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During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress passes a resolution stating that “two Battalions of Marines be raised” for service as landing forces for the recently formed Continental Navy. The resolution, drafted by future U.S. president John Adams and adopted in Philadelphia, created the Continental Marines and is now observed as the birth date of the United States Marine Corps.
Serving on land and at sea, the original U.S. Marines distinguished themselves in a number of important operations during the Revolutionary War. The first Marine landing on a hostile shore occurred when a force of Marines under Captain Samuel Nicholas captured New Providence Island in the Bahamas from the British in March 1776. Nicholas was the first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines and is celebrated as the first Marine commandant. After American independence was achieved in 1783, the Continental Navy was demobilized and its Marines disbanded.
In the next decade, however, increasing conflict at sea with Revolutionary France led the U.S. Congress to establish formally the U.S. Navy in May 1798. Two months later, on July 11, President John Adams signed the bill establishing the U.S. Marine Corps as a permanent military force under the jurisdiction of the Department of Navy. U.S. Marines saw action in the so-called Quasi-War with France and then fought against the Barbary pirates of North Africa during the first years of the 19th century. Since then, Marines have participated in all the wars of the United States and in most cases were the first soldiers to fight. In all, Marines have executed more than 300 landings on foreign shores.
Today, there are more than 200,000 active-duty and reserve Marines, divided into four divisions stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Camp Pendleton, California; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Okinawa, Japan. Each division has one or more expeditionary units, ready to launch major operations anywhere in the world on two weeks’ notice. Marines expeditionary units are self-sufficient, with their own tanks, artillery, and air forces. The motto of the service is Semper Fidelis, meaning “Always Faithful” in Latin.
READ MORE: 7 Things You May Not Know About the U.S. Marine Corps
A Brief History Of The Military’s Unsightly ‘Birth Control Glasses’
Anyone who served in the U.S. armed forces in the last half-century or so is likely familiar with the standard-issue GI eyeglasses. With thick brown rims and lenses that looked like magnifying glasses, they were so unattractive that wearing them effectively reduced the chances of getting laid to near zero.
The S9s, more commonly known as “birth control glasses” or BCGs, were issued to U.S. troops for decades until 2012, when officials at the Department of Defense realized their iconically awful prescription eyewear actually functioned as a major cockblock for thousands of libidinous service members who would rather be blind than wear such atrocious spectacles.
Over the last five years, the Pentagon has gradually switched to the smaller, black-rimmed 5A glasses that take us back to an era when wannabe punk rockers everywhere donned the spectacles to look fly. But around the same time military scrapped the ghastly S9s, those civilian punks who made black-rimmed glasses popular in the first place grew up, got jobs, and reinvigorated the market for what appear to be overpriced military-style BCGs.
Those chunky glasses have become so mainstream that you can actually purchase them at *such classy* eyewear purveyors from Lenscrafters to Warby Parker. One site even refers to them specifically as BCGs, with specific reference to the military.
(If you’re looking for authentic BCGs, there are sites across the internet, including Etsy and Ebay, where you can buy vintage military-issue S9s.)
It’s worth noting, of course, that the BCGs weren’t designed solely for a government-sponsored abstinence program.
The original BCGs were introduced during World War II, when, amid frantic recruiting for the the Allied campaigns in Europe and the Pacific, the Army accepted tons of soldiers with bad eyesight. An officer by the name of Lt. Col. F. C. Tyng, who was commanding Fort McClellan in Alabama, wrote in a June 5, 1941 letter that 75 men under his charge had their glasses broken and couldn’t afford to purchase new ones, according to Army Office of Medical History records.
“In less than a month, on recommendation of the Surgeon General, the Medical Department was directed to provide spectacles, repairs, and replacements to all military personnel needing them,” records show.
To address the problem, the Army had decided it would need to develop its own glasses, and the department originally sought options from nine suppliers. After recognizing the difficulty of maintaining nine different vendor contracts, the Army decided on American Optical Co. to deliver 200,000 pairs of glasses to needy soldiers.
After a few months, however, the company failed to produce the quantity and quality needed by soldiers, and the Army selected Bausch & Lomb Co. instead. But the Army’s request was grossly below the actual need. “It had been estimated that 250,000 pairs would be required in 1943. [Overall] 2,250,000 pairs were issued,” Army records show.
The first pair of Army glasses consisted of metal, including nickel and silver. But after World War II, the Army made the switch to silver cellulose acetate frames until 1968, after which the military made the switch to black cellulose acetate frames. In the mid-1970s, the branch finally introduced the now-infamous brown acetate “S9” spectacles that remained in service until 2012.
We can’t fathom how many GIs were denied every living being’s God-given right to violently shed their virginity because of a half-century of BCGs. But somehow, the iconic eyewear has gone from reviled standard-issue gear to hot commodity. So if you’ve still got a pair, throw those babies on after decades in the BCG doghouse, you might finally be considered one, too.
OUR HERITAGE: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE U.S. MARINE CORPSOn November 10, 1775, the Second 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 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 Samuel Nicholas. The first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines, Nicholas 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, landed in Santo Domingo, and took part in many operations against the Barbary pirates along the "Shores of Tripoli" Marines took part in numerous naval operations during the War of 1812, as well as participating in the defense of Washington at Bladensburg, Maryland, and fought alongside Andrew Jackson in the defeat of the British at New Orleans.
The decades following the War of 1812 saw the Marines protecting American interests around the world, in the Caribbean, at the Falkland Islands, Sumatra and off the coast of West Africa, and also close to home in operations against the Seminole Indians in Florida. During the Mexican War (1846-1848), Marines seized enemy seaports on both the Gulf and Pacific coasts. A battalion of Marines joined General Winfield Scott's army at Pueblo and fought all the way to the "Halls of Montezuma," Mexico City. Marines also 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. 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, Panama, Cuba, Mexico, and Haiti. 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 during 1918 at Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Michiel, Blanc Mont, and in the final Meuse-Argonne offensive.
Marine aviation, which dates from 1912, also played a part in the war effort, as Marine pilots flew day bombing missions over France and Belgium. More than 30,000 Marines 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 cost the Marines nearly 87,000 dead and wounded, and 82 Marines had earned the Medal of Honor.
While Marine units took part in the post-war occupation of Japan and North China, studies were 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 were killed or wounded during the Korean War.
In July 1958, a brigade-size force landed in Lebanon to restore order. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, a large amphibious force was marshaled but not landed. In April 1965, a brigade of Marines landed in the Dominican Republic to protect Americans and evacuate those who wished to leave. The landing of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Da Nang in 1965 marked the beginning of large-scale Marine involvement in Vietnam. By summer 1968, after the enemy's Tet Offensive, Marine Corps strength in Vietnam rose to a peak of approximately 85,000. The Marine withdrawal began in 1969 as the South Vietnamese began to assume a larger role in the fighting the last Marine ground forces were out of Vietnam by June 1971.
The Vietnam War, longest in the history of the Marine Corps, exacted a high cost as well with over 13,000 Marines killed and more than 88,000 wounded. In the spring of 1975, Marines evacuated embassy staffs, American citizens, and refugees in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. In May, Marines played an integral role in the rescue of the crew of the SS Mayaguez captured off the coast of Cambodia.
The mid-1970s saw the Marine Corps assume an increasingly significant role in defending NATO's northern flank as amphibious units of the 2d Marine Division participated in exercises throughout northern Europe. The Marine Corps also played a key role in the development of the Rapid Deployment Force, a multi-service organization created to insure a flexible, timely military response around the world when needed. The Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS) concept was developed to enhance this capability by prestaging equipment needed for combat in the vicinity of the designated area of operations, and reduce response time as Marines travel by air to link up with MPS assets.
The 1980s brought an increasing number of terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies around the world. Marine Security Guards, under the direction of the State Department, continued to serve with distinction in the face of this challenge. In August 1982, Marine units landed at Beirut, Lebanon, as part of the multi-national peace-keeping force. For the next 19 months these units faced the hazards of their mission with courage and professionalism. In October 1983, Marines took part in the highly successful, short-notice intervention in Grenada. As the decade of the 1980s came to a close, Marines were summoned to respond to instability in Central America. Operation Just Cause was launched in Panama in December 1989 to protect American lives and restore the democratic process in that nation. Less than a year later, in August 1990, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait set in motion events that would lead to the largest movement of Marine Corps forces since World War II. Between August 1990 and January 1991, some 24 infantry battalions, 40 squadrons, and more than 92,000 Marines deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield. Operation Desert Storm was launched 16 January 1991, the day the air campaign began.
