Marine Corps, U.S

views updated May 14 2018

Marine Corps, U.S. OverviewMarine Corps, U.S., 1775–1865Marine Corps, U.S., 1865–1914Marine Corps, U.S., 1914–45Marine Corps, U.S., Since 1945
Marine Corps, U.S.: Overview The U.S. Marine Corps is a separate service within the Department of the Navy. The Commandant of the Marine Corps is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The Marines changed their traditional roles of providing guards of ships and naval installations and light infantry for colonial interventions by developing in the twentieth century into an amphibious force that conducts land operations essential to a naval campaign or participates in other expeditionary operations. The Corps receives much of its support from the U.S. Navy. Particularly in the twentieth century, the U.S. Marine Corps has emphasized physical fitness, intensive individual training for combat, and esprit de corps.

Although it claims lineage to the Continental Marines of the Revolutionary War, the Marine Corps began its continued existence with a congressional authorization of 11 July 1798 that established a “corps of Marines” (originally some 350 officers and enlisted personnel) headed by a Commandant, for service aboard the warships of the navy then being expanded for the Undeclared Naval War with France (1798–99). Like the British Marines, after which they were modeled, the first American Marines functioned as ships' guards and the nucleus of ships' landing parties for raids on harbors and other coastal sites.

Two centuries after its founding, the U.S. Marine Corps, with 172,200 officers and enlisted personnel in 1998, has no counterpart of comparable size and diversity among the world's armed forces. Its Fleet Marine Forces of three divisions and aircraft wings, plus other special operational units, can provide air‐ground expeditionary forces especially trained for operations from the sea, including capturing littoral objectives with amphibious assaults by surface vehicles and watercraft or helicopters. The modern Marine Corps is larger and more capable than many armies, and its aviation component, with more than 800 fighter‐attack aircraft and helicopters, is among the ten largest in the world. Although there are functional reasons for a maritime power like the United States to have such a force, the continued existence of the U.S. Marine Corps as a separate service is also a monument to the power of image, the persistence of popular and congressional support, and the unflagging belief of Marines in themselves.

The U.S. Marine Corps enjoyed no special permanence, despite its wartime origins in 1775. After the Revolution, the Continental Marines disbanded in 1783. Despite its establishment in 1798, the U.S. Marine Corps seldom exceeded 5,000 officers and men for the next 100 years. Between 1798 and 1865, its best service came as shipborne infantry and emergency cannoneers aboard American warships. When not at sea, Marines lived in barracks in navy yards to provide a guard force, sometimes joining in regional defense. The Marine Corps Act of 1834 made the Corps a distinct service within the Navy Department.

The Commandants of the Marine Corps understood that sea service had its limitations, so they stressed the readiness of barracks Marines “for such duties as the President shall direct.” These included fighting Native Americans in the Seminole Wars, quelling urban riots and small rebellions (such as John Brown's attack on the Harpers Ferry arsenal), and adding token battalions to field armies, as in the U.S. Army's capture of Veracruz and Mexico City during the Mexican War. In the Civil War, Congress considered amalgamating the Marines into the Army, but decided against it. After the war, some navy officers sought to eliminate the ships' guards and, perhaps, the entire Marine Corps. Other naval officers saw new missions for Marines in a modernized navy, including the seizure of advanced bases in the Caribbean.

U.S. expansion in the wake of the Spanish‐American War (1898) brought a new era to the Corps' development. The Marines added two new missions: the wartime task of defending advanced U.S. naval bases in the Caribbean and the Pacific; and putting small but highly trained light infantry forces behind U.S. interventions and occupations in the Caribbean, Central America, and Asia. Serving as colonial infantry in China, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, and elsewhere gave the Marine Corps, which ranged between 10,000 and 18,000, a popular image of toughness, daring, and esprit de corps.

In World War I, the Marine brigade in the American Expeditionary Forces gained combat experience and new public praise. The Corps grew to 75,000. At the Battle of Belleau Wood and subsequent engagements it suffered 11,500 casualties. Marines also began to use heavy artillery and airplanes in combat.

With the decline of its role as colonial infantry, the Marine Corps turned its attention in the interwar period to creating a combined arms amphibious assault force with a central wartime mission: the seizure and defense of bases in the anticipated naval campaign against Japan in the Pacific. The Fleet Marine Force was formed in 1933 as the operational arm of the Corps, supported by Marine aviation.

