Marine Corps History: The Early Years
A group of Marine Corps quartermasters assigned to the Western Area Command in Nicaragua, pose outside their office in the town of Leon. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps History Division)
On November 10, 1775
The Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia passed a resolution stating that “two Battalions of Marines be raised” for service as landing forces with the fleet. This resolution established the Continental Marines and marked the birth date of the United States Marine Corps.
Serving on land and at sea, these first Marines distinguished themselves in a number of important operations. This includes their first amphibious raid into the Bahamas in March 1776, under the command of Capt. (later Maj.) Samuel Nicholas. The first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines, Nicholas remained the senior Marine officer throughout the American Revolution and is considered to be the first Marine Commandant. The Treaty of Paris in April 1783 brought an end to the Revolutionary War and as the last of the Navy’s ships were sold, the Continental Navy and Marines went out of existence,
After the Revolutionary War
The formal re-establishment of the Marine Corps was on 11 July 1798. Marines saw action in the quasi-war with France, landed in Santo Domingo, and took part in many operations against the Barbary pirates along the “Shores of Tripoli.”
Marines took part in numerous naval operations during the War of 1812, as well as participating in the defense of Washington at Bladensburg, Maryland. They also fought alongside Andrew Jackson in the defeat of the British at New Orleans.
Following the War of 1812
The Marines protected American interests around the world, in the Caribbean, at the Falkland Islands, Sumatra and off the coast of West Africa. They were also close to home in operations against the Seminole Indians in Florida. Marines have participated in all of the following wars of the United States, and in most cases were the first service members to fight. To date, Marines have executed more than 300 landings on foreign shores.
There are more than 200,000 active-duty and reserve Marines, organized into three divisions stationed at Camp Lejeune, Camp Pendleton, and Okinawa, Japan. Each division has one or more expeditionary units, ready to launch major operations anywhere on short notice. Marines expeditionary units are self-sufficient, with their own tanks, artillery, and air forces. The motto of the service is Semper Fidelis, meaning “Always Faithful” in Latin.
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