The main attack came overland beginning 24 February when the 1st and 2d Marine Divisions breached the Iraqi defense lines and stormed into occupied Kuwait. By the morning of February 28, 100 hours after the ground war began, almost the entire Iraqi Army in the Kuwaiti theater of operations had been encircled, with 4,000 tanks destroyed and 42 divisions destroyed or rendered ineffective.
Overshadowed by the events in the Persian Gulf during 1990-91, were a number of other significant Marine deployments demonstrating the Corps' flexible and rapid response. Included among these were non-combatant evacuation operations in Liberia and Somalia and humanitarian lifesaving operations in Bangladesh, the Philippines, and northern Iraq. In December 1992, Marines landed in Somalia marking the beginning of a two-year humanitarian relief operation in that famine-stricken and strife-torn nation. In another part of the world, Marine Corps aircraft supported Operation Deny Flight in the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina. During April 1994, Marines once again demonstrated their ability to protect American citizens in remote parts of the world when a Marine task force evacuated U.S. citizens from Rwanda in response to civil unrest in that country.
Closer to home, Marines went ashore in September 1994 in Haiti as part of the U.S. force participating in the restoration of democracy in that country. During this same period Marines were actively engaged in providing assistance to the Nation's counter-drug effort, assisting in battling wild fires in the western United States, and aiding in flood and hurricane relief operations.
The Marine Corps continued its tradition of innovation to meet the challenges of a new century. The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory was created in 1995 to evaluate change, assess the impact of new technologies on warfighting, and expedite the introduction of new capabilities into the operating forces of the Marine Corps. Exercises such as “Hunter Warrior,” and “Urban Warrior” were designed to explore future tactical concepts, and to examine facets of military operations in urban environments.
During the late 1990's, Marine Corps units deployed to several African nations, including Liberia, the Central African Republic, Zaire, and Eritrea, in order to provide security and assist in the evacuation of American citizens during periods of political and civil instability in those nations. Humanitarian and disaster relief operations were also conducted by Marines during 1998 in Kenya, and in the Central American nations of Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. In 1999, Marine units deployed to Kosovo in support of Operation Allied Force. Soon after the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., Marine units deployed to the Arabian Sea and in November set up a forward operating base in southern Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In 2002, the Marine Corps continued to play a key role in the Global War on Terrorism. Marines operated in diverse locations, from Afghanistan, to the Arabian Gulf, to the Horn of Africa and the Philippines. Early 2003 saw the largest deployment of Marine forces since the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 when 76,000 Marines deployed to the Central Command area for combat operations against Iraq. The I Marine Expeditionary Force, including Task Force Tarawa and the United Kingdom’s 1st Armored Division, were the first conventional ground units to enter Iraq in late March as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft from the 3d Marine Air Wing provided continuous close air and assault support to Marine and coalition units as they drove deeper into Iraq. On the ground, Marines from I MEF moved nearly 400 miles from the Kuwait border to Baghdad and Tikrit, Iraq, and eliminated the last organized resistance by Iraqi military forces. Although I MEF would transition to stabilization and security operations and then redeploy to the U.S. by late September, I MEF began preparing for a return to Iraq in early 2004. The adaptability and reliability of Marine forces continued to be highlighted around the world from the Horn of Africa to Haiti and to the Philippines.
Across the U.S., Marine units from both coasts fought and contained wildfires, and also supported hurricane relief efforts in various parts of the country. In December, 2004, a tsunami struck numerous nations in the Indian Ocean region killing more than 150,000 and causing enormous devastation. Marine units from III MEF were immediately deployed to Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka to assist in disaster relief operations. In early 2005, the II Marine Expeditionary Force replaced I MEF in Iraq as the primary focus began to shift to partnership operations with the Iraqi Security Forces. Marine units continued to provide air and ground support to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Closer to home, the flexibility and responsiveness of the Navy/Marine team was exhibited during September and October when nearly 3000 Marines and sailors conducted search and rescue, humanitarian relief, and disaster recovery operations in Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Today's Marine Corps stands ready to continue in the proud tradition of those who so valiantly fought and died at Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir, and Khe Sanh. Combining a long and proud heritage of faithful service to the nation, with the resolve to face tomorrow's challenges will continue to keep the Marine Corps the "best of the best."
US Marines history from the year you were born
The U.S. Marine Corps was originally founded as the Continental Marines on Nov. 10, 1775, getting its current moniker 15 years later. In many cases, developments in the Corps have tracked broader changes in American society than just a name, including racial and gender integration, technological advances, and an ever-shrinking world.
In other instances, the Corps has remained exactly as it was at its inception, full of service members displaying extraordinary acts of courage—and a few behaving badly. From occupied Europe to Korea to Vietnam to the Middle East, the theaters of combat may have changed and the success levels may have varied, but the Corps’ mission has remained intact: “To win our Nation’s battles swiftly and aggressively in times of crisis.”
To explore the ways the Marine Corps has expanded and evolved, and to observe some of its most historic moments, Stacker scoured primary documents, news reports, and studies. We've also included Marine Corps strength numbers for each year with data sourced from the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC). What follows is a 100-year history of the U.S. Marine Corps that highlights some of the most momentous moments in this branch of the U.S. military.
- Marine Corps strength: 17,165 (0.02% of U.S. population)
In February 1920, a Marine guard landed on a Russian island called Rusky Island in the Bay of Vladivostok to protect an American-backed radio station broadcasting from the island. The Marines would remain on the island for almost three years, establishing the Siberian city as part of a safe escape route for Russians who fled the Bolsheviks after the revolution.
- Marine Corps strength: 22,990 (0.02% of U.S. population)
Twenty years before World War II, Major E. H. “Pete” Ellis wrote a 30,000-word secret manifesto outlining a strategy for the Marines to win the war he foresaw brewing in the Pacific. In his “Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia,” Ellis predicted that the thousands of islands dotting the Pacific between the U.S. Mainland and Japan would be essential battlegrounds in a war with Japan and that U.S. forces could use these islands, including the Marshall and Caroline Islands, as forward bases.
- Marine Corps strength: 21,233 (0.02% of U.S. population)
To protect American property owners, Marines had been stationed since 1917 in Cuba to protect sugar production and shipping. By 1922, the government was deemed stable enough to safeguard American property interests and sugar exports, and the last Marines left Cuba—almost. A small contingent stayed behind to guard Guantanamo Bay.
- Marine Corps strength: 19,694 (0.02% of U.S. population)
During a period of intense unrest in China during the early 1920s, U.S. Marines were deployed to protect American citizens and interests there from piracy and banditry. In July 1923, the American passenger steamer Alice Dollar was fired upon by several hundred Chinese bandits it sped up and got away, and the next day a Marine escort was able to protect the ship in transit despite another attack.
- Marine Corps strength: 20,332 (0.02% of U.S. population)
A contested election in Honduras in 1924 plunged the country into chaos, violence, and civil war. To protect its business interests and American lives, the U.S. deployed troops to Honduras in February 1924.
- Marine Corps strength: 19,478 (0.02% of U.S. population)
The oldest and most celebrated Marine Corps squadron is nicknamed the “Red Devils,” and their story began in 1925, though they weren't officially deployed for another two years. Officially called VF-3M now and VMFA-232 then, the squadron is based in California. It was awarded two Presidential Unit Citations during World War II. The Red Devils were the last Marines to leave Southeast Asia in 1973.
- Marine Corps strength: 19,154 (0.02% of U.S. population)
In response to a civil war in Nicaragua and at the request of the officially-recognized government, President Calvin Coolidge sent in the Marines in May of 1926. The troops landed at Corinto to establish a neutral zone during a brief armistice so the warring factions could attempt to reach a peace agreement.
- Marine Corps strength: 19,198 (0.02% of U.S. population)
Substantial violence erupted in Shanghai in 1927, including the Shanghai Massacre, in which hundreds of Chinese communists were killed by Chinese warlords and militias. In response to the hostilities, US Marines were deployed near Shanghai and the American consulate at Nanking.
- Marine Corps strength: 19,020 (0.02% of U.S. population)
On New Year's Day in 1928, Nicaraguan revolutionaries called the Sandinistas attacked United States Marines and Nicaraguan National Guardsmen. After a long and bloody battle, the Sandinistas were defeated, but not before 23 Marines had been wounded and five killed.
- Marine Corps strength: 18,796 (0.02% of U.S. population)
In 1929, the Marine Corps authorized a change to its official hymn. Whereas previously the Marine Corps hymn declared: “Admiration of the nation, we're the finest ever seen And we glory in the title, Of United States Marines,” the 1929 change got a bit more specific about just what the Marines did. “First to fight for right and freedom And to keep our honor clean We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine.”
- Marine Corps strength: 19,380 (0.02% of U.S. population)
In Nicaragua, Marines spent months hunting the revolutionary and leader of the rebellion against the U.S. military Augusto Cesar Sandino, whose followers were the Sandinistas. The Marines chased Sandino and his band into the mountains and took him temporarily out of action after an exploding bomb fragment struck him in the leg.
- Marine Corps strength: 16,782 (0.01% of U.S. population)
In response to the Great Depression and an isolationist mood in the U.S., many of the Marine's overseas commitments were cut. For example, the squadron stationed on the island of Guam was withdrawn in February 1931 and permanently disbanded one month later.
- Marine Corps strength: 16,561 (0.01% of U.S. population)
By the end of 1932, so dramatic were the drawbacks around the world that the only overseas Marine aviation commitment was in Haiti. Marines provided training and logistical support for ground forces.
- Marine Corps strength: 16,068 (0.01% of U.S. population)
In 1933, the Fleet Marine Force was established. This force was comprised of a brigade with an attached aviation unit specifically assigned to observe, support, and coordinate with ground forces.
- Marine Corps strength: 16,361 (0.01% of U.S. population)
After almost 20 years of occupation, the last Marines left Haiti in 1934. A major cause of the withdrawal was the new “Good Neighbor Policy” of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which shifted America's primary mode of cooperation with Central and South America to trade instead of military force.
- Marine Corps strength: 17,260 (0.01% of U.S. population)
A major new manual—the "Tentative Landings Operations Manual"—was published in 1935. The manual established best practices for Marines landing on opposition-occupied ground. Large-scale landing operations commenced in Puerto Rico and California to test the manual's theories.
- Marine Corps strength: 17,248 (0.01% of U.S. population)
Representing a significant shift in Marine leadership, Major John H. Russell Jr. retired upon reaching the legal age limit for stepping down. Russell was succeeded by Brigadier General Thomas Holcomb, the 17th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.
- Marine Corps strength: 18,223 (0.01% of U.S. population)
In 1937, both Marine air groups flew together for the first time. To mark the occasion, the First Marine Air Group flew across the country to join the second Marine Air Group in California, where joint exercises were conducted.
- Marine Corps strength: 18,356 (0.01% of U.S. population)
The U.S. Naval Reserve Act of 1938 mandated a “20% increase in strength of the United States Navy.” The Act was a response to the German annexation of Austria and the Japanese occupation of China.
- Marine Corps strength: 19,432 (0.01% of U.S. population)
A new flag for the Marine Corps was adopted in 1939. The new flag was red and gold, whereas the previous one was blue. The new design was the result of a two-year study.
- Marine Corps strength: 28,345 (0.02% of U.S. population)
In response to German aggression across Europe, general mobilization orders were issued for all Marine Corps Reserve Battalions, assigning them to active duty by Nov. 9, 1940.
- Marine Corps strength: 54,359 (0.04% of U.S. population)
At the request of the British, a redesign of Landing Ship Tanks was initiated by the U.S. in 1941. The new Landing Ship Tanks could carry infantry and equipment across oceans and land directly on beaches.
- Marine Corps strength: 142,613 (0.11% of U.S. population)
Per an Executive Order from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the first African American recruits to the Marine Corps began training in 1942. The first African American Marine recruit was Howard P. Perry of Charlotte, North Carolina.
- Marine Corps strength: 308,523 (0.23% of U.S. population)
The Marine Corps became the last branch of America's military to welcome women into its ranks when it authorized a Women's Reserve in 1943. Women were assigned to non-combatant roles, including radio operators, welders, and clerical positions.
- Marine Corps strength: 475,604 (0.34% of U.S. population)
In 1944, the Marines invaded the Marshall Islands, which were a part of the Japanese empire. In the Battle of Kwajalein Atoll, one American life was lost for every 100 Japanese lives, and the subsequent Battle of Eniwetok Atoll lasted only four days, resulting in a resounding victory for the Marines 10 weeks ahead of schedule.
- Marine Corps strength: 469,925 (0.34% of U.S. population)
An island 750 miles off the coast of Japan, Iwo Jima was one of Japan's last lines of defense. After the bloody five-week battle, it is estimated that only 200 of the original 21,000 Japanese soldiers survived.
- Marine Corps strength: 155,679 (0.11% of U.S. population)
When the Magna Carta was returned to Britain after its wartime safe spot at the American Library of Congress, Marines accompanied the seminal document as an honor guard when it was presented to the British Ambassador. An original copy of the Magna Carta had been offered to the U.S. by Great Britain to try and persuade the American government to join World War II on the side of the British before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
- Marine Corps strength: 93,053 (0.06% of U.S. population)
The National Security Act of 1947 significantly reorganized the American military and intelligence services in the aftermath of World War II. The Marine Corps was protected as an independent service under the Department of the Navy.
- Marine Corps strength: 84,988 (0.06% of U.S. population)
In 1948, Marines were sent to Jerusalem to protect the U.S. consular general. The provisional Marine Consular Guard was comprised of Marines originally stationed on the USS Kearsarge at Tripoli.
- Marine Corps strength: 85,965 (0.06% of U.S. population)
In 1949, the last Marines left China after four years of Operation Beleaguer. The operation aimed to repatriate 600,000 Japanese and Koreans and to protect American interests, in which it was largely successful. The scope of the operation's objectives expanded to include the mediation of a peace treaty between the Nationalist and Communist forces, which was unsuccessful.
- Marine Corps strength: 74,279 (0.05% of U.S. population)
President Harry Truman was not a strong supporter of the Marines. In August of 1950, he said: “The Marine Corps is the Navy’s police force, and as long as I’m President, that’s what it will remain. They have a propaganda machine that is almost equal to Stalin’s.” A public controversy ensued, and Truman issued an apology.
Marine Corps strength: 192,620 (0.12% of U.S. population)
The Marine Corps’ Mountain Warfare Training Center was established in 1951 to prepare troops heading to fight in cold, mountainous regions of Korea during the Korean War. Training began in Toiyabe National Forest after the Korean War 15th Draft.
- Marine Corps strength: 231,967 (0.15% of U.S. population)
The Douglas Mansfield Act of 1952 provided significant protections for the Marine Corps. The Act procured a spot on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Corps commandant whenever issues about the Marines were under discussion, and raised the cap on active-duty personnel to 400,000.
- Marine Corps strength: 249,219 (0.16% of U.S. population)
The Congressional Marines Group was established in 1953 by a group of Marine Corps veterans who had been elected to Congress. The group held regular breakfasts and other meetings with high-ranking officers and were notable for their bipartisan nature.
- Marine Corps strength: 223,868 (0.14% of U.S. population)
The Marine Corps War Memorial was dedicated Nov. 10, 1954, on the 179th anniversary of the Marine Corps. The Memorial centers on a sculpture based on the iconic photo of Marines and was cast in bronze in Brooklyn, New York, before being trucked to Washington D.C.
- Marine Corps strength: 205,170 (0.12% of U.S. population)
In 1955 the Marines adopted a new emblem. The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is an adaptation of the emblem that had been in use before 1955, differing only in its addition of an eagle. The new emblem was designed at the request of Marine Corps Commandant General Lemuel C. Shephard Jr.
- Marine Corps strength: 200,780 (0.12% of U.S. population)
During the Suez Crisis in Egypt in 1956, Marines evacuated U.S. nationals and others from Alexandria. Disagreements between Britain and France and the U.S. over how to handle the crisis—caused by the Egyptian government's seizure of the Suez Canal strained relations between the allies.
