The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is one of the principal means by which the tenets of the National Defense Strategy are translated into potentially new policies, capabilities and initiatives. The QDR will set a long-term course for DoD to follow and will provide a strategic framework for DoD’s annual program, force development, force management, and corporate support mechanisms. Several very important decisions have been pushed from the budget to the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) for both the Navy and the Marine Corps. Unlike the Navy, budget cuts leading into the FY 2010 budget year did not predetermine several major, outstanding questions for the Marine Corps. At the top of the list is the specific role of Amphibious Assault, a capability question that will drive just about every major outstanding question surrounding the Marine Corps.

It is often highlighted the US Marine Corps has not conducted an amphibious assault since the Korean War, although technically this is not true. The Marine Corps has conducted 4 amphibious assaults in just the last 2 decades, which are among the 104 amphibious operations between the years 1990-2009. In two parts I list out the 104 amphibious operations conducted by the Marine Corps, beginning with the 66 amphibious operations between 1990 – 1999.

In 1990 the Marines conducted 8 amphibious operations. Operation TOP KICK was conducted from February 6-16 providing a sea based presence operation off Cartegena, Columbia with MAGTF 1-90. From July 17 – September 18, MAGTF 4-90 conducted MUD PACK, a humanitarian assistance/humanitarian response operation off Luzon, Philippines. In October the the Marines conducted three amphibious operations consisting of maritime interdiction operations/VBSS associated with UN resolution 661 with the 13th MEU(SOC)/ARG off Al Mutanabbi, Al Bahar, and Amuriyah. Five ships were utilized in all three operations. From November 15-21 the 4th MEU/PHIBGRU 2 consisting of 12 ships conducted the amphibious operation IMMINENT THUNDER as a show of force operation off Saudi Arabia. This was followed by a second show of force operation from December 8-18 with the 4th MEU / PHIBGRU 2 also consisting of 12 ships in SEA SOLDIER III near Ras Al Madrakah.

The first amphibious operation in 1991 was EASTERN EXIT, the noncombat evacuation operation conducted by USS Guam and USS Trenton with the evacuation of the embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia. From January – March USS Tripoli, and later USS New Orleans after Tripoli hit a mine, supported mine clearance operations in the Persian Gulf in support of operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. From January 23 – February 2nd 25 ships supported 4th & 5th MEBs/PHIBGRUs 2 & 3 in Ras Al Madrakah for SEA SOLDIER IV, a show of force operation. On January 29th 5 ships conducted operation DESERT STING, an often overlooked amphibious raid on Umm Al Maridim Island. On February 24th BLT 3/1 (5th MEB) conducted an amphibious assault in Al Wafrah “gap” during operation DESERT STORM. On February 25th 5 ships with the 13th MEU(SOC)/ARG participated in an amphibious demonstration at Ash Shuaybah as part of operation DESERT STORM, followed by two more amphibious demonstrations on February 26 with 4th MEB/PHIBGRU 2 consisting of three ships on Bubiyan Island and 1 ship at Faylakah Island. On March 1st 5 ships carrying the 13th MEU(SOC)/ARG conducted another amphibious raid on Faylak ah Island as part of operation DESERT STORM. Following the impact of Cyclone Marian, 7 ships carrying the 5th MEB conduct a humanitarian assistance/disaster response mission to Bangladesh in operation SEA ANGEL from May 15-29. Another humanitarian assistance mission, PROVIDE COMFORT in Turkey and Northern Iraq, was conducted by 3 ships with the 24th MEU(SOC)/ARG from April 7th through July 15th. From June 12-28, 3 ships carrying the 15th MEU/ARG respond in a humanitarian assistance/disaster response operation FIERY VIGIL to Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines. Finally beginning November 1991 and lasting through May 1993 USS Tortuga and other Marine forces respond to Haiti & Guantanamo Bay for humanitarian assistance in ABLE MANNER/SAFE HARBOR. In 1991 the Marines conducted 13 amphibious operations for the year.

In 1992 the Marines count seven amphibious operations, beginning with NORTHERN WATCH/SOUTHERN WATCH enforcing the no-fly zone and maritime interdiction operations in Iraq. Lasting until March 1993, several rotating ESG/ARGs participated in the operation. On April 13th the 24th MEU with three ships responded to Sicily in a disaster relief operation called HOT ROCK. On August 3rd the 11th MEU conducted a show of force operation in Kuwait that lasted until August 19th, when the 11th MEU was shifted to the coast of Kenya and Somalia to support the humanitarian operation PROVIDE RELIEF. The 11th MEU conducted PROVIDE RELIEF until February of 1993. Beginning in July of 1993 various MEU/ARGs began a maritime interdiction and no fly zone enforcement operation with several names over the years including DENY FLIGHT/SHARP GUARD/PROVIDE PROMISE/JOINT GUARD/DELIBERATE GUARD in the Adriatic Sea. On September 3rd, the 26th MEU supported a recovery operation for an Italian aircraft called PROVIDE PROMISE in Bosnia. Finally, in December the 15th MEU launched operation RESTORE HOPE, the humanitarian assistance mission to Somalia. The 15th MEU operated in theater until May 1993

In June 1993 the 24th MEU supported operation SUSTAIN HOPE in Somalia, a show of force humanitarian operation that was also supported by rotating MEU/ARGs from May 1993 – May 1994 called operation CONTINUE HOPE. In August 1993 BLT 3/8 supported by a 3 ship ARG responded to a disaster response mission (firefighting) in Tunisia. Beginning in September 1993 rotating ARGs conducted operation SUPPORT DEMOCRACY in Haiti through September 1994. There were 4 amphibious operations in 1993.

