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 their uniform to recognize the legacy and valor of their 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) 5, 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 wildfires. Simultaneously it sourced the battalion landing teams for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).
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 during 33 days of combat operations..
Regimental Combat Team (RCT) 5 once again deployed to Iraq in February 2006 assuming control of the Fallujah area in the Al Anbar Province from Eighth Marines. During a deployment that continued until January 2007, RCT-5 conducted combat operations while training and advising Iraqi security forces. The deployment concluded when Fifth Marines was relieved in place by Sixth Marines; the first time these two storied regiments had been together on the battlefield in 94 years.
Less than a year after returning home, RCT-5 deployed to the Al Anbar Province in December 2007 to assume control of the Al Assad area from RCT-2. During this time, RCT-5 partnered with RCT-1 during the formative "Anbar Awakening" period resulting in the eventual return of the province to Iraqi control. In January 2009, the Regiment was relieved in place by RCT-8 and returned to Camp Pendleton.
In August 2011, the Regiment deployed as RCT-5 to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. After relieving RCT-1, RCT-5 took control of the Marjah, Garmsir, and Nawa districts within the province while based out of Camp Dwyer. During this period, the Regiment conducted combat operations across the province while mentoring and training local partnered Afghan forces to include the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army. RCT-5 was relieved in place by RCT-6 in July 2012 and returned to Camp Pendleton in August 2012.
The latter part of the decade saw the Regimental Headquarters composite Command Elements for the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) for three separate deployments. During three separate deployments supporting this requirement, the Regimental Headquarters deployed to Kuwait to command and control forces across the Middle East. These deployments occurred from May 2014 to April 2015, April 2016 to December 2016, and again from April 2018 to December 2018. During the SPMAGTF-CR-CC deployments, the Regiment supported bi-lateral training, crisis response, and combat operations throughout United States Central Command and in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Today, the Regiment continues to participate in exercises and contingency deployments with the 1st Marine Division, and to prepare forces for deployment with Marine Expeditionary Units, Marine Rotational Force-Darwin, and the SPMAGTF. Ever ready to answer the nation’s call, the “Fighting Fifth” is recognized as the Marine Corps’ most highly decorated regiment.