- Marine Corps strength: 200,861 (0.12% of U.S. population)
The post of Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps was established in 1957. The top non-commissioned officer filling the position reports directly to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The post was the first of its kind in any of the five branches of the Armed Forces.
- Marine Corps strength: 189,495 (0.11% of U.S. population)
Marines landed in Lebanon in 1958, marking the first time U.S. troops were sent to the Middle East. President Eisenhower ordered the invasion to support the Lebanese government, which was considered a U.S. ally at a time when Western influence in the Middle East was perceived to be at risk.
- Marine Corps strength: 175,571 (0.10% of U.S. population)
In 1959, Marine Lt. Col. William Rankin became the only person known to have survived a fall from above a cumulonimbus cloud. He was ejected from his plane at 47,000 feet and fell for 40 minutes through a storm. Miraculously, he survived.
- Marine Corps strength: 170,621 (0.09% of U.S. population)
During the Cuban Revolution, the Second Marine Ground Task Force was dispatched to Cuba to protect U.S. nationals. And there was cause for alarm: Revolutionary leader Fidel Castro had orchestrated the kidnapping of numerous American citizens, including sailors and employees of a mining company.
- Marine Corps strength: 176,909 (0.10% of U.S. population)
In 1961, three Marines were assigned the task of lowering the American flag over the U.S. Embassy in Havana permanently. The reason? Washington was severing diplomatic relations with Cuba following communist Fidel Castro's ouster of American ally Fernando Batista as Cuba's president—an inflection point in the Cold War.
- Marine Corps strength: 190,962 (0.10% of U.S. population)
Marines were sent to Thailand in 1962 to counter a threat from the neighboring communist country of Laos. President John F. Kennedy ordered 5,000 troops to Thailand as communist forces in Laos moved towards the border. The Marines were pulled out just two months later.
- Marine Corps strength: 189,683 (0.10% of U.S. population)
The solemn task of guarding the coffin of President John F. Kennedy fell to Marines in November 1963 after the president's assassination. Marines served as body bearers, stood death watch, and escorted the ambulance with the President's body up the White House driveway.
- Marine Corps strength: 189,777 (0.10% of U.S. population)
A Marine radio detachment in 1964 supported by a reinforced Marines infantry platoon became the first Marines ground unit to conduct operations independently in South Vietnam. The unit redeployed to a 3,500-foot mountain near Da Nang for the summer before disbanding in the fall.
- Marine Corps strength: 190,213 (0.10% of U.S. population)
Following the Cuban Revolution, Americans were particularly sensitive to the idea of a second communist revolution in their hemisphere. So when leftists in the Dominican Republic ousted their leader and took to the streets in 1965, Marines were deployed to Santo Domingo to restore order. American lives were lost, and recently declassified tapes show that President Lyndon B. Johnson regretted the toll the deployment took on his political standing.
- Marine Corps strength: 261,716 (0.13% of U.S. population)
In 1966 the Marines participated in numerous sweeps and combat operations against the Vietcong in and around Da Nang. The goals were to prevent the Vietcong from taking over areas they did not control and to establish resistance in those which they did.
- Marine Corps strength: 285,269 (0.14% of U.S. population)
Just two miles south of the Demilitarized Zone, Con Thein was a Marine outpost that saw extremely fierce fighting in 1967. Marines were stationed at Con Thein to prevent the North Vietnamese from pushing south but were constantly bombarded with Vietcong artillery and sniper fire. In just two years, 1,419 Marines were killed at Con Thein.
- Marine Corps strength: 307,252 (0.15% of U.S. population)
In 1968, Marines grappled—along with the rest of the U.S. military with the Tet Offensive—in which the Vietcong launched assaults on major cities and provinces throughout South Vietnam. The Marines were particularly integral in the defense of the city of Da Nang. “I view with great pride the defense of the Da Nang area by all Division units,” General Donn J. Robertson later wrote. “The enemy has been unable to occupy a single objective in the Da Nang area while he has suffered in excess of 1,100 casualties.”
- Marine Corps strength: 309,771 (0.15% of U.S. population)
With the war in Vietnam in full swing in 1969, the demographics of the Marines were changing. The percentage of Marines volunteers who were high school graduates reached an all-time high of 55.4% that year among inductees, the percentage was even higher: 71.5%.
- Marine Corps strength: 259,737 (0.13% of U.S. population)
In February 1970, five Marines entered the hamlet of Son Thang near Da Nang and killed 16 women and children. The Marines would go on to be tried for murder. Two were acquitted, one was given immunity, and two were convicted.
Marine Corps strength: 212,369 (0.10% of U.S. population)
As a part of the Nixon Administration’s “Vietnamization” strategy, in which the conduct of the war was transferred from the Americans to the South Vietnamese, the last Marine combat units left Vietnam in 1971. However, Marine advisors remained to assist with training the South Vietnamese.
- Marine Corps strength: 198,238 (0.09% of U.S. population)
The Marine Corps had historically cited and celebrated their birthday as Nov. 10, 1775. The Navy had equivocated on its birthdate for decades, placing its founding behind the Marine Corps. But in 1972, it officially declared its birthday to be Oct. 13, 1775, almost a month before the Marines.
- Marine Corps strength: 196,098 (0.09% of U.S. population)
Star New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh broke the news in 1973 that President Richard Nixon had ordered Marines into Laos just two days after his Inauguration in 1969. The 1,500 Marines were said to have sustained very heavy casualties during the operation aimed at North Vietnamese supply lines, with survivors saying half the men were killed or wounded.
- Marine Corps strength: 188,802 (0.09% of U.S. population)
In 1974, the first Marine Corps installation named after an African American was renamed from Montford Point Camp to Camp Johnson. Sergeant Major Gilbert H. “Hashmark” Johnson was one of the first African Americans to join the Corps and served in World War II and Korea.
- Marine Corps strength: 195,951 (0.09% of U.S. population)
Marines were there to help the last Americans leave Saigon as the city fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975. Marines were ordered to burn confidential information on the roof of the American Embassy and evacuated the very last Americans in the country from the same rooftop in dramatic helicopter airlifts.
- Marine Corps strength: 192,399 (0.09% of U.S. population)
On Jan. 3, 1976, a Marine drill instructor at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, claimed he was attempting to scare a struggling recruit by aiming an M-16 rifle he thought was filled with blanks at the recruit. But when Sgt. Robert F. Henson pulled the trigger, he shot clean through the recruit's hand from 50 yards away. The incident led to criminal convictions for Henson and several other drill instructors who tried to cover up what happened.
- Marine Corps strength: 191,707 (0.09% of U.S. population)
A military trial in 1977 heard witnesses testify that Marine commanders at Camp Pendleton were aware of racial incitement from Marines who wore Ku Klux Klan insignia and incited fights with African American Marines at this large base. Witnesses testified that camp officers had been aware of the Klan affiliations and brewing racial tensions and had done nothing to stop them. The KKK members were quietly transferred to other bases.
- Marine Corps strength: 190,815 (0.09% of U.S. population)
1978 was an important year for women in the Marine Corps: Col. Margaret A. Brewer became the first female general in Corps history, and PFC Myra Jepson became the first female honor guard at the White House.
- Marine Corps strength: 185,250 (0.08% of U.S. population)
When Islamist students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and took 52 American hostages, Marine Security Guards were among them. For the next 444 days, the Americans were tortured and starved inside the Embassy while politicians negotiated for their release.
- Marine Corps strength: 188,469 (0.08% of U.S. population)
In an attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran, Marines took part in Operation Eagle Claw in 1980. But a sandstorm grounded and scattered their helicopters, and several Marines died when one struck a refueling plane. The mission was aborted, and the hostages were not released.
- Marine Corps strength: 190,620 (0.08% of U.S. population)
In 1981 the Marines took an important step towards gender equality. On Sept. 15, female Marines became eligible for the first time to compete directly with their male counterparts for promotions.
- Marine Corps strength: 192,380 (0.08% of U.S. population)
On September 29, 1982, President Ronald Reagan deployed 1,200 Marines to Lebanon during that country's Civil War. The next day, the first Marine to die during the mission in Lebanon was killed while diffusing a bomb.
- Marine Corps strength: 194,089 (0.08% of U.S. population)
1983 was a tragic year for the Marines. Lebanese terrorists drove a truck rigged with explosives into Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 servicemen and women.