During World War II, the successful war against Japan (1941–45) gave the Marine Corps a favored position in the U.S. defense establishment. The Fleet Marine Force battled its way from Guadalcanal to Okinawa, solidifying in the public mind the image of the Marine as the ultimate American warrior, thus providing the Corps with the ability to survive interservice challenges, particularly from the U.S. Army. Marines paid for the glory with some 90,000 casualties, including 19,700 killed in combat. With little administrative and logistical personnel of their own, the Marines were primarily a fighting force. Almost all Marines of World War II (a total of 669,000 men and women) served overseas. Only five percent of the U.S. armed forces, the Marine Corps suffered ten percent of all American battlefield casualties. The Marines played a vital role in the defeat of Japan, and indirectly, through creating the doctrine for amphibious landings, contributed to the defeat of Germany as well.

During the Cold War, the Marine Corps maintained its amphibious assault mission (confirmed by congressional legislation in 1947 and 1952) and added another function, the deployment to regional trouble spots of air‐ground task forces. In addition, the Corps participated in the Korean War (1950–53) and the Vietnam War (1961–75). In Korea, the Marines played pivotal roles, particularly in the 1950 Inchon landing and in the 1951 campaign that drove the Chinese from South Korea. Marines suffered 30,000 casualties in heavy fighting. As a result of the Corps' proven competence, it was authorized to double its permanent size to approximately 190,000 and to maintain three divisions and aircraft wings.

The Vietnam War showed the Marines could fight well in another extended land campaign, but at great cost. More Marines served (794,000) and more became casualties (103,000) in the Vietnam War than in World War II, in what proved to be a losing cause. By 1969, the Corps had grown to 315,000. Maintaining a Marine expeditionary force of more than two divisions and one aircraft wing in the northern five provinces of the Republic of Vietnam stretched the Corps to its limit, and traditional standards of discipline, morale, and field performance suffered.

In the post‐Vietnam era, internal reform helped restore public and congressional confidence in the Corps. A terrorist truck‐bombing in Lebanon killed 241 U.S. servicemen, including 220 U.S. Marines in their barracks in 1983. Participation in the intervention in Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989), the Marine Corps performed an important role in the Persian Gulf War (1991). A Marine Expeditionary Force of some 93,000 troops fought in Kuwait or held some six division of Iraqi soldiers in place along the Kuwait coast while the Allied coalition forces began their major flanking attack. Two Marine divisions breached the Kuwait border fortifications, freed the capital, and took 20,000 prisoners. Although the Marine Corps was reduced from 194,000 in 1991 to 172,200 by 1998 in the contraction of the U.S. armed forces, the Corps fended off attempts to reduce its role in the post–Cold War world. It remains the nation's principal “force in readiness.”
[See also Marine Corps, U.S.; Marine Corps Combat Branches.]


Robert D. Heinl, Jr. , Soldiers of the Sea: The United States Marine Corps, 1775–1962, 1962.
Peter B. Mersky , U.S. Marine Corps Aviation, 1912 to the Present, 1983.
Allan R. Millett , Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps, rev. ed., 1991.
Karl Schuon , comp., U.S. Marine Corps Biographical Dictionary, 1963.
Edwin H. Simmons , The United States Marines. rev. ed., 1998.

Allan R. Millett

Marine Corps, U.S.: 1775–1865 America's Marines date back to the Revolutionary War, when, on 10 November 1775, the Second Continental Congress authorized two battalions for expeditionary service. Functioning as ships' guards and maritime infantry, the Continental Marines resembled the British Navy's marines. In their green uniforms, Continental Marines took part in a number of naval raids and at the Battle of Princeton.

Disbanded after the Revolution, the Marines were recreated by Congress on 11 July 1798 as the United States Marine Corps, under a lieutenant colonel. Authority was ambiguously divided, for they were subject to navy regulations at sea and the army's Articles of War on land. Furthermore, their uniforms (blue with red facing), muskets, and other equipment were furnished by the War Department. More than 300 Marines served aboard warship in the Undeclared Naval War with France (1798–99), and fought in several ship‐to‐ship battles.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Marines accompanied the navy in expeditions in the Tripolitan War (1801–05), against the Barbary pirates in Libya and in the War of 1812 in actions in the Atlantic and Lake Erie. Ashore in 1814–15, they helped protect the Baltimore and Norfolk naval yards and participated in the defense of New Orleans.

