USMC in Europe during WWII


For a while now I've been approached by an old Dutch veteran who's been telling a story I found strange.
During WWII he fled the Netherlands because his father, a resistance man was arrested. Dad spent three years in several Nazi Konzentrationslagers.
His son fled through Belgium, France and Spain and ended up, as so many did, in the UK. There he wanted to become part of the Dutch Princess Irene Brigade. A British formation made up entirely of Dutchmen. But he was too young.
Somehow he ended up in Scotland being trained by the USN or USMC, later he was trained in Camp Lejeune and in San Diego. So far this is not an unheard of story. Through my father, a Marine, I heard more stories like this.

Here comes the strange part: Our veteran became a tank commander and took part in the landings in North Africa, the following campaigns and also landed on Sicily. During these last landings he was wounded on the beach and evacuated to Gibraltar and later London.
After his recovery he was attached to a US Army unit in the 3rd Army with which he finished the war in Germany. He says this is because the US was losing tank crews fast and all trained personnel were needed, no matter what unit they were from.

I find this strange. Did the USMC take part in any European or North African campaigns? And with tanks? Did US Marine personnel become attached to US Army units?
How much of this can I believe? I'm not Walt hunting. My neighbour is far too sympathetic for that. He did do something during the war, but over 60 years of polishing up old stories can have clouded his memory beyond recovery! 14 years of storytelling has made some my own memories pretty impressive so far, who knows what four times as much will do!




Book Reviewer
If I read you correctly, the guy was trained by the USMC, but was then posted to the US Army for N Africa, Sicily, etc.

That does not seem too far fetched, though I have never heard of a USMC training establishment in WWII UK.
USMC did fight in Europe and Africa but only in small numbers as there part of the OSS and where there primarily to assist the British and help defend Iceland from invasion.


Book Reviewer
The 6th Marines were in Iceland, as well as Fleet Marines on ship duty. I think also there was a battalion of US Marines in Ulster guarding a Naval installation. Individual Mariness like Peter Ortiz, did serve in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) as members of the OSS or on other special duties.

Col. Peter Ortiz
The main US unit at the landings in North Africa was the 1st Armoured Division, but it was only equiped with Stuart light tanks as its medium tanks were to wide for the British landing craft used at the time, it had departed from the UK unlike the Main US force which had come straight from the USA.

In the US forces ORBAT there were only small groups of anti sabotage specialists like the six US Marines who were on the HMS Walney, the funny thing is that the Royal Navy flew the Stars and Stripes and wore US Marine Uniforms because of the bad feeling against the Brits after the bombbardment of Oran. the Britis crews insisted at the last moment that the White Ensign be flown and this was done and from then on the landing at Oran went tits up HMS walney and Hartland were shot to pieces, of 393 men on the two ships 189 were dead and 157 wounded, 113 Royal Navy dead 86 wounded, 5 US Navy dead and 7wounded this is the only ref of USMC I have found in the North African Landings
Right more info, there was a USMC unit in Londonderry 1st Provisional Batallion guarding the USN FOB at Lishally(FT George) and the USN Signal centre in Waterside, it was still there in 1970,and the Navel Hospital at Creevagh.
There were also USMC units on all US Navy warships and detachments at all US Embasseys

Wait out
Some Free Dutch units were trained by the USMC to fight in the Dutch East Indies but I can find very nearly no info on this
Hello Tropper,

Thanks for your replies.

An entire brigade of RNLMC was trained by the US in camp Lejeune. It served in the East Indies after war, taking over from UK units that had taken them. A bit like the Princess Irene Brigade that was British trained and equipped. There was some animosity during our war in the East Indies between army units that wore British uniforms and equipment and the RNLMC which had US kit issued. The British uniforms were meant for service in Europe and far too warm and thick for tropical use. The USMC had years of Pacific experience and this was noticeable in our Marines' kit!

I had also heard of the USMC Defense Bn and other units on Iceland and the Marines with OSS that served in Europe. There were also embassy guards and naval parties at various times and places. What I am concerned with is how a USMC tank crewman came to land in North Africa and then land at Sicily.

Maybe I should look into the history of the US 1st Armrd Div? See where their personnel came from? I'll keep you informed.

