Established on the 10th of November 1775 in a Philadelphia tavern, the United States Marine Corps (originally the Continental Marines, as they predate the United States) remains the foremost American expeditionary military component. Operating on land, sea, and by air, they have fought in all of America’s major conflicts, and earned a well-deserved reputation as exceedingly tough combatants (never ‘soldiers’, as any Marine will be quick to point out!), ready and willing to go anywhere and do anything. Naturally, the Marines (henceforth USMC) played a huge role in the Second World War, and are of course well-represented on the tabletop battlefields of Bolt Action!

US Marine war dogs raise the alarm.

The history of the USMC’s participation in World War II fills hundreds of books, films, and TV shows – those wishing to learn more about the Marine experience in the Pacific theatre (which encompassed the vast majority of the USMC campaigning) could do a lot worse than reading Eugene Sledge’s autobiographical With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa and Robert Leckie’s Helmet For My Pillow, both of which formed much of the inspiration for the excellent 2010 television series The Pacific. As a very brief outline, the USMC had spent much of the 1920s and ‘30s transforming itself into an excellent amphibious assault force, and was therefore the obvious choice to take centre stage when the US entered the war in the Pacific. Rapidly expanded from its pre-war size of two brigades to two corps, as well as a significant aviation contingent, the USMC would shoulder the brunt of the brutal ‘island hopping’ campaign in the Pacific, grinding towards the Japanese home islands. On Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Tarawa, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and countless more hitherto unknown scraps of land, the Marines displayed their famed tenacity and courage, rightly entering the annals of history as the victors of one of the most gruelling campaigns in modern history.

US Marines and M4 Sherman sweep through a deserted village.

The USMC are a fantastic option for Bolt Action players looking for a US army that’s a little different from the classic GIs or Airborne so common in North-West Europe. From both a painting and list-writing perspective, the Marines can be as simple or as complex as you like, making them an ideal force for the seasoned wargamer or absolute beginner alike! While Armies of the United States only gives us two profiles for Marine infantry squads (early and late war), fear not – the Marines are appropriately represented and expanded upon in a pair of Campaign and Theatre books. Mariana & Palau Islands and Empires in Flames bring plenty of new units and equipment for the USMC. With an excellent range of models, spearheaded by the plastic infantry boxed set, they make a fantastic choice if you’re looking to take your Bolt Action to the Pacific!

Armies of the United States – Get a free ‘Chesty’ Puller special miniature when you order from the Warlord Games Webstore.
Empires in Flames – Get a free John Basilone special miniature when you order from the Warlord Games Webstore.
Campaign Mariana & Palau Islands – Get a free ‘Cappy Devil Dog’ special miniature when you order from the Warlord Games Webstore.

Let’s look at what a USMC force actually does on the tabletop – where it excels, and what pitfalls to avoid. For this, we’ll put together an example 1,000 point force based on the 1945 Iwo Jima campaign! Right off the bat, we need to remember that we’re playing a US force – that means Fire and Manoeuvre, Air Superiority, and Modern Communications are all at our disposal, and can inform our list composition. While we aren’t going for an all-out competitive list, we still want to play to the strengths of Armies of the United States as well as being thematically appropriate. By and large, US armies reward an attacking playstyle (which you can read more about here), so we’re going to want plenty of bodies and Order Dice! As our basic infantry unit, we’ll be using the US Marine Squad (Mid-/Late-War) from Armies of the United States, in both its Regular and Veteran forms. The ability to take twelve-man units with three BARs is a powerful tool, and gives us great mobile firepower, so we’ll look to support that with some flavourful (and useful) units to round out the concept. Let’s hit the beach:

Surf’s Up! Armies of the United States & Campaign: Mariana and Palau Islands – Generic Reinforced Platoon

Unit TypeUnit NameOptionsCost
Infantry (Headquarters)Regular 2nd LieutenantExtra Man; SMGs60
Infantry (Headquarters)Regular Chaplain*25
Infantry (Squad)Regular US Marine Squad (Mid-/Late-War)6 Extra Men, BAR x 3145
Infantry (Squad)Regular US Marine Squad (Mid-/Late-War)6 Extra Men, BAR x 3145
Infantry (Squad)Regular US Marine Squad (Mid-/Late-War)6 Extra Men, BAR x 3145
Infantry (Squad)Veteran US Marine Squad (Mid-/Late-War)SMG x 3; Shotgun x 399
Infantry (Squad)Veteran US Marine Assault Squad*Pistols x 3; SMG x 391
Infantry (Team)Regular Bazooka Team60
Infantry (Team)Regular Medium Mortar TeamSpotter60
Infantry (Team)Regular Light Howitzer45
Vehicle (Self-Propelled Artillery)Regular LVT(A)4 Landing Vehicle125

1000 Points, 11 Order Dice, Units marked * from Campaign Mariana & Palau Islands

What we have here is a nice thematic force that you could easily imagine storming a beach or grinding inland on Iwo Jima (or a dozen other islands). While not enormously loaded with Order Dice, eleven gives us more than enough to work with, and 36 Regular bodies provide plenty of muscle for playing aggressively. The two Veteran squads are the real up-close punch, with the Assault Squad packing the dreaded Flamethrower, while the Regulars can manoeuvre in support and pump out a whopping 15 shots per squad each turn – and remember, they don’t suffer the -1 for moving and firing! While the Flamethrower is the primary anti-tank threat in this list, the Bazooka team is also on hand to menace enemy armour, while there’s plenty of HE goodness to go around. The light howitzer mounted in the turret of the LVT(A)4, manhandled 75mm pack howitzer, and Medium Mortar team allow the army to throw multiple templates at the enemy each turn, and pile on the Pins (and, as we all know… Pins Mean Wins!). There’s also the potential for some outflanking shenanigans with some of the infantry, but overall this is a list that can do a little bit of everything, but is most fun played on the front foot.

The 2nd Marine Division hits the beaches at Saipan.

What’re you waiting for, Devil Dog? Seize that island!

1 comment
  1. I have a large USMC force, and enjoy using it on both jungle and island scenarios.
    One thing Warlord should consider is Pacific US Army miniatures, as they were the larger branch in the Southwest Pacific Area, the Philippines, as well as landings on Saipan, Tinian, Okinawa. A major gap exists for these troops.

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