Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here's what happens when the Marines take your beach

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit practiced their ability to conduct mechanized raids on July 1 against an island in Queensland, Australia, showing off American muscle while also ensuring the Marines are ready to take territory and inflict casualties on enemies in the Pacific. Not that there is any chance of conflict in that region.


(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Marines position their vehicles in the well deck, a portion of the ship that can be flooded with water to allow ships and swimming vehicles to transit between the open ocean and the ship.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Marines double check their gear and prepare to move out from the well deck. Careful checks of the vehicles are necessary before the well is flooded, as an armored vehicle without all of the necessary plugs and protections in place can quickly sink in the open water, creating a lethal threat for the Marines inside.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Amphibious operations have a lot of risks like that. Simple physics force the armored vehicles to move slowly between the ship and shore, leaving them vulnerable to enemy fire. And many of them can't fire their best weapons while floating because it might cause the vehicle to flounder.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

But the risks can be worth the reward, like in the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Sometimes the only logical way to get a battalion or larger force onto an enemy-held island is to deliver it over the water.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines prepare constantly for that eventuality, buying gear and training on its use so they can land on the sand under fire, quickly build combat power with armor, artillery, and infantry, and then move from the beachhead inland.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The success of these operations depends largely on the initiative of individual Marines and small teams. Enemy defenses can quickly break up formations moving through the surf, and so junior leaders have to be ready to keep the momentum going if they lose contact with the company, battalion, or higher headquarters.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Many of the Marine Corp's current vehicles are slow and cumbersome in the water, but can move much faster once their treads reach dry ground. For instance, the Assault Amphibious Vehicle can move a little over 8 mph in favorable waters, but can hit up to 20 mph off-road and 45 mph on a surfaced road.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines have multiple versions of the AAV including the recovery vehicle shown above. AAVs can carry 40mm automatic grenade launchers and .50-cal. heavy machine guns, but the primary combat capability comes from the 21 Marine infantrymen who can deploy from the back.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Those infantrymen can still benefit from the AAVs after they deploy, though, since the large weapons and armor of the AAV allows it to break up enemy strongpoints more easily or safely than dismounted Marines.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines on the ground, in addition to fighting enemy forces, will collect intelligence. Some of that will be done with hand-held cameras like that in the photo, but drones may also be flown, and Marines forward may draw maps or illustrations of enemy defense or write reports of what they're seeing. This allows higher-level commanders and artillery and aviation leaders to target defenses and troop concentrations.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The destruction of enemy fortifications allows the Marines to break out from the beachhead. If they don't get off the beaches, it makes it easier for a counterattacking enemy force to push the Marines back into the sea. A breakout helps prevent that by keeping the enemy on their back foot.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Keep scrolling to see more photos from the simulated raid in Australia.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)