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Patriotic Article
By Marine LCpl. Alicia R. Giron

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WWII Marine Raider Speaks To BLT 3/2
(December 31, 2008)

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After hours of classroom instruction and raid exercises, Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit had a chance to hear first-hand accounts of what it was like to be a Marine Raider in World War II.

Ken O'Donnell, an original member of the 4th Marine Raider Battalion, spoke with Marines from Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine regiment, 22nd MEU, aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 17, 2008.

The Marine Raiders were elite units established by the Marine Corps during WWII to conduct amphibious light-infantry warfare, such as landing in rubber boats and operating behind enemy lines. According to O'Donnell, the units sometimes operated for as many as 30 days behind enemy lines, using captured weapons and ammunition to continue the fight.

see caption below
Former Marine Ken O'Donnell, left, a Marine Raider who served in the island-hopping campaign during World War II.
Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Theodore W. Ritchie)
"The Marine Corps was fortunate or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it," said O'Donnell, a native of Belle Fourche, S.D. "There was always a battle, and the Marine Corps was fighting all those years."

As he talked, Marines looked at a black and white photo of young O'Donnell posed atop a hill, Thompson machine gun in hand and Colt model 1911 .45 caliber pistol on his hip. O'Donnell even brought a camouflage jacket he wore during his time in the Pacific theater, a ragged hole still in the sleeve where he took a Japanese bullet through the wrist.

"There's still blood on it," a Marine exclaimed as he examined the jacket. Other Marines crowed closer to inspect.

As Marines listened, they could understand how O'Donnell's stories apply to their experiences today.

"We all can relate somehow to what they did," said Sgt. Aaron C. Huffman, a Light Armored Vehicle commander and native of Olathe, Kan. "They're the ones who made the name for us back in World War II."

After O'Donnell told his stories, Huffman and other Marines showed him what type of equipment the Marine Corps is currently using compared to what was used in the past.

As a Marine showed O'Donnell a M240B medium machine gun, O'Donnell told the Marine of the medium machine gun his unit carried -- the Browning Automatic Rifle, or BAR for short. The young Marines, who are more accustomed to carrying hundreds of rounds of ammunition into battle, were shocked to hear the BAR only had a 20 round capacity.

"It makes us all feel proud to have him come out here and speak to us," said Staff Sgt. Jonathan M. Breeden, the platoon sergeant for the Combined Anti-Armor Team and native of Dry Ridge, Ky. "It was his generation that helped us progress to where we are today."

O'Donnell said, during his time as a Marine Raider, if a Marine went down, there was always someone there to help them, much like the Marines of today.

"The Marines here look out for each other the way we did," said O'Donnell. "The strength of the Marine Corps is the guy behind you, beside you and in front of you."

The 22nd MEU is a scalable, multipurpose force of more than 2,200 Marines and sailors. Commanded by Col. Gareth F. Brandl, it consists of its Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element.

The 22nd MEU is currently conducting pre-deployment training and is scheduled to deploy this spring. For more information about the 22nd MEU, visit the unit's website at

By Marine LCpl. Alicia R. Giron
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit
Copyright 2008

Reprinted from U.S. Marines Website

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