Military

In Hawaii, ‘America’s Battalion’ Folds Its Colors and Fades Away

January 13, 2023Carl Prine
Hawaii

On July 30, 2010, a helicopter at the memorial service held by 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines for Sgt. Joe L. Wrightsman departs Patrol Base Jaker in Afghanistan. Wrightsman died trying to save the life of an Afghan National Police officer who was being carried away by the Helmand River. On July 13, 2023, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, the Corps deactivated the famous battalion. US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga.

During a somber ceremony in Hawaii, “America’s Battalion” folded its colors, sheathed its battle streamers, and faded back into its storied history.

On Friday Jan. 13, the Corps deactivated 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. It’s part of a series of moves across the Indo-Pacific region, designed to slim infantry-heavy combat teams into littoral regiments, with fewer grunts but more anti-aircraft missiles and ship-killing batteries.

That cold logic of strategy didn’t make Friday’s moment any less bittersweet. While a Marine band played Auld Lang Syne, six Marines struck the battalion's colors and swaddled the banners in black cloth.

A quartet of Marines then marched the cased flags off the parade deck, with no troops trailing behind them, because their battalion was no more.

“Before I look to the future, I want to look at the past, and honor the service and sacrifice of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines,” Col. Timothy S. Brady Jr., the commander of the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, told the Dewey Square audience midway through the nearly hourlong ceremony. “A unit founded by heroes. A unit that answered every call. A unit that embraced the motto, Fortuna Fortes Juvat — fortune favors the brave.” 

Hawaii

At Marine Corps Base Hawaii on the island of Oahu, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines cased their colors on Jan. 13, 2023, and were officially deactivated by the Corps. US Marine Corps image.

Brady commanded 3/3 from 2015 to 2017, but his address sailed back to the bloody Pacific Campaign during World War II, when the battalion was formed to storm the beaches of Bougainville and Guam.

During Vietnam, 3/3 fought at Danang and Khe Sanh.

In Iraq, America’s Battalion held Fallujah and Haditha. The battalion’s Marines waged war across Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.

In a written message to the Marines and sailors gathered in Dewey Square, their boss — Lt. Gen. James W. Bierman Jr., the commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force — reminded them that famous battalions and squadrons have furled and sheathed their colors before, only to return to duty later, and that’s been true of 3/3, too. 

Hawaii

Pfc. Aramis C. Sandoval, a Marine in Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, pulls security at a vehicle checkpoint near Forward Operating Base Geronimo, Afghanistan, May 30, 2010. US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga.

The battalion was shuttered in 1945, but then reactivated in 1951. It was shut down again in 1974, but the Pentagon resurrected it only a year later.

And if war comes again, the battalion’s colors likely be unfurled for a new generation of Marines.

“This deactivation is hard and cannot help but come with a sense of loss in all who have served in the battalion,” wrote Bierman, who fought alongside the unit in Iraq as the commander of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines. “For a number of veterans, and many currently serving, the entirety of service was in 3/3, and so the tight-knit battalion completely defined the experience of being a Marine. Even as each of you wipe away a tear and steel your heart, take great comfort in the fact that the proud memories and strong relationships will endure.”

Read Next: US, Japanese Leaders Spark Major Changes for Marines on Okinawa

Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He previously worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Military
Navy Releases First Photos of Chinese Balloon Recovery

In the newest images released by the Navy on Tuesday, sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022. Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who oppose a COVID-19 vaccination requirement on religious grounds want a federal appeals court to keep alive their legal fight against the Biden administration. Congress voted to end the requirement in December 2022, but vaccine opponents note that commanders can still make decisions on how and whether to deploy unvaccinated troops, under a memo signed last month by Austin. AP photo by Susan Walsh, File.
Military
Vaccine Litigation Lingers After Lifting of Military Mandate

Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who refuse to be vaccinated for religious...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Armed Forces Service Medal
Military
Who Earns the Armed Forces Service Medal?

The Department of Defense honors heroism in combat in many ways, but there is also an award — the Ar...

February 7, 2023Noelle Wiehe
Soldiers carry the coffin of Eduard Strauss, a Ukrainian serviceman who died in combat on Jan. 17 in Bakhmut, during a farewell ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. AP photo by Daniel Cole.
Intel
Russian Forces Keep Up Pressue As Ukraine Anniversary Nears

Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with attacks in the eastern Donbas region as M...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Chinese spy balloon
Military
Blown to Bits! Chinese Spy Balloon Blasted, Plummets Into Sea

The US Air Force downed the Chinese balloon that's been soaring over the US.

February 4, 2023Carl Prine
germany, european union, ukraine gas reserves
Intel
Ukraine Wants To Store Europe’s Strategic Gas Reserves

Ukraine maintains 12 underground gas storage facilities with a total capacity of about 31 billion cu...

February 3, 2023Nolan Peterson
Dear John letter
History
‘Dear John Letters’ — A History of Wartime Breakups

The dreaded Dear John: the wartime breakup notice that took weeks to arrive in the mail.

February 3, 2023Matt Fratus
National Defense Service Medal
Military
A Brief History of the National Defense Service Medal

First issued at the end of the Korean War, the National Defense Service Medal has been awarded durin...

February 2, 2023Jenna Biter
  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved