MCAGCC TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The Marine Corps' oldest and most decorated division celebrated its 60th anniversary Jan. 31 with a gathering of veterans and active Marines on the Commanding General's parade deck.
The 1st Marine Division was activated Jan. 31, 1941, and participants in its WWII, Korea and Vietnam campaigns joined today's Division warriors to commemorate the occasion.
"We're here to keep the link between our current Marines and our former Marines alive and strong," said LtCol. James Cameron, 7th Marines executive officer.
Busses carried members of the 1st Marine Division Association and other Division veterans to the ceremony. The warriors of the Combat Center's Division units assembled on the parade deck, and the two groups were treated to a history of the Division and performances of the Division's traditional and contemporary theme songs by the MAGTF Training Command band.
The ceremony emphasized the continuity and sense of history in the Division by recognizing the active duty Marines who had been with the Division for both the longest and shortest periods of time.
The Division's active-duty "old salt" honors went to GySgt. Raymond Ramirez, battery gunnery sergeant, Headquarters Btry., 3rd Bn., 11th Marines. The "boot" title was awarded to Pvt. A. C. Smith, a rifleman with Co. B, 1/7. Ramirez was first assigned to 1st MarDiv in Nov. 1972, and Smith in Jan. 2001.
Among the many veterans of the Division's campaigns was retired Col. Mitchell Paige, a local Medal of Honor recipient. Paige joined Ramirez, Smith and Cameron in a toast to the heritage and future of the Division.
The Marines at the ceremony, both in uniform and in hats bearing the Division logo, represented warriors who had served in every national conflict from Guadalcanal to Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. As Cameron concluded, he offered a promise to the men in the stands, on behalf of those in formation on the field.
"We assure you the Division and these Marines are ready, willing and able to go anywhere... and carry the torch you have established for us," he said.
Since its formation, the 1st MarDiv. has been involved in many of the most famous campaigns in Marine Corps history. They fought on Guadalcanal, Pelileu and Okinawa in WWII. Korea saw Division units execute the landing at Inchon, and the famed withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir. In Vietnam, Division units saw heavy fighting during the Tet Offensive. In the Gulf War, they made up the task forces assigned to breach Iraqi minefields and enter Kuwait. Since the cessation of hostilities in the Gulf, the Division has been involved in numerous contingency and humanitarian operations, including peacekeeping actions in Somalia.