The British Royal Marines were ‘victorious’ in a mock desert battle with the US Marines. Here is how the 2 forces stack up.
Britain’s Royal Marines attracted unexpected attention this fall after reporting they had “defeated” US Marines in a drill.
Details of the reports have been disputed, but they highlight the special abilities and unique stories of the two units.
In October, an exercise in the California desert involving Marine forces from across NATO sparked unintended drama when reports surfaced of the swift defeat of US Marines at the hands of their British counterparts.
Exercise Green Dagger is an annual, large-scale, force-on-force training event designed to prepare United States Marine Corps units for upcoming deployments to combat zones or volatile regions.
Navies from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands and United Arab Emirates “battle” against each other in mock combat exercises. During a five-day event, the Royal Marines Commandos defeated their American counterparts despite their inferior numbers.
While many contested these reports, they highlighted the skills and capabilities of both forces. Here’s how they stack up.
Royal Marines Commandos
The Royal Marines Commandos are a very interesting unit when it comes to classification. For centuries they served as naval infantry, sailing on Royal Navy ships and fighting on sea and land, as well as being the troops responsible for enforcing discipline in the British Navy.
After the Napoleonic Wars and the rise of the British Navy to dominance of the seas, the Royal Marines increasingly deployed on land as a naval infantry force. During World War I they fought in the trenches alongside regular infantry units.
It was during the Second World War that the Royal Marines first entered the field of special operations. After Germany swept through Europe, the British set up commando units to lead the fight on the continent and hold off the Germans.
Initially, the “Commandos”, as the units themselves were called, were made up of British Army soldiers and volunteers from many countries that had surrendered to the Nazis.
In 1942 the Royal Marines created their own commando units and added the coveted designation of “Commando” to their title. They specialized in amphibious operations against Axis forces in occupied Europe and the Pacific theater throughout the war.
The Royal Marines Commando was the only “Commando” unit of the approximately 40 that existed during the war to survive the major demobilization that followed the surrender of Germany and Japan.
Similar but different
Although American and British forces look like marines, comparing them is like comparing apples to oranges.
While the US Marine Corps is a combined warfare force that can conduct expeditionary campaigns, the Royal Marines Commandos are a much smaller and more specialized unit that served as a rapid reaction force for the UK.
The US Marine Corps has approximately 200,000 troops and over 1,000 fighter jets and helicopters, and until recently operated its own fleet of tanks. By contrast, the Royal Marines Commandos field less than 8,000 soldiers in total, only half of whom are line infantry. The British Marines have neither armor nor fighter planes.
Indeed, in terms of capabilities, training, selection and mission, it would be fairer to compare the Royal Marines to the special operations units of the US Marine Corps – the Marine Raiders, Recon Marines and Force Recon Marines.
Even with differences in size and capabilities, both forces have illustrious combat histories.
US Marines have distinguished themselves in several wars.
Some of their best-known actions are the Battle of Belleau Wood in World War I, the battles of the Pacific Campaign that brought the Allies to Japan’s doorstep in World War II, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in World War II. of Korea and the second battle. of Fallujah during the Iraq war.
The Royal Marines Commandos won respect and praise for their actions in several engagements during the Second World War, but perhaps their most significant campaign was during the Falklands War when they crossed the rugged islands of the South Atlantic with a full combat load – each troop carrying over 100 pounds of equipment – and defeated the Argentines in a series of brutal engagements.
The Royal Marines Commandos are now entering a new phase as Britain’s special operations forces move towards a world in which a possible peer-to-peer war against Russia or China has replaced large-scale counter-terrorism operations as the primary concern.
As part of this modernization, the Commandos are getting new weapons and equipment in addition to restructuring into smaller, more agile units.
“We’ve always been an elite force, but few people outside the UK know about us. Our army is small compared to the Americans and the Royals. [Marines Commandos] are even a smaller part of that. But we’re the guys you want in a trench when the going gets tough,” a former Special Boat Service operator told Insider.
The SBS was for decades the Tier 1 special duties unit of the Royal Marines, recruiting only from commandos. It was the equivalent of the US Naval Special Warfare Development Group, which was previously called SEAL Team Six.
Nowadays, however, the SBS and the Special Air Service (SAS), its army counterpart, recruit from the wider British army. And like the Royal Marines, the SBS has always worked closely with its American counterparts.
“We have a close working relationship with the Americans, and we have frequent exchange programs, or at least we had at the time,” the former SBS frogman said. “How it works, it’s usually one of our guys or an American who is seconded to the opposite number for a year or two and serves as a regular member of that team. They train, work and deploy with them. as part of the unit.”
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a veteran of the Hellenic Army (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ) and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.
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