Under Archibald Henderson (Commandant, 1820–59), the Corps used opportunities in the second of the Seminole Wars and the Mexican War to build a public reputation as effective infantry while convincing the admirals that they were necessary to guard ships and naval yards. In the Marine Corps Act of 1834, Congress ended previous confusion over the Marine's status by making the Marine Corps a service within the Navy Department, subject to naval regulations at sea and ashore. The Corps was increased to 1,500 during the second Seminole War (1835–42). During the Mexican War, some 1,800 Marines engaged in a several effective landings in California, Mexico's east coast, and the Gulf of Mexico. A small Marine battalion participated in the Battle of Chapultepec and the capture of Mexico City (1847).

During the Civil War, with the dramatic expansion of the Union navy, the U.S. Marine Corps increased to only 3,800 men. In 1861, one‐third of the Marine officers joined the secession and helped establish a small Confederate Marine Corps. The U.S. Marines served mainly as guards for ships and navy yards as well as gun crews aboard ships of the Union navy. Marines took part in a number of small landing parties, but the Corps eschewed larger‐scale land operations, partly out of fear that a large land role might lead to amalgamation with the army, an action considered by Congress in 1863 and 1864.
[See also Marine Corps, U.S.: Overview; Marine Corps Combat Branches: Ground Forces.]


Karl Schuon , comp., U.S. Marine Corps Biographical Dictionary, 1963.
K. Jack Bauer , Surf Boats and Horse Marines, 1969.
Charles R. Smith , Marines in the Revolution: A History of the Continental Marines in the American Revolution, 1775–1783, 1975.
Allan R. Millett , Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps, rev. ed. 1991.

John Whiteclay Chambers II

Marine Corps, U.S.: 1865–1914 Following the Civil War, the Marine Corps survived a period of relative doldrums, including downsizing and even attempts by naval officers to disband the Marines, whose major role was as guards of ships and naval yards. By 1876, Congress had reduced the Corps from 3,000 to under 2,000 men. As commandant in 1864–76, Jacob Zeilin adopted the army's new system of infantry tactics, rearmed the Marines with breech‐loading rifles, and gave them a new emblem, the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, and the motto Semper fidelis (“Always Faithful”). The Marine Band also began to play a new marching song, From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, based on lyrics written sometime after the Mexican War. In 1880, John Philip Sousa became leader of the Marine Band. A major change in officer commissioning in 1882 limited new Marine officers to graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy.

The Marine Corps was transformed at the turn of the century by the acquisition of a U.S. insular empire following the Spanish‐American War. On 10 June 1898, a Marine battalion landed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and secured an advanced coaling base from which the U.S. Navy could blockade Santiago. Following the war, with U.S. commitment to overseas expansion in the Caribbean, Central America, the Pacific, and East Asia, naval strategists emphasized the need for a mobile force to establish advanced fueling and repair bases for the fleet. In October 1900, the navy's General Board recommended a Marine advanced base force; and in 1901, a regiment of 700 Marines landed on Culebra Island near Puerto Rico as part of the fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean. In 1913, the Marine Advance Base Force, forerunner of the Fleet Marine Forces, was established at the Philadelphia Navy Yard; it consisted of two small regiments and two seaplanes. Marine aviation dates from 22 May 1912, when the first Marine aviator, Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham, reported to naval aviation camp at Annapolis.

During the early twentieth century, the Marines were particularly active in a new role as colonial infantry in America's expanding empire. Marines landed and helped protect U.S. citizens and their property in China (the China Relief Expedition of 1900); in the Philippines; and in Panama in 1903 and 1904, in Nicaragua in 1912, and eight landings in Cuba between 1907 and 1912. The Corps increased from 2,000 in 1896 to 9,000 by 1908, remaining at approximately that level until World War I.

While debate over the use of Marine guards on shipboard would occasionally continue to ruffle relations between the navy and the Marines, a consensus soon developed on the importance of the advance base and expeditionary roles of the U.S. Marine Corps.
[See also Caribbean, U.S. Military Involvement in; Marine Corps, U.S.: Overview; Marine Corps Combat Branches.]