- Marine Corps strength: 196,214 (0.08% of U.S. population)
Still mired in the violence of Lebanon and reeling from the Marine barracks attack, President Reagan faced tough questions over the wisdom of his military strategy. In an address to the nation soon after the barracks attacks, Reagan vowed the Marines would remain but just four months later, the last Marines left Lebanon. More than 250 of the original 800 Marines deployed had lost their lives.
- Marine Corps strength: 198,025 (0.08% of U.S. population)
Four Marines tragically lost their lives in El Salvador in 1985. The Marines were guards at the American Embassy in San Salvador and were off duty in a cafe when guerrilla gunmen opened fire.
- Marine Corps strength: 198,814 (0.08% of U.S. population)
The American Embassy in Moscow was having a very specific problem with the Marines assigned to guard it: “fraternization” with Soviet women. In April 1986, a Marine was arrested on the charge. “The pattern of fraternization by Marine guards with Soviet women has raised questions about the discipline in the unit assigned to protect embassies around the world,” the New York Times reported, “and about the State Department's supervision of the young single men who serve as guards.”
- Marine Corps strength: 199,525 (0.08% of U.S. population)
The Marine Corps Intelligence Activity was created in 1987 to provide intelligence to both the Marines and the greater American intelligence community. It is part of both the Defense Intelligence Agency and the U.S. intelligence community.
- Marine Corps strength: 197,350 (0.08% of U.S. population)
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran over the mining of sea lanes in the Persian Gulf ran high during the Iran-Iraq War. Marines in April 1988 were sent to board an Iranian oil rig, attach explosives, and detonate it in retaliation for mining that had damaged a Navy vessel a week prior.
- Marine Corps strength: 196,956 (0.08% of U.S. population)
The shooting of an off-duty Marine in Panama on Dec. 16, 1989, led President Reagan to authorize an operation to overthrow the country's autocratic leader, Manuel Noriega. “Operation Just Cause” was completed less than three weeks later with Noriega's arrest by U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officers.
- Marine Corps strength: 196,652 (0.08% of U.S. population)
With Saudi Arabia increasingly nervous over Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait, President George H.W. Bush sent the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit within striking distance of Iraq in the northern Arabian Sea. A senior administration official described the American strategy as intended to “show our commitment” to protecting Saudi Arabia.
- Marine Corps strength: 194,040 (0.08% of U.S. population)
Marines launched a lightning-quick attack on Iraqi forces in occupied Kuwait in February 1991. Operation Desert Storm took just 100 hours, during which time Marines captured 22,000 prisoners, destroyed 1,600 tanks and armored vehicles, defeated 7 Iraqi divisions, and crossed more than 100 miles—all with only five Marines killed.
- Marine Corps strength: 184,529 (0.07% of U.S. population)
In December 1992, 1,800 Marines were deployed to Somalia amid a violent civil war there. The Marines were part of a mission called Operation Restore Hope, which was meant to restore order in the country.
- Marine Corps strength: 178,379 (0.07% of U.S. population)
400 Marines stormed Somali warlord General Mohammad Farah Aidid's compound in January 993, leaving much of the infrastructure in shambles, capturing weapons, and killing many of the general's gunmen. The raid was conducted to send a message to Aidid and his soldiers to stop firing on Marines, aid workers, and journalists.
- Marine Corps strength: 174,158 (0.07% of U.S. population)
Marines took part in a broad 1994 US military campaign to restore democracy to Haiti after a military junta overthrew the country's democratically elected leader. Marines were responsible for an amphibious attack on Cap Haitien and at one point even took over security in Port-au-Prince after Haitian soldiers fled.
- Marine Corps strength: 174,639 (0.07% of U.S. population)
At the height of the Bosnian War, an Air Force captain's F-16 was shot down over Bosnia during a bombing campaign. Marines based on the USS Kearsarge were sent in to rescue him and did so, bringing him back from western Bosnia to their ship.
- Marine Corps strength: 174,883 (0.06% of U.S. population)
Liberia in 1996 was in the throes of a violent and chaotic war, and there was no safe way for American citizens to leave the country. Marines were sent in to aid in evacuating them, plus citizens of other countries. They succeeded in helping 2,444 U.S. citizens and foreign nationals safely leave.
- Marine Corps strength: 173,906 (0.06% of U.S. population)
Esequiel Hernandez Jr. became the first American to be killed by U.S. soldiers on American soil since the violence at Kent State University in 1970. Hernandez was herding his family goats near the southwest border with Mexico when a Marine corporal shot him. Hernandez was carrying his grandfather's rifle (to protect the goats from wild dogs). The Marines say Hernandez shot at them his family disputed that account.
- Marine Corps strength: 173,055 (0.06% of U.S. population)
In August 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered 200 Marines (accompanied by 10 Navy SEALS) to defend the U.S. Embassy in Albania. Non-essential personnel and dependents were evacuated, and Marines stayed to guard the remaining staff.
- Marine Corps strength: 172,635 (0.06% of U.S. population)
Marines on the USS Belleau Wood were dispatched to East Timor in the fall of 1999 to safeguard an Australian-led peacekeeping force that had been dispatched to the country after Indonesian security forces unleashed violence in the region following an independence referendum. “We're not used to that,” a Marine told The Washington Post of the low-key, monitoring, and supervisory role the Marines played. “But you have to be a good follower if you want to be a good leader.”
- Marine Corps strength: 172,955 (0.06% of U.S. population)
In April 2000, all 19 Marines on board died in the crash of an aircraft in the final stages of its introduction, the MV-22 Osprey. It was the third Osprey crash in 10 years, escalating concerns over the safety of the helicopter/turboprop hybrid.
- Marine Corps strength: 176,720 (0.06% of U.S. population)
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Marines were dispatched to Afghanistan as part of the U.S.-led global war on terror. According to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Marines were sent to Afghanistan to “establish and hold a forward operating base,” which would be critical to conducting the war.
- Marine Corps strength: 177,868 (0.06% of U.S. population)
In 2002, Marines were sent to the Horn of Africa for the first time since leaving Somalia in the mid-90s to strike Al Qaeda cells in Yemen. Marines were stationed in friendly Djibouti, where they also trained in desert warfare in preparation for combat across the Middle East.
- Marine Corps strength: 181,166 (0.06% of U.S. population)
Marines took the lead on Operation Iraqi Freedom, serving in the first push toward Baghdad after the U.S. declared war on Mar 20. Marines saved all but 9 of 500 oil wells from sabotage on their way to the capital.
- Marine Corps strength: 177,021 (0.06% of U.S. population)
The Second Battle of Fallujah is one of the most famous in modern Marine Corps history. Combat was initiated in November 2004 to seize the city from insurgent Iraqi control, and the battle was full of heroic Marine exploits, including lifting an armored Humvee off a soldier pinned underneath it. More than 250 Marines and sailors were awarded medals of citation for their bravery in battle.
- Marine Corps strength: 179,840 (0.06% of U.S. population)
The Haditha Massacre was a dark chapter in Marine history. In November 2005, at least 24 Iraqis (including women and children) were killed by Marines during a raid. In part because of errors made by prosecutors at trial, the officer who told his troops to “shoot first, ask questions later” reached a deal to avoid jail time six of the Marines on trial had charges dropped, and the seventh was acquitted.
- Marine Corps strength: 180,252 (0.06% of U.S. population)
The National Museum of the Marine Corps opened in Virginia in 2006 and has become one of the top tourist destinations in Virginia. President George W. Bush spoke at the dedication, saying: “The museum will not make you into a Marine. Only a drill instructor can do that. But by putting you in the boots of a Marine, this museum will leave you with an appreciation of the rich history of the Corps, and the pride that comes with earning the title United States Marine."
- Marine Corps strength: 186,425 (0.06% of U.S. population)
After years of bloody fighting, Marine Corps leadership advocated pulling largely out of Iraq to redeploy to Afghanistan. The idea was to give the Army the lead in the Iraq War while giving the Marines a more prominent role in Afghanistan.
- Marine Corps strength: 198,415 (0.07% of U.S. population)
A year after advocating to lead in Afghanistan, Marines went into the Taliban stronghold of the Helmand Province in Afghanistan in 2008. In April, they launched a campaign of several months that successfully took the Helmand district of Garmsir, which had been held by the Taliban.
