There is no official explanation of how the 2nd Marine Division came to be known as the "Silent Second." One theory is that when an organization or individual has performed highly noteworthy deeds which, as one author puts it, are etched "in the sands of time and the annals of history," there simply is no need to boast or brag. But while the origin of its nickname might be unclear, the combat history of the unit most certainly is not.

The first of the four original elements of the 2nd Marine Division was formed in 1913 (the division as a whole was not activated until February 1, 1941). The 4th Marine Brigade--formed by combining the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments and the 6th Machine Gun Battalion--was attached to the 2nd Infantry Division and fought in several decisive World War I battles including Belleau Wood and Chateau-Thierry; it also took part part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive that culminated in German capitulation with the signing of the Armistice. The Marines earned the respect of friend and foe alike: The French dubbed Belleau the "Bois de la Brigade de Marine," while the Germans, impressed by their ferocity on both offense and defense, allegedly came to call them "Devil Dogs" and "Hell Hounds." Clearly, the bravery displayed during these actions proved that, true to the motto of the division they would eventually join, these Marines were "Second to None."

Elements of the unit became the first American soldiers in World War II to step foot on enemy-controlled territory when members of the 2nd Regiment hit the beaches of Florida Island in the Solomons, preceding the landings at Guadalcanal by more than an hour. The next day, 8 August 1942, a 2nd Division platoon conducted the first American bayonet charge of the war, and the division's artillery notched the first offensive atillery bombardment. Notable battles that the 2nd Marine Division fought in include Tarawa (an amphibious assault infamous for the high number of casualties, and for which the Division earned a Presidential Unit Citation), Saipan, Tinian, and Okinawa.

Through the decades leading up to the first Gulf War, the division took part in numerous peacekeeing and humanitarian interventions. In 1983, the unit suffered 241 Marines and Sailors killed in the Beirut Barracks Bombing. It was deployed to Saudia Arabia for Operation Desert Shield and took part in the liberation of Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. Beginning in 2003, the division (or elements drawn from it) has been deployed to Iraq several times as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terror.

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