United States Armed Forces

United States Marine Corps

During the American Revolution, many important political discussions took place in the inns and taverns of Philadelphia and one such discussion lead to the founding of the Marine Corps.  The resolution drafted at Tun Tavern by a committee of the Continental Congress called for the formation of two battalions of Marines, and was approved on November 10, 1775.  Thus the Continental Marines were officially formed.  Samuel Nicholas is credited with being the founder and first Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps was founded to serve as an infantry unit aboard naval vessels and was responsible for the security of the ship and its crew by conducting offensive and defensive combat during boarding actions and defending the ship’s officers from mutiny.  They also manned raiding parties.  America’s first amphibious assault landing occurred early in the Revolutionary War as the Marines gained control of a British ammunition depot and naval port in New Providence, the Bahamas.  Both the Continental Navy and the Continental Marines were disbanded in April 1783 following the end of the American Revolution.  In preparation for the quasi-war with France and the Barbary Pirates, Congress reactivated both the Navy and the Marine Corps in 1794.  

The United States Marine Corps is a member of the uniformed services of the United States.  In the civilian leadership structure of the United States military, the Marine Corps is a component of the United States Department of the Navy and often works closely with U.S. Naval Forces for training, transportation and logistic purposes.  Despite close ties to the U.S. Navy, the Marine Corps functions as a separate branch military.  The Marine Corps military doctrine has evolved with the passage of time and Marines have served in every American armed conflict since the Revolutionary War.

The contributions during the War of 1812 included delaying the British march on Washington, DC, at the Battle of Bladensburg and holding the center of General Andrew Jackson’s defensive line at the defense of New Orleans.  By the end of the war, the Marines had acquired a well deserved reputation as expert marksmen, especially in ship-to-ship actions.  The Marines played a moderate role in the Civil War with their most prominent task being blockade duty.

The remainder of the 19th century was marked by declining strength and introspection about the mission of the Marine Corps.  The Navy’s transition from sail to steam put into question the need for Marines on naval ships.  Meanwhile, Marines served as a convenient resource for interventions and landings to protect American lives and interests overseas.  The Corps was involved in over 28 separate interventions in the 30 years from the end of the Civil War to the end of the 19th century.

During World War I, veteran Marines served a central role in the late American entry into the conflict.  The Marine Corps had a deep pool of officers and non-commissioned officers with battle experience. Numerous conflicts including the Philippine-American War, the Boxer Rebellion in China, Panama, Cuba, Morocco and Haiti, gave them an advantage over the Army.

Between the world wars, the Marine Corps was headed by Commandant John A. Lejeune, and under his leadership, the Corps presciently studied and developed amphibious techniques that would be of great use in World War II.  In World War II, the Marines played a central role in the Pacific War.  The battles of Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Tarawa, Guam, Tinian, Saipan, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa saw fierce fighting between Marines and the Imperial Japanese Army.  During the Battle of Iwo Jima, photographer Joe Rosenthal took the famous photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima of five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Mt. Suribachi.

The Korean War saw the Corps expand from 75,000 regulars to a force of 261,000 Marines, mostly reservists.  This conflict was very costly for the Marines as there were 30,544 killed or wounded and 42 were awarded the Medal of Honor.  The Marine Corps served an important role in the Vietnam War taking part in such battles as Da Nang, Hue City, Con Thien and Khe Sanh.

The Marine Corps is continuing its proud tradition after the end of the Cold War.  They are an integral part of American’s Global War on Terrorism.  Most recently, the Marines have served prominently in the Iraq War and along with the Army spearheaded the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  The Marine Corps officially ended its role in Iraq on January 23, 2010, when they handed over responsibility for Al Anbar Province to the United States Army.  Their presence remains strong in Afghanistan.

The United States Marine Corps includes fewer than 203,000 active duty Marines and fewer than 40,000 reserve Marines as of 2010.  It is the smallest of the United States’ armed forces in the Department of Defense.