Merrill L. Bartlett, ed., Assault from the Sea: Essays on the History of Amphibious Warfare, 1983.
Allan R. Millett , Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps, rev. ed. 1991.
Jack Shulimson , The Marines Search for a Mission, 1880–1898, 1993.

Jack Shulimson

Marine Corps, U.S.: 1914–45 In 1914, the Marine Corps stood on the threshold of revolutionary change in its traditional mission of providing guards for ships and navy yards. During U.S. participation in World War I (1917–18), the Marines' numbers expanded from 10,000 to 73,000, one‐third of whom fought in France. As part of the U.S. Army's Second Division, the Marine Fourth Brigade distinguished itself against the German Army at the Battle of Belleau Wood, at Soissons, at Mont Blanc, and in the Meuse‐Argonne offensive. Some Marine leaders, such as Maj. Gen. John A. Lejeune, who was given command of the Second Division, subsequently saw the Corps' future moving away from sustained land operations.

In the decade after 1914, the Marines also developed their role as colonial infantry, imposing order and protecting U.S. interests overseas. In 1914, Marine units helped occupy the Mexican port of Veracruz and went ashore on three occasions in Haiti. In 1915, in the wake of bloody uprising, 2,000 Marines landed in Haiti with President Woodrow Wilson's goal of restoring order and reforming that troubled nation. One of them, Smedley Butler, took the rank of Haitian major general and organized a new national constabulary. The last of the Marines left in 1934. From 1916 to 1926, a Marine force occupied the Dominican Republic. In Nicaragua, Marines manned a legation guard, 1912–24, intervened in force in 1926, and returned in 1927 and remained until 1934. Marines also guarded the legation in Peking (Beijing), China, and kept at least one regiment in Shanghai from 1927 to 1941. In these actions, the Marines' fledgling air arm was shaped for direct support of ground operations.

The role of colonial infantry declined in the 1930s as the United States reduced the use of force in Latin America. But the diminishment of that role coincided with the expansion of a new mission: seizing and defending advanced naval bases in the Pacific. In the 1920s, with the U.S. Navy developing contingency plans for war with Japan, the Corps cut back to 20,000, and the Marines started to develop the doctrine of amphibious warfare. In 1921, Gen. Lejeune (commandant, 1920–29) approved a study by Maj. “Pete” Ellis to seize Japanese fortified islands in a future war as the U.S. Fleet battled its way across the western Pacific. Some exercises were conducted through 1926, but Marine attention was diverted to China and the Carib bean. During the depression, an attempt in 1931 by the U.S. Army to drastically curtail the Marines led the Corps and the navy to refocus on amphibious operations.

The Corps created the Fleet Marine Force in 1933, published its Tentative Manual for Landing Operations in 1934, and began new landing exercises with the navy. Technology lagged, however. Not until the late 1930s was a suitable landing craft developed.

In World War II, the Marine Corps, headed by Gen. Thomas Holcomb (commandant, 1936–44), fought the Japanese in the Pacific. Early in the war, ground and air Marines reinforced their reputations as tough fighters in desperate battles to defend the islands of Wake, Midway, and the Philippines. In mid‐1942, they shifted to their base‐seizure mission in the air‐land‐sea campaign against an expanded Japanese empire. The First Marine Division opened the Allied ground offensive in the Pacific in August 1942 in the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomons. It was a Marine and army campaign lasting through February 1943. The commander, Maj. Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, became Marine commandant in January 1944. The first real test of the Marines' amphibious doctrine against a hostile shore came on 20–23 November 1943 at the Battle of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, where, despite severe losses, the Marines proved that they could seize heavily fortified islands. In 1944–45, improved equipment and tactics and better coordination helped the Marines, sometimes accompanied by army units, succeed against increasingly sophisticated Japanese defenses on New Britain, the central and northern Solomons, and Roi‐Namur, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Peleliu, Okinawa, and most famously Iwo Jima. Marine air also helped to liberate the Philippines.

During World War II, the Marine Corps expanded from 19,000 in 1939 to a peak strength of 475,000 men and women in 1945. The force structure had grown to two amphibious corps each composed of divisions and supporting units, plus five aircraft wings. The secretary of the navy declared that the historic flag‐raising over Iwo Jima meant that “there will be a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.”
[See also Iwo Jima, Battle of: Marine Corps, U.S.: Overview; Marine Corps Combat Branches; World War II, U.S. Naval Operations in: The Pacific.]


