Forward > Acknowledgement and Note

This History of Marine Corps Counterintelligence is dedicated to all Marines that have served.

Often it has been said that, "Dates and places, facts and figures are the bare bones of any historical event. For, it is the sights, sounds, taste, gestures, and feelings locked away in people's memories that give history its color and nuance."

Forward

Section 1. Marines Who Participated in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)

Introduction

Many individuals, both military and civilian, do not understand the word "Counterintelligence." Some think of it as someone who catches spies and works entirely undercover collecting information about the so called "bad guy" and only appears to pass this information to the U.S. Government. In a sense that is part of its meaning, However, in the U.S. military it is much more. From a military standpoint, counterintelligence is that portion of intelligence devoted to destroying the effectiveness of inimical foreign intelligence activities and to protecting information against espionage, personnel against subversion, and installations and material against sabotage. Counterintelligence activity involves investigations and other measures to collect, process, and disseminate related information. (OPNAVINST 03850.1A of 30 Jan 68).

Section 2. Growth of the Marine Corps Counterintelligence (1941 - 1951)

1941 to 1951

If the disaster of Pearl Harbor accomplished anything for the United States, it demonstrated a deficiency in America's overall intelligence operations and its programs. At Pearl Harbor, our battleships were lined up in their berthing spaces in an open invitation to air attack. Our aircraft were wheeled out of their revetments and placed side-by-side on the flight line at Hickham Airfield. One of the main reasons for this was that our military leadership had underestimated Japan's strength. American Military leaders had not only underestimated Japanese capabilities, but had failed to piece together and identify simple indicators and warnings which may have averted the Japanese air strikes against Hawaii.

Section 3. Marine Corps CI Taking Shape

PRE-KOREA

The five years which elapsed between the Japanese surrender and the outbreak of the war in Korea in June 1950 marked a turning point in the history of Marine Corps CI.

In Korea, many Communist spies from the north had been sent to South Korea before the outbreak of hostilities to establish collection sites. Additional swarms of spies descended with the invading army. They took cover among crowds of refugees and in an attempt to penetrate the American lines. One keen-eyed CI Marine who was assigned to the Army's 181st Counterintelligence Corps (CIC), noticed two Koreans, each with a trouser-fly button sewed on with red thread. Eventually 121 individuals were detected wearing this bizarre recognition signal, and their spy ring rounded up. At Pusan the CIC caught nearly a thousand saboteurs trying to blow up ships or supplies behind the American lines. In the early stages of the Korean War, the hastily organized United Nations Forces met a continuous series of defeats from the more numerous North Koreans forces. There was a desperate and urgent need for reinforcements and it was clear that launching an amphibious landing in the enemy's rear area would bring a great tactical reward. The need for the service of the Marine Corps was apparent, and demands for their employment were soon forthcoming.

Section 4. Post Korean Era (The Expansion of Marine Corps CI)

Corps CI Expansion

During and after the Korean War, Headquarters Marine Corps updated the Counterintelligence Order three times (28 Feb 1951 - number 87, 24 Feb 1953 -number 121 and 4 Sept 1954 MCO 3850.1A). Due to the increased awareness for the need of a positive Marine Corps Counterintelligence capability to support Marine Corps contingency planning, twenty-two Marines received orders to attend the Army's Counterintelligence Course at Fort Holabird, Maryland, starting in February 1952. Many Marines who completed CI training at Camp Holabird did not receive orders to participate in the Korean War. Some were assigned to various bases, while others assisted the Naval Investigative Service. The 1950's saw Marine Corps CI emerge as an essential and vital part of Marine Corps combat capability.

Section 5. The First Test - Beirut Lebanon 1958

Introduction - CI Deployment

Prior to the actual landing of Marines in Beirut, Sergeant (Sgt) Roy Abercrombie was in Baltimore, Maryland on official business and received a telegram from Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. The telegram directed him to report to Cherry Point, North Carolina for possible assignment. This was due in part to the developments in Lebanon. Sgt Abercrombie immediately packed his bags and proceeded to Cherry Point, N.C.

Section 6. Marine Corps Early Years of Involvement in Cuba

Prior to the Spanish-American War

Marine Corps involvement with the island of Cuba dates back prior to the U.S. declaration of war against Spain in 1898. During this period Congress had appropriated fifty million dollars for land and naval forces, some one hundred thousand of which was to go to the Marine Corps for supplies and equipment to establish a naval base at Guantanamo Bay. In addition Congress increased the authorized strength of the Corps from about 2900 to 4500 officers and men. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Colonel Heywood, was directed under Executive Order to ready two battalions to serve with the North Atlantic Squadron. On April 17, two days after war was declared, one reinforced battalion sailed to Key West, Florida under the command of LtCol Robert W. Huntington. Following a brief stay, the battalion reembarked on June 6 to join Admiral Sampson's units in Cuban waters. On June 10, the Marine landed at Guantanamo Bay, occupied Fisherman's Point and set up the first Marine Camp on Cuban soil. 

Section 7. A Short Marine Corps CI Role in Haiti - 1963

CI Operations

In May 1963, Duvalier - or better known as "Papa Doc" - began to get out-of-hand with the U.S. Government. In order to resolve the situation U. S. Marines were called upon to setting the differences.

Section 8. Marine Corps Counterintelligence in the Dominican Republic 1965

CI Operations

With the overthrow of the Dominican Republic's Rafael Trujillo - brought Marines into the Caribbean once again.

Six weeks after the "Bay of Pigs" disaster, Generalissimo Trujillo was shot to death. In February 1963 the popular Juan Bosch was elected as the Republic's president. Bosch was overthrown following a period of low sugar prices, unemployment, demonstrations, riots and finally civil war. The government, dominated now by Donald Reid Cabral grew progessively unpopular and weaker. On April 24, 1965, a faction of the Republics's military who were pro-Bosch supporters, revolted against Reid Gabral's Government. The pro-Bosch supporters wanted the return of Bosch and the 1963 constitution without elections. Overnight, pro-Bosch soldiers took up positions in Santo Domingo and large crowds rioted in the city's streets demanding Bosch's return. Reid Cabral contacted the U.S. Naval Attache, to inquire for U.S. assistance.

Section 9. 1960-1975 "The Vietnam War"

Foreword

Those Marines who spent their lives and energies building an active combat support role for Marine Corps counterintelligence (CI) during the Vietnam War, developed into a aggressive group of individuals. From the early years of the Vietnam War until its conclusion Marine CI operated as small units or individually with other military allied services. To quote J.J. Flanagan; a former CI Marine "I believe we were then, and still remain, a closely knit brotherhood within the Marine Corps CI framework. Once a Marine - always a Marine ... as the saying goes."

Events thoughout the Vietnam War where Marine CI was involved covered an extensive period of time (1960-1975). To document each and every event would fill many volumes. In order to present this historic period and place it in its proper prospective, only those significant events and those individuals who took part in them are depicted herein. At the initial onset of U.S. activities in Vietnam, Marine CI focused its attention on inserting its personnel within the Republic of South Vietnam to act as military advisors. Once the U.S. military buildup was in full swing, and up until the fall of Saigon, six Marine Corps CI teams had been deployed to support the war effort. Most journals, reports or plans pertaining CI operations were classified. In the past fifteen year, however, many of these records have been officially declassified. Where possible, many events involving Marine CI were extracted from official records, declassified reports, and open source information to improve the scope of this history.

Section 10. Bibliography

The following resources contribued to this CI History:

CI Reference

Published By:
Bob McDonough
May 15, 2017