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A Legacy of Duty & Honor Yes, there was awful malfeasance by top level officers and government officials that took a blind eye to the suffering of Camp Lejeune soldiers and residents. And before the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, our own laws and judicial system failed them too. . .

About Camp Lejeune: A History Of Marines Serving Their Nation

A Legacy of Duty & Honor

Yes, there was awful malfeasance by top level officers and government officials that took a blind eye to the suffering of Camp Lejeune soldiers and residents. And before the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, our own laws and judicial system failed them too.

But let us never forget Camp Lejeune has a proud history because of the individuals who’ve risked life and limb to protected the nation. Those who have fought when the country and the world needed them, and helped us keep our peace.

It’s a legacy of dedicated soldiers, their families and supporters, who have earned the thanks and support of grateful nation.

What Is Camp Lejeune?

Established as the elite Marine Corps training of its day in 1942, Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps Base Camp with the largest concentration of marines and sailors in the entire world. The Camp occupies 153,439 acres in Onslow County, in the southeastern region of U.S. state of North Carolina. Presently, the active-duty population is about 38,778, in addition to 38,769 family members, a civilian population of 3,349 and retirees and their families approximating 18,719. 

The Camp provides both support and training for tenant commands, and operates a series of formal military schools, from entry level to career level. In addition to a Marine Corps Base, the Camp includes a major Navy command and a Coast Guard command.

The Base itself is extensive in units and personnel, including: II Marine Expeditionary Force; Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command; 2nd Marine Division; 2nd Marine Logistics Group; 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade; 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit; 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit; 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit; 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion; 2nd Intelligence Battalion; Marine Corps Installations East; Marine Corps Engineer School; United States Marine Corps School of Infantry; Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools; Reserve Support Unit; Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune; Field Medical Training Battalion (FMTB); Joint Maritime Training Center (USCG); Marine Raider Regiment; and Marine Special Operations Support Group.

The Base itself is extensive in units and personnel, including: II Marine Expeditionary Force; Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command; 2nd Marine Division; 2nd Marine Logistics Group; 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade; 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit; 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit; 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit; 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion; 2nd Intelligence Battalion; Marine Corps Installations East; Marine Corps Engineer School; United States Marine Corps School of Infantry; Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools; Reserve Support Unit; Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune; Field Medical Training Battalion (FMTB); Joint Maritime Training Center (USCG); Marine Raider Regiment; and Marine Special Operations Support Group.

Where Does The Name Of Camp Lejeune Originate?

The name of Camp Lejeune originates from the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, namely Major General John Archer Lejeune. The Commandant designates the highest-ranking officer of the Marine Corps. The designation honors happened upon the major general’s death in November of 1942. Among his numerous achievements, General Lejeune converted the corps from a colonial naval infantry fit for the 19th century to a 20th century expeditionary and amphibious branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

What’s The History Of Camp Lejeune?

In the early part of the 20th century, the Marines embarked on the amphibious assault doctrine, namely seizure of an area, and the establishment of advanced bases followed-up with naval and land campaigns.

The doctrine grew out of concerns by both the Navy and Marine Corps to deal with Japan’s rise as a naval power. The highest priority became the Pacific region, where Japan emerged as a military might in the early 20th century, and would come to increasingly challenge the West’s colonial hegemony following World War I.

The principal instrument for amphibious assault was the War Plan Orange, a series of Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) plans for conceivable war with Japan commencing in the early 1900s. The Navy saw the Plan as its main impetus for future development by 1920, and urged the Marine Corps to have capability for launching an expeditionary force in the Pacific on short-notice from the U.S. West Coast. While the West Coast had highest priority, the Marine Corps was also recommended to establish a similar force on the East Coast, in this case for Atlantic and Caribbean campaigns.

Implementing amphibious assaults had proven a challenge as early attempts at amphibious landings on hostile shores had been unsuccessful, with World War I providing very few examples of successful operations. Between 1921 and 1941, the Marine Corps engaged in numerous maneuvers and operational exercises in cooperation with the Navy and infrequently the Army to develop its amphibious capabilities. Major General John Lejeune, the Marine Corps’ Commandant and Camp Lejeune’s namesake, set amphibious assaults supporting the Navy as the Corps’ principal focus in these years.

