The activation of the Fifth Marines dates back to June 1917, just prior to the U.S. force deployment to France during World War I. The Regiment won its nickname, the “Fighting Fifth,” on the battlefields of western Europe. So fierce were its efforts in the Battle of Belleau Wood and subsequent victories that the French government awarded the Regiment the Croix de Guerre with two palms and one gilt star. Today, each Marine serving in the Regiment also wears the Fourragere, a French unit award, on the left shoulder of his uniform to recognize the legacy and valor of his predecessors.
Briefly deactivated, the Regiment was reactivated in June 1920, to guard the delivery of the U.S. Mail against domestic bandits. While they were on the job, not one Marine was killed and not one piece of mail was lost to thieves. In March 1927, the Regiment deployed to South America and fought in support of the Nicaraguan government against rebel bands until April 1930. Shortly thereafter, the Regiment was again briefly deactivated. Troubled times and small conflicts in the Americas however, led to the Regiment’s reactivation on 1 September 1934.
After further service in the U.S. and in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Fifth Marines deployed to New Zealand in 1942 as part of the U.S. Pacific Campaign against Japan. During the course of World War II, the Regiment further distinguished itself in action at Guadalcanal, Eastern New Guinea, Peleliu and Okinawa. The post-war years found the Regiment on occupation duty in North China until May 1947, when it relocated to Guam. In August 1950, it moved to its current home, Camp Pendleton, California.
The country again called upon the Fifth Marines in August 1950, when the Regiment found itself in combat on the Pusan Perimeter in Korea. During the next three years the Regiment fought at Inchon and Seoul, the Chosin Reservoir, and on both the East Central and Western Fronts. The Fifth Marine Regiment returned to Camp Pendleton in March 1955, and remained there for the next eleven years.
In May 1966, the Fifth Marines arrived in the Republic of South Vietnam where it would remain until April 1971. Vietnam era Marines added the names Rung Sat, Chu Lai, Phu Bai, Hue, Khe Sahn, An Hoa, Tam Ky, and Da Nang to the Regiment’s long list of distinguished battle actions.
In August 1990, the nation again called on the “Fighting Fifth” – this time in support of Operation Desert Shield. On 26 January 1991, while embarked with the largest amphibious task force since World War II, Regimental Landing Team (RLT) Five, in conjunction with RLT-2, conducted heliborne and surface assaults for Exercise Sea Soldier IV in Southern Oman. On 25 February 1991, the Regiment disembarked in direct support of Operation Desert Storm and the liberation of Kuwait. Less than three months later, Fifth Marines received an executive order to conduct humanitarian assistance and relief operations in Bangladesh. The Regiment returned to Camp Pendleton on 29 June 1991.
In the decade following Operation Desert Storm, the Regiment deployed to Yellowstone National Park, the Umatilla National Forest in Oregon and Clear Creek, Idaho to combat wild fires. Simultaneously it sourced the battalion landing teams for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), or MEU (SOC).
In January of 2003, the Fifth Marines deployed to Kuwait to take part in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On 21 March, the Regiment became the first unit to cross the line of departure into Iraq as it moved to seize the Rumayllah Oilfields. During the course of the next few weeks, the Regiment repeatedly distinguished itself in combat actions as it continued the offensive to liberate Baghdad and collapse the regime of Saddam Hussein. During much of the attack north, the Regiment led the 1st Marine Division in the deepest attack in Marine Corps history.
Today, the Regiment continues to participate in exercises and contingency deployments with the 1st Marine Division, and to prepare forces for deployment with the 31st MEU (SOC). Ever ready to answer the nation’s call, the “Fighting Fifth” is recognized as the Marine Corps’ most highly decorated regiment.