Marine Corps: The Few, the Proud

The United States Marine Corps traces its roots to the Continental Marines of the American Revolutionary War, formed by Captain Samuel Nicholas by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress on November 10, 1775. That date is celebrated as the Marine Corps’ “birthday.”

At the end of the American Revolution, both the Continental Navy and Marines had been disbanded in April 1783. Some Marines were enlisted by the War Department in August 1797 for service in the newly built frigates authorized by the 1794 “Congressional Act to provide a Naval Armament.” On July 11, 1798, Congress officially resurrected the Marines in preparation for the Quasi-War with France, creating the United States Marine Corps.

The Marines’ most famous action of this period occurred during the First Barbary War (1801-1805) against the Barbary pirates, when William Eaton and First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon led eight Marines and 500 mercenaries in an effort to capture Tripoli. The action at Tripoli has been immortalized in the Marine Hymn:

From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom, and to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title of United States Marines.
Our Flag’s unfurled to every breeze from dawn to setting sun,
We have fought in every clime and place where we could take a gun.
In the snow of far and northern lands and in sunny tropic scenes,
You will find us on the job-the United States Marines.
Here’s health to you and to our Corps which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we’ve fought for life and never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.

During the War of 1812, Marine naval detachments took part in the great frigate duels that characterized the war, which were the first American victories in the conflict. Their most significant contributions were delaying the British march to Washington, D.C.

The Marine Corps attained prominence in the 20th century when its theories and practices of amphibious warfare formed the cornerstone of the Pacific campaign of World War II. My late father-in-law, a veteran of the Marine Corps, was a machine-gunner on Guadalcanal. Although he didn’t talk much about his experiences, he said that his job was to “kill people and break things.”

The Marines’ ability to rapidly respond on short notice gives them a strong role in the implementation and execution of American foreign policy. Most recently, the Marines served prominently in the Iraq War. The Marine Corps officially ended its role in Iraq on January 23, 2010 when they handed over responsibility to the United States Army.

The Marine Corps is the smallest of the armed forces under the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Marines share many resources with the other branches of the military. However, the Corps has always sought to maintain its own identity in regard to mission, funding, and assets, while utilizing the support available from the larger branches. Though the Marine Corps has far fewer installations both in the U.S. and abroad than the other branches, many Army posts, Naval stations, and Air Force bases have a Marine presence.

The premier band of the United States Marine Corps is The United States Marine Band. Established by act of Congress on July 11, 1798, it is the oldest of the United States military bands and the oldest professional musical organization in the United States. The Marine Band is uniquely known as “The President’s Own” because of its historic connection to the President of the United States. While serving as band leader from 1880-1892, John Philip Sousa composed several of his finest marches including Semper Fidelis, regarded as the official march of the United States Marine Corps.

The National Museum of the Marine Corps is a lasting tribute to U.S. Marines — past, present, and future. Click here to enjoy the National Museum of the Marine Corps Virtual Experience! You will be able to visit each gallery, watch museum videos, rotate 3D models of artifacts and experience many other innovative features. Or check out the Legacy Walk – immerse yourself in over 200 years of Marine Corps history!

Did You Know…? The Marine Hymn is the oldest official song in the United States military. Click here to sing along with the music.

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