A committee of the Continental Congress met at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, PA, to draft a resolution calling for two battalions of Marines able to fight for independence at sea and on shore. November 10, 1775, the Marine Corps was born.
1st Commandant: Major Samuel Nicholas (1775-1783)
missions: 1775: Founding of the Marine Corps
A Legacy is Born
During the American Revolution, many important political discussions took place in the inns and taverns of Philadelphia. The discussion that founded the Marine Corps is no exception.
A committee of the Continental Congress met at Tun Tavern to draft a resolution calling for two battalions of Marines able to fight for independence at sea and on shore. The resolution was approved on November 10, 1775, officially forming the Continental Marines.
As the first order of business, Samuel Nicholas became Commandant of the newly formed Marines. Tun Tavern's owner and popular patriot, Robert Mullan, became his first captain and recruiter. They began gathering support and were ready for action by early 1776.
Each year, the Marine Corps marks November 10th with a celebration of the brave spirit which compelled these men and thousands since to defend our country as United States Marines.
Resolution of the Continental Congress on 10 November 1775
Resolved, that two Battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, two Lieutenant Colonels, two Majors & Officers as usual in other regiments, that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to office or inlisted into said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea, when required. That they be inlisted and commissioned for and during the present war with Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by Congress. That they be distinguished by the names of the first & second battalions of American Marines, and that they be considered a part of the number, which the continental Army before Boston is ordered to consist of.
innovations: 1776: DRESS BLUES
HISTORY OF THE DRESS BLUE UNIFORM
Marines are known by their distinctive dress blue uniform, which has origins dating back to the American Revolution.
In 1776, Marines wore green jackets featuring a high leather collar to protect against close-combat attacks, but in 1798, the jacket changed to blue to represent the Corps' naval tradition. In 1841, Marines began wearing a dark blue jacket and light blue trousers. The high collar remains intact on today's uniform and is also preserved by the nickname "Leatherneck."
The dress blue uniform worn by noncommissioned officers, staff noncommissioned officers and officers feature the scarlet "blood stripe" down each trouser leg. Originally it honored those Marines who died in the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican War in 1847. Today, the blood stripe honors the memory of all our fallen comrades.
Dress blues are worn for many events, including ceremonies with foreign officials, visits with U.S. civil officials and formal social functions within an official capacity.
innovations: 1776: Fort Nassau
The First Amphibious Raid
Just weeks after banding together, the Continental Marines successfully executed their first amphibious landing on a hostile shore.
The British were storing large supplies of gunpowder at Fort Nassau in the Bahamas for use in battle against the 13 colonies. Captain Samuel Nicholas and 234 Marines sailed with the Continental Navy on a mission to capture the supply.
Within minutes of the Marines' arrival, the British troops surrendered. Capt Nicholas successfully acquired cannons and other military stores.
The Marines' first challenge and success paved the way for greater operations to come.
Decade began with 368 Marines (343 Enlisted; 25 Officers)
Decade ended with 523 Marines (513 Enlisted; 10 Officers)
2nd Commandant: LtCol William Ward Burrows (1798-1804)
3rd Commandant: LtCol Franklin Warton (1804-1818)
missions: 1805: Battle of Derna
To the Shores of Tripoli
In 1805, the United States government refused to continue paying Barbary Coast pirates to refrain from raiding American merchant ships. When negotiations for a treaty failed, President Thomas Jefferson assembled an expeditionary force of Marines to respond.
Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon and his Marines marched across 600 miles of the Libyan Desert to successfully storm the fortified Tripolitan city of Derna and rescue the kidnapped crew of the USS Philadelphia. The Marines' victory helped Prince Hamet Bey reclaim his rightful throne as ruler of Tripoli. In gratitude, he presented his Mameluke sword to Lt O'Bannon.
This famous sword became part of the officer uniform in 1825, and remains the oldest ceremonial weapon in use by United States forces today.
The Battle of Derna was the Marines' first land battle on foreign soil and is notably recalled in the first verse of the Marines' Hymn: "From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country's battles in the air, on land and sea."
innovations: 1805: The Battle of Derna
The Mameluke Sword
Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon led the Marines' first battle on foreign soil. He and his Marines relentlessly marched across 600 miles of the Libyan Desert to storm the fortified Tripolitan city of Derna and rescue the kidnapped crew of the USS Philadelphia.
The victory helped Prince Hamet Bey reclaim his rightful throne as ruler of Tripoli. In gratitude, Bey presented his Mameluke sword to Lt O'Bannon. This famous sword became part of the officer uniform in 1825 and remains the oldest ceremonial weapon in use by United States armed forces today.
The Battle of Derna is notably recalled in the opening verse of the Marines' Hymn: "From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country's battles in the air, on land and sea."
Decade began with 685 Marines (664 Enlisted; 21 Officers)
Decade ended with 895 Marines (852 Enlisted; 43 Officers)
4th Commandant: LtCol Anthony Gale (1819-1820)
5th Commandant: Col Archibald Henderson (1820-1859)
leaders: 1820: Col (Brevet BGen) Archibald Henderson
Leader of the Marine Corps for 39 Years
At the age of 37, Colonel Archibald Henderson became the fifth Commandant of the Marine Corps. He held this position for 39 years, outlasting nine presidents.
Henderson is remembered for his personal commitment to his Marines and his candor. In 1836, Henderson went to fight alongside his Marines in the Seminole War, leaving a simple note on his door: "Have gone to Florida to fight Indians. Will be back when war is over."
Decade began with 950 Marines (916 Enlisted; 34 Officers)
Decade ended with 1,076 Marines (1,030 Enlisted; 46 Officers)
5th Commandant: Col Archibald Henderson (1820-1859)
missions: 1847: The Battle of Chapultepec
The Halls of Montezuma
The Mexican-American War played a critical role in defining the border between the two nations that remains in place today.
In 1847, knowing that the capture of the Palacio Nacional would greatly disrupt the Mexican army, the Marines stormed the enemy fortress during the Battle of Chapultepec.
After two days of battle, the Marines gained control of the castle, better known as the "Halls of Montezuma."
The Marines were then given the honor of raising the Stars and Stripes over the palace to mark their victory. Upon returning home, the same Marines presented their flag to the commandant.
The victory at the "Halls of Montezuma" remains a part of Marine Corps tradition, immortalized in the opening line of the Marines' Hymn.
Decade began with 1,851 Marines (1,804 Enlisted; 47 Officers)
Decade ended with 2,384 Marines (2,314 Enlisted; 70 Officers)
6th Commandant: Col John Harris (1859-1864)
7th Commandant: Col Jacob Zeilin (1864-1876)
leaders: 1862: Cpl John Mackie
The First Marine to Receive the Medal of Honor
Corporal John F. Mackie was the first Marine to be awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor, our nation's highest military award.
Onboard the USS Galena at the Battle of Drewry's Bluff during the Civil War, heavy fire from Confederate forces killed or wounded much of the crew. Cpl Mackie bravely risked his life to lead the gun's operation for the remainder of the battle.
The Medal of Honor is awarded to a person who distinguishes him or herself "...by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States..."
At Drewry's Bluff, Virginia, a marker indicates the location of Mackie's bravery.
Adm David G. Farragut, 1862
A ship without Marines is like a garment without buttons.
RAdm David D. Porter in letter to Col Commandant John Harris, 6th CMC, 6 Dec. 1863
If the Marines are abolished half the efficiency of the Navy will be destroyed. They are as necessary to the well being of a ship as the officers. Instead of decreasing the Corps, I would rather hope to see a large increase, for we feel the want of Marines very much.
RAdm S. F. DuPont in letter to Col Commandant John Harris, 6th CMC, 29 Dec. 1863
Throughout my professional life, I have looked upon the Corps as a most valuable part of our naval organization, and this opinion has only been the more confirmed by every year's additional experience in active service.
Cmdr T. Turner in letter to Col Commandant John Harris, 6th CMC, 29 Dec. 1863
On board the new Ironsides, I had the Marine guard stationed at
the after gun, thirty-five in number, and I think it was conceded
that no gun of that heavy battery was worked more efficiently
than the "Marine gun" as it was called.
Decade began with 1,968 Marines (1,906 Enlisted; 62 Officers)
Decade ended with 1,772 Marines (1,718 Enlisted; 54 Officers)
8th Commandant: Colonel Charles McCawley (1876-1891)
leaders: 1880: John Philip Sousa
A Musical Heritage
Long before his music inspired the nation, John Philip Sousa took an apprenticeship with the Marine Band at age 13.
He officially became head of the Marine Corps Band in 1880, conducting "The President's Own" under five presidents. Sousa was a gifted composer and became known as "The March King."
