Beachmaster Unit (BMU) 2 can trace its history back to the days of World War II. Early on during the World War II, it quickly became apparent that the orderly flow of troops, equipment, and supplies across the assault beaches was an absolutely essential element to the success of amphibious operations. It also became obvious that some special organization was needed to effect and coordinate mass movement through the surf zone and onto the hostile shore. To accomplish this task, small units called Beach Party Teams were formed. They were trained at Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Virginia, and deployed commencing in September 1942. The Beach Party Battalions went forward to participate in amphibious landing in the European and African theaters.
In the Central Pacific, the Shore Party was an integral part of a combat division and was organized around a Marine Pioneer Group or Army Combat Engineer Group. In both services, Army and Marine, the Shore Party formed the nucleus to which the various elements were assigned for an operation. The naval elements included the Underwater Demolition Team, a Naval Pontoon Unit, and a Boat Pool. The Attack Transport ships (APAs) supplied the Beach Party elements of the Shore Party by providing a Beach Party Team of approximately two officers and thirty men to support the battalion landing of troops. The Beach Party Team would land at the objective area and take charge of the beach in a manner similar to that of the present, but they were normally withdrawn with the parent ship. The concept was that the Shore Party was an instrument of the assault and would be relieved promptly by garrison elements, including a garrison beach party, to unload follow–up shipping.
EARLY BEACHMASTER IN WWII
Early operations in the Southwest Pacific were largely shore-to-shore operations over relatively short distances. The Army’s Engineer Special Brigade was organized to meet requirements of this type of operation. It had the capability of providing its own landing craft component, organized as a Boat Battalion. The required Beach Party elements were assigned from special pools maintained and trained by the amphibious force commander. They remained attached to the Engineer Special Brigade for the duration of the operation.
In the Mediterranean, Army Combat Engineer troops again formed the nucleus for the Shore Party. The Beach Parties were furnished by the Amphibious Fleet Tug’s (ATF) attack transport ships and from a boat pool maintained ashore. During the assault on Normandy, experienced Army and Navy amphibious elements were available for the Shore Party operations. The Boat Battalions, organized with the Engineer Special Brigade, were not employed in the European Theater.
After studying post-WWII battle analyses and organization, the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps reviewed the requirements for Shore Party operations and established new organizations. Today’s Landing Force Support Party (LFSP) within the Marine Corps replaces the WWII Shore Party. The LFSP provides the landing force with initial combat support and combat service support during the ship-to-shore movement. (The Engineer Amphibious Brigade is the Army’s counterpoint to the Marine’s LFSP). The post-war analysis also led to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) decision to commission naval beach groups as afloat commands assigned to the two amphibious forces.
BEACHMASTERES ON LARC DURING WWII
The first to be commissioned on July 19, 1948 at Little Creek Amphibious Base, Naval Beach Group (NBG) 2 consisted of a small headquarters section, a Construction Battalion (CB), and two Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT). The Naval Beach Group (NBG) was established to provide naval elements to the ATF to support the landing of a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) or to the Maritime Pre-positioning Forces to offload equipment and supplies for a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) ashore. In 1949, two commissioned units were added; Boat Unit 2, which maintained and operated the large assault landing craft for the ship-to-shore movement of troops and equipment; and Beachmaster Unit (BMU) 2, which maintained the special teams to control boat traffic and conduct boat salvage operation in the surf.
Since 1949, BMU-2 assets have been involved in major amphibious exercises and operations in Lebanon, Cuba, Grenada, Desert Storm, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.