Marine Corps History

Marine Corps Hymn

image87

Following the Barbary Wars of 1805, the Colors of the Corps were inscribed with the words "to the shores of Tripoli." After the capture and occupation of Mexico City in 1847, the Colors were changed to read "from the shores of Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma." These events in Marine Corps history are the origin of the opening words of the Marines' Hymn. 

Tradition holds that the words to the Marines' Hymn were written by a Marine serving in Mexico. In truth, the author of the words remains unknown. Colonel Albert S. McLemore and Walter F. Smith, Assistant Band Director during the John Philip Sousa era, sought to trace the melody to its origins. It was reported to Colonel McLemore that by 1878 the tune was very popular in Paris, originally appearing as an aria in the Jacques Offenbach opera Genevieve de Brabant. John Philips Sousa later confirmed this belief in a letter to Major Harold Wirgman, USMC, stating "The melody of the 'Halls of Montezuma' is taken from Offenbach's comic opera..."

Its origins notwithstanding, the hymn saw widespread use by the mid-1800s. Copyright ownership of the hymn was given to the Marine Corps per certificate of registration dated 19 August 1891. In 1929, it became the official hymn of the United States Marine Corps with the following verses:

From the Halls of Montezuma
to the Shores of Tripoli,
We fight our country's battles
On the land as on the sea.*
First to fight for right and freedom,
And to keep our honor clean,
We are proud to claim the title
of United States Marine.


"Our flag's unfurl'd to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in every clime and place
Where we could take a gun.
In the snow of far-off northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes,
You will find us always on the job
The United States Marines.


"Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we've fought for life
And never lost our nerve.
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven's scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines."
 

*On 21 November 1942, the Commandant of the Marine Corps authorized an official change in the first verse, fourth line, to reflect the changing mission of the Marine Corps. The new line read "in the air, on land and sea." That change was originally proposed by Gunnery Sergeant H.L. Tallman, an aviator and veteran of World War I. 

Shortly after World War II, Marines began to stand at attention during the playing of The Marines' Hymn, Today that tradition continues today to honor all those who have earned the title "United States Marine."

(The source of the above text is The National Museum of the Marine Corps and Heritage Center.)

Marine Corps Emblem

image88

The Marine Corps Seal, designed by the Marine Corps Uniform Board in accordance with instructions of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, then General Lemuel G. Shepherd, Jr., was adopted by Presidential Executive Order 10538 of 22 June 1954.

The traditional Marine Corps emblem - eagle, globe and foul anchor - forms the basic device of the Seal. Of these three, the eagle and the foul anchor are the most venerable, dating from 1800 when they first appeared on the Marine uniform button - a button which has remained to this day virtually unchanged from its original form. Influenced strongly by the design of the emblem of the British Royal Marines depicting as their domain the Eastern hemisphere, the U.S. Marines adopted in 1868 as their emblem a globe showing the Western hemisphere. To this was added the spread eagle and foul anchor from the button. Twelve years later the motto, "Semper Fidelis," completed the design.

The scarlet and gold surrounding the emblem are the official Marine Corps colors. These in turn are enclosed by Navy blue and gold signifying the Marine Corps as an integral part of the naval team.

Eagle, Globe and Anchor

image89

The origins of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor insignia worn by Marines can be traced to those ornaments worn by early Continental Marines as well as to the British Royal Marines.

In 1776, Marines wore a device depicting a fouled anchor. Changes were made to that device in 1798, 1821, and 1824. An eagle was added in 1834. The current insignia dates to 1868 when Brigadier General Commandant Jacob Zeilin convened a board "to decide and report upon the various devices of cap ornaments of the Marine Corps." A new insignia was recommended and approved by the Commandant. On 19 November 1868, the new insignia was accepted by the Secretary of the Navy. 

The new emblem featured a globe showing the western hemisphere intersected by a fouled anchor and surmounted by an eagle. Atop the device, a ribbon was inscribed with the Latin motto "Semper Fidelis." The globe signified the service of the United States Marines throughout the world. The anchor was indicative of the amphibious nature of the Marine Corps. The eagle, symbolizing a proud nation, was not the American bald eagle, but rather a crested eagle, a species found throughout the world.

On 22 June 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an Executive Order which approved the design of an official seal for the United States Marine Corps. Designed at the request of General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps, the seal replaced the crested eagle with the American bald eagle, its wings proudly displayed. With the approval of this seal by the President of the United States in 1955, the emblem centered on the seal was adopted as the official Marine Corps emblem.


The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor insignia is a testament to the training of the individual Marine, to the history and traditions of the Marine Corps, and to the values upheld by the Corps. It represents "those intangible possessions that cannot be issued: pride, honor, integrity, and being able to carry on the traditions for generations of warriors past." Said retired Sergeant Major David W. Sommers, "the emblem of the Corps is the common thread that binds all Marines together, officer and enlisted, past and present...The eagle, globe and anchor tells the world who we are, what we stand for, and what we are capable of, in a single glance." 


(The source of the above text is The National Museum of the Marine Corps and Heritage Center.)