His music continues to bring honor to the Marine Corps today. Many of his well-known compositions, including "The Stars and Stripes Forever," the National March of the United States and "Semper Fidelis," the Official March of the Marine Corps, are still widely recognized.
Decade began with 1,772 Marines (1,718 Enlisted; 54 Officers)
Decade ended with 3,142 Marines (3,066 Enlisted; 76 Officers)
8th Commandant: Charles McCawley (1876-1891)
9th Commandant: MajGen Charles Heywood (1891-1903)
leaders: 1898: Sgt John Quick
Risking his Life in the Crossfire
In the midst of fighting enemy forces during the Battle of Guantanamo Bay, deadly fire against Marines increased dramatically. In the chaos, the USS Dolphin misinterpreted a signal and opened fire on Marines.
In order to save the lives of his fellow Marines, Sergeant John Quick risked his own. Exposing himself to the crossfire, he signaled a cease-fire to the USS Dolphin. This courageous act earned Sgt Quick our nation's highest award, the Medal of Honor.
Decade began with 3,142 Marines (3,066 Enlisted; 76 Officers)
Decade ended with 9,696 Marines (9,368 Enlisted; 328 Officers)
9th Commandant: MajGen Charles Heywood (1891-1903)
10th Commandant: MajGen George F. Elliott (1903-1910)
U. S. Foreign Minister Edwin H. Conger, Peking, Boxer Rebellion, 1900
To our Marines fell the most difficult and dangerous portion of the defense by reason of our proximity to the great city wall and the main city gate…The Marines acquitted themselves nobly.
missions: 1901: Pacific Operations
A Presence in the Pacific
At the end of the 19th century, a secret society took hold in China; the "Boxers" fueled anti-Western attitudes in the nation and began burning foreign homes and businesses.
When the Chinese government refused to step in, Western foreign ministers pleaded for relief. Five-hundred sailors and Marines, who had just successfully calmed insurrection in the nearby Philippines, joined international forces to quell the Boxer Rebellion.
In the Philippines and China, the Marines proved indispensable. They deployed at a moment's notice and fought admirably.
These two triumphs established America's military presence in the Pacific and laid the groundwork for the role of the Marine Corps in the upcoming world war.
A command given by Marines whenever a recognized survivor of the 1902 expedition to that island in the Philippines entered the mess or club
Stand gentlemen! He served on Samar!
Decade began with 9,696 Marines (9,368 Enlisted; 328 Officers)
Decade ended with 48,834 Marines (46,564 Enlisted; 2,270 Officers)
10th Commandant: MajGen George F. Elliott (1903-1910)
11th Commandant: MajGen William Biddle (1911-1914)
12th Commandant: MajGen George Barnett (1914-1920)
leaders: 1912: 1STLT ALFRED A. CUNNINGHAM
MARINES TAKE TO THE AIR
With only two hours and 40 minutes of training, First Lieutenant Alfred A. Cunningham courageously embarked on the Marine Corps' first solo training flight.
Cunningham reported to the nation's first aviation camp in Annapolis, MD, on May 22, 1912, but was immediately ordered away on military duty. After a three-month delay, Cunningham received instruction on August 20 and began the rich legacy of Marine Corps aviation.
Cunningham's flight was the seed for future successful Marine Corps aviation operations, leading up to World War I and beyond.
innovations: 1912: First Marine Aviation
The Birth of Marine Corps Aviation
When the Navy opened the nation's earliest aviation camp in Annapolis, MD, First Lieutenant Alfred A. Cunningham was the first Marine to receive training. With this action, the rich legacy of Marine Corps aviation began.
1stLt Cunningham, after only two hours and 40 minutes of instruction, embarked on the Marine Corps' first solo training flight. After this, Marine Corps aviation operations grew to successfully support ground and amphibious assaults during World War I and beyond.
The date of Cunningham's solo flight and the original date of his assignment are both recognized as "birthdays" of Marine Corps aviation.
innovations: 1914: America's First Armored Vehicle
Preparing Vehicles for Battle
After the British army's Rolls Royce armored vehicle succeeded in wartime efforts, the Marine Corps quickly developed similar equipment to transport men and supplies from ship landing ramps to interior regions.
The Armor Motor Car Company of Detroit built the first armored cars for American military use, each fully equipped with a powerful V-8 engine and revolving machine gun turrets.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, purchased two of these vehicles for testing. After many successful tests, a total of eight armored cars were acquired and assigned to the 1st Armored Car Squadron of the 1st Marines at Philadelphia.
While America's first armored vehicles never actually saw battle, they were the first step toward the armored vehicles in use today.
leaders: 1915: MajGen Smedley Butler
Bravery in Back-to-Back Campaigns
Not only did Major General Smedley Butler distinguish himself as one of two Marines to earn two Medals of Honor, he earned the prestigious medals in back-to-back campaigns.
MajGen Butler earned his first Medal in 1914, commanding Marine forces during the United States' occupation of Vera Cruz. A year later, he earned his second Medal for "bravery and forceful leadership" as a commanding officer during the Haitian Occupation.
Butler served for 34 years before retiring from duty, earning 16 medals, five of which were for heroism. At the time of his death, he was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, in Okinawa, Japan, is named in his honor.
leaders: 1915: SgtMaj Dan Daly
Two Medals of Honor, One Fearless Marine
During the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, Sergeant Major Dan Daly fought off Chinese snipers and single-handedly defended the Marines' position until reinforcements arrived. This bravery earned him a Medal of Honor.
In 1915, SgtMaj Daly earned the prestigious medal a second time during the Haitian Occupation. He gallantly fended off Haitian bandits all through the night to ultimately defeat them in the morning.
A courageous leader, Daly is well known for his fearlessness in battle. He was highly respected by his fellow Marines; Major General Smedley Butler described him as "the ‘fightinest' Marine I ever knew." Daly and Butler are the only Marines who have been awarded two Medals of Honor.
innovations: 1915: Parris Island Established
Where Marines Are Made
Marine Corps training is legendary, but the recruit training that exists today didn't begin until 1911. Major General William P. Biddle, the 11th Commandant of the Marine Corps, formalized and intensified the training, raising the bar for what it takes to become a United States Marine.
In 1915, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, became the first base dedicated to the sole purpose of training. It has been in continuous use since then and is now one of only two bases where enlisted Marines are made.
As WWI broke out, 41,000 recruits trained at Parris Island, and the base has accommodated as many as 250,000 recruits during the Vietnam War. Parris Island began training female recruits in 1949.
All Marine Corps recruits east of the Mississippi and all female recruits are still trained and transformed at Parris Island today.
Winston Churchill, 1917
I am convinced there is no smarter, handier or more adaptable body of troops (U.S. Marines) in the world…Always spick and span, ready at an instant's notice for duty, the nation owes them a great debt.
Gen John J. "Black Jack" Pershing in a letter to
Your Marines having been under my command for nearly six months, I feel that I can give you a discriminating report as to their excellent standing with their brothers of the army and their general good conduct.
MajGen Commandant George Barnett, 10 Nov. 1917
leaders: 1918: Opha Mae Johnson
On August 13, 1918, Opha Mae Johnson became the first female Marine when she enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve.
Although women weren't allowed in war zones during World War I, Johnson and more than 300 other women served proudly in the United States, helping their male counterparts win in France.
Less than 100 years after Johnson's service and courage, women fill many key roles in the Marine Corps, in both the officer and enlisted ranks.
missions: 1918: Battle of Belleau Wood
The Relentless "Devil Dogs"
Deep in Belleau Wood, just outside of Paris, the 4th Marine Brigade fought relentlessly against German soldiers. The Marines suffered heavy casualties and were pinned down by machine-gun fire.
On 7 June 1918, with few grenades and no signal flares left, Marine forces launched an assault with fixed bayonets, seizing enemy positions. Marine riflemen demonstrated their superior marksmanship, shredding the lines of an oncoming German counterattack.
After 20 days of intense fighting, the Marines had won the Battle of Belleau Wood. The German survivors, exhausted and wounded, gave a fitting nickname to their relentless opponent: Teufelhunden, or "Devil Dogs."
Marine 2nd Lieutenant Clifton B. Cates, 96th Co., 19 July 1918, 10:45 a.m., from records of the U.S. 2nd Division (Regular)
I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold.
Lieutenant Colonel Ernst Otto, Historical Section of the German Army writing about U.S. Marines in the fighting at Belleau Wood, France in 1918
Their fiery advance and great tenacity were well recognized
by their opponents.
French Consul General Gaston Libert, 1918
The beginning and the end of the war for the Germans were the battles of the Marne—and with the name of Marne will always be associated that of the glorious American Marines…
Theodore Roosevelt, 17 Oct. 1918
…let men express the intense admiration, which I share with all other Americans, of the record made by the Marines.