History of the U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II, 5 vols., 1958–68.
Robert B. Asprey , At Belleau Wood, 1965.
Eugene B. Sledge , With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, 1981.
Allan R. Millett , Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps, rev. ed., 1991.
Jon T. Hoffman , Once a Legend: “Red Mike” Edson of the Marine Raiders, 1994.

Jon T. Hoffman

Marine Corps, U.S.: Since 1945 Immediately after World War II, the U.S. Marine Corps, despite its battlefield successes, found itself fighting for its existence under the pressures of demobilization, the “unification” struggle, and contentions that the atomic bomb had made obsolete the Marine Corps' specialty of amphibious assault.

The Marine Corps reorganized its shrunken operating forces symmetrically into a Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, and Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, each with a division and an aircraft wing.

Personnel strengths dropped from a World War II peak of 465,053 to 74,279 by the summer of 1950. Peacetime manning of the divisions and wings was at less than 50 percent. To provide a brigade for the critical defense of Korea's Pusan Perimeter in August, virtually all of the 1st Marine Division was required. To flesh out the division for the Inchon landing in September, the Marine Corps Reserve had to be called up and the Second Marine Division stripped of its battalions.

Partial mobilization eased the personnel situation. The Third Marine Division and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing were reactivated. Legislation in 1952 fixed the minimum force structure of the active duty Marine Corps at three divisions and three wings, with a fourth division and wing in the Organized Reserve. Marine strength climbed to nearly 250,000 in 1953.

In experimenting on how to achieve the dispersion of an amphibious task force in light of possible use of nuclear weapons, the Marine Corps decided that helicopters with specially configured landing ships to act as their carriers offered a solution to the critical ship‐to‐shore movement.

Presaging what would become an increasing involvement in the Middle East, a brigade‐size Marine force was landed in Lebanon in 1958 as a peacekeeping presence.

The civil war, and particularly the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963, caused an increasing involvement in Vietnam of Marine forces, initially as advisers and helicopter support. The landing of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Danang in March 1965 was the first significant introduction of U.S. ground combat elements into South Vietnam.

The Marine Corps employed the term Marine Air‐Ground Task Force (MAGTF) to designate tactical groupings that, with an occasional exception, came in three sizes: A Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) combined a battalion landing team with a reinforced helicopter squadron. A Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) usually had a regimental landing team and a composite aircraft group. A Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) was organized around a division and an aircraft wing.

The Dominican intervention of 1965 saw the employment initially of the 6th Marine Expeditionary Unit and a buildup to the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

During the Vietnam War, the 9th MEB grew with successive deployments into the III Marine Expeditionary (alternately called Amphibious) Force. The strength of the III Marine Amphibious Force reached 85,755 in 1968, more Marines than had been ashore at Iwo Jima or Okinawa.

In size the Corps grew from a 1965 strength of 190,213 to a peak of 314,917 in 1969. With the withdrawal from Vietnam, it slipped back quickly to a plateau of just under 200,000.

In August 1982, the 32nd Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) landed at Beirut, Lebanon, as part of a multinational peacekeeping force. The Marine Corps “presence” in Lebanon continued, one MAU relieving another at roughly four‐month intervals. Early Sunday morning, 23 October, a truck bomb detonated under the building housing the Marine Corps headquarters on the airfield, killing 241 American servicemen, 220 of them Marines.

Almost simultaneously with the Beirut barracks tragedy, the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit landed on the northeast corner of Grenada in a near‐bloodless operation.

In the absence of sufficient amphibious shipping, a new program called the Maritime Prepositioned Force (MPF) came into being in the 1980s. Three squadrons of cargo ships, each squadron loaded with most of an MEB's combat equipment and about thirty days of supply, were positioned strategically around the globe.

At the outset of Operation Desert Shield, the build‐up for the Persian Gulf War, in August 1990, the airlifted 1st and 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigades were met at Saudi Arabia's ports by MPF squadrons. On 2 September, the I Marine Expeditionary Force was formed by “compositing” the two MEBs. Meanwhile, the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, fully equipped and embarked in amphibious shipping, was en route. On 13 November, the involuntary call‐up of Selected Marine Corps Reserve units began. The 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade sailed from San Diego in amphibious ships on 1 December. Most of the East Coast–based II Marine Expeditionary Force—numbering some 30,000 Marines and sailors, and including the Second Marine Division—started its move to the gulf on 9 December.

