PORTLAND, Ore. --
On Nov. 1, 1944, in the heart of the Pacific theater, 6th Engineer Support Battalion was formed on the island of Guadalcanal as part of the new 6th Marine Division, to counter the threat of the Imperial Japanese Army.
Since then, over a course of 70 years, several name changes and a series of wars from Korea to Operation Enduring Freedom, 6th ESB has remained true to their battalion motto: “We are ready.”
The Marines of 6th ESB, located in Portland, Oregon, celebrated the 70th anniversary of the unit’s formation with a battle color rededication ceremony Nov. 15, 2014. During the ceremony, the unit’s awards were cited while the battle streamers were secured to the battalion guidon.
“The rededication ceremony is held for the battalion to reflect on the history that we have endured over the past 70 years,” said Sgt. Maj. Billy Kruthers, the 6th ESB sergeant major. “Many of our guests today are previous members of the battalion, some from as far back as World War II.”
Among the ceremony’s distinguished guests, which included 4th Marine Logistics Group Commanding General Brig. Gen. Patrick Hermesmann, was the battalion’s first adjutant, retired Col. James “Rip” Harper. Harper served as the first 6th ESB adjutant as a first lieutenant in 1944, when the unit was formed in Guadalcanal. He later went on to command several other Marine Corps engineer battalions during his 24-year career.
“This ceremony meant a lot to me because this battalion was the first combat unit I was with, and the only combat unit I was a part of in WWII,” Harper said. “Even though I was not out there with the troops, I got out there to see the work they did, and I was impressed by their engineer work and how fast they completed it.”
Now, at the age of 97, after a successful civilian career as a civil engineer, Harper has been given a chance to celebrate his Marine Corps legacy with the next generation.
“I am very happy to be out here for this ceremony with these troops, and to see these Marines again,” Harper said.
Sixth ESB is the largest battalion in Marine Forces Reserve, consisting of more than 2,000 Marines throughout nine companies and two detachments across the nation. The unit’s mission is to provide mobility, counter mobility, survivability and general engineer support for the Marine Corps ground combat element. This includes building and deconstructing bridges, roads, fuel supply lines and strategic facilities and structures.
After the ceremony, a D7G bulldozer used in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom was dedicated to the battalion, commemorating the effort and sacrifices that 6th ESB Marines made over the past 70 years.
“We are celebrating our legacy,” said 6th ESB commanding officer Lt. Col. Charles Donnelly. “Our legacy is more than just dates and streamers; it’s about the Marines that came before us and honoring the traditions, the experiences and the examples that they set for us.”