*yeah! I edited it. So what?!
In 1940 the Dutch had a Marine unit in Rotterdam, the Korps Mariners, some fought very gallantly against the Germans, and some managed to escape,

The Main Free Dutch Unit was the Pricess Irene Brigade, made up of Dutch volenteers from all over the world and formed and served with the Canadians in NW Europe, they had a recce unit but no tanks.

In 1943 the Korps Mariners was trained at Camp Leguine for operations in the Pacific, but to late to fight the Japanese,and ended up fighting in the Indoneseian revolution in 1945 and was disbanded in 1949, but they did have 18 sherman support tanks armed with 105mm howitzers
The US !stbt 1st ARMD fought under command of the 17/21st Lancers, as part of Blade Force in the opening battles of the Tunisian campagn, in Stuart tanks armed with 37mm popguns, so if you friend was there he would have met number of people who I have had a pint with at reuniouns
For the info you need on 1st Armd Div read "An Army at Dawn"Rick Atkinson Abacus Books
When you have real people like Anders Lasson , the blokes in 10 Commando, and many others you can never really make a decision on someones past in the timeline you gave he could have been in all the locations and done all you mention, it might seem unlikely but it is not imposible
No USMC Tank Crewman were in the ETO, period.
1st Provisional Marine Brigade Left Iceland in Feb-Mar 1942 rejoining 2nd MARDIV

1 USMC Officer landed on Utah Beach on 6.6.44 a Ltc. on Admiral Moons Staff. Col. James E. Kerr(also on staff for Op Torch) Europe and North Africa PCN 19000312500.pdf

Ships Det. USS Texas was Warno'd to land and assist the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc, but that was cancelled (and good thing too. The SHips det wasnt infantry and was Armed with Reising SMG's and a few Garands. One Marines was quoted: "This will be the biggest goddamn slaughter since Custer got his"

Other than Londonderry det, embassies and some seconded to the OSS (Peter Ortiz)
Fascinating thread! Hope we get a result for old `Dutchy`.
FFS I thought I was good but that is f***ing amazing,

Do you know of any USMC tank crews being assigned to US Army units? It could well be that our veteran was in N. Africa as part of a US Army unit and went to Sicily with that unit. The US 2nd armored division, for example was in both operations.

When we establish that USMC personnel were taken from their corps and used by the Army, then we have a story that could very well be.

The only thing left for me to do then is to softly ask him to tell some more. Which somehow makes me feel uncomfortable and blasphemous.

Cheers guys,

Curious. 18-19 years ago, I met someone very similar. Some WWII remains were found in Holland in either 91 or 92: these where identified as being from my Regiment. So, we prepared a bearer party and went into Holland to carry out the funeral. Among the gathering were some Dutch vets, mostly from RBL Amsterdam.

I got chatting with one guy who appeared slightly younger than the rest. He wore his Dutch decorations plus a US CIB. His story was that, as a young man (he was only 17), he and his brother had escaped to UK by stealing a boat. He ended up in the Dutch Marines and returned to Holland in time for the battle at Walcheren but I think he said he was attached to Royal Marines. At war's end, he was sent to the Dutch East Indies and then into the Korean War, this time attached to USMC - hence the US CIB.

He stayed in the Dutch Marines and finally retired in the late 60s.

Sorry, nothing about tanks and crews but - and a big but - he may still be alive and contactable through RBL Amsterdam. Possibly he may have a Dutch perspective on the story and provide other information. As I say, this was all 18-19 years ago: a helluva story and wish I'd paid more attention. :D
40C, I think you're mistaken there. The Dutch in the Korean war were all of my old regiment: Van Heutsz. They were a battlegroup attached to the 23 Infantry of the 2nd ID. Our vehicles still carry the Indianhead as a recognition sign! This is where your man would have gotten his CIB. The Korean vets are usually a little younger than the WWII ones, even if they took part in both conflicts. I should mention that volunteers for Korea from other units were all badged as Van Heutsz before they sailed off. Notoriously there were some old Waffen SS defectors among them who wanted to reconsile their deeds. They served alongside old resistance fighters and Engelandvaarders. Must have been a pretty nice atmosphere there...

I do know from stories told to me by other veterans that some of the Engelandvaarders' stories are pretty remarkable.
There were also Dutch Marine troops in the West Indies this is a Photo of them in American obselete (T16) Lease Lend tanks in Surinam


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