- Marine Corps strength: 203,075 (0.07% of U.S. population)
In September 2009, Marine Dakota Meyer was on patrol in Afghanistan when he heard his unit come under Taliban fire over the radio. Defying orders to hold back, Meyer and a friend jumped into a Humvee and went into the ambush zone to rescue wounded Marines. The pair returned five times, saving 36 American lives. Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2011.
- Marine Corps strength: 202,612 (0.07% of U.S. population)
After a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, thousands of Marines went to Haiti to assist with relief efforts. Part of the mission included the distribution of food, water, and other critical supplies, along with establishing a hub for the distribution of supplies elsewhere.
- Marine Corps strength: 201,026 (0.06% of U.S. population)
In November of 2011, President Obama announced that 2,500 Marines would be sent to Australia to support allies in the region. The announcement was harshly criticized by China, which accused the U.S. of escalating military tensions in the area through unnecessary troop buildup.
- Marine Corps strength: 198,820 (0.06% of U.S. population)
A series of controversies from Marines deployed overseas ensnared the Corps in 2012. In the first incident, a group of Marines was recorded urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters. In the second, a photograph was published of a different group of Marines posing with a photograph holding the flag of the Nazi SS.
- Marine Corps strength: 195,848 (0.06% of U.S. population)
The process of fully integrating women into combat roles formally began in 2013, when the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that the Pentagon was lifting a rule that had excluded women from specific combat roles. Not all Marines thought the policy change was a good idea indeed, the Marines were the only branch of service to request an exemption to the rule, which was not granted.
- Marine Corps strength: 187,891 (0.06% of U.S. population)
In 2014, Marines returned to Iraq to help fight a grave new threat in the region. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) overran a significant swath of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014, and Marines were dispatched to help train Iraqi counterparts to fight the insurgents.
- Marine Corps strength: 183,417 (0.06% of U.S. population)
A shooting by a lone gunman at a military recruitment station in Chattanooga, Tenn., resulted in the deaths of four Marines. The shooter was a Kuwaiti-born naturalized U.S. citizen who had become radicalized in the months before the shooting.
- Marine Corps strength: 183,501 (0.06% of U.S. population)
In response to the advances and tenacity of the Islamic State, the U.S. dispatched thousands of more Marines to Iraq in 2016. The mission included ground combat, air support, training of Iraqi forces, and embassy and military outpost security.
- Marine Corps strength: 184,401 (0.06% of U.S. population)
In early 2017, the Marines sent their first squadron of F-35B planes to Japan. The squadron's goals were to introduce the new aircraft to allies and begin including the jet into military plans in advance of deploying them on ships the following year.
- Marine Corps strength: 154,890 (0.05% of U.S. population)
In 2018, Marines were busy battling ISIS forces in Syria. Despite President Trump's assertion that ISIS had been defeated, as many as 30,000 ISIS fighters were still active, and Marines helped defeat the Islamic State.
- Marine Corps strength: 154,909 (0.05% of U.S. population)
Marines reached another major integration milestone in 2019: For the first time, the Corps integrated a small platoon of female recruits into larger training exercises with their male counterparts.
- Marine Corps strength: 181,031 (0.05% of U.S. population)
Commandment Gen. David Berger in March 2020 released a Force Design 2030 document, which identified plans and targets for ongoing, future operations and equipment needs for the U.S. Marine Corps. The full document outlined prioritizing maneuverability—such as nimble, smaller ships rather than tanks—as well as updated operations around exercises, new units, and the like.
- Marine Corps strength: Not yet available
Part of Gen. Berger’s Force Design 2030 also called for manpower cuts to the Marine Corps itself to re-invest funds in technology. The approved 2021 National Defense Authorization Act cut 5,000 Marines from 2020 levels, bringing the number of active-duty Marines to 181,200.
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Sorry, but the real Marine Corps birthday is in July
The U.S. Marine Corps may celebrate its birthday on Nov. 10, but its real birthday is in the middle of July.
It’s a fact that most Marines are probably unaware of but a fact nonetheless, according to the Marine Corps History Division, which records the official institutional and operational history of the service.
The Second Continental Congress passed a resolution that established two battalions of Continental Marines on Nov. 10, 1775, which the Corps now celebrates as its official birthday, with this year marking 245 years of existence.
But as the History Division notes in its Brief History of the United States Marine Corps, the Continental Marine Corps was disbanded after the Revolutionary War “for reasons of economy” in 1783 and ceased to exist for the next 15 years.
“The government auctioned off warships, and the Continental Marines ceased to exist,” as military historian Chester Hearn told The Camp Pendleton Patch. “Major Samuel Nicholas, the first Marine officer, returned to his former occupation as owner of Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.”
It wasn’t until July 11, 1798, that a service known as the United States Marine Corps was established by Congress under the command of the Navy. The act passed by the 5th Congress and signed into law by President John Adams created the nearly 900-man strong Marine Corps, which consisted of one major, four captains, 28 lieutenants, nearly 100 sergeants and corporals, and more than 700 privates.
And for the next 123 years, the Marine Corps recognized its birthday as July 11. As the History Division notes, “an unidentified newspaper clipping from 1918 refers to the celebration of the 120th birthday of the Marine Corps on 11 July ‘as usual with no fuss.’”
Then, in 1921, the good idea fairy caught the attention of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. John A. Lejeune, and suggested the service celebrate its earlier birthdate despite that 15-year gap. From the History Division:
On 21 October 1921, Maj Edwin McClellan, Officer-in-Charge, Historical Section, Headquarters Marine Corps, sent a memorandum to Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune, suggesting that the original birthday on 10 November 1775 be declared a Marine Corps holiday to be celebrated throughout the Corps. Maj McClellan further suggested that a dinner be held in Washington D.C., to commemorate the event. Guests would include prominent men from the Marine Corps, Army, and Navy, and descendants of the Revolution.
Accordingly, on 1 November 1921, MajGen Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921. The order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps, and directed that it be read to every command on 10 November each subsequent year in honor of the birthday of the Marine Corps. This order has been duly carried out.
Hey, look on the bright side: now you can get drunk and celebrate the birth of the Marine Corps twice a year. So Semper Fidelis and happy early birthday!
Paul Szoldrais the Editor in Chief of Task & Purpose and a Marine Corps veteran. Reach out via email or find him on Twitter at @paulszoldra. Contact the author here.
Records of the United States Marine Corps
Established: Under joint administrative control of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy, by an act of July 11, 1798 (1 Stat. 594).
Transfers: To exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. Navy by an act of June 30, 1834 (4 Stat. 712) with the Department of the Navy to the newly established National Military Establishment (NME) by the National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 495), July 26, 1947 with the Department of the Navy to the Department of Defense (formerly NME) by National Security Act Amendments of 1949 (63 Stat. 579), August 10, 1949.
Functions: Provides amphibious forces for service with the fleet and conducts land operations essential to a naval campaign. Provides detachments to serve on naval ships, to protect property of naval activities, and to maintain security at U.S. diplomatic missions abroad.
Finding Aids: Maizie Johnson, comp., Inventory of the Records of the United States Marine Corps, Inv. 2 (1970) updated version in National Archives microfiche edition of preliminary inventories.
Security-Classified Records: This record group may include material that is security-classified.
Record copies of publications of the U.S. Marine Corps in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.
General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1798-1947, RG 80.
General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1947- , RG 428.
127.2 Records of The Office of the Commandant
127.2.1 General records
Textual Records: Letters sent, 1798-1801, 1804-1911, with indexes, 1848-1904. Letters received, 1799-1903 (418 ft.). General correspondence, 1904-38 (648 ft.), with indexes and synopsis cards, 1904-12. General correspondence, 1939-50. Orders issued and received, 1798-1886.
127.2.2 Records of the Division of Information and its
predecessor, the Division of Public Relations
Textual Records: General correspondence, 1942-50. Individual news release submission files of former public information personnel, 1943-47. News releases, 1941-47. Biweekly production and distribution reports, 1942-46. Combat Correspondent's Bulletin, 1944-45. "Public Information Digest," 1945-46.
