The United States Marine Corps has played an important role in almost every war we’ve participated in.
The USMC is one of the proudest and most impressive branches of the US Armed Forces. In and out of combat, Marines have stood proud and brought honor to this country.
No list of facts about Marines will begin to do their bravery and honor justice, but, here are some of their most important and interesting facts.
9 Facts About the Marines
1. The Marines were formed before the US won our independence from the Brits
“On November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress approved the resolution to establish two battalions of Marines able to fight for independence at sea and on shore. This date marks the official formation of the Continental Marines.”
Samuel Nicholas (1744-1783), quoted above, was the 1st Commandant of the Marines. The Continental Marines of 1775 are today’s United States Marine Corps. and were formed before we were even an independent nation.
2. The first officer of the Marines was named Samuel Nicholas
The very first commissioned officer of the Continental Marines (now the USMC) was Major Samuel Nicholas.
Nicholas was born into a well known Philadelphia Quaker family, so was nicknamed the “Fightin’ Quaker”.
He became the 1st Commandant of the Marines in late 1775 and, as you’ll see below, played an instrumental role in their formation.
3. The Marine Corp was born in a pub
The same day Nicolas became the commanding officer of the Marines, he went to local bars and taverns to recruit his two battalions.
One of Nicholas first recruits was Robert Mullan, the owner of a local tavern known as the Tun Tavern. Nicholas appointed Mullan as the chief Marine Recruiter.
Mullan set up his recruitment base in the Tun Tavern where prospective Marines, attracted by cold beer and the chance to serve, swarmed in.
A large number of the Marines who fought in the first two battalions were recruited at the Tavern and so it is often considered the birthplace of the Marines.
The original Tun Tavern burnt down in 1781, but was rebuilt and still stands today in Philadelphia. Today, Tun Tavern beer is sold throughout the Philadelphia area.
Bonus Non-Marine Fact:
In addition to being the birthplace of the Marines, the Tun Tavern is considered the origin of Masonic teachings in America. What the hell are Masonic teachings?
Masonic Teachings are the teachings of the Freemasons. Starting in 1732, 47 years after the Marines were formed, a branch of the Masonic Order, the St. Johns No. 1 Lodge, began regularly meeting at the Tun Tavern. What’s more interesting is that the third Grand Master of the lodge was none other than Benjamin Franklin.
Today, the Philadelphia Masonic Temple claims the Tun Tavern as the birthplace of the Freemasons in America.
4. The USMC is part of another US military department
The Marine Corps is its own branch of the U.S. military, but unlike the Army, Navy and Air Force, they do not have their own department within the Department of Defense.
The Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy. That being said, the highest ranking officer of the USMC, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, is the commanding officer of the Marines and answers to no other military officer.
5. Marines use the oldest weapon still in active service
In 1805, Thomas Jefferson sent a force of Marines across 600 miles of North African desert to clear the shores of Tripoli of pirates and rescue the captive crew of the U.S.S. Philadelphia.
After winning the historic battle and clearing the shores a North Africa Mameluke chieftain awarded the man who led the fight, Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon, a Mameluke sword.
Marines wear the sword as an ornamental effect of their dress uniform to commemorate their rich heritage and the battle in North Africa.
The sword, and the battle itself, represent three interesting facts about Marines:
- The battle was the first time the Marine Corps fought on foreign soil
- The Mameluke sword is the oldest weapon worn in active service (albeit on their dress uniform)
- The sword is the first ornamental effect used by a branch of the U.S. military
6. They’re nicknamed Leathernecks, Jarheads and Devil Dogs
No list of facts about Marines would be complete without an explanation of their most common nicknames: Leathernecks, Jarheads and Devil Dogs.
Leatherneck is probably the most common nickname for a Marine.
The origin of the nickname is actually quite literal as it refers to the stiff leather collar that Marines wore as part of their uniform during most of the 19th century. The leather collar was intended to protect their neck and throat from bayonet and sword attacks.
The leather neck piece that the Marines wore during the 19th century is represented today by the tall stiff collar of their dress blue uniform.
In an attempt to insult Marines, sailors would call them Jarheads. The sailors claimed that the stiff neck of the dress uniform made it look like the Marine’s head was sticking out of a Mason jar.
Instead of being insulted, Marines embraced the name.
Devil Dog is one of the most badass nicknames because it came straight from the mouth of our enemy.
During World War I, the Germans were quickly advancing on Paris and had forced the French army into a full retreat. In a final effort to save Paris, the Marines were sent in.
Against the odds and in a battle lasting weeks, the Marines drove the Germans back.
The Germans were so surprised by the Marines endurance and ferocity that in their official reports they referred to them as “teufel hunden” meaning Devil Dogs.
7. The first American to orbit the Earth was a Marine
In 1962, aboard NASA’s Mercury capsule Friendship 7, a Marine named John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.
Glenn quickly shattered his own record and circled the Earth twice more. After the first orbit, there was a mechanical problem with the automatic control system.
In true Marine fashion, Glenn assumed manual control of the craft for the final 2 revolutions of the mission. During his orbit he was travelling at speeds greater than 17,000 miles per hour.
8. Their powerful motto is Semper Fi
Semper Fidelis, Latin for “Always Faithful”, became the motto of the Marine Corp in 1883.
According to the Marine’s site, Semper Fi, “guides Marines to remain faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to country, no matter what.
Becoming a Marine is a transformation that cannot be undone, and Semper Fidelis is a permanent reminder of that. Once made, a Marine will forever live by the ethics and values of the Corps.”
Once a Marine commits to the Corps, Semper Fidelis becomes part of who they are. Check out this article from a Marine about its importance.
Before Semper Fidelis, the Marines motto was “By land, by sea”. I’d say it was a strong change.
9. Their iconic symbol combines an eagle, a globe and an anchor
One of the most iconic and recognizable emblems of any military force is that of the Marines.
Their emblem is simple but bold, and, as with most things associated with Marines, has a rich history.
Above is the emblem of the Marines. The symbol has three distinct features: an eagle, a globe and an anchor.
The Eagle is the national bird of the United States. It represents Marine’s commitment to protect their country.
The Globe represents the Marine’s global presence.
The Anchor shows both their rich naval heritage and their capacity to globally reach any shore.
An enlisted Marine wears a solid brass emblem, while on an officer’s emblem, the globe, eagle and cable are silver and the continents and anchor are are gold.
This list of facts about Marines really doesn’t do them justice.
They are easily one of the most effective military forces in the world and largely contribute to making the US the most powerful military nation in the world.
Created by our Founding Fathers almost 300 years ago, the Marines will forever be a symbol of our great nation and will always make her proud.
If you’re financially able, thank our soldiers for their service and give back. Two great military charities are The Wounded Warrior Project and The Semper Fi Fund. Both provide financial assistance for wounded soldiers returning from service.
Again, if you can, give back and thank our boys for all that they’ve given to us.