The Third Marine Division in Color

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In August 1945, Life Magazine photographer J. R. Eyerman traveled to the island of Guam to photograph garrison and training activities of the Third Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force. At that time the division was preparing for the planned invasion of Japan (Operation OLYMPIC). But fate played a hand in Eyerman's trip and B-29 bombers of the Army Air Forces dropped atomic weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

By the summer of 1945, the Third Marine Division had been deployed to the Pacific for more than 2 and 1/2 years. Its' Marines had fought in combat in three tough campaigns: Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima.

Instead of assault landings on Japanese beach heads, the Leathernecks of the Third switched to occupation planning, and preparations to demobilize many high-point men with long months of service in the Pacific. These color photos are an important record of the division and its Marines. They are from the Life Magazine photo collection on

Infantry Marines with rifles and fixed bayonets prepare for bayonet training on Guam, August 1945. These troops are armed with the M1 rifle, the basic service rifle of the United States Marine in World War II.

Marines practice assaulting an enemy position on Guam. On the division was rested and recuperated from the campaign for Iwo Jima, the training cycle began again.

There were thousands of replacements to process and integrate into the division, and a mountain of new equipment and weaponry arrived to improve the odds in the upcoming invasion of Japan.

A Marine cleans his rifle outside of his squad tent. Weapons maintenance was a daily part of life, even in garrison. Due to he humidity on tropical islands, Marines fought a never-ending war against rust and corrosion.

A Scout/Sniper cleans his M1903A1 sniper rifle with Unertl scope. This weapon was equipped with an 8-power telescope and was adopted by the Marine Corps in late 1942.

The outstanding M1903/Unertl remained in Marine Corps service through the Korean War.

Riflemen qualify with their M1s on Guam. Through the end of the war, the division maintained a tough and realistic training program to prepare all hands for the planned invasion of Japan.

Once the war came to a close, most of the focus shifted to rotating high-point Marines back home, and shipping subordinate units to occupation duty.

Hot running water! Marines in the Pacific never took this luxury for granted. Not all camps had the means the pipe in water for showers, and sometimes Marines had to carry their own water in 5-gallon cans.

The divisional recreation center on Guam This facility was named in honor of 2ndLt Milton 'Slug' Marvin, Assault Platoon, 21st Marines. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for heroism in action in the campaign for Guam during the period 21-27 July 1944.

2ndLt Marvin, a Mustang who was a boxing champion in the pre-war Marine Corps, also received the Silver Star for gallantry in action on Bougainville. His remains were never recovered, and he is one of 3,114 Marines still missing in action from World War II.

Marines take advantage of Guam's beautiful beaches after VJ-Day. Swimming and sunbathing became popular pastimes for the division's Marines after the war.

The divisional Special Services Section, dissolved during the war, was reconstituted in August 1945 to organize athletic and recreational activities as the division transitioned to a peacetime footing.

A company street in one of the regimental camps on Guam. Dust was a major problem, and water tankers made daily runs through the camps to wet down the streets, although it never adequately fixed the problem.

A group of Marines plays basketball on one of Guam's many improvised courts.






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