As a result of the exercises and continued refinement, by the early 1930s Marine Corps doctrine was committed to the new primary mission of amphibious operations in support of the fleet, which General Lejeune considered to be the raison d’être of the Corps, but there had been very few opportunities for the Corps to put their mission into actual practice. Emergence of the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) in 1933, created by Secretary of the Navy Claude A. Swanson’s general order, set a type command of the Marines under the operational control of Navy fleet commanders that paved the way for successful deployment.

Despite isolationist sentiment in both the populace and Congress, a remnant of the ravages of World War I, tensions rose as militaristic regimes took hold in Germany, Italy and Japan. In 1940, Germany invaded France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and Congress authorized a two ocean navy and an accompanying naval building program.

Major General Thomas Holcomb, Marine Corps Commandant, sought to find land for a Marine training center in the summer of 1940. The Camp Lejeune site was selected by Major John C. McQueen from aerial surveys, a site near the Onslow County coast featuring 14 miles of undeveloped beach that would be ideal for training, formation maneuvers and artillery exercises.

Base construction of the 11,000 acre tract started in April of 1941. Marine Barracks New River was established on May of 1941. Conditions for construction and habitation were harsh. Rather than an envisioned amphibious assault habitat, the hot and humid climate featured dense underbrush, thick forests and swamps, a jungle habitat made even less bearable by insects and snakes. Little did early Marine inhabitants guess it foreshadowed the Jungle warfare habitat they would shorty face in the Pacific. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, in December of 1941, and U.S. entry into World War II, the pace of construction was sped up, and by the end of the War, Camp Lejeune was the most modern base in the country. This first phase of initial construction went from April, 1941 to September, 1942. Except for the Beach Area, the main areas of the camp were either completed or commenced, and included Tent Camp No. 1, the Division Training Area, housing the regiments, and a naval hospital at Hadnot Point.

The second initial construction phase followed, from October, 1942 to March, 1943. Here, completion of roads, piers, recreational facilities and athletic fields were undertaken, and portions of the New River were dredged.

The third initial phase of construction went from March, 1943 to September of the same year. In this phase, 30 school buildings were completed and accommodations were made for the Women’s Reserves. In a nation still disgraced by its segregation of African Americans, facilities at Montford Point provided for a separate training and housing facilities for African-American Marines, and temporary segregated quarters were established for them as well.

The fourth and last final phase of initial construction extended till the final quarter of 1943. In this phase, training pools, utilities installations and additional cantonments were established. The camp hospital, a training school for canines used in war duty and recreational facilities, featuring a 36-hole golf course, a stadium and 9 movie theatres, were also built. By this last phase, the majority of World War II construction at Camp Lejeune had been completed, and the most comprehensive Marine Corps training base in history had been built. By the end of World War II, the base included recreational beachfront, a bird sanctuary and stocked fish ponds.

What Was The Status Of Minorities And Women At Camp Lejeune?

In June of 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802. In addition to banning discriminatory employment practices by the federal government, the Order barred discrimination in defense programs. African American troops first arrived at the Montford Point area of Camp Lejeune by train in that year. Nevertheless, training was still segregated between 1942 and 1949, as camp at Montford Point trained some 20,000 African Americans Marines. In July, 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 (“there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin”), which ordered the complete integration of the armed forces, and Camp Lejeune finally desegregated its troops. Following the Order, the formerly segregated area of Montford Point was renamed Camp Gilbert H. Johnson for the accomplished African American sergeant major by the same name, and became the home of the Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools.

The Women’s Reserve was originally formed in 1942, and plans were accommodated for women’s barracks, mess halls and other support facilities. And unlike other branches of the military, the Marine Corps kept admissions and training policies for women that were not vastly subpar to those for men. Except for combat, starting in February, 1943, women were trained at Camp Lejeune in all aspects of military service. Female marines held specialties ranging from transport personnel, cooks, mechanics and clerks. About 3,000 women were trained elsewhere and were shipped to Camp Lejeune when their facilities were completed. The Camp remained the principal location for female Marines during World War II, and some 20,000 women Marines were trained by the end of World War II. In fact, the camp namesake’s daughter Eugenia Lejeune was one of the female Marines trained there.