Understanding the Battle Participation of Your WWII Marine Corps Veteran


One of the functions of the WWII era Marine Corps military service record was to document the battle participation of  individual Marine Corps veterans. While there may be a number of documents within the military service record of your veteran which highlight or point to combat experiences, the military service record booklet is the place where the veteran’s engagements and expeditions are officially listed. The military service record booklet is a small booklet that is kept inside of your veteran’s official military service record (along with a great deal of other documents pertaining to his military service history). As your veteran’s military career progressed, a chronological record of his expeditions, engagements and battle participation would have been maintained within the service record booklet as a way to document his combat experiences and overseas service. This would ensure that the veteran received the credit- and the appropriate medals/ribbons to signify his participation in major campaigns and battles. It would also have provide superior officers with an overview of the experiences of the men under their command and  allowed them to place enlisted men in  positions where their experiences and skills might be put to the best use. The ‘Engagements and Expeditions’ section of the military service record booklet was constantly being updated as the veteran moved from station to station or participated in a new combat mission. In most cases a short description of the veteran’s battle or expedition participation was typed up by the unit clerk and then this descriptive strip of paper was either glued or stapled into the service record booklet (usually right on top of the previous engagement strip). This would have been done after each battle had concluded, rather than being compiled all at once at the conclusion of your veteran’s service.

Obviously, archival preservation was not really a priority for WWII Marine Corps unit clerks or higher headquarters and this makes copying and viewing the  ‘Engagements and Expeditions’ section of the WWII Marine Corps military service record something of a chore. Because these strips are often glued into the Marine Corps service booklet, they have to be painstakingly photocopied to prevent damage. When the expedition and battle participation strips are stapled into the Marine Corps service record booklet, they can often be gently removed from the booklet, copied, and then placed back into the military service record for safe keeping. If you are seeking to find out where your veteran was and the battles that he participated in, the ‘Engagements and Expeditions’ section of the Marine Corps military service record booklet is the place to begin your journey. Let’s explore some examples  from military service records of WWII Marine Corps veterans to get a better idea of  what you can expect to find in the ‘Engagements and Expeditions’ section of your WWII Marine Corps veteran’s service record booklet.

The first step is to locate the service record booklet within your veteran’s Marine Corps military service record. The Marine Corps service record booklet has a distinctive appearance and is clearly labeled.


Military service record book


The next step will be to turn to the Expeditions and Engagements page within the WWII Marine Corps service record booklet. In this example you can see that the strips detailing this particular veteran’s engagements and expeditions are stapled, on on top of the other within his service record booklet.


Marine Corps military service record book-campaigns and expeditions


This is what the page will look like after the engagement strips have been gently pulled back. Note the award section shown on the page following the Marine Corps ‘Expedition and Engagement ‘ page which lists the campaign medals to which the veteran is entitled.


WWII Marine Corps military service record book engagements campaigns


Here is the initial expedition and engagement slip from the service record. We can see that this veteran embarked from San Diego aboard the U.S.S. Corregidor on his way to Hawaii. Note that the slip indicates the dates that he boarded and disembarked from the ship. Documenting the exact dates of overseas deployment is important for a number of reasons and would ensure that the veteran was credited with the correct campaign participation and medals.


WWII Marine Corps military service record book campaign participation embarkation


The next insert to the ‘Expedition and Engagement’ section of the Marine Corps service record booklet shows that this veteran participated in the assault and capture of Iwo Jima. So, here we have concrete documentation of the exact dates that this veteran saw action on Okinawa. Knowing the dates  that a veteran was in combat is important because it allows us to then turn to the combat records of this veteran’s unit to explore what his experiences would have been during this battle.


WWII Marine Corps military service record Iwo Jima campaign participation


The next set of expedition inserts provide information on further campaigns in which this veteran participated during his time in combat. We can see that he went on to fight at Kwajalein and Guam in 1944.


WWII military service record book Kwajalein expeditions and campaigns


Further information was recorded in this veteran’s service record booklet to demonstrate his eligibility for certain medals and campaign participation honors. We can see that he was authorized one engagement battle star for his combat participation during the Marianas campaign and another for Okinawa. He was also authorized to wear the Navy Commendation Ribbon and awarded the World War II Victory Medal.


WWII Marine service record book-Marianas-Okinawa-Navy Commendation-World War II Victory Medal


Finally, we can see the dates when this veteran set sail for his return to the U.S.A. and the date of his arrival back home. This Marine first traveled to China and then was later transferred back the U.S.A. aboard the U.S.S.  Bolivar in early 1945.


WWII China Marine service records travel records overseas expedition


I hope that this article has given you a good idea of  how the ‘Engagement and Expedition’ section of your WWII veteran’s service record booklet can help to to understand his battle participation and overseas deployment during the war. Each veteran’s service record is unique and essentially provides a snapshot his or her individual experiences during the war. The only way to find out the specifics regarding your veteran’s battle participation and overseas service is to order his military service record for yourself. You can find additional articles regarding the process to view or request copies of your veteran’s military service record on this site. I wish you the best of luck in your research adventure!


Author: Geoff

Geoff Gentilini is the lead researcher at Golden Arrow Research. He specializes in the research of military service records from all branches of the U.S. Military. For help obtaining military service records you can fill out a request form here: Research a Military Service Record

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1 Comment

  1. Brownell George , US Marine ,from Lansing Mi. Wounded by Japs, hopping islands.

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