President Woodrow Wilson to MajGen George Barnett, 12th CMC, 14 Aug. 1919
…We are intensely proud of their noble record and are glad
to have had the whole world see how irresistible they are
in their might when a cause which America holds dear is at stake. The whole nation has reason to be proud of them.
MajGen John A. Lejeune, 13th CMC: Letter to all officers of the Corps, 1919
A compliance with the minutiae of military courtesy is a mark of well-disciplined troops.
Decade began with 19,432 Marines (18,052 Enlisted; 1,380 Officers)
Decade ended with 85,965 Marines (78,715 Enlisted; 7,250 Officers)
17th Commandant: LtGen Thomas Holcomb (1936-1943)
18th Commandant: General Alexander A. Vandegrift (1944-1947)
19th Commandant: General Clifton B. Cates (1948-1951)
leaders: 1941: 1st Marine Aircraft Wing
The Beginning of a Legacy in the Air
The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) is an aviation unit that supplies the Marine Corps with a wide range of aircraft and equipment to support any Marine Corps mission.
Activated in Quantico, VA, in 1941, the 1st MAW aided Marine forces for the first time during the Battle of Guadalcanal. The MAW has been awarded five Presidential Unit Citations for gallantry in wartime, including WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Today the famed unit is stationed at MCB Butler in Okinawa, Japan, and continues to be an integral part of air operations in the Marine Corps.
innovations: 1941: Higgins Boat
A New Tool to Storm the Beaches
The transportation of Marines and equipment from anchored ships to docks and beaches proved difficult during the first half of the twentieth century. But the resolve and persistence of Marines soon led to the adaptation of a new invention by Andrew Higgins, a New Orleans-based boat builder.
Originally built for trappers along the Gulf Coast, Higgins' barge-like boat featured a special bow that enabled it to ascend up a beach for a dry landing.
After several tests and design modifications, the Higgins Boat seamlessly carried men, heavy machinery and weapons without requiring Marines to debark into water. With its safe and effective transportation, the Higgins Boat has become an icon of the World War II era.
innovations: 1941: LVT-1
The Marine Corps' First Amphibious Vehicle
With welded steel, padded treads and room for 4,500 pounds of cargo, the Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT) was the Marine Corps' first amphibious vehicle to aid in battle on both land and sea.
The LVT-1 transported men and equipment from ships across fringing reefs and beaches into battle with great versatility and mobility. The Marine Corps adapted the LVT-1 from an amphibious tractor originally used in post-hurricane rescue missions. The transformation from tractor to amphibious vehicle demonstrated the Marines' persistence in finding technological solutions to operational problems.
The LVT-1 saw its first combat action during World War II, moving Marines and thousands of tons of supplies to the front lines. It was later thrust into more strategic situations, becoming an important element for transporting artillery, holding defensive positions and aiding Marines in machine-gun attacks.
leaders: 1942: Montford Point Marines
The First African-American Recruits Become Proud Marines
In 1942, as desegregation in America progressed, the Commandant of the Marine Corps issued formal instructions to recruit qualified African-American men.
The men who enlisted in response completed recruit training at Montford Point in North Carolina. Between 1942 and 1949, approximately 20,000 African-American men completed recruit training and became known as the "Montford Point Marines."
The efforts of the Montford Point Marines proved their courage and paved the way for integrated armed forces. By 1949, training was desegregated, and all recruits trained side-by-side at Parris Island and San Diego.
Montford Point was renamed Camp Johnson in 1974 and is now home to the Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools at Camp Lejeune.
leaders: 1942: Navajo Code Talkers
The Uncracked Code
During World War II, coded radio transmission was the fastest way to deliver commands to units overseas. Cryptographers on both sides became adept at intercepting and decoding their opponents' transmissions. In 1942, the Marine Corps found a new way to keep their communications secure with the Navajo Code Talkers.
Marines from the Navajo tribe began to send secure voice transmissions based on their native language. Since only a small group of Americans spoke Navajo, it was impossible for the enemy to gain intelligence from any intercepted messages. Additionally, the Navajo Code Talkers proved faster and more accurate than Morse Code or any machine.
The unique Navajo language gave the Marines a strategic advantage during the Battle of Iwo Jima and countless other World War II battles. The program was highly classified for 25 years and, to this day, there's no indication any intercepted Navajo code was successfully deciphered.
Col Merritt A. "Red Mike" Edson, the Ridge, Sept. 1942
There it is. It is useless to ask ourselves why it is we who are here. We are here. There is only us between the airfield and the [Japanese]. If we don't hold, we will lose Guadalcanal.
GySgt Charles C. Arndt, Guadalcanal, 1942 on reconnaissance
Take your time. Stay away from the easy going. Never go the same way twice.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a letter to Gen Thomas Holcomb, 17th CMC, 1942, 167th anniversary
…Since 1775 the United States Marines have upheld a fine tradition of service to their country. They are doing so today. I am confident they will continue to do so.
Col Merritt A. "Red Mike" Edson, the Ridge, Sept. 1942
The only things those people have that you don't is guts. Do you wanna live forever?
leaders: 1943: SSgt Norman T. Hatch
Bringing Battle to the Screen
Marine photographers, led by senior cinematographer Staff Sergeant Norman T. Hatch, captured images of the first successful amphibious assault against a heavily fortified beach during the Battle of Tarawa.
Along with two other photographers, SSgt Hatch used his 35mm black-and-white camera to record the action. His work was some of the greatest combat footage ever shot and was sent to Los Angeles for editing.
Soon after, the film With the Marines on Tarawa was released, and it won the 1944 Academy Award for Most Outstanding Documentary Short Subject. For his extraordinary work, Hatch was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal.
leaders: 1943-1948: Marine Corps Women's Reserve
Female Marines Step Forward
Women have been proving their strength as Marines since Opha Mae Johnson enlisted in 1913, but it wasn't until 1943 that the Marine Corps Women's Reserve was officially established.
By the end of World War II, more than 20,000 women had served in the Marine Corps. While their predecessors did mainly clerical work, these Marines took on additional roles, including parachute riggers, mechanics, mapmakers and welders.
In 1948, women were officially integrated into all United States Armed Forces. Today, regardless of gender, every Marine serves proudly and capably in whatever capacity the Marine Corps requires.
Col David M. Shoup, USMC on Tarawa, 23 Nov. 1943, in a radio message to MajGen Julian Smith, CG, 2dMarDiv, aboard USS Maryland (BB-46)
Casualties many; percentage of dead not known; combat efficiency: we are winning!
VAdm Herbert F. Leary, Commander Eastern Sea Frontier, 8 Nov. 1943
…The Marines have been the first to land—on embattled beaches throughout the world—we share the unfaltering confidence of all Americans that they will land again—and land hard.
leaders: 1944: Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington
Black Sheep Squadron Fighter Ace
Gregory Boyington earned both a Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross for his extraordinary heroism as a WWII Marine pilot and leader of the Black Sheep Squadron. While his Medal of Honor Citation was awarded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in March 1944, he was not decorated until October 5, 1945, due to his captivity by the Japanese.
Boyington is best known for flying the Vought F4U Corsair in squadron VMF-214. During his first tour, he shot down 14 enemy fighter planes in 32 days. With intense activity in the Russell Islands-New Georgia areas, Boyington tallied his downed Japanese plane total almost daily. By December 27, 1943, his record had climbed to 25.
He tied the American record of 26 downed planes on January 3, 1944, over Rabaul, but became mixed in a general melee of diving, swooping planes and went missing, ultimately spending the rest of the war, some 20 months, in Japanese prison camps. He was liberated from Japanese custody at Omori Prison Camp on August 29, 1945.
Gregory Boyington earned the nickname "Pappy" because, being just over 30, he was a decade older than many of his fellow Black Sheep Squadron pilots.
innovations: 1944: 4-Man Fireteam
More Leadership, More Firepower
As a relatively small force, Marines have always had to be more adaptable than other military branches. In 1944, to increase the combat power of their rifle squads, the Marine Corps began using 13-man squads consisting of a squad leader and three 4-man fireteams. The new formation proved more flexible than the previous 12-man squad, which lacked subdivisions.
Each fireteam was led by a corporal, and included two riflemen carrying M1 Garands, as well as an automatic rifleman with the Browning Automatic Rifle. The rifle squad leader may use one or two of these teams to fire, while another team maneuvered to gain ground.