In April 1994 the a 3 ship ARG with the 11th MEU conducted an embassy evacuation in Bujumbura, Burundi called DISTANT RUNNER. Between August and October the Tripoli ARG supported the 15th MEU(SOC) in a humanitarian assistance and disaster response mission called SUPPORT HOPE to Rwanda & Uganda. In September, the 3 ship Wasp ARG conducted an intervention operation called RESTORE DEMOCRACY in Haiti. Finally, in October and November of 1994 the 15th MEU(SOC)/ARG deterrence and support mission for Kuwait called VIGILANT WARRIOR. There were 4 amphibious operations in 1994.

March 1-3, 1995 six ships of the Belleau Wood and Essex ARGs supported the amphibious withdrawal of UN forces from Somalia in UNITED SHIELD. On June 8th the Kearsarge ARG with the 24th MEU conducted operation DENY FLIGHT in Bosnia, the recovery operation of F-16 pilot Captain Scott O’Grady. In August and September the USS Kearsarge conducted strikes in Bosnia called operation DELIBERATE FORCE. In August the New Orleans ARG conducted a deterrence/support operation for Kuwait called VIGILANT SENTINEL. Beginning in November of 1995 several rotating ARGs supported JOINT ENDEAVOR, a Dayton Accord enforcement operation in the Adriatic/Balkans. There were 5 amphibious operations in 1995.

In 1996 Guam ARG was involved in two embassy security and evacuation operations. The first, ASSURED RESPONSE, began on April 20th off Liberia and the second, QUICK RESPONSE, began May 31 in support of the Central African Republic. Both operations were conducted until August, and there were the only 2 amphibious operations in 1996.

In March of 1997, the Marines got the call to be a global 911 force. From March 13 – March 27 3 ships supporting the 26th MEU conducted operation SILVER WAKE, providing security and evacuating the embassy in Tiranna, Albania. On March 22 the 22nd MEU was repositioned near Kinshasa, Zaire to support a potential embassy evacuation there in GUARDIAN RETRIEVAL. From May 2nd through June 5th the 26th MEU was stage at Brazzavile for the same operation. Despite multiple dynamics for that operation, the Marines only count GUARDIAN RETRIEVAL as a single operation. Prior to becoming involved in GUARDIAN RETRIVAL, three ships supporting the 26th MEU(SOC) were paired with three ships supporting the 13th MEU in the Persian Gulf to provide maritime interdiction operations supporting UN inspectors for Iraq. From May 20th – May 30th the Belleau Wood ARG with the 31st MEU supported BEVEL INCLINE, a contingency embassy evacuation operation near Jakarta, Indonesia. From May 29th – June 5th the Kearsarge ARG positioned for NOBEL OBELISK, the embassy evacuation in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Finally in November the 13th MEU provided security for the Mideast – North African Conference in Dohar, Qatar for operation SILENT ASSURANCE. In total there were 6 amphibious operations in 1997.

In February 1998 the Guam ARG supported deterrence and support operations for UN weapons inspectors in the Middle East. Between March 25th and April 6th, the Wasp ARG supported the 26th MEU in DYNAMIC RESPONSE in what the Marines call a nation assistance operation in Bosnia. On June 6th the Tarawa ARG and 11th MEU conducted SAFE DEPARTURE, an embassy evacuation operation from Asmara, Eritrea. Beginning on June 14th, the Wasp ARG and 26th MEU conducted multiple operations simultaneously in Bosnia-Herzegovina including the show of force operation DETERMINED FALCON, the peace enforcement operation JOINT FORGE, the maritime interdiction component of the operation DETERMINED FORGE, and the no-fly zone enforcement operation DELIBERATE FORGE. All of the operations conducted by the three ships of the Wasp ARG and the 26th MEU during this time period are counted as a single amphibious operation. In August the Saipan ARG and 22nd MEU was split to support 2 operations, the first by the Saipan was AUTUMN SHELTER, the embassy evacuation operation in Kinshasa, Congo from August 10-16. From August 17th – November 15th the rest of the ARG supported embassy security operation in Albania called RESOLVE RESOLUTE. From September 25th – October 5th the Essex ARG and 15th MEU supported SOUTHERN WATCH in Kuwait, the no-fly zone enforcement in the region. On October 7th the USS Bataan responded to Hurricane Georges Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands for the disaster response and humanitarian assistance mission FUNDAMENTAL RELIEF. Beginning on November 7th, the 15th MEU with the three ship Essex ARG and then supported by the three ship Belleau Wood ARG and 31st MEU on November 15th, the Marines supported DESERT THUNDER in Kuwait. On the 16th of December the Belleau Wood ARG split to support two operations, the first was DESERT FOX, the WMD strike operation against Iraq while the other ships of the ARG supported the embassy in Kuwait. There were 12 amphibious operations in 1998.