When actual hostilities began on 16 January 1991, the I Marine Expeditionary Force had two divisions, a very large wing, and a substantial service support command ashore. In addition, there were two Marine expeditionary brigades and a Marine expeditionary unit afloat.

When the shooting stopped on 28 February, I MEF and Marine forces afloat had a strength of 92,990 (of the 540,000 total U.S. force), making Desert Storm by far the largest Marine Corps operation in history.

Subsequent to the Persian Gulf, there was almost continuous employment of Marine air‐ground task forces in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. The I Marine Expeditionary Force deployed to Somalia in 1992. A MAU‐size Special Purpose MAGTF swiftly occupied Cap Haitien, Haiti, in September 1994.

Downsizing incident to President Bill Clinton's “bottom‐up” review of the armed services took the Corps from an active strength of 193,735 in 1991 to 173,031 in 1998.
[See also Amphibious Warfare; Marine Corps, U.S.: Overview; Marine Corps Combat Branches.]


Allan R. Millett , Semper Fidelis, 1991.
J. Robert Moskin , The U.S. Marine Corps Story, 1992.
Joseph H. Alexander , A Fellowship of Valor, 1997.
Edwin H. Simmons , The United States Marines: A History, 1998.

Edwin Howard Simmons

Marine Corps, United States

views updated May 18 2018


MARINE CORPS, UNITED STATES, one of the four armed services of the U.S. military. Originally, its function was to supply guards to warships. Over the twentieth century, however, the corps transformed into a multi-function organization that combines ground and air combat units into a maritime force, trained to come from the sea to fight on land (littoral warfare).

The history of the Marine Corps traditionally dates from 10 November 1775, when the Continental Congress authorized the raising of "two Battalions of marines." These first marines executed a successful amphibious raid into the Bahamas in March 1776; joined George Washington at Princeton, New Jersey, in January 1777; wintered at Morristown, New Jersey; participated in the defense of the Delaware River and Philadelphia in the autumn of 1777; and joined the unsuccessful Penobscot expedition in the summer of 1779. At sea, marines—Continental, state, or privateer—served on virtually all armed ships of the embattled colonies. Both the Continental navy and the marines disbanded at the war's end.

Congress resurrected both the marines and the navy before the century's end. In 1794, spurred by the depredations of algerian pirates, Congress authorized the building of six frigates, the complements of which included marine quotas. On 11 July 1798, concomitant with the separation of the navy from the War Department, Congress authorized "a Marine Corps." In the Quasi-War with France (1798–1800), the new U.S. Marines fought in virtually all sea actions and performed some minor landings, including those in Santo Domingo in 1800. Next came operations against the Barbary pirates (1801– 1815), including the celebrated march of eight marines "to the shores of Tripoli" as part of the polyglot "army" that moved 600 miles across the Libyan desert from Alexandria to Derna (1805).

In the War of 1812, the chief service of the U.S. Marines continued to be at sea, notably in the great frigate duels and in the Essex's cruise to the Pacific (1812–1814). A provisional battalion fought well at Bladensburg, Maryland (1814), as did another battalion at New Orleans (1815), but neither resources nor opportunities justified significant amphibious employment. The next three decades saw operations against the pirates in the Caribbean (1822 to the 1830s), landings in such diverse places as the Falkland Islands (1832) and Sumatra (1831–1832), and patrolling off West Africa to suppress the slave trade (1820–1861). An improvised marine regiment participated in the Seminole War of 1836–1842.

In the Mexican-American War (1846–1848), marines conducted many amphibious operations on both the Gulf and Pacific coasts. A marine battalion drawn from the Gulf Squadron executed raids against Frontera, Tampico, and Alvarado (1846–1847) and landed with Gen. Winfield Scott at Veracruz (9 March 1847). A second marine battalion joined Scott at Puebla and marched with him to the "halls of Montezuma" in Mexico City (13 September 1847). In the West, marine landing parties from the Pacific Squadron participated in the conquest of California (1846) and in raids on Mexico's west coast ports (1847).

