lot of cocktail party strategists talking about airborne armies," said one officer. "Sure, airborne troops have their place. Russians and Germans first proved that. But in any great war of tomorrow, the bulk of men, supplies, heavy weapons, and ammuni tion will still have to cross the sea in ships. That means Marines will still have to make their beach landings." In order to fight the single battle of Oki nawa,* points out Gen. Alexander A. Vande grift, USMC (retired), second wartime Com * See "Okinawa, Threshold to Japan," by Lt. David D. Duncan, USMC, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, October, 1945.