On April 5th, 1999 the Nassau ARG and 24th MEU supported humanitarian assistance to the Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. On April 15th, the USS Nassau conducted NOBLE ANVIL, a strike operation in Yugoslavia. From April 30th – August, the Kearsarge ARG and 26th MEU conducted peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance operations in Albania with operation SHINING HOPE, also known by its NATO name ALLIED HARBOUR. Beginning in June 10th and lasting until July 6th, the 26th MEU conducted JOINT GUARDIAN in Macedonia, the initial entry operations for KFOR peacekeeping operations. On August 19th – September 10th, the Kearsarge ARG responded in AVID RESPONSE with a humanitarian and disaster response operation to the earthquake in Istanbul, Turkey. From September 30th – October 26th the Belleau Wood ARG and 31st MEU supported STABILISE in East Timor, followed by the Peleliu ARG and 11th MEU from November 1st – December 7th in the same operation. There were 6 amphibious operations in 1999.

From 1990 – 1999 conducted 66 amphibious operations including 1 amphibious assault, 2 amphibious raids, 1 amphibious withdrawal, 3 amphibious demonstrations, 11 strike operations, and 48 other operations ranging from HA/DR, maritime interdiction, or embassy evacuation. Stand by for amphibious operations 2000 – 2009 and I’ll be discussing the Marine Corps leading up to the QDR all week over at my blog Information Dissemination.

Posted by galrahn in Marine Corps

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  • Byron

    When was the last time Marines landed while under fire?

  • Kind of a trick question. Marines attempt to land on flanks now, and avoid direct assaults under fire.

    The last 2 amphibious operations during hostilities was in 2003, in Vic Basra during IRAQI FREEDOM. The previous hostile landing was in Afghanistan in 2001. Both were conducted by the 15th MEU.

    Prior to that was 1991 by BLT 3/1 (5th MEB) at the Al Wafrah “gap” during operation DESERT STORM.

  • solomon

    Nicely done. An expanded version would make a nice Marine Gazette article.

  • Byron

    I’ll refine the question: “When was the last amphibious invasion conducted while under direct and/or indirect fire?”

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Why the question? Even in WWII, the goal was to land elsewhere from the strength of the enemy defenses. Witness MacArthur’s campaign in New Guinea, New Britain, and the Admiralties.

  • John


    When was the last time Army paratroopers jumped under fire? The last hot LZ for Air Cav? Do we need those capabilities any less?

  • My father spent a lot of time in “French Indo-China”; when I was a boy he once described Marines as “tin gods on wheels”. Lord only knows what he thought when I joined the Marine Corp in 1969; he never said.

    Me…..I don’t much care how Marines get ashore; but I’ll tell you this, of all soldiers everywhere, of any nation or force that I’ve ever served with or heard of…..Marines are the guys I want to be with in a firefight. Hands down.

    Amphibious assault will change; the days of amtracks et. al. are waning, and the days when Marines go “ashore” in a manner more akin to Starship Troopers is coming.

  • Why are activities like Operation Sharp Edge unmentioned? That was a nearly year-long operation that even involved a blue-water turnover of the operation from 22d MEU to 26th MEU. Pretty comprehensive stuff. Even a Marine caught a stray 7.62mm round (and escaped uninjured, too!).

    MARG 2-90 got a Navy Unit Commendation out of the whole thing…

    Its important to note, since the event was carried off at the same time the Gulf War got started. Activities like Sharp Edge make a graphic demonstration of the utility of amphibious forces, so it certainly merits inclusion in this little summary here.

  • Al L.

    “The last 2 amphibious operations during hostilities was in 2003, in Vic Basra during IRAQI FREEDOM. ”

    Galhran, wasn’t there also the long convoluted insertion into northern Iraq via Crete or some such place during OIF after Turkey refused entry?(I forget the exact details) It might stretch the definition of amphibious.

  • Robbo

    It looks like you have BEVEL INCLINE in 1997, when it was actually 1998. When we didn’t go ashore in Indonesia, we got some libo in Singapore. Years later, in London, I played rugby with an Australian who was in Jakarta while I was off shore.

    • Bozz78

      Robbo; I to was on belleau wood during this time. If possible can you email me at mc9cav5c0ut(AT)gmail(dot)com.
      Just wanted to ask you some info in reference to the space in between Jakarta and Singapore.

  • John Owens (SGT)

    I was the Plt Sgt for the Engineer Plt that went ashore for the 26th MEU for operation Sharp Edge. We were the quiet conflict. We put up Air Force pallets over the screen windows at the Childrens Rec Center on the Embassy to stop the bullets from coming into our shelter. Never will forget the sound of a bullet whizzing past your ear for the first time or cracking off a tree. We provided humanitarian aid, and evacuated non-combatants. CWO3 Deering was our Plt Cmdr affectionatly known as “Sea Daddy” Everyone there stood up and performed as a Marine should!

    Semper Fi!