Volunteer Marine Corps Reserve

Def   Def

On 30 June 1950, the Volunteer Reserve was by far the largest component of the Marine Corps Reserve. Indeed, the Volunteer Reserve, with 87,655 Reservists on inactive, duty exceeded the strength of the Regular Establishment by 13,32. In addition, it should be noted that the strength of the Regular Establishment included 2,265 Volunteer Reservists serving on continuous active duty.

Although the Volunteer Reserve was designed primarily for individuals that desired affiliation with the Marine Corps but whose personal activities did not permit them to participate in the more demanding Organized Reserve program, the Marine Corps nevertheless considered the-Volunteer Reserve an important source of manpower. That the Volunteer Reserve actually proved to be so is attested to by the statistics. At the end of March 1951, 51,942 of the 84,821 reservists on active duty were Volunteer Reservists, and approximately 99 percent of the officers and 77,5 percent of the enlisted were veterans of World War II. Thus, Volunteer Reservists were important not only because of - their numbers, but because the vast majority had already proved themselves to be the "Marine type" by all the selection methods, training, and combat tests the term implies.

When,  in the first week of August, a review of Marine Corps-assigned and -projected commitments revealed that the number of immediately available Marines, including the total Organized Reserve (Ground), was inadequate to meet demands, plans were initiated to tap the Volunteer Reserve. On 5 August, the Commandant advised the Marine Corps reserve districts that approximately 60 percent of the Volunteer Reserve would shortly be called to active duty.

In the succeeding days, a group of officers representing the interested divisions and sections at Headquarters Marine Corps worked on a draft of the administrative instructions, which were vital t o a wide scale mobilization of the Volunteer Reserve. This draft was substantially complete by the second weekend in August, and on 12 and 13 August the instructions were studied by a group of reserve district directors, which had been ordered to report to Headquarters for consultation. Several valuable recommendations resulting from this conference were incorporated. In addition, a Headquarters representative visited the reserve district directors not previously con suited to request assistance in ironing out any problem of interpretation, omission, or execution that they anticipated. Once . again, constructive suggestions were received, and the Headquarters representative immediately forwarded these to Washington. After careful but rapid evaluation, Headquarters modified the already released administrative instructions where justified.

Meanwhile, the last Organized Reserve ground units had been ordered to active duty and the 1st Marine Division was building up to war strength before mounting out. The need for additional personnel still existed, however, and Marine Corps Headquarters, in the administrative instructions of 15 August, directed that "all male enlisted members of the Volunteer Marine Corps Reserve in the ranks of Sergeant and below...." be ordered to active duty with a delay of 15 days. Thus, shortly after the departure of the last elements of the division from Camp Pendleton on 1 September, the first of these Volunteer Reservists began arriving.

Reserve districts had, meanwhile, been informed on 18 August that the Marine Corps was in need of approximately 2,650 company grade officers with combat specialties and that certain staff noncommissioned officers would shortly be ordered to active duty by name or Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) number. Even as enlisted Volunteer Reservists were beginning to flow into Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Headquarters on 6 September ordered the first large group of Volunteer Reserve officers to active duty. On the next day, Headquarters also directed that quotas of Volunteer Reserve staff noncommissioned officers, with or qualifying for certain specified MOS numbers be ordered to active duty by reserve district directors. (5)

Thereafter, for a period of approximately five months, Volunteer Reservists were ordered to active duty only on the basis of individual orders, with the exception of a quota of aviation staff noncommissioned officers, who on 29 September were ordered to report to Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro. Following the Chinese Communist intervention and the 1st Division withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir, however, Marine Corps Headquarters on 8 February ordered that an additional quota of staff noncommissioned officers be summoned to active duty. This was the last large body of reservists called, and in the succeeding weeks and months the need for reservists diminished steadily until by May 1951 merely a trickle of Volunteer Reservists was ordered to duty, and these were almost exclusively reservists whose delay period had expired, who volunteered for active duty, or who were ordered to duty to fill specific billets.

' 35 During the period in which Volunteer Reservists were called to active duty, they made the largest contribution to the expansion of the Regular Establishment. The measure of this contribution is best illustrated by a brief statistical review of Volunteer Reserve mobilization. Commencing on 31 July with 2,381 Volunteer Reservists on active duty and 88,269 on inactive duty, the strength of Volunteer Reservists on active duty increased to 52,305 and that of those on inactive duty fell to 34,043 by the end of May 1951. In the one peak month of October, 21,343 Volunteer Reservists reported for active duty; of these, 1,010 were newly enlisted. It is worth mentioning as an illustration of the influence a notable feat of arms has on American youth, that following the epic withdrawal of the 1st Division from the Chosin Reservoir, the number of new enlistments into' the active Volunteer Reserve jumped from 877 in December to 3,477 in January.

The large number of Volunteer Reservists that reported for active duty performed two general functions. One, they participated in carrying out virtually all the missions-and tasks of the Marine Corps; two, they engaged in intensive training in the 2d Marine Division and at training camps. Thus, if the Korean match had touched off a wide conflagration, the Marine Corps would have been able to move swiftly and in ample numbers wherever the interests of the United States dictated. Overseas, Volunteer Reservists that had arrived at camp too late to participate in the build-up of the 1st Marine Division and the 1st Wing made up the bulk of the replacement drafts that joined these organizations during the fall and early winter of 1950. They also made possible the release of regulars from overseas security forces for service in Korea by relieving these regulars on a man-for-man basis. On the domestic scene, members of the Volunteer Reserve fleshed out the skeletonized 2d Division, in which there were 19,895 reservists by 31 December, and at least 80 percent of these reservists were Volunteers. By the same date, Volunteer Reservists made up a substantial part of the 2,945 reservists that were taking up the slack left by the departure of regulars from the domestic security forces. They also assumed important duties in the training and replacement commands, recruit training, maintenance, and a myriad of specialized tasks, and their availability was instrumental in making it possible for the Marine Corps to be the first of the Armed Forces to initiate a rotation program for the benefit of personnel with the longest service in Korea.

Statistics alone do not tell the whole story, for no statistical column can describe the attitude displayed and sacrifice often suffered by those ordered to active duty. It is an unqualified tribute to the Volunteer Reserve as a whole that the Marine Corps was able to realize better than 80 percent of those originally ordered. (6) 36