127.2.3 Records of other staff divisions
Textual Records: General correspondence of the Intelligence Section, Division of Operations and Training, 1913-39. Records accumulated by the Historical Division, including letters received principally by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, 1798- 1915, with a card register records of overseas units, 1889-1914 records relating to U.S. Marine Corps activities in Nicaragua, 1927-33 scrapbooks of clippings, 1880-1901, 1908-9 reference collection of external military command documents, 1948-78 reference collection of military and State Department documents, 1948-78 and publications and supporting records relating to preparation of Marines in the Revolution: A History of the Continental Marines in the American Revolution, 1775-83 1972-79. General correspondence and war plans of the Division of Plans and Policies, 1915-47.
127.2.4 Other records
Textual Records: General correspondence of the officer in charge of recruiting, 1921-39. Reports relating to engagements of Marine Corps personnel in the Philippines and China, 1899-1901. Captured Japanese records relating to operations at Bougainville, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima, 1942-45.
127.3 Records of The Adjutant and Inspector's Department
127.3.1 General records
Textual Records: Letters sent, 1819-26, 1832-1911. Letters received, 1835-49, 1851-99, with registers, 1895-1905. Formerly security-classified correspondence, 1907-36. Orders, 1876-84. Circular letters, 1903-10.
127.3.2 Personnel records
Textual Records: Records relating to officers, consisting of rosters, 1821-50 registers, 1819-48 military histories, 1869- 73, 1899-1911 and monthly reports, 1821-1911, with gaps. Records relating to enlisted men, consisting of service records, 1798- 1906 (490 ft.) size rolls, 1798-1901 descriptive lists, 1879- 1906 and an alphabetical card list, 1798-1941 (367 ft.). Registers of courts-martial, 1897-1906, 1919-33 desertions, 1809-1907, 1910-41 discharges, 1829-1927 and deaths, 1838-1942. Casualty card lists, 1776-1945. Strength and casualty reports, 1775-1971. Muster rolls, 1798-1945 (1,285 vols.) and 1798-1953 (4,172 rolls of microfilm see note under Related Records below). General returns, 1821-1914. Certificate books containing service information, 1837-1911, with gaps.
Microfilm Publication: T1118.
Related Records: National Archives maintains security copy of microfilm of muster rolls, 1893-1953 (4,074 rolls). Reference copy available only at Marine Corps Historical Center, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC. Muster rolls for 1945-53 exist only on microfilm.
127.4 Records of The Paymaster's Department
Textual Records: Letters sent, 1808-14. Press copies of letters sent, 1886, 1898-1902. Letters received, 1809-14. General correspondence, 1909-39.
127.5 Records of The Quartermaster's Department
Textual Records: Letters sent, 1813-14, 1823-53, 1857-60, 1860- 63. Press copies of letters sent, 1860-1903, with registers, 1870-73, 1878-99. Letters received, 1827-99, with gaps and registers, 1870-99. Letters sent and received, 1900-12, chiefly 1900. General correspondence, 1918-42, with indexes, 1918-26, and filing guides, 1927-42.
127.6 Records of The Marine Corps Finance Center
Textual Records: Administrative directives and related manuals, 1968-73 (in Kansas City).
127.7 Records of Marine Barracks and Other Shore Establishments
in the United States
Finding Aids: Fred G. Halley, "Preliminary Checklist of the Records of the United States Marine Corps, 1798-1944," PC 50 (Sept. 1946).
127.7.1 Records of the Marine Barracks, Washington, DC
Textual Records: Letters sent, 1837-48, 1874-1912. Reports, 1802- 68, 1908-18. Sergeant of the Guard daily reports, 1907-27. Records of courts-martial, 1892-1904. Rifle range qualification data, 1915-17. Conduct record book, 1903-4. Muster books, 1906- 11. Log book of government property entering or leaving Washington Barracks, 1909. Record book of discharged and deserted personnel, 1909-11. Order book, 1900-4. Clothing and supply requisition records, 1837-48.
127.7.2 Records of other marine barracks
Note: Additional records described below are candidates for transfer to regional archives. Please consult the National Archives to determine current locations.
Textual Records: Records of the Marine Barracks, Boston (Charlestown), MA (in Boston), consisting of letters sent, 1828- 1912, with gaps letters received, 1896-1913 orders, 1867-1905 muster rolls, 1825-1911, with gaps reports, 1815-1913, 1937-38 and records of summary courts-martial, 1870-75. Reports of a detachment stationed at the Marine Barracks, Key West, FL, 1898, and at the Marine Barracks, Norfolk, VA, 1899 (in Atlanta). Reports of the Marine Barracks, New London, CT, 1910-11 (in Boston). Records of the Marine Barracks, New York, NY, consisting of letters sent, 1848-51 and size rolls and clothing returns, 1822-25. Records of the Marine Barracks, Norfolk, VA (in Philadelphia), consisting of letters sent by the commanding officer, 1817-1909, with gaps and reports, 1865-1915. Letters received by the Marine Barracks, Pensacola, FL, 1882-84 (in Atlanta). Records of the Marine Barracks, Philadelphia, PA (in Philadelphia), consisting of letters sent, 1847-1911 orders, 1825-59, 1865-66 register of letters received, 1904-11 muster rolls, 1839-59 requisitions, 1904-5 and reports, 1865-66, 1876- 77, 1898-1902. Records of the Marine Barracks, Portsmouth, NH (in Boston), consisting of reports, 1824-26, 1897-98 descriptive lists of marines joining the barracks, 1897-1908 and muster roll of officers and enlisted man, 1908.
127.7.3 Records of other shore establishments
Textual Records: Records of the Depot of Supplies, Philadelphia, PA, consisting of reports, 1859-1911 and accounting records of purchases made for Haiti, Nicaragua, and Santo Domingo, 1921-34. Reports of the Marine Officer's School, Port Royal, SC, 1910-11 (in Atlanta).
127.8 Records of Expeditionary Forces and Detachments
127.8.1 Records of U.S. Marines in Haiti
Textual Records: General correspondence, 1923, 1925 and intelligence reports, 1921-34, of the Gendarmerie d'Haiti and Garde d'Haiti. Special correspondence, 1919-20 general correspondence, 1921-23 reports relating to operations in Haiti and Santo Domingo, 1915-21 and selected subject files, 1929-34, of the Chief of the Gendarmerie. Correspondence, 1927-34 and a biographical file, 1926-34, of the Office of the Chief of Police. General correspondence, 1915-25, 1930-34 selected subject correspondence, 1926-29 condition estimates and inspection reports, 1920-23 patrol reports, 1924 and daily reports of guard mounts, 1932-34, of the 1st Marine Brigade. Copies of the newspaper Le Moniteur, Port-au-Prince, 1910-23.
127.8.2 Records of U.S. Marines in Nicaragua
Textual Records: Correspondence of the Jefe Director, 1927-32 Intelligence Department (GN-2), 1928-32 and Operations Department (GN-3), 1928-32, of the Guardia Nacional. Guardia Nacional correspondence relating to civilian complaints, District of Matagalpa, 1928, and to bandit prisoners, 1929-31. Intelligence reports and other Guardia Nacional records, District of Leon, 1928. General correspondence, intelligence reports, and patrol reports, 2d Marine Brigade, 1927-32 and correspondence of the brigade Intelligence Office (B-2), 1927-29, and Operations Office (B-3), 1928-29. Intelligence reports, 1927-29, and other records, 1927-32, of the 5th Marine Regiment and records of its 1st and 3d Battalions, 1927-30. Reports from Marine units in Nicaragua, 1927-32.
127.8.3 Records of other field organizations and detachments
Note: Additional records described below are candidates for transfer to regional archives. Please consult the National Archives to determine current locations.
Textual Records: Records of detachments aboard coastal vessels in Florida, 1835-38, and aboard U.S.S. Preble, 1840-43. Records of the marine guard on U.S.S. Guerriere, 1867-69. Letters sent and received by the marine guard at the Paris Exposition, 1878-79. Records of U.S. Marines in Cuba, 1898-99, 1908-9, 1911. Letters sent and received, Marine Provisional Battalion, U.S.S. Dixie, 1904. Morning reports of the Panama Battalion, 1909-10. Records of Marine Corps companies, Guam, 1927-31. General correspondence of the marine detachment at the American legation in Peiping, 1930-34. Administrative file, Marine Corps Air Station, St. Thomas, VI, 1942-47. Administrative file, Marine Corps Air Station, Ewa, HI, 1942-49 (in San Francisco).
