“Freedom is not free, but the U.S. Marine Corps will pay most of your share.” – Ned Dolan.

On this day in 1775, the Marine Corps was born. As an expeditionary force older than our country itself, it would be near impossible to outline and describe all of its growth, changes and great accomplishments. The Purple Heart Foundation wants to help celebrate the Marines’ 242nd birthday by recognizing what has helped to distinguish this branch from its creation.

“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem” – Ronald Reagan

Since the Marine Corps was created, they have developed into our nation’s first line of defense. Their mission is to win our nation’s battles swiftly and aggressively in times of crisis. They fight on land, sea, and air, as well as provide forces that are detachments to naval ships and ground operations. They are trained to be adaptable and overcome any and all obstacles that are thrown their way, regardless of the situation. They are taught determination and that until victory is reached, they must persevere. Yes, Marines come to mind when you think of traditional warfare, but they also help serve their communities and assist in humanitarian and disaster relief missions.

Inside every single Marine are the core values of honor, courage, and commitment. Those values are shared and help define this men and women both during their service to their country, but also in their everyday lives. Marines may come from all corners of the globe and a vast array of pasts and walks of life, but they value character and pride themselves on those values.

Two Marines Humvee - original

Although the Marines’ symbol is recognizable worldwide, not many understand the meaning behind it. It combines an eagle, a globe, and an anchor. These represent the history and purpose of this branch of our military. The eagle is representative of the United States of America and the pride behind defending this great nation. In turn, the globe shows their presence not just for our nation, but worldwide. Finally, the anchor. This represents the history of the Marine Corps, and it is developed from a naval past. The combination of these symbols perfects represents the Marines’ dedication to our country and defending it regardless whether it’s on land, in the air, or at sea.

As our country’s first line of defense, it comes as no surprise that the Marine Corps has been a huge part of more battles than we would have time to discuss. Here are a few major, defining battles from the birth of the Marine Corps until present.

  • Fort Nassau – 1776

This was not only the Marines’ first successful amphibious landing on a hostile shore, but it was their first battle altogether. This battle took place only a few weeks after the Marines were created. It only took minutes for the British troops to surrender once the Marines arrived.

  • Battle of Derna – 1805

As a result of pirates raiding American merchant ships, a force of Marines was sent to fight back. This is the battle that led to Marines being nicknamed ‘Leathernecks” because of the protection they wore to fight the pirates. This was the Marines’ first grand battle that took place on foreign soil, and their history helped protect U.S. ships and our trading. This battle is even recalled in the Marines’ Hymn in the line “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli / we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and sea.”

  • Battle of Chapultepec

During the Mexican-American war, the Marines were able to gain control of the enemy’s fortress during this battle, they raised our flag over the palace to mark their victory. This battle also is recalled in the Marines Hymn.

  • Battle of Belleau Wood – 1918

Outside of Paris in Belleau Wood, Marines fought against the German soldiers. After 20 days of intense battle and suffering heavy casualties, the Marines had won. Following this battle, Marines were given the name “Devil Dogs” by the German survivors.

  • Battle of Iwo Jima – 1945

This battle and victory may be the most iconic in the Marines Corps history. The Marines sent to capture the Japanese airfields at  Iwo Jima showed their willingness and perseverance to overcome the enemy and find victory. This 36-day long battle resulted in heavy casualties, but that did not stop the Marines. The iconic photograph of the troops raising the American Flag at the summit of Mt. Suribachi is an inspiration for all Marines and for generations to come.

  • Chosin Reservoir – 1950

In this battle, the 1st Marine Division faced the worst weather and terrain conditions that troops had ever been forced to fight in. As if that was not tough enough, they were outnumbered 8-to-2 by the Chinese army. Nonetheless, they defeated 10 Chinese infantry divisions. To say they prevailed would be an understatement.

  • Battle of Hue – 1968

This was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. During 33 this 33-day long fight, the Marines were extremely outnumbered. This fight strengthened the Marines’ reputation as tough guys with an unbreakable resolve.

  • Operation Desert Storm – 1991

This was a huge success and victory in modern warfare. Marine pilots used aircrafts to destroy both Iraq’s air and naval forces as well as anti-air defenses and ballistic missile launchers. Additionally, Marines were able to break through Iraq’s southern border, while over 8,000 marines distracted the Iraqi army in the north. This exemplified the Marines’ ability to persevere and reach victory in the air, on land, and at sea.

  • Operation Enduring Freedom – 2001

Two months after the terrorist attack on our nation on September 11, 2001, Marines were the first major ground forces in Afghanistan. Since the initial invasion, much progress was made and the threat of violence has been reduced. Hundreds of schools have been built and millions in aid have been distributed.

old marine veteran
Though these are not the only battles that the Marines played a vital role in, they are a few of their defining moments. Ret. Marine Corps General and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis said,“[T]o Marines, love of liberty is not an empty phrase… Rather, it’s displayed by blood, sweat, and tears for the fallen.” It is thanks to the brave and determined men and women that have made up the Marine Corps for the past 242 years that we are granted our day-to-day freedoms.

Their honor, courage, and commitment that these men and women share have not gone unnoticed. As you go about your day, remember these brave men and women and all of our Veterans from every single military branch, that has served this country.

The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to honoring all of our heroes who have served this country. Nearly 90 percent of cash donations that we receive at the Purple Heart Foundation go to providing funds for programs that help ALL of our veterans and their dependents. It Is our goal to help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women to defend our freedom. Show your support for them by making a one-time or monthly pledge to assure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve.