The Marine corps history is one of dedication, courage, and fortitude. The Marines have given themselves a reputation for resilience when facing difficult circumstances.
Since its founding during the American Revolution, the Marine Corps has played a part in nearly every major war the US has fought, including the most resent wars in the Middle East.
In 1775, The Second Continental Congress passed the Continental Marine Act, which ordered for two battalions of Marines to be formed. The first Marines were enlisted at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia; thus, the Continental Marines were born on Nov. 10, 1775. The group battalions were part of the Continental Army, led by George Washington. Congress ordered that the men selected to be in the Marine battalions be “good seamen” so they could fight at sea when required.
After the Revolutionary War ended, both the Continental Navy and the Marines were disbanded. Fifteen years later, on July 11, 1798, President John Adams signed a congressional act that re-created the United States Marine Corps.
It was later, in 1921, that the officer over the Marine Corps History Division, Major Edwin McClellan, suggested the Marines celebrate the initial birth date of the Continental Marines. Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune issued Marines Corps Order No. 47 in memory of the men who fought and died as Marines during the Revolutionary War. And so, November 10 became the US Marine Corps birthday, which is still honored today.
Battle of Nassau – 1776
The first Marine Corps battle took place in the Bahamas on March 3, 1776. More than 200 Marines under Captain Samuel Nicholas fought enemy forces on the British-held island of New Providence. The Marines took control of the town of Nassau and its two forts within minutes of landing. Though the British had shipped over 150 barrels of gunpowder before the Marines arrived, the troops under Nicholas did seize brass canons and mortars that were later used by George Washington’s Continental Army.
Battle of Derna – 1805
After the US Marine Corps were established, President Thomas Jefferson sent Marines to fight off pirates who were raiding American merchant ships along the Barbary Coast of North Africa. In 1805, Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon and his Marines sailed to Egypt and marched 50 days and 600 miles across the Libyan Desert to the city of Derna. They stormed the Tripolitan city and rescued the kidnapped crew of the USS Philadelphia. The victory protected US ships and secured trading in the Barbary Coast. The Ottoman Empire viceroy, Prince Hamet, presented Lieutenant O’Bannon with the Mameluke sword, a ceremonial weapon still used by the U.S. Armed Forces today.
Later, the Marines fought in the Mexican-American War, a war that redefined the borders between the two nations. In 1847, the Marines attacked the Palacio Nacional fortress during the Battle of Chapultepec, knowing the capture would weaken the Mexican army. They succeeded in gaining control of the fortress, also known as the Halls of Montezuma, and raised the Stars and Stripes over the palace to mark the US victory.
Battle of Belleau Woods – 1918
In 1918, the Fourth Marine Brigade fought for 20 days against German forces in the Battle of Belleau Wood. Under General James Harbord, the brigade made several attempts to take the woods while taking heavy machine gun fire and poisonous gas. Though they suffered heavy casualties, had few grenades, and no signal flares, the Marines launched an attack on June 7, 1918 with fixed bayonets. Against all odds, they gained victory at the cost of 5,000 killed or wounded. The German survivors of that battle nicknamed the Marines “Devil Dogs.”
Battle of Iwo Jima – 1945
During WWII, the Japanese had turned the island of Iwo Jima into one big trap, fighting Allied forces from tunnels and bunkers under Mt. Suribachi. The Marines were ready for the challenge. Using both air and land battle tactics, they secured the island after 36 days of fighting. The famous photo by Joe Rosenthal of Marines raising the American flag was taken at the summit of Mt. Suribachi.
Chosin Reservoir – 1950
IN 1950, the First Marine Division was surrounded and outnumbered by the Chinese Army at Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. Cut off from air support due to bad weather, and freezing in -40 degree- cold, the Marines destroyed 10 Chinese infantry divisions and fought their way to the sea, where they rejoined American forces. Those Marines came to be called the “Chosin Few.”
Battle of Huế — 1968
The Marines endured over a month of street fighting during one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. Communist forces launched an attack on hundreds of military and civilian centers, including the city of Huế. Despite the great number of casualties, they fought house to house till they secured the city on March 2, 1968.
Operation Desert Storm – 1991
After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Marines helped drive out Iraqi forces as part of Operation Desert Storm during the Gulf War. The First and Second Marine Divisions broke through Iraqi’s southern border while 8,000 Marines distracted the Iraqi Army in the north. They crossed minefields, barbed-wire obstacles, booby traps, and fire trenches while being assaulted by Iraqi artillery, proving again their resilience in battle.
Afghanistan and Iraq
The Marines played a key role in the United States’ effort to combat terrorists in the Middle East during Operation Enduring Freedom. They fought during the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003. At the city of An Nasiriyah, the Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade helped fight with the US Army’s 507th Maintenance Company, who had been ambushed by Iraqi forces. Marines also fought against the Taliban for more than a decade.
The US Marine Corps continues to serve its country faithfully today.