In the Civil War (1861–1865), a marine battalion fought at the first Battle of Bull Run (1861), but primarily served with the navy. Overshadowed by the larger scope and drama of the land campaigns, the series of amphibious operations in which marines participated—beginning with the capture of Fort Clark on Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, on 28 August 1861 and ending with the assault of Fort Fisher, a guardian of Wilmington, North Carolina, on 15 January 1865—has been largely overlooked.

The U.S. Marines were in China with the East India Squadron as early as 1844 and accompanied Commodore Matthew C. Perry when he forced open the doors of Japan to foreign commerce in 1853. In the last third of the nineteenth century, marine involvement in the Orient and in the Caribbean increased. From 1865 until 1898, marines participated in some thirty-two landings, including Formosa (1867), Japan (1867 and 1868), Mexico (1870), Korea (1871, 1888, and 1894), Colombia (1873), Hawaii (1874 and 1889), Egypt (1882), Panama (1885 and 1895), Samoa (1888), Haiti (1888), China (1894 and 1895), and Nicaragua (1894 and 1896). In the Spanish-American War (1898), a marine battalion seized an advanced base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in support of the American blockade of the Spanish squadron at Santiago de Cuba, and a regiment formed for service in the Philippine Insurrection (1899–1904). Between the turn of the century and World War I, the corps continued to participate in landings and expeditions in Central America, Africa, and China.

In World War I, the Fifth Marine Regiment was in the first convoy to sail for France (14 June 1917). Along with the Sixth Marine Regiment, it became the Fourth Brigade, Second U.S. Division, which fought at Belleau Wood (June 1918), Soissons (July 1918), Saint-Mihiel (September 1918), Blanc Mont (October 1918), and in the final Meuse-Argonne offensive (November 1918). Four marine squadrons, forming the day wing of the navy's northern bombing group, operated primarily over Belgium in support of the British. Marine involvement in the occupation of Haiti and Santo Domingo continued through these war years. The marines served along the Mexican border, participated in the sugar intervention in Cuba (1917–1919), and conducted minor expeditions to Siberia (1918–1920). After the war, they renewed large-scale involvement in Nicaragua (1926–1933) and China (1926– 1941).

When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the U.S. Marines were there helping defend the islands. The marines were also in the Philippines and at Guam, Wake, and Midway islands. Beginning with Guadalcanal (August 1942), marine divisions or corps conducted amphibious assaults at Bougainville (November 1942), Tarawa (November 1942), New Britain (December 1943), Kwajalein (January 1944), Eniwetok (February 1944), Saipan (June 1944), Guam (July 1944), Tinian (July 1944), Peleliu (September 1944), Iwo Jima (February 1945), and Okinawa (April 1945). Marine aviation, in addition to providing air defense and close air support incident to these and other operations, contributed to the neutralization of bypassed Japanese-held islands. During World War II the Marine Corps reached a peak strength of 485,113; almost 87,000 were killed or wounded.

Marine units took part briefly in the occupation of Japan (1945–1946) and for a longer term in the occupation of Northern China (1945–1949). Immediately after the outbreak of the Korean War (June 1950), a marine brigade moved to reinforce the Pusan perimeter. Joined by the remainder of the First Marine Division and supported by the First Marine Aircraft Wing, these marines executed the assault at Inchon and the subsequent recapture of Seoul (September 1950). The marines also joined the United Nations forces in the counter offensives of spring and summer 1951 until reaching the truce line. Two years of trench warfare followed. More then 25,000 marines were killed or wounded during the Korean conflict.

Involvement in Vietnam began with the assignment of U.S. Marine advisers to the Vietnamese Marine Corps in 1954. Marine transport helicopter units arrived in 1962 and, in 1965, the landing of the Ninth Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Da Nang marked the first significant introduction of U.S. ground forces. Marine ground operations concentrated in the First Corps Tactical Zone, the northern five provinces of South Vietnam. By the summer of 1968, Marine Corps strength reached a peak of more than 85,000, more than the number who fought at Iwo Jima or Okinawa during World War II. This force completely left Vietnam by June 1971. In reaction to the North Vietnamese Easter offensive of 1972, two marine aircraft groups returned to Vietnam but without any marine ground forces. They helped evacuate embassy staff, U.S. citizens, and refugees from Saigon and Phnom Penh in 1975.

During the 1980s, the Marine Corps participated in several efforts to restore stability in countries threatened by war or by political disintegration. Lebanon presented a particularly difficult situation. In August 1982, marine security guards went to Beruit, Lebanon, as part of a multi-national peacekeeping force to oversee evacuation of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) guerillas under

Israeli siege. They remained in Lebanon after the PLO evacuation to train Lebanese soldiers and prevent the outbreak of war. On 23 September 1983, a suicide truck bomber destroyed the Marine Corps barracks, killing 241 and wounding 70. The marines and American civilians evacuated Beruit in February 1984. For the rest of the decade, marines remained stationed on ships in the Mediterranean.

The August 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait lead to the largest mobilization of marine forces since World War II. More than 92,000 marines, including more than 1,000 women, were deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990– 1991. Since the end of Desert Storm, the Marine Corps has increasingly been involved in "military operations other than war." These operations include providing relief after a devastating cyclone in Bangladesh (1991); safeguarding humanitarian relief efforts in Somalia (1993– 1994); evacuating embassy staff and civilians from countries torn by civil strife; helping residents of Dade County, Florida, who were displaced by Hurricane Andrew (1992); providing relief at Guantanomo Bay to Haitians fleeing political upheaval (1992), and to Cubans fleeing economic hardship (1993–1994); assisting with drug interdiction efforts along the U.S.-Mexico border; and supporting the efforts of civilian authorities to combat forest fires. But the marines began the twenty-first century in a familiar role as the forward deployed units in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Gulf War was a watershed event in terms of the participation of enlisted women in an armed conflict. However, women had been offering to serve in the marines for many years before that conflict. According to legend, the first woman marine was Lucy Brewer, who donned men's clothing, took on the name of George Baker, and saw action on the USS Constitution during the War of 1812. Officially, Opha Mae Johnson was the first woman marine. She and some 300 other women enlisted in 1918 to take over stateside clerical duties from battle-ready male marines. After the war was over, the Marine Corps separated all women from the service. During World War II, women came back to "free a man to fight" when the corps formed the Women Marine Corps Reserve on 13 February 1943. During the war, women not only handled clerical duties, but also worked as map makers, mechanics, parachute riggers, radio operators, and welders. A total of 23,145 women served as reserves in the corps during World War II.

After Japan surrendered, the Marine Corps demobilized the Women's Reserve. However, some women returned to the service as regulars under the 1948 Women's Armed Services Integration Act. At the height of the Vietnam War, there were about 2,700 women marines on active duty. During this period, the Marine Corps began to expand training and opportunities for women within the service. It took some time, however, for the training of women to closely resemble that of men. Firing rifles became part of training for all marine women in 1980; testing on combat rifles began in 1985. By the year 2000, training and testing standards for women were almost identical to that of men. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, women made up six percent of marine Corps ranks. Ground combat was still off limits, but women were near the heat of battle—flying planes in combat and serving on combat ships during the war in Afghanistan. In January 2002, Sgt. Jeannette L. Winters became the first woman marine killed in a hostile-fire zone when a tanker plane crashed in Pakistan.

Hidden within this combat history is another story—that of the Marine Corps's institutional changes and its changing role in U.S. military and foreign policy. During the nineteenth century, the main function of the corps was to supply ships guards for naval warships. These guards provided internal security aboard ships and infantry for ship battles or landing operations. At the end of the nineteenth century, the corps became a colonial infantry force for use in prolonged interventions in the Pacific and Latin America. Between the turn of the century and World War I, the Marine Corps expanded gradually and became structured more permanently into companies, regiments, and brigades for this expeditionary service, which ended in the 1940s. At the same time, the corps acquired an amphibious assault function as it began to provide forces to defend advanced naval bases. This mission led to the creation of the Fleet Marine Force in 1933 and the development of ship-to-shore movement tactics and equipment used in the amphibious campaigns in the Pacific during World War II. Since the end of World War II, the Marine Corps has expanded its mission even further as development of air support technology allowed the corps to acquire rapid intervention capabilities that made it the nation's principal "force in readiness" for the twenty-first century.


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Edwin H.Simmons/c. w.; c. p.

See alsoBarbary Wars ; Lebanon, U.S. Landing in ; Navy, United States ; Perry's Expedition to Japan ; Persian Gulf War ; Philippine Insurrection ; Seminole Wars ; Spanish-American War ; Vietnam War ; Women in Military Service .


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