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Getting to the Fight
It did not take long for the raiders to move toward the sound of the guns. In early April 1942 the majority of the lst Raiders boarded trains and headed for the West Coast, where they embarked in the Zeilin. They arrived in Samoa near the end of the month and joined the Marine brigades garrisoning that outpost. Company D, the 81mm mortar platoon, and a representative slice of the headquarters and weapons companies remained behind in Quantico. This rear echelon was under the command of Major Samuel B. Griffith II, the battalion executive officer. (He had recently joined the raiders after spending several months in England observing the British commandos.) This small force maintained some raider capability on the East Coast, and also constituted a nucleus for a projected third raider battalion.
The 2d Raiders spent the month of April on board ship learning rubber boat techniques. The Navy had transferred three of its APDs to the West Coast, and Carlson’s men used them to conduct practice landings on San Clemente Island. In May the 2d Raiders embarked and sailed for Hawaii, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 17 May.
Carlson’s outfit hardly had arrived in Hawaii when Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet and the Pacific Ocean Areas (CinCPac/CinCPOA), ordered two companies of raiders to Midway to reinforce the garrison in preparation for an expected Japanese attack. They arrived on 25 May. Company C took up defensive positions on Sand Island, while Company D moved to Eastern Island. Trained to fight a guerrilla campaign of stealth and infiltration, these raiders had to conduct a static defense of a small area. In the end, Navy and Marine aircraft turned back the invading force in one of the great naval victories of the war. Combat for the Marines on the ground consisted of a single large enemy air attack on the morning of 4 June. Although the Japanese inflicted considerable damage on various installations, the raiders suffered no casualties. Not long after the battle, the two companies joined the rest of the battalion back in Hawaii.