This efficient, high-firepower tactic was used successfully in World War II, and its core strategy is still used today.
leaders: 1945: Frederick C. Branch
Paving the Way for Desegregation
Frederick C. Branch was the first African-American Marine Corps Officer. In May 1943, while attending Temple University, Branch received a draft notice from the Army, but he was ultimately selected to be a Marine. He went on to complete Basic Training at Montford Point, NC and was assigned to serve in the Pacific. His discipline, loyalty and character earned him the recommendation of his commanding officer to attend Officer Candidates School.
On November 10, 1945, Frederick C. Branch was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He went on to serve during the Korean War and attained the rank of Captain before leaving the Marine Corps in 1955.
In his honor, the Marine Corps offers the Frederick C. Branch Leadership scholarship for students attending or planning to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
leaders: 1945: PFC Jack Lucas
Superior Courage to Save Fellow Marines
Eager to become a Marine, Private First Class Jack Lucas forged his mother's signature on a waiver form to enlist at age 14.
While fighting at the Battle of Iwo Jima six days after his 17th birthday, PFC Lucas shielded three fellow Marines from two grenades. Although he survived, the blast embedded more than 250 pieces of shrapnel into his body.
For his actions, Lucas received the Medal of Honor. In an interview minutes before getting the award, Lucas said, "I did a Superman dive at the grenades. I wasn't a Superman after I got hit." Lucas wasn't Superman—he was a Marine.
missions: 1945: Battle of Iwo Jima
One of the Marine Corps' Greatest Triumphs
When the United States sent the Marines to capture the Japanese airfields at Iwo Jima, the Marines showed the world their unyielding determination.
Japanese soldiers turned the volcanic island into a trap, fighting from a maze of tunnels and steel bunkers beneath Mt. Suribachi. The Battle of Iwo Jima lasted 36 days and resulted in heavy casualties before the Marines secured the island.
Four days into the battle, a Marine patrol reached the summit of Mt. Suribachi and raised the American Flag to encourage troops below. Later on, a team of Marines was sent with a larger, more visible flag. This time, the flag raising was captured by photographer Joe Rosenthal. Within days, the photo of the moment that embodied the Marines' struggle and victory became front-page news. The flag raising at Iwo Jima has become an iconic symbol of the Marine Corps. The monument of the Marine Corps War Memorial is cast in its image, inspiring each generation of Marines to strive for greatness.
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, Pacific Fleet communiqué, 16 March 1945
Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.
Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal to LtGen H. M. Smith, as the Marines raised the flag on Mt. Suribachi over Iwo Jima, 23 Feb. 1945
The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.
innovations: 1946: Vertical Envelopment
Transforming the Amphibious Operation
The Marine Corps first realized the potential of the helicopter during World War II, but it wasn't until 1946 that they realized how radically it could improve amphibious strategies. Lieutenant General Roy Geiger was the first to suggest using helicopters in amphibious landings in order to disperse the landing force and reduce the impact of a potential nuclear attack.
LtGen Geiger's proposal led to the creation of research boards in 1946 and 1947, which combined helicopters and ships to create a doctrine of amphibious vertical envelopment.
Two missions tested the new strategy: Operation Summit proved the effectiveness of helicopters in transporting troops and supplies into combat zones, while Operation Starlite successfully combined a helicopter with an amphibious landing.
When both helicopter operations proved successful, the Marine Air Wing rapidly expanded, supporting multiple missions on land and sea. The vertical envelopment concept shaped the basic structure of similar Marine operations carried out today, and illustrates the technological foresight of Marine Officers past and present.
Gen A. A. Vandegrift, 18th CMC: To the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, 5 May 1946 regarding U.S. Army proposals for the abolition of the Marine Corps.
The bended knee is not a tradition of our Corps.
LtGen H. M. "Howlin' Mad" Smith: "Coral and Brass," 1949
Since I first joined the Marines, I have advocated aggressiveness in the field and constant offensive action. Hit quickly, hit hard and keep right on hitting. Give the enemy no rest, no opportunity to consolidate his forces and hit back at you.
Adm William F. Halsey, 4thMarDiv reunion, Washington, D.C., 11 June 1949
The Marine Corps has been called by the New York Times the "elite" Corps of this country. I think it is the "elite" Corps of the world.
Decade began with 85,965 Marines (78,715 Enlisted; 7,250 Officers)
Decade ended with 175,571 Marines (159,506 Enlisted; 16,065 Officers)
19th Commandant: General Clifton B. Cates (1948-1951)
20th Commandant: General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. (1952-1955)
21st Commandant: General Randolf McCall Pate (1956-1959)
leaders: 1950: 1stLt Baldomero Lopez
Courage Under Fire
When the Marines landed at Inchon, South Korea, First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez was ready to storm the shores; he began the attack and was the first man to scale the 10-foot seawall.
During the battle, he raised his arm to throw a grenade just as an enemy bullet hit his shoulder. Injured but determined, 1stLt Lopez smothered his grenade, shielding his fellow Marines from the blast.
He gave his life for his Marines and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his exceptional courage.
A famous photograph of the Inchon landing captured Lopez scaling the seawall moments before his death. Newspapers back home ran the story, describing Lopez as having "died with the courage that makes men great."
missions: 1950: Chosin Reservoir
Overcoming the Worst Weather, Terrain and Odds
Following the successful Inchon landing, U.N. forces had North Korean troops on the run, but communist China's unexpected entry into the Korean War threatened that progress.
At Chosin Reservoir, the 1st Marine Division found itself surrounded and outnumbered 8-to-1 by the Chinese army. The worst weather in 50 years cut off air support and assaulted the Marines with snow, wind and temperatures of -40 degrees F.
Even so, the "Chosin Few," as they would come to be called, decimated 10 Chinese infantry divisions and fought their way back to the sea to rejoin the American forces.
No Marines have ever faced worse weather, terrain or odds than those who fought at Chosin Reservoir, but to anyone familiar with the Marines' spirit of determination, there was no doubt the 1st Marine Division would prevail.
missions: 1950: Inchon Landing
A Surprise Attack and a Spectacular Landing
The Cold War escalated when communist North Korea invaded South Korea in what was seen as a global military challenge. As the head of U.N. forces, Army General Douglas MacArthur relied on the amphibious capabilities of the Marine Corps to reclaim South Korea's occupied capital, Seoul.
In a surprise attack, Marines landed behind enemy lines on the heavily defended shores of Inchon. Moving from landing craft, they climbed the seawall with close air support from warplanes above.
Within hours, the Marines cleared the beach and began moving toward Seoul. In two weeks, they reclaimed the capital and put the North Korean army on the run.
More than a battle victory, the landing at Inchon is considered one of the most spectacular amphibious assaults in history. The planning and landing became the model for the Marine Corps' Operational Maneuver from the Sea doctrine.
A British military officer visiting the U.S. Marines in Korea included the above in his daily report to the British command in Tokyo, 16 Aug. 1950
…These Marines have the swagger, confidence, and hardness that must have been in Stonewall Jackson's Army of the Shenandoah. They remind me of the Coldstreams at Dunkerque.
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur on the outskirts of Seoul, Korea, 21 Sept. 1950
I have just returned from visiting the Marines at the front, and there is not a finer fighting organization in the world!
MajGen Oliver P. Smith, CG, 1stMarDiv, Korea, 1950,
I'm going to fight my way out, I'm going to take all my equipment and all my wounded and as many dead as I can. If we can't get out this way, this Division will never fight as a unit again.
to LtGen Ned Almond, USA, X Corps, who suggested Smith's division
escape the Chosin Reservoir by letting "every man go out on foot by himself."
innovations: 1951: Operation Summit
The First Combat Helicopter Assault
After years of field tests, Operation Summit proved that delivering troops by helicopter could improve operations on enemy shores.
In just four hours, the HMR-161 helicopter squadron completed 65 flights while transporting a total of 224 Marines and 17,772 pounds of supplies to an outpost in Korea.
This was the first ground attack assisted by helicopter transport in military history.
The overwhelming success of the mission proved the indispensable quality and power of helicopters, and this innovation became the center of strategic operations in subsequent conflicts.
innovations: 1952: Improved Body Armor
Strong and Flexible Protection
In times of war, Marines need to be quick, flexible and accurate in returning fire, which requires highly reliable equipment. In the early 1950s, Marines realized that their current body armor was too heavy and requested a more lightweight and mobile solution.
The Naval Medical Research Laboratory developed an armored vest made of heavy nylon cloth with a new plastic compound.
After a series of rigorous tests, 2,500 new vests were sent to the frontline units of the 1st Marine Division in Korea.
In the years since, Marines' body armor has been continually updated and advanced. Improvements like these illustrate the Marine Corps' ongoing commitment to the safety of each Marine.
leaders: 1955: LtGen Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller
"They Can't Get Away This Time."
Fourteen personal decorations in combat, five Navy Crosses, a Purple Heart, and a long list of campaign medals, unit citation ribbons and other awards: Lieutenant General "Chesty" Puller's heroics earned him more military decorations than any Marine who served before or since.
LtGen Puller is best remembered by fellow Marines for his quick-witted encouragement in the midst of combat, including "They're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us...they can't get away this time."
"Drill Instructor's Creed" as it appeared in the Parris Island "Boot" newspaper, Aug 31, 1956
These are my recruits. I will train them to the best of my ability. I will develop them into smartly disciplined, physically fit, basically trained Marines, thoroughly indoctrinated in love of Corps and country. I will demand of them, and demonstrate by my own example, the highest standards of personal conduct, morality, and professional skill.
Decade began with 175,571 Marines (159,506 Enlisted; 16,065 Officers)
Decade ended with 309,771 Marines (284,073 Enlisted; 25,698 Officers)
22nd Commandant: General David M. Shoup (1960-1963)
23rd Commandant: General Wallace M. Greene, Jr. (1964-1967)
24th Commandant: General Leonard F. Chapman, Jr. (1968-1971)
LtGen Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller: "Marine," 1962
Paperwork will ruin any military force.
RAdm John S. McCain Jr., USN, "The Four Ocean Challenge," Sept. 1962 (speech)
The Navy-Marine Corps team is unique in history because its mobility and versatility permit it to make a contribution in virtually every medium of warfare: land, sea and air.
innovations: 1965: Operation Starlite
A Test of Courage
When Marine commander, Lieutenant General Lewis W. Walt, received intelligence that the Viet Cong were hiding in a village south of the Marine base at Chu Lai, he didn't wait to be attacked.
LtGen Walt and his commanders devised "Operation Starlite," a combined helicopter and amphibious assault that would protect the base and neutralize the approaching unit.
The operation lasted six days and was a true test of courage. In the end, the Marines dealt the Viet Cong their first major defeat.
The success of Operation Starlite not only proved the value of combined amphibious and vertical envelopment operations in combat, it renewed the Marines' faith in their ability to triumph in "every clime and place."
Sergeant Fred Larson, Drill Instructor, Plt 343, San Diego, 1965
They say "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." In the Marine Corps, you can make that horse wish to hell he had.
LtGen Victor H. Krulak to a Marine unit leaving for Vietnam, April 1965
Being ready is not what matters. What matters is winning
after you get there.
leaders: 1967: MAJ STEPHEN W. PLESS
PILOT WITH DISTINCTION
While serving as a helicopter gunship pilot, Major Stephen Pless led his unit in unleashing a devastating rocket and machine gun assault during a daring Vietnam rescue mission. Amid enemy fire, Maj Pless maneuvered his helicopter into position to retrieve four wounded American soldiers.
For his courage and remarkable airmanship, Pless became the only Marine aviator to earn the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.
Actor Lee Marvin, circa 1967, about serving in WWII
And once by God, I was a Marine!
leaders: 1968: PFC James Anderson, Jr.
A Gallant Self-Sacrifice
While advancing through the dense Vietnamese jungle, a platoon from the 3rd Marine Division came under intense enemy fire. The platoon moved together protectively as they returned fire.
An enemy grenade landed in the midst of the platoon and rolled next to Private First Class James Anderson, Jr. Selflessly, he reached for the grenade, pulled it to his chest and wrapped his body around it as it exploded.
PFC Anderson saved his platoon from serious injury and death, sacrificing his own life for his Marines and his country.
For this courageous act, he became the first African-American Marine to be awarded our nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor.
missions: 1968: North Vietnam Offensive
The 77-Day Siege
During the war in Vietnam, Marines defended a base at Khe Sanh, a remote but strategic outpost near the Laotian border.
The North Vietnamese army attacked the base, predicting overwhelming victory. The base remained under siege for 77 days, but Marines prevented the enemy from penetrating United States defenses.
The victory was a morale boost for U.S. forces in what proved to be a long struggle for peace.
Inscription on the back of a flak jacket worn by a Marine machine-gunner
For those who fight for it, life has a flavor the protected never know.
on the DMZ, RVN, 1968
LtCol William Drumright, RVN, 1969, on the objective
In the attack people get killed and wounded. Some wounded will scream. Don't let the screamers slow your assault.
SSgt Smotherman, RVN, 1969, on defensive tactics
Wake up, lieutenant. We have the enemy near the hill. When they get closer, we are going to kill them. You need to see this.
1stLt Lee Gound, TBS, 1969 on night operations
The only difference in fighting at night and fighting in the day is you can't see as well at night.
Maj King Dixon, TBS, 1969 on theory versus application
A lot of the stuff you learned in college you won't use again. But, this patrolling class…you will use it again. You're learning yourself
a trade today.
SSgt James Steadham, Quantico, 1969 on teamwork
If you candidates throw your eyes to the right together, I should hear ‘em click. Now let me hear ‘em click.
Decade began with 309,771 Marines (284,073 Enlisted; 25,698 Officers)
Decade ended with 185,250 Marines (167,021 Enlisted; 18,229 Officers)
24th Commandant: General Leonard F. Chapman, Jr. (1968-1971)
25th Commandant: General Robert E. Cushman, Jr. (1972-1975)
26th Commandant: General Louis H. Wilson, Jr. (1975-1979)
27th Commandant: General Robert H. Barrow (1979-1983)
innovations: 1970: Combined Action Program
Combining Forces for Greater Strength
During the Vietnam War, the Marine Corps devised an alternative to the existing "search and destroy" strategy: the Combined Action Program (CAP).
By pairing a Marine rifle squad with a group of South Vietnamese Popular Forces, CAP platoons were able to secure conflict areas and battle powerful indigenous forces.
Every Marine received CAP training, including intelligence procedures, small unit tactics, education in Vietnamese customs and basic language skills.
This integration between Marines and local forces built the trust needed to win critical battles on foreign land.
This program successfully provided security for people and villages, threatened guerrilla forces and gave governing power to local leaders.
Gen Lewis W. Walt: "Football and Freedom" to Annual Meeting of the Football Coaches Association, Washington, D.C. 14 Jan. 1970
Our young men in Vietnam have not only acquitted themselves in an outstanding manner during combat operations, but they also have been outstanding ambassadors of goodwill in the vital civic action and pacification work among the tortured populace of South Vietnam.
Col Robert D. Heinl Jr. USMC (Ret) 1970
The U. S. Marine is a professional who stands ready to fight anytime, anywhere, any enemy that the President and Congress may designate and to do so coolly, capably, and in the spirit of professional detachment. He is not trained to hate, nor is he whipped up emotionally for battle or for any other duty the Corps may be called on to perform. Patriotism and professionalism are his only two ‘isms.'
Gen Keith B. McCutcheon: "Marine Aviation in Vietnam, 1962-70,"
Retention of operational control of its air is important to the Corps' air-ground team, as air constitutes a significant part of its offensive firepower.
Naval Review, 1971, Page 134
leaders: 1972: Col John W. Ripley
Bravery Under Extreme Adversity
Holding a bomb detonator between his teeth, Colonel John W. Ripley swung across the underside of the Dong Ha Bridge. For three hours, Col Ripley attached the explosives with one hand while gripping the bridge with the other.
When finished, he returned to shore and destroyed the bridge, allowing his unit to hold off several thousand North Vietnamese forces.
His courage and determination at the bridge earned him a Navy Cross and a place in Marine Corps history. Ripley demonstrated extraordinary courage throughout his 35-year career.
By the time he retired, he had also earned the Silver Star, two Legion of Merit awards, two Bronze Stars with Combat "V," a Purple Heart and the Cross of Gallantry.
Gen Robert E. Cushman Jr., 25th CMC, at Armed Forces Day luncheon,
I still need Marines who can shoot and salute. But, I need Marines who can fix jet engines and man sophisticated radar sets, as well.
Spokane, Wash. 17 May 1974
Major Michael Carey, Norfolk, VA, 1975
Leaders swim upstream. Chesty Puller was a real salmon.
General Louis H. Wilson, 26th CMC, 22 Aug. 1975
In the last analysis, what the Marine Corps becomes is what we make of it during our respective watches. And that watch of each Marine is not confined to the time he spends on active duty. It lasts as long as he is "proud to bear the title of United States Marine."
Maj Sean Leach, AWS, 1976, on counterinsurgency
The insurgent leader is a stallion standing on his hind legs. You don't win his heart and mind. You kill him.
Col Robert Thompson, Okinawa, 1976
The only bad thing about running is that it's unpleasant.
leaders: 1978: BGEN MARGARET BREWER
A LIFETIME OF LEADERSHIP
In 1978, Margaret Brewer advanced to the rank of brigadier general, becoming the Marine Corps' first female general.
Brewer received her commission in 1952, followed by several leadership positions, including Commanding Officer of the Women Marines, platoon commander for woman officer candidates and the Director of Women Marines, for which she earned the Legion of Merit award.
Brigadier General Brewer's 28 years of service illustrate the commitment that Marines make to their country and to the Corps.
leaders: 1979: LTGEN FRANK E. PETERSEN
PAVING THE WAY
Lieutenant General Frank Petersen was the first African-American promoted to the rank of general in the Marine Corps. Prior to his promotion, Petersen had been the Corps' first African-American pilot.
Petersen received his commission as a second lieutenant in 1952. Serving in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts as a skilled pilot, he flew over 300 combat missions with over 4,000 hours in various fixed-wing, fighter aircraft. Petersen later served as the senior ranking aviator in the Marine Corps. He also earned the Distinguished Service Medal for exceptional meritorious service as the Commanding General of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
LtGen Petersen was more than an outstanding Marine and quality citizen; he broke racial barriers and strengthened the legacy of the Marine Corps while inspiring and paving the way for future African-Americans seeking to be the best in everything they do.
Decade began with 185,250 Marines (167,021 Enlisted; 18,229 Officers)
Decade ended with 196,956 Marines (176,857 Enlisted; 20,099 Officers)
27th Commandant: General Robert H. Barrow (1979-1983)
28th Commandant: General Paul X. Kelley (1983-1987)
29th Commandant: General Alfred M. Gray, Jr. (1987-1991)
innovations: 1980: Maritime Prepositioning Force
A Supply Chain for Every Clime and Place
The Military Sealift Command has strategically pre-positioned ships around the world, ready to mobilize for any conflict that requires a rapid response. Each Maritime Prepositioning Force squadron carries enough equipment and supplies to sustain more than 16,000 Marines and sailors for up to 30 days, including tanks, ammunition, food, water, cargo, hospital equipment, petroleum products and spare parts.
The ships were developed and specifically configured for the Marine Corps in the 1980's, providing critical new supply capabilities and reducing reliance on available infrastructure in other nations. Many ships in the force are able to transfer cargo to shallow-draft boats, which can transport supplies to shore in places where ports are non-existent, thus allowing Marine Corps forces to easily operate in undeveloped areas.
MajGen Robert Haebel, Parris Island, S.C. 1982, on welfare of the troops
If any of you get hernias in this tug-of-war against the Army, I'll pay to get them fixed.
Marine Officer describing his Marines in Beirut in 1983
Tough as woodpecker's lips!
President Ronald Reagan (Written Sept. 23, 1983 in a personal note to LCpl Joseph Hickey, the son of a close friend of the President. The Marine was scheduled to deploy to Lebanon.)
Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, but the Marines don't have that problem.
Major Steve Shivers, MCAS, Cherry Point, NC, 1986, on retirement
We are going to Marine. When we can't Marine anymore, it's time to retire and to go sit on the porch.
Former Marine author William Overgard: "A Few Good Men," 1988
If there's anything more arrogant than a Marine on a horse, it's one in a plane.
missions: 1989: Operation Just Cause
Bringing an End to a Destructive Dictatorship
Conflict in Panama began escalating when Dictator General Manuel Noriega came to power. During his reign, he broke international treaties, supported drug trafficking and declared war on the United States.
He openly encouraged attacks on Americans, and when a Marine was killed by Panamanian forces, the United States decided Noriega would no longer be tolerated.
The United States launched Operation Just Cause with the goal of deposing the dictator and returning order to Panama.
The Marine Corps Security Force, infantry, and a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) played a critical role in the short but complex operation.
Within just two weeks they had achieved success. Noriega surrendered, and the people of Panama began to restore their nation.
Decade began with 196,956 Marines (176,857 Enlisted; 20,099 Officers)
Decade ended with 171,154 Marines (153,302 Enlisted; 17,852 Officers)
29th Commandant: General Alfred M. Gray, Jr. (1987-1991)
30th Commandant: General Carl E. Mundy, Jr. (1991-1995)
31st Commandant: General Charles C. Krulak (1995-1999)
32nd Commandant: General James L. Jones (1999-2003)
missions: 1991: Operation Desert Storm
One of the Most Successful Assaults in Modern Warfare
After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the United Nations intervened with a stern resolution warning Iraq to withdraw or United States and UN forces would drive them out. Iraq refused, and Operation Desert Storm began.
From the air, Marine pilots used fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft to destroy Iraq's air and naval forces, anti-air defenses and ballistic missile launchers.
The 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions broke through Iraq's southern border while 8,000 Marines kept the Iraqi army distracted in the north.
On Iraqi soil, Marines crossed minefields, barbed-wire obstacles, booby traps and fire trenches while under attack from Iraqi artillery.
With precise air operations, tenacious amphibious assaults and versatile land tactics, the Marines led one of the most successful assaults in modern warfare.
Karen Aquilar, in the U.S. Embassy, Mogadishu, Somalia, 1991
They told (us) to open the embassy, or "we'll blow you away." And then they looked up and saw the Marines on the roof with these really big guns, and they said in Somali, "Igaralli ahow," which means "Excuse me, I didn't mean it, my mistake."
missions: 1992-1997: African Humanitarian Missions
Peacekeeping in a Turbulent Region
With warring factions ravaging Somalia, Rwanda and Zaire in the 1990s, the Marine Corps used its resources to provide vital humanitarian aid. When widespread violence and famine escalated in these countries, global support was needed, and the Marine Corps led the way.
In these peacekeeping missions, Marines occasionally came under fire while providing security and distributing food, water and medical supplies.
These missions reasserted the role of the United States Marines as defenders with the courage to take action in the face of injustice.
LtCol Gary Anderson, editorial, "Washington Times" 25 Feb. 1992
It is a good thing to win wars.
Cpl Jeff Sorni, USMC "Navy Times," 1994
I love the Marine Corps for those intangible possessions that cannot be issued: pride, honor, integrity, and being able to carry on the traditions for generations of warriors past.
leaders: 1995: LTCOL SARAH DEAL BURROW
A NEW CHAPTER IN FLIGHT
Sarah Deal Burrow graduated from Kent State University with a pilot's license and a degree in aerospace flight technology. After Officer Candidates School, Burrow wanted to fly. With no female pilot roles at the time, however, she specialized in Air Traffic Control instead.
Burrow's desire to fly was fulfilled when women were permitted to fly combat aircraft in 1993. She trained at Naval Air Station Pensacola and earned her wings on April 21, 1995. Lieutenant Colonel Burrow piloted a CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopter that same year.
LtCol Burrow's determination to become an aviator led the way for future female Marine Corps pilots.
leaders: 1995: MAJGEN MARTIN BERNDT
SEND IN THE MARINES
The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), commanded at the time by Colonel Martin Berndt, was chosen to conduct a mission for the rescue of Air Force pilot Captain Scott O'Grady, who was shot down in enemy territory during a peacekeeping mission over Bosnia.
Military leadership debated who would lead the rescue, but the Marine unit's rapid deployment capabilities and extensive training made it the most qualified force. Marines secured the perimeter, and Col Berndt's Marines pulled O'Grady aboard the helicopter. Avoiding two shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, the unit landed safely on USS Kearsarge 45 minutes later.
Berndt's leadership in preparing his Marines set an example for future military rescue missions.
missions: 1995: Bosnia Intervention
Bringing Relief to a Troubled Region
After the signing of the Dayton Agreement in November 1995, which ended the war in former Yugoslavia, NATO troops arrived in the war-torn region. These troops included Marines who were among the first American relief forces to arrive, immediately providing much-needed security.
Sarajevo, the nation's capital, fell into collapse after years of violence and genocide. Other regions appeared in ruins. Marine forces took on the task of bringing peace to the turbulent country.
missions: 1995: Capt Scott O'Grady Rescue
Marines Come to the Rescue
During a peacekeeping mission over Bosnia, Air Force pilot Captain Scott O'Grady was shot down in enemy territory.
Undetected, he survived by sleeping under camouflage netting during the day and moving at night. Capt O'Grady avoided patrolling Serbs until he made contact with NATO forces six days later.
Military leadership debated who would lead the rescue, and chose the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) to conduct a TRAP (Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel) mission. The unit was chosen for its rapid deployment capabilities and extensive training prior to the assignment.
After pulling O'Grady aboard their helicopter and flying low to the ground, the unit dodged two shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles. Forty-five minutes later, they landed safely on USS Kearsarge.
RAdm "Jay" R. Stark, USN, 10 Nov. 1995
Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean. They're aggressive on the attack and tenacious on the defense. They've got really short hair and always go for the throat.
innovations: 1996: Chemical and Biological Response
Ready to Respond to an Invisible Threat
The Marine Corps was among the first organizations to address the growing concern of chemical and biological threats with the creation of the Marine Corps Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) in 1996.
Despite a relatively short history, CBIRF's track record is impressive. Marines from CBIRF provided a critical response to the anthrax attacks on Capitol Hill in 2001 and supported the United States Capitol Police in responding to the 2004 ricin incident on Capitol Hill. In 2011, the CBIRF was dispatched to Japan during Operation Tomodachi to aid during the nuclear crisis resulting from the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.
The CBIRF remains a leader in preparing the United States to respond to any chemical or biological attack.
Thomas E. Ricks, "Making the Corps," 1997
The United States Marine Corps with its fiercely proud tradition of excellence in combat, its hallowed rituals, and its unbending code of honor, is part of the fabric of American myth.
Gen Charles C. Krulak, 31st CMC, 5 May 1997
For over 221 years our Corps has done two things for this great Nation. We make Marines and we win battles.
Decade began with 171,154 Marines (153,302 Enlisted; 17,852 Officers)
Decade ended with 204,153 Marines (182,945 Enlisted; 21,208 Officers)
32nd Commandant: General James L. Jones (1999-2003)
33rd Commandant: General Michael W. Hagee (2003-2006)
34th Commandant: General James T. Conway (2006-2010)
Gen James L. Jones, 32nd CMC, 10 Nov. 2000
We are United States Marines, and for two and a quarter centuries we have defined the standards of courage, esprit, and military prowess.
Marine veteran John Chipura, survivor of the 1983 Beirut bombing, a NY Fireman, who wrote the above for the 225th Marine Corps birthday, 2000. He was later killed while responding to the terrorist attack, Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center, Tower 2.
We Marines are truly blessed. We get to enjoy the sweet taste of freedom because we know its price.
missions: 2001: Operation Enduring Freedom
After the attack on our nation on September 11, 2001, the entire American military focused its might on defeating Al-Qaeda. Two months later, Marines were the first major ground forces in Afghanistan. In mid-December, 2001, Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit captured Kandahar Airport and converted it into one of the first coalition command centers in the country.
Since the initial invasion, much progress has been made. The threat of violence has been greatly reduced, hundreds of schools have been constructed and millions in aid have been distributed. In October of 2004, Afghanistan held its first direct elections, and one year later, they conducted the first Afghan parliamentary election.
At the start of 2010, Marines lead Operation Moshtarak, the largest military operation since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan and reclaimed cities across southern Afghanistan, including the Taliban stronghold of Marjah. The War in Afghanistan officially became the longest war in U.S. history in June of 2010. Marines continue to fight the Taliban and train Afghan soldiers to eventually shoulder the burden of Afghanistan's national security.
missions: 2001: Global War on Terrorism
The Ongoing Mission to Eliminate Terrorism
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States government declared a "Global War on Terrorism."
In response to the Taliban government's refusal to respond to known terrorist activities within their borders, Marines were deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In 2003, Iraq became a second front in the war on terrorism with Operation Iraqi Freedom, with Marine responsibilities ranging from combat and security operations to humanitarian efforts. In September of 2010, Operation Iraqi Freedom officially ended, and Operation New Dawn began with the goal of advising and assisting Iraqi forces in rebuilding.
innovations: 2002: MARPAT Camouflage
Camouflage gets a Digital Upgrade
Marines wore the same camouflage as other armed forces for years—until identifying a need for concealment from new surveillance technology.
In 2002, the Marine Corps developed a new pixelated camouflage pattern for use in utility uniforms.
The Marine Pattern (MARPAT) is made of a computer-generated pattern of overlapping squares. The green and brown woodland pattern provides the best concealment for forest areas; the khaki desert pattern works best in urban or sandy environments. Both feature the Eagle, Globe and Anchor insignia embedded within the pattern.
This patented innovation represents the most significant change to the Marine Corps uniform in more than 30 years. It is the first military camouflage designed to avoid detection by both human eye and digital lens, and has become the standard for all Marine Combat Utility uniforms and gear.
innovations: 2002: Designated Marksman
A New Kind of Sniper
During ground combat missions, sniper teams cover long-range targets, while rifle squads provide short-range fire. In 2002, the Marine Corps found a way to increase the effectiveness of the team with the addition of a Designated Marksman to cover mid- to short-range targets.
The best rifleman in each squad is assigned to the Designated Marksman position. This Marine uses an M14 automatic rifle or M16 assault rifle with telescopic sight to provide fire on mid-range targets at two to five hundred yards.
With the accuracy of a sniper and the rapid-fire capabilities of a rifleman, the Designated Marksman is able to adapt to various conditions and increase the efficiency of the ground combat team.
leaders: 2003: Col Matthew Bogdanos
As a Marine, Colonel Matthew Bogdanos did more than just make history - he helped preserve it.
After several years in the Reserves, Col Bogdanos returned to active duty following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2003, when the National Museum of Iraq was looted, he was chosen to lead the investigation.
Bogdanos and his team are responsible for recovering approximately 5,500 artifacts from humanity's earliest civilizations. They also exposed the link between the black market art world and terrorist funding.
In 2005, Bogdanos received a National Humanities Medal for his leadership in recovering the stolen artifacts. He returned to his previous work for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and published a book about the looting in Iraq. Proceeds from the book go to the Iraq Museum.
missions: 2003: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Toppling a Harmful Regime
One of the key objectives of Operation Iraqi Freedom during 2003 was the capture of Iraq's capital, Baghdad. A convoy of 30,000 Marines advanced 500 miles from the border of Kuwait in just 10 days.
On April 9, 2003, Marines secured the center of Baghdad. That same day, Coalition forces declared an end to the dictator's rule.
leaders: 2004: Cpl Jason Dunham
During a reconnaissance mission in the town of Karabilah, Iraq, Corporal Jason Dunham and his men heard gunfire erupt nearby. Cpl Dunham ordered his squad toward the fighting, receiving enemy fire as they moved.
At the scene, they discovered seven vehicles scrambling to depart. As they halted the vehicles to search for weapons, an insurgent leapt out. He attacked Dunham and then released a grenade. Without hesitation, the corporal tore off his Kevlar helmet and used it to cover the grenade. He bore the full force of the fatal explosion, saving the lives of at least two other Marines in his squad.
Dunham's brave actions distinguished him as the first Marine to earn the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.
missions: 2004: Indonesia Tsunamis
Providing for Recovery
Hundred-foot waves swept the shores of Indonesia, Thailand and India in a series of tsunamis that proved to be one of the deadliest natural disasters ever. While the world was in shock, the Marines mobilized.
Along with a number of United States and international relief efforts, three Marine Corps disaster relief assessment teams were immediately deployed to the region.
Seven ships from the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group arrived with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to help produce critically needed fresh water. Marines also provided additional supplies for survivors.
After providing much-needed supplies and assistance, the Marines left the region, allowing local governments to take over.
missions: 2005: Hurricane Katrina
Aiding the Home Front
Hurricane Katrina became the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States when it slammed into Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle in 2005. The deadliest hurricane since 1928, Katrina left tragedy and chaos in its wake as failed levees caused 80% of New Orleans and the surrounding parishes to flood. Mississippi was also hard hit with 90% of beachfront towns flooded with waters that reached up to 12 miles inland.
The Marines' first priority was to search for and rescue survivors. From an initial staging base at Stennis International Airport, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, Marines spread out using a hub-and-spoke approach, steering Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs) through flooded areas to rescue those trapped by the water.
Once the floodwaters had receded, Marines supported clean up and rebuilding efforts in both Mississippi and Louisiana.
innovations: 2006: MV-22 Osprey Enters the Field
First to Field a Tilt-Rotor Aircraft
The potential for tilt-rotor aircraft, an aircraft which can combine the vertical takeoff and landing ability of a helicopter with the speed and long-range capabilities of a fixed-wing plane was patented as far back as 1930, but no workable prototype was created until 1954. A series of experimental models followed, but it wasn't until 1981 that work began on developing the first tilt-rotor aircraft for military use: the MV-22 Osprey.
The Marine Corps began crew training on the MV-22 Osprey in 2000, and in 2006, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (VMM-263) became the first operational MV-22 Osprey Squadron in the U.S. Armed Forces.
In 2009, the MV-22 Osprey saw its first combat mission in Afghanistan, transporting over 1,000 Marines and 150 Afghan troops to the Now Zad Valley, and in 2010, the aircraft was deployed to Haiti in its first humanitarian mission.
In 2011, two MV-22s participated in the recovery of a downed Air Force crew member during Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya, proving the aircraft's usefulness in a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) mission.
leaders: 2007: Maj Douglas A. Zembiec
The Lion of Fallujah
Major Zembiec was nicknamed the "Lion of Fallujah" as a result of his heroic actions during Operation Vigilant Resolve in 2004. As a rifle company commander, he lead Echo Company 2/1 in the first conventional ground assault into Fallujah, Iraq. He was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device and two Purple Hearts due to wounds incurred in action. His brave actions are detailed in the book No True Glory: A Front-line Account of the Battle of Fallujah by Bing West.
Major Zembiec was killed by small arms fire while leading a raid during his fourth combat tour in Iraq. Zembiec warned his Marines to seek cover before doing so himself and was hit by enemy fire. Zembiec's warning saved his men and the initial radio report of the incident said there were, "five wounded and one martyred."
leaders: 2008: Maj Jennifer Grieves
In 2008, Major Jennifer Grieves became the first female to pilot Marine One, the helicopter of the President of the United States. Of the 70 pilots in the Marine Helicopter Squadron (HMX), she was one of only five cleared for the honor and responsibility of commanding the president's helicopter.
While most Marine One pilots serve in that position for one year, Maj Grieves's tour extended through July 2009. She then advanced to the Command and Staff College in preparation for a future assignment in the operating forces.
Grieves enlisted in 1990 and earned her commission eight years later. After leading as a sergeant, becoming an officer put Grieves in a position to make command decisions and to prove herself as a pilot.
leaders: 2009: Female Engagement Teams
Engaging Afghan Women on the Front Lines
Recognizing that you can't win a war of hearts and minds with only half the population, the United States Marine Corps developed a program to train and deploy Female Engagement Teams (FETs) alongside male units in order to build trust and confidence with Afghan women.
Working on the front lines alongside their male counterparts for the first time in history, each team of female Marines had to cross difficult cultural hurdles in order to obtain permission to engage with Afghan women before they could begin to assess their needs, convey information, perform security searches, and whenever possible, win the support of Afghan mothers and daughters.
What they learned as some of the first cultural outsiders to ever talk to remote Afghan women helped the Marine Corps define its aid programs and build trust with villagers. The experimental program was so successful that it was extended indefinitely.
leaders: 2009: Sgt Dakota Meyer
Never Leave a Marine Behind
When the forward element of his combat team was hit with intense fire in the Kunar Provence of Afghanistan on September 8, 2009, Dakota Meyer (then a Corporal) mounted a gun truck, enlisted another man to drive, and raced to attack the ambushers. During a six-hour firefight, Meyer returned four times, single-handedly turning the tide of the battle and personally evacuating 12 wounded Marines and soldiers, providing cover for another 24 Marines and soldiers to escape. For his actions, he became the first living Marine to earn the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.
Meyer said of his citation, "The main thing that we need to get from that day is that those guys died heroes, and they are greatly missed. This isn't about me."
The men in his unit who lost their lives were: 1stLt Michael Johnson of Virginia Beach, VA; SSgt Aaron Kenefick of Roswell, GA; Hospital Corpsman Third Class James Layton of Riverbank, CA; and GySgt Edwin Wayne Johnson Jr. from Columbus, GA.
Decade began with 204,153 Marines (182,945 Enlisted; 21,208 Officers)
34th Commandant: General James T. Conway (2006-2010)
35th Commandant: General James F. Amos (2010- Present)
innovations: 2010: Improved Modular Tactical Vest (IMTV)
Superior Protection and Decreased Weight Load
The Improved Modular Tactical Vest (IMTV) is the latest body armor innovation designed to allow Marines to scale their body armor up or down, depending on mission requirements. In addition to superior weight distribution, the improved vest provides increased torso protection with less exposure under the arms.
The modular capability of the vest also allows Marines to attach optional lower back and groin protection sections, as well as a removable collar, which is half the size of the previous model.
Lighter and more comfortable, the armor will provide protection from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and small arms fire while allowing greater freedom of movement.
missions: 2010: Operation Unified Response
Relief Amid Chaos
After a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook Haiti to its foundation in January of 2010, the Marine Corps responded quickly, deploying both the 22nd and 24th Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) to restore order and stability.
Arriving amidst violence and looting, Marines provided security to the ravaged nation and distributed food and water to the Haitian people. Rebuilding hospitals and distributing medical supplies were also top priorities for Marines in Haiti. During the two-month mission, Marines distributed nearly 560,000 liters of bottled water, 1.6 million pounds of rations and 15,000 pounds of medical supplies.
leaders: 2011: BGen Loretta Reynolds
The Right Marine for the Job
One of only two active-duty female Generals in the Marine Corps, Brigadier General Loretta Reynolds became Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island's first female base commander in 2011. Her command at Parris Island also put her in charge of the Marines' Eastern Recruiting Region, which covers the 23 states east of the Mississippi River.
Commissioned by the Marine Corps in 1986 after completing her undergraduate degree at the Naval Academy, Reynolds has commanded Marines in numerous deployments in Okinawa, Japan; Quantico, VA, Iraq and Afghanistan, notably becoming the first female Marine to hold a command position in a battle zone.
During her historic command in Afghanistan where she took charge of five battalions of the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), she is credited with helping to double the capabilities of a base initially able to house 10,000 Marines and sailors stationed in Helmand Province.
An avid scholar, Reynolds has also attended the Marine Corps University in Quantico, VA, the Naval War College in Newport, RI, and the Army War College in Carlisle, PA.
missions: 2011: Operation Odyssey Dawn
Intervention in Libya
In 2011, Marines were sent back to the shores of Tripoli in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya. The goal of the operation was to prevent the forces of Muammar Gaddafi from carrying out airstrikes on the Libyan rebels.
As the situation in Libya began to deteriorate into a civil war, President Obama made the call to reposition the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) off the coast of Libya. Once Operation Odyssey Dawn was officially underway, Marines were among the first troops to enforce the no-fly zone and conducted numerous successful airstrikes against Gaddafi's forces.
Maj Kenneth Harney, one of the rescued Air Force pilots, recalled the moment of his rescue saying, "As that backdoor opened I see a group of young Marine recon units jump out; that was probably the best feeling I ever felt in my entire life."
missions: 2011: Operation Tomodachi
Strengthening Our Alliance
Hours after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the resulting 124-foot Tsunami decimated Japan, Marines stationed in Okinawa responded with supplies and support as the government mobilized Operation Tomodachi.
With over 45,000 buildings in ruins and a snowstorm dropping temperatures to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, the Marines deployed the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and joined forces with the Japanese Self-Defense force, supplying vital water, heating fuel and other supplies to displaced residents in difficult to reach areas.
Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was one of the buildings badly damaged by the tsunami. Marines from the Chemical, Biological and Incident Response Force (CBIRF) were also deployed to aid the Japanese in the event of a reactor meltdown.
During Operation Tomodachi, Marines strengthened our alliance with Japan by responding quickly and decisively to avert greater disaster.
innovations: 2012: Air-to-Ground
100 years of Marine Aviation
The history of Marine Aviation is best summed up in the words of Marine Aviator #1, First Lieutenant Alfred A. Cunningham: "The only excuse for aviation in any service is its usefulness in assisting troops on the ground."
Since its infancy, Marine aviators have always demonstrated both agility and resolve. From the 1st Marine Aviation Force providing bomber and fighter support to the Navy in WWI, to the perfection of close air support during the Banana Wars, to making aviation history through the combination of rotary-wing and fixed-wing capabilities in the MV-22 Osprey, every chapter was forged by those in the cockpit and the crews that kept them aloft.
Marine Pilots do not fly above the combat zone but at the top of it, forming the lethal air-ground team that continues to sharpen the tip of the spear—and the next 100 years will be no different.
missions: 2012: the 237th Birthday Celebration
Every Marine Shares a Birthday
Each year, Marines all over the world celebrate the birth of the Marine Corps on November 10th, 1775. No matter where they're stationed, whether they're forward deployed or in combat, Marines take time to remember the honor, courage and commitment of their fellow Marines and listen to the Commandant's birthday message to the Corps.
Over the years, other birthday traditions have evolved from the annual Birthday Ball, to the custom of cutting the cake with the sword and serving the first piece to the oldest Marine present and the second piece to the youngest Marine.
This year, the Corps commissioned a video to commemorate some of the great milestones of the past 237 years. From the Revolutionary War to Operation Unified Response, the Marine Corps has been liberating, restoring and protecting our nation with honor, courage and commitment. Happy Birthday, Marines.