127.9 Records of Marine Units
Textual Records: Records of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, including general correspondence, 1942-46 and "geographical" operation file ("Area File"), 1940-46. Geographical and subject files of the 2d Brigade, Fleet Marine Force, 1933-42. General correspondence, 1st-6th Marine Divisions, 1941-46. Organization records of ground combat units, 1941-46. Correspondence and reports of Headquarters, 2d Marine Division, 1942-49. Correspondence of the 1st, 3d, and 10th Marine Defense Battalions, 1943-44. Issuances, 1914, and correspondence, 1917- 19, of the 5th Marine Regiment. Administrative records of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, 1942-47. Aircraft action reports of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, 1944-47. Records of the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, consisting of correspondence and reports, 1941-45 and administrative file, issuances, and miscellaneous personnel reports, 1946. Selected general correspondence files, 1933-34, and logbooks, 1931-34, of Marine Aircraft Squadrons VS-14M and VS-15M.
127.10 Cartographic Records (General)
Maps: World War I published topographic maps of France and Germany, annotated to show operations of the 4th Marine Infantry Brigade, 1918-19 (213 items). Published maps, some with annotations, relating to Marine Corps operations during World War II on Bougainville, Mono, Saipan, New Ireland, New Georgia, Rendova, and Kolobangara islands, 1942-44 (99 items). Airfields in the Western Pacific Ocean, 1941 (1 item). Marine Corps School maps of the Battle of Gettysburg, 1932 (1 item). Strategic map of the Pacific Ocean, 1920 (1 item). U.S. island possessions, 1885-1926 (9 items).
Maps and Plans (627 items): Marine Corps installations in the United States, 1910-39 (51 items). Manuscript and published maps and plans, relating to the Azores, 1918 (1 item) Caribbean, 1883, 1913-40, and n.d. (7 items) Central America, 1904-35 (70 items) China, 1921-43 (75 items) Cuba, 1906-33 (35 items) Dominican Republic, 1916-33 (48 items) Haiti, 1915-34 (115 items) Ireland, n.d. (1 item) Korea, 1913-14 (1 item) Mexico, 1914-20 (6 items) Nicaragua, 1910-33 (215 items) and Venezuela, ca. 1936 (2 items).
Charts (3 items): Marine Corps organization, 1926-28.
Finding Aids: Charlotte M. Ashby, comp., Preliminary Inventory of the Cartographic Records of the United States Marine Corps, PI 73 (1954).
127.11 Motion Pictures (General)
Unedited documentary black and white and color film footage from the U.S. Marine Corps Motion Picture and Television Archives, Quantico, VA, of significant activities of the Marine Corps, including combat footage from World War II and Korea, aviation, amphibious landings, and important military leaders, 1940-60 (2,913 reels) with supporting documentation (5 rolls of microfilm and 15,450 microfiche). World War II training films and films of combat in the South Pacific, 1939-45 (21 reels).
127.12 Sound Recordings (General)
Marine Corps recruiting broadcasts, 1942-43 (5 items). Audio tapes of radio program "Marine Diary," 1978-80 (93 items).
127.13 Still Pictures (General)
Photographs (197,904 images):History and activities of the Marine Corps, 1905-41 (G, 16,650 images EX, 30 images), including photographs of artwork depicting events dating back to 1775. Commandants of the Marine Corps, 1941 (PC, 15 images), including photographs of portraits dating back to 1776. Marine officers, 1905-45 (PG, 80 images), including photographs of portraits dating back to 1804. Presidential administrations from Theodore Roosevelt to Lyndon B. Johnson, 1905-68 (PR, 1,000 images), including photographs of portraits of earlier presidents dating from 1789. Marines and government officials, 1870-1941 landing fields in Haiti and Santo Domingo, 1923, and the 3d Marine Brigade in China, 1927-29 (M, 150 images). Marine activities in Nicaragua, 1912-31 (NP, 97 images). Marine aviators and aircraft, 1931-37 (MA, 25 images). Combat and noncombat activities, principally Pacific theaters of operations, World War II, and postwar occupation of Japan, 1939-58, but primarily 1942- 45 (GW, 52,164 images). Combat and noncombat activities in Korea, 1950-58, but mainly 1950-53 (GK, 14,007 images). Training, combat preparedness activities, support services, and ceremonies, primarily in the United States, 1939-58 (GC, 40,492 images). Training and other activities, including the Alfred A. Cunningham Collection (aviation), the David D. Duncan Collection (Pacific theater, World War II), and the Hans Knoff Collection (Parris Island, SC Camp Lejeune, NC Quantico, VA and Guantanamo, Cuba), 1939-58 (GS, 15,453 images). Photographs of Navajo Indian "Code-talkers" in the U.S. Marine Corps, 1943-48 (20 images). Photographs of African Americans and women in the U.S. Marine Corps, 1943-69 (MM, 18 images). Black and white photographs of Marine Corps activities in Vietnam, 1962-75 (GVB, 10,100 images). Color photographs of Marine Corps activities in Vietnam, 1962-75 (GVC, 4,700 images). Ready-reference file, duplicating photographs in other series, selected by the Marine Corps as representative of its activities and used and maintained by the Still Media Records Center, Department of Defense, 1940-81 (GR, 3,000 images GG, 40,000 images).
Photographic Negatives and Color Transparencies (318,038 images): U.S. Marine Corps central photographic file ("General File"), consisting of images documenting the history of the Marine Corps, including those used to produce photographic prints described above, 1871-1958 (N, 263,200 images).
Finding Aids: Photographic negative logbooks for U.S. Marine Corps photographs, 1943-81. Indexes to photographs of Marine Corps and noted civilian personalities, 1927-81.
Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette et al. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995.
3 volumes, 2428 pages.
This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1995.
Birth of the U.S. Marine Corps - HISTORY
Marine Corps Birthday : (excerpt from Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines, copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey)
All U.S. Marines are gung-ho. But, few can match the vision and total commitment of the famous 13th Commandant, Gen. John A. Lejeune. In 1921 he issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921.
Gen. Lejeune's order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps. It further directed that the order be read to all Marines on 10 November of each year to honor the founding of the Marine Corps. Thereafter, 10 November became a unique day for U.S. Marines throughout the world.
Soon, some Marine commands began to not only honor the birthday, but celebrate it. In 1923 the Marine Barracks at Ft. Mifflin, Pennsylvania, staged a formal dance. The Marines at the Washington Navy Yard arranged a mock battle on the parade ground. At Quantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Marine baseball team played a Cuban team and won, 9 to 8.
The first "formal" Birthday Ball took place on Philadelphia in 1925. First class Marine Corps style, all the way! Guests included the Commandant, the Secretary of War (in 1925 the term "politically correct" didn't exist it was Secretary of War, not Secretary of Defense), and a host of statesmen and elected officials. Prior to the Ball, Gen. Lejeune unveiled a memorial plaque at Tun Tavern. Then the entourage headed for the Benjamin Franklin Hotel and an evening of festivities and frolicking.
Marine Corps History: The Early Years
On November 10, 1775, the Second 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 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 Capt. (later Maj.) Samuel Nicholas. The first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines, Nicholas 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, landed in Santo Domingo, and took part in many operations against the Barbary pirates along the "Shores of Tripoli."
Marines took part in numerous naval operations during the War of 1812, as well as participating in the defense of Washington at Bladensburg, Maryland, and fought alongside Andrew Jackson in the defeat of the British at New Orleans.
The decades following the War of 1812 saw the Marines protecting American interests around the world, in the Caribbean, at the Falkland Islands, Sumatra and off the coast of West Africa, and also close to home in operations against the Seminole Indians in Florida. Marines have participated in all of the following wars of the United States, and in most cases were the first service members to fight. To date, Marines have executed more than 300 landings on foreign shores.
Today, there are more than 200,000 active-duty and reserve Marines, organized into three divisions stationed at Camp Lejeune, Camp Pendleton, and Okinawa, Japan. Each division has one or more expeditionary units, ready to launch major operations anywhere on short notice. Marines expeditionary units are self-sufficient, with their own tanks, artillery, and air forces. The motto of the service is Semper Fidelis, meaning "Always Faithful" in Latin.