Green Berets, SEALs, now Raiders: Marines resurrect historic name

These U.S. Marine Raiders, with the reputation of being skillful jungle fighters, pose in front of a Japanese stronghold they conquered at Cape Totkina, Bougainville, in January 1944. (AP Photo)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)  — The Army has the Green Berets, while the Navy is known for the SEALs. Now, an elite branch of the U.S. Marine Corps will officially be known as Raiders.

Marine Raiders patch
Marine Raiders patch

The Marines will rename several special operations units as Marine Raiders at a ceremony Friday, resurrecting a moniker made famous by World War II units that carried out risky amphibious and guerrilla operations. The exploits of the original Marine Raiders — who pioneered tactics used by present-day special forces — were captured in books and movies including “Gung Ho!” in 1943 and “Marine Raiders” in 1944.

The name will give a unique identity to the Marines’ branch of U.S. Special Operations Command, which includes special forces from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The Marines’ Special Operations Command, known as MARSOC, was formed more than a decade ago as part of the global fight against terrorism.

“The whole idea of ‘special Marines’ is unpalatable to Marines in general”

In a news release, the Marine Corps said the renaming will give commanders a shorthand way to refer to special operations Marines, similar to the labels “Green Beret” or “SEAL,” in what it called “an official identity.”

Marines in MARSOC must pass a selection process that includes grueling swims and hikes, as well as specialized combat training.

Some Marines have worn the Raider emblems unofficially since 2003 when the branch’s first present-day special operations unit was activated for a deployment to Iraq.

Ben Connable, a military and intelligence analyst at the nonprofit research agency RAND Corporation, said MARSOC wasn’t initially popular with some Marines because of the branch’s famous “esprit de corps” that includes pride in the group and the concept that all members are elite to begin with.

“The whole idea of ‘special Marines’ is unpalatable to Marines in general,” said Connable, a retired Marine officer.

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