A Marine’s Prayer


Almighty Father,
whose command is over all and whose love never fails,
make me aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will.  
Keep me true to my best self,
guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and deed
and helping me to live so that I can face my fellow Marines,
my loved ones and Thee without shame or fear.  
Protect my family.
Give me the will to do the work of a Marine and
to accept my share of responsibilities with vigor and enthusiasm.  
Grant me the courage to be proficient in my daily performance.  
Keep me loyal and faithful to my superiors and to the duties
my country and the Marine Corps have entrusted to me.  
Make me considerate of those committed to my leadership.  
Help me to wear my uniform with dignity, and
let it remind me daily of the traditions which I must uphold.  
If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith;
if I am tempted, make me strong to resist;
if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again.
Guide me with the light of truth and grant me the wisdom
by which I may understand the answer to my prayer.
— Amen 

My Rifle:

Every Marine is, first and foremost, a rifleman. In boot camp at Parris Island and San Diego, and at The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia, all Marines, enlisted and officer, receive instruction in proper rifle usage and maintenance. Additionally, all Marines must memorize the "Rifleman's Creed," which was created in 1942 by Marine Brigadier General William H. Rupertus, the then-Commanding General of Marine Corps Base San Diego, after he (Rupertus) had decided that his men must be made to understand, "...that the only weapon which stands between them and Death is the rifle...they must understand that their rifle is their life...it must become a creed with them." 

Captain Robert P. White, Public Relations Officer of the base, suggested that Rupertus write an editorial to that effect but the general thought that an editorial would sound like a sermon. Instead, Rupertus felt that the rifle creed should be "...something so deep, a conviction so great, a faith so lasting that no one should have to be preached to about it." 

This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will...
My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit...
My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...
Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.
So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but peace!
by Major General William H. Rupertus (USMC, Retired)
(written following the attack on Pearl Harbor)  

Oath of Enlistment

In the Oath, all new Marines promise to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, adhere to disciplinary standards and accept orders from superiors, and vow to face the Uniform Code of Military Justice should any disputes arise.

The oath is, as follows:


"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

General Orders

  1. Take charge of this post and all government property in view.
  2. Walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.
  3. Report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.
  4. To repeat all calls [from posts] more distant from the guardhouse than my own.
  5. Quit my post only when properly relieved.
  6. To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentry who relieves me, all orders from the Commanding Officer, Officer of the Day, Officers, and Non-Commissioned Officers of the guard only.
  7. Talk to no one except in the line of duty.
  8. Give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.
  9. To call the Corporal of the Guard in any case not covered by instructions.
  10. Salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.
  11. Be especially watchful at night and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.

Non Commissioned Officers Creed

I am the backbone of the United States Marine Corps, I am a Marine Non-Commissioned Officer.

I serve as part of the vital link between my commander (and all officers) and enlisted Marines.

I will never forget who I am or what I represent.

I will challenge myself to the limit and be ever attentive to duty.

I am now, more than ever, committed to excellence in all that I do, so that I can set the proper example for other Marines.

I will demand of myself all the energy, knowledge and skills I possess, so that I can instill confidence in those I teach.

I will constantly strive to perfect my own skills and to become a good leader.

Above all I will be truthful in all I say or do. My integrity shall be impeccable as my appearance.

I will be honest with myself, with those under my charge and with my superiors.

I pledge to do my best to incorporate all the leadership traits into my character.

For such is the heritage I have received from that long, illustrious line of professionals who have worn the bloodstripe so proudly before me.

I must give the very best I have for my Marines, my Corps and my Country for though today I instruct and supervise in peace, tomorrow,

I may lead in war.

Staff Non Commissioned Officers Creed

I am a Staff Non-Commissioned Officer in the United States Marine Corps.

As such, I am a member of the most unique group of professional military practitioners in the world.

I am bound by duty to God, Country, and my fellow Marines to execute the demands of my position to and beyond what I believe to be the limits of my capabilities.

I realize I am the mainstay of Marine Corps discipline, and I carry myself with military grace, unbowed by the weight of command, unflinching in the execution of lawful orders, and unswerving in my dedication to the most complete success of my assigned mission.

Both my professional and personal demeanor shall be such that I may take pride if my juniors emulate me, and knowing perfection to lie beyond the grasp of any mortal hand, I shall yet strive to attain perfection that I may ever be aware of my needs and capabilities to improve myself.

I shall be fair in my personal relations, just in the enforcement of discipline, true to myself and my fellow Marines and equitable in my dealings with every man.

General Lejeune’s Marine Corps Birthday Message

On November 1st, 1921 John A. LeJeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, directed that a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps be published by every command, to all Marines throughout the globe, on the birthday of the Corps.  Since that dat Marines have continued to distinuguish themselves on many battlefields and foreign shores, in war and peace.  On this birthday of the Corps, therefore, in compliance with the will of the 13th Commandant, Article 38, United States Manual, Edition of 1921, is republished as follows:

     (1)  On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date, many thousand men have borne the name Marine. In memory of them, it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the Birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

     (2)  The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of it's existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the nations foes. From the battle of Trenton to the Argonne. Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home. Generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

     (3)  In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term Marine has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

    (4)  This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.

     "The inspiring message of our 13th Commandant has left its mark in the hearts and minds of all Marines.  By deