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The annals of the Marine Corps are filled with 240 years’ worth of heroic actions and selfless service. These past actions continue to inspire the Marines of today’s Corps, and challenge them to meet the same level of excellence and professionalism worthy of the units they represent.
While the 7th Marine Regiment may not be the oldest unit in the Marine Corps, it has no less of a storied past. Over the past 98 years “The Magnificent Seventh” has participated in some of the most famous battles of modern military history, and has had some of the most legendary Marines fill its ranks.
The history of the 7th Marine Regiment began during World War I, on August 14, 1917, when it was formed in Philadelphia. Nearly immediately after its formation, the regiment was deployed to participate in the occupation of Cuba from August 1917 – 1919. One month after the regiment’s return to the States, the 7th Marines was deactivated in the demobilization that followed the war.
In the interim years between the two World Wars, elements of the 7th Marines were reactivated in 1933 at Quantico, Virginia to conduct peacekeeping operations off the Cuban coast. At the end of the crisis the unit was once again deactivated on January 17, 1934.
With the world once again at war in the late 30s and early 40’s, the United States began to bolster its military in preparation for its inevitable involvement. The regiment was activated once again in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 1941, and assigned to the 1st Marine Brigade.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the 7th Marines set sail for the Pacific on April 2, 1942, to reinforce units already fighting to stave off Japan’s advances towards Australia. In preparation for its first major engagement, 7th Marines conducted exercises in the Samoa Islands, training for jungle warfare.
On September 18, 1942, 7th Marines personnel landed on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands—the first Allied offensive operation of the Pacific Theater. For four months, the Marines of the regiment attacked the Japanese defenders of the Island, and continually repulsed their fierce counter-attacks. Over more than 120 days of fighting, The Magnificent Seventh earned a reputation of courage and tenacity in combat.
It was on Guadalcanal that Marine legends John Basilone and Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller earned the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross respectively, for their actions during The Battle of Henderson Field. Basilone was a machine gun section leader who near single-handedly held his position against rapidly advancing Japanese forces for two days, while Puller was the commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment who led the defense of the airfield. The actions of these men epitomized the fighting spirit of 7th Marines.
The 7th Marine Regiment was called upon numerous times during World War II to storm the Japanese held beaches of the Pacific. Marines of the 7th found themselves in places like Easter New Guinea, New Britain, and Peleliu. During the Battle of Peleliu – one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific Theater—Pfc. Arthur J. Jackson and Pfc. Wesley Phelps’ actions would earn each the Medal of Honor. Jackson received his medal for single handedly destroying 15 enemy pillboxes, and killing 50 enemy soldiers, while Phelps was awarded his for jumping on a live grenade, sacrificing his life to save those around him.
The final engagement of the war in which the 7th Marines participated was also the single costliest for the Regiment. During the 82-day Battle of Okinawa, 7th Marines sustained more than 700 casualties in fighting over Dakeshi Ridge, and another 500 in fighting over Wana Ridge.
Less than two months after the end of the Okinawa campaign the Empire of Japan surrendered and the war was over. From 1945 to 1947, the Marines of the 7th participated in the occupation of North China to assist in the disarming of Japanese troops still stationed there and to help keep the peace in war torn China.
However, it wasn’t long before The Magnificent Seventh was once again called to action. On August 17, 1950 was reactivated, and on September 21, 1950 the Marines of the 7th were back to work doing what Marines do best, taking the fight to the enemy.
The 7th Marine Regiment fought from the shores of Inchon to the Yalu River. They were a part of the “Frozen Chosin,” the nickname given to the United Nations forces that broke through the encirclement of a numerically superior Chinese force in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.
Following the withdrawal of UN forces from North Korea, the 7th Marine Regiment participated in the long defense of South Korea along the 38th Parallel until the armistice in 1955. Like their brothers before them, the Marines of the 7th were unflinching in combat. Twenty-two men from 7th Marines earned the Medal of Honor with their actions, many of these coming at the cost of their own lives.
In July 1965, the regiment was once again deployed to Southeast Asia, this time fighting in the rice paddies of Vietnam. From squad-sized foot patrols to participation in division sized battles like the Tet Offensive, Marines with The Magnificent Seventh fought and lived up to the combat prowess their unit historically upheld.
Over the five years of fighting against North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong forces, the Marines and Sailors of 7th Marines fought across Vietnam, participating in dozens of major military operations during the war until their departure in September 1970.
In the decades that followed the Vietnam War, the regiment’s Marines continued to preserve and improve their fighting skills all across the globe in the event they would be called upon once again to fight their nation’s battles.
Shortly after moving their regimental colors from Camp Pendleton to Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, in August 1990, the Marines and sailors of the regiment were deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield. 7th Marines participated in the attack into and eventual liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi forces.
Following the first Iraq War, 7th Marines was a part of the U.S. led Unified Task Force participating in Operation Restore Hope. The operation aimed to relieve famine and provide stability to a war torn Somalia and lasted for five months.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 forced America into another conflict, and the Marines of the 7th were once again poised to jump back into action.
Returning to Kuwait in January 2003, 7th Marines was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was an instrumental part of the invasion of Iraq, capture of Baghdad and subsequent toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Over the next six years The Magnificent Seventh would deploy in support of OIF, often charged with security and stabilization operations in the Al Anbar Province, taking part in combat operations in towns like Fallujah and Ramadi.
Cpl. Jason Dunham became the most recent member of the regiment to earn a Medal of Honor for actions in OIF, on April 22, 2004.
Dunham’s rifle squad, 4th Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, was on a reconnaissance patrol when they became aware of rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire attacking a friendly convoy nearby. Dunham led his team to the engagement, ordered them to dismount, and took one of his fire teams on foot to search the area of the convoy, which had been led by his battalion commander.
Dunham was attacked by an insurgent, who dropped a grenade in the struggle. Fully aware of the consequences of his actions, Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet and body, shielding his teammates from the explosion. In saving the lives of at least two of his Marines, he gave his own. His legacy is a part of the proud traditions of the regiment.
In addition to the war in Iraq, 7th Marine Regiment also was tasked numerous times with conducting combat operations in Afghanistan as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Starting in March 2008, the regimental headquarters of 7th Marines was deployed three times to Afghanistan as Regimental Combat Team – 7. Marines with the regiment took part in some of the heaviest fighting in the country in places like Marjah, Sangin and the Helmand River Valley. On July 31, 2013 RCT – 7 rolled up its colors as the last RCT to serve in OEF.
The Marines of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment were the Ground Combat Element of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command in its initial rotation. Now in its second iteration, the regimental headquarters makes up the Command Element of the SPMAGTF, while 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines s