Brief History of the United States
Marine Corps

The U.S. Marine Corps was founded in the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia on Nov. 10, 1775; the first commissioned Marine was Captain Samuel Nicholas of Philadelphia, PA.

(The following story was written by Danny J. Crawford, History and Museums Division)

On 10 November 1775, the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia passed a resolution stating that "two Battalions of Marines be raised" for service as landing forces with the fleet. This resolution, sponsored by John Adams, established the Continental Marines and marked the birth date of the United States Marine Corps. Serving on land and at sea, these first Marines distinguished themselves in a number of important operations, including their first amphibious raid into the Bahamas in March 1776, under the command of Captain (later Major) Samuel Nicholas. Nicholas, the first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines, remained the senior Marine officer throughout the American Revolution and is considered to be the first Marine Commandant. The Treaty of Paris in April 1783 brought an end to the Revolutionary War and as the last of the Navy's ships were sold, the Continental Navy and Marines went out of existence.

Following the Revolutionary War and the formal re-establishment of the Marine Corps on 11 July 1798, Marines saw action in the quasi-war with France (1798-1800), landed in Santo Domingo (1800), and took part in many operations against the Barbary pirates along the "Shores of Tripoli" (1801-1815).

Marines participated in numerous naval operations during the War of 1812, as well as participating in the defense of Washington at Bladensburg, Maryland (1814) and fought alongside Andrew Jackson in the defeat of the British at New Orleans (1815). The decades following the War of 1812 saw the Marines protecting American interests around the world, in the Caribbean (1821-1822), at the Falkland Islands (1832), Sumatra (1831-32), and off the coast of West Africa (1820-61), and also close to home in the operations against the Seminole Indians in Florida (1836-42).

During the Mexican War (1846-48), Marines seized enemy seaports on both the Gulf and Pacific coasts. While landing parties of Marines and sailors were seizing enemy ports along the coast, a battalion of Marines joined General Scott's army at Puebla and marched and fought all the way to the "Halls of Montezuma," Mexico City.

Marines served ashore and afloat in the Civil War (1861-1865). Although most service was with the Navy, a battalion fought at Bull Run and other units saw action with the blockading squadrons and at Cape Hatteras, New Orleans, Charleston, and Fort Fisher. The last third of the 19th century saw Marines making numerous landings throughout the world, especially in the Orient and in the Caribbean area.

Following the Spanish-American War (1898), in which Marines performed with valor in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, the Corps entered an era of expansion and professional development. It saw active service in the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902), the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900), and in numerous other nations, including Nicaragua (1899, 1909-10, 1912-13), Panama (1901, 1902, 1903-04), Dominican Republic (1903-1904), 1916-24), Cuba (1906-09, 1912, 1917), Mexico (1914), and Haiti (1915-34).

WWI - Marines in France
(Photo supplied by Donnie Shearer, GySgt, USMC Ret.,
International Combat Camera Assn.)

In World War I the Marine Corps distinguished itself on the battlefields of France as the 4th Marine Brigade earned the title of "Devil Dogs" for heroic action at Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Mihiel, Blanc Mont, and in the final Meuse-Argonne offensive (1918). Marine aviation which dates from 1stLt Alfred A. Cunningham beginning aviation training in the summer of 1912, also played a part in the war effort, flying day bomber missions over France and Belgium. More than 30,000 Marines had served in France and more than a third were killed or wounded in six months of intense fighting.

During the two decades before World War II, the Marine Corps began to develop in earnest the doctrine, equipment, and organization needed for amphibious warfare. The success of this effort was proven first on Guadalcanal, then on Bougainville, Tarawa, New Britain, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. By the end of the war in 1945, the Marine Corps had grown to include six divisions, five air wings, and supporting troops. Its strength in World War II peaked at 485,113. The war had cost the Marines nearly 87,000 dead and wounded and 81 Marines had earned the Medal of Honor.

KOREA (Photo supplied by Donnie Shearer, GySgt, USMC
Ret., International Combat Camera Assn.)

While Marine units were taking part in the post-war occupation of Japan and North China, studies were being undertaken at Quantico, Virginia, which concentrated on attaining a "vertical envelopment" capability for the Corps through the use of helicopters. Landing at Inchon, Korea in September 1950, Marines proved that the doctrine of amphibious assault was still viable and necessary. After the recapture of Seoul, the Marines advanced to the Chosin Reservoir only to see the Chinese Communists enter the war. After years of offensives, counter- offensives, seemingly endless trench warfare, and occupation duty, the last Marine ground troops were withdrawn in March 1955. More than 25,000 Marines had been killed or wounded during the Korean War.

Reestablishment of the Marine Corps
This act of 11 July 1798 reestablished the United States Marine Corps under the Constitution:

(Photo supplied by Donnie Shearer, GySgt, USMC
Ret., International Combat Camera Assn.)

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in addition to the present military establishment, there shall be raised and organized a corps of marines, which shall consist of one major, four captains, sixteen first lieutenants, twelve second lieutenants, forty-eight sergeants, forty-eight corporals, thirty-two drums and fifes, and seven hundred and twenty privates, including the marines who have been enlisted, or are authorized to be raised for the naval armament; and the said corps may be formed into as many companies or detachments, as the President of the United States shall direct, with a proper distribution of the commissioned and non-commissioned officers and musicians to each company or detachment.

First Flag Iwo Jima
(Photo supplied by Donnie Shearer, GySgt, USMC
Ret., International Combat Camera Assn.)

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the pay and subsisteuce of the said officers, privates and musicians, shall be as follows, to wit: To a major, fifty dollars per month, and four rations per day; to a captain, forty dollars per mouth, aud three rations per day; to a first lieutenant, thirty dollars per mouth, and three rations per day; to a second lieutenant, twenty-five dollars per month, and two rations per day; and to the nom-commissioned officers, privates and musicians, conformably to the act, intituled "An act providing a naval armament," as shall be fixed by the President of the United States: And the President of the United States shall be, and is hereby authorized to continue the enlistment of marines, until the said corps shall be complete; and of himself, to Appoint the commissioned officers, whenever, in the recess of the Senate, an appointment shall be necessary. And the enlistments, which shall be made by virtue hereof, may be for the term of three years, subject to be discharged by the President of the United States, or by the ceasing or repeal of the laws providing for the naval armament. And if the marine corps, or any part of it, shall be ordered by the President to do duty on shore, aud it shall become necessary to appoint an adjutant, paymaster, quartermaster, sergeant-major, quartermaster-sergeant, and drum and fife-major, or any of them, the major or commandant of the corps, is hereby authorized to appoint such staff officer or officers, from the line of subalterns, sergeants and music, respectively, who shall be entitled, during the time they shall dosuch duty, to the same extra pay and emoluments, which are allowed by law, to officers acting in the same capacities in the infantry.

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That the detachments of the corps of marines hereby authorized, shall be made in lieu of the respective quotas of marines, which have been established or authorized for the frigates, and other armed vessels and gallies, which shall be employed in the service of the United States: And the President of the United States may detach and appoint such of the officers of this marine corps, to act on board the frigates, and any of the armed vessels of the United States, respectively, as he shall, from time to time, judge necessary; any thing in the act "providing a naval armament" to the contrary hereof notwithstanding.

Iwo Jima - (Photo supplied by Donnie Shearer,
GySgt, USMC Ret., International Combat Camera Assn.)

Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That the officers, non-commissioned officers, privates and musicians aforesaid, shall take the same oath, and shall be governed by the same rules and articles of war, as are prescribed for the military establishment of the United States, and by the rules for the regulation of the navy, heretofore, or which shall be established by law, according to the nature of the service in which they shall be employed, and shall be entitled to the same allowance, in case of wounds or disabilities, according to their respective ranks, as are granted by the act "to ascertain and fix the military establishment of the United States."

Iwo Jima Marines of the 5th
(Photo supplied by Donnie Shearer,
GySgt, USMC Ret., International Combat Camera Assn.)

Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That the non-commissioned officers, musicians, seamen and marines, who are or shall be enlisted into the service of the United States; and the non-commissioned officers and musicians, who are or shall be enlisted into the army of the United States, shall be, and they are hereby exempted, during their term of service, from all personal arrests for any debt or contract.

Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That the marine corps, established by this act, shall, at any time, be liable to do duty in the forts and garrisons of the United States, on the sea-coast, or any other duty on shore, as the President, at his discretion, shall direct.

Approved, July 11, 1798

History of Marine Corps Aviation - Introduction and Contents

(Photo supplied by Donnie Shearer, GySgt, USMC
Ret., International Combat Camera Assn.)

While Pappy Boyington and his Black Sheep Squadron of World War Two are the most famous Marine Corps aviators, "Leatherneck" fliers have contributed to the operations of the Corps, from WWI to the present.

The first USMC pilots, Alfred Cunningham and Roy Gieger, began in 1912. In the First World War, the Marine fliers demonstrated their versatility: flying anti-submarine patrols as well as front-line bombing missions. Between the wars, it was a struggle for survival, as tight budgets and isolationism limited funding.

But during World War 2, Marine aviation grew exponentially, from 145 pilots in 1936 to over 10,000 by V-J Day. Aces like Gregory "Pappy" Boyington and Joe Foss won the headlines and medals, and deserve their prominence. But the dive bombers, torpedo bombers, and pilots flying ground attack displayed the same valor. In Korea and Vietnam, it was more of the same - close support for the grunts on the ground, whether in Panther jets, Douglas Skyraiders, or helicopters.

Early USMC Recruitment Letters Notes...

Boston, Mass., July 1917

Harvard's great Eddie Mahon was accepted for enlistment in the Marine Corps on June 27, at Boston. Mahan led Harvard's eleven against Yale in 1915 and delivered the "Bull Dog" its biggest walloping.

Muskogee, Oklahoma, July 1917

After walking over fifty miles to enlist in the Marine Corps, John Franklin was rejected in Muskogee, Oklahoma, due to his cork leg. Franklin told Sgt.Herrman that he had been plowing on a farm near Wilberton, Okla., but that he did not have enough money to pay his railroad fare to Muskogee. Consequently he walked, working from house to house for his meals. His cork leg was noticeable only after he was stripped.

Butte, Montana, July 1917

Ethan Allen, a direct descendent of the original Ethan Allen, of Fort Ticonderoga fame, was accepted for enlistment in the Marine Corps at Butte, Montana, on June 28. Allen has been principal of the school at Whitehall, Montana for the past three years and has also taught in Ohio and North Dakota.

Buffalo, N.Y., July 1917

To Sergeant George B. McGee, I am the mother of a very unruly boy. He is 17 years last August, most 6 feet in height, never been sick a day, and I would like very much to enlist him in the Marines at once. I must do something before it is too late. He just came home to me drunk and my heart is broken. I can't see this sorrow any longer: he is getting worse every day. Can you send a man here that could enlist him? Now please answer this.
(Sgd.) H.L.V.

Memphis, Tennessee, July 1917

The metal signs are all right, but I believe that other recruiters will agree with me that they should be larger and changed in one respect, i.e., by showing a picture of a Marine or some similar illustration. The following incident will bear out this point. C.B. Starne, boatswain's mate, 1st class, of the Navy recruiting station and myself were out the other day tacking up these signs, and went into a store to ask permission to tack them on the fence. The owner came out and asked to see one of the signs, and the one he saw was the Marine Corps sign. He said that I was the first "cigar salesman" he had ever seen that wore a uniform and he asked if I was advertising for "U.S. Marine cut plug tobacco".
Sgt. Baumgras, USMC


Boston, Mass., June 14, 1918

Francis Parkman, the giant Harvard oarsman, will be a Marine provided the Corps can furnish a big enough uniform. Parkman is 6 ft. 4 in. in height, two inches above the maximum in the Marine Corps. When he applied for enlistment a few days ago after the Harvard crew had defeated Yale, the recruiting officers were so enthusiastic over his splendid physical condition they telegraphed Washington for special permission to waive the rule limiting the height of recruits. Today, authorization to enlist the athlete was received with the stipulation "provided you can fit him with a uniform."

New Haven, Conn., May 8, 1917

Five of Yale's leading athletes, of whom four have captained Yale teams, are today enrolled for service with the Marines. They are Harry Le Gore, the baseball captain and football star; Holcomb York, of the hockey team; Louis Ferguson, who captained one of Yale's best swimming teams, and Johnny Overton, the track and cross-country team captain and cross-country inter-collegiate champion. All four will receive temporary commissions. Rex Hutchinson, the football center and baseball outfielder, has also joined the Marine Corps.

Recruiters' Bulletin, April 1917

John P. Fredd, a prosperous farmer of Pottstown, Pa., and a Civil War Marine, aged 72, has offered his services to the Major General Commandant in such capacity as he is suited.

Salt Lake City, Utah, June 1917

On May 24 I did a little advertising for the Marine Corps through the use of a show wagon in the parade of the Hagenback & Wallace Circus. On the back of the wagon I had a Marine Corps recruiting flag and on both sides had a storm flag. Wagon was otherwise decorated with flags and pictures and I rode on top. My companion was an Arab in native dress. I distributed literature along the line of march. The wagon was the best in the show and was drawn by eight horses.
Sgt. Frank R. Busch, USMC

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