“There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion,” said General William Thomson of the United States Army. The United States of America was born in a hall in the middle of a sweltering summer when men from all corners of the colonies came together to discuss separating from Great Britain. These men knew that declaring independence would eventually bring war to their shores.
At the dawn of the revolution, farmers, blacksmiths, and business owners organized to fight for independence. A large majority of the colonists believed that a full separation from Great Britain would remedy the injustices of high taxes. That initial formation by these tradesmen gave birth to a Continental Navy and eventually the Continental Marines.
The United States of America has been protected by a military force unlike any other since the beginning of the republic. But there was a need to create forces that would be able to protect the homeland and the ships of the Continental Navy. On November 10th, 1775, the Continental Congress met to form a new service branch of the Department of the Navy that would be able to serve and protect.
According to a decree, “That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates as with other battalions, that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve for and during the present war with Great Britain and the Colonies; unless dismissed by Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the First and Second Battalions of Marines.” They would later be disbanded in 1783 and reformed into the modern day United States Marine Corps in 1798.
The first “Captain of the Marines”, or what is now known as the Commandant of the Marines Corps, Samuel Nicholas led the Corps though multiple missions and helped to transform it into the body it is today. Upon receiving his commission, Nicholas used Tun Tavern as a recruiting station to have young men sign up. At the end of 1775, Captain Nicholas raised five companies of Marines and sailed with them to the shores of the Bahamas in their first international battle.
In March of 1776, he led over 200 men in a bloody raid on Nassau, catching the British by surprise. Their success led to the capture of two forts, 88 cannon, 15 mortars, and multiple military storage facilities. Under the leadership of Captain Nicholas, the Marines racked up many successful battles during the revolution.
The Marine Corp has led the fight in battles like Iwo Jima, Belleau Wood, and the Chosin Reservoir. Their determination led them into battle with clear eyes that kept focused on completing their assigned mission. It was their grit that led them through each battle, fighting with precision, keeping each other safe, and making sure the enemy was stopped.
The United States Marines are considered the most “ancient” of the branches because of its philosophy and training techniques. The idea behind the culture is that each Marine become an elite warrior in defense of the United States. It has worked for 241 years and is still going strong. These men and women join a branch of the military that is combat oriented. As they train for war, they are taught to be brutal but to never lose their humanity. The safety and security of the United States of America is the ultimate objective which is met with the utmost seriousness. Author Thomas E. Ricks said it best, “The United States Marine Corps, with its fiercely proud tradition of excellence in combat, its hallowed rituals, and its unbending code of honor, is part of the fabric of American myth.”
The United States Marine Corps continues to be the first line of defense around the world. They have defended the District of Columbia from the British during the War of 1812. As an international force, the Marines have protected many American interests. From the coasts of the Caribbean and the Falkland Islands to the jungles of Vietnam and the desserts of Iraq. The Marines have lived up to their motto, “Semper Fidelis” which translates to “Always Faithful.” They ignite fear in the soul of the enemy and fill each American with pride. Even the German soldiers referred to the Marines as the “Teufel Hunden” or “Devil Dogs” for their ferocious fighting style in World War I. The nickname is now used to motivate Marines in battle. After 241 years, these patriots have improved modern warfare with a steady hand and down to the bone toughness.
To those “leathernecks” and “devil dogs” who have served our nation, we thank you for dedicating your lives to being a Marine. We thank you for the grit and determination it took to protect us all here at home. To those who are serving us abroad from the shores of Okinawa to the hills of Afghanistan, we appreciate the sacrifice you are making for us each and every day.
The Marine Corps still considers November 10th, 1775 as their official birthday. We at the Purple Heart Foundation celebrate the 241 years that the Marine Corps have dedicated their lives to protecting our nation. Since 1775, the United States Marine Corps has transitioned from defending 13 colonies to serving 50 united and organized states. That service began here at home with the inception of our nation and has reached far beyond our shores. The Purple Heart Foundation wishes you all a very Happy 241st Birthday. Help us continue our mission of honoring their sacrifice with our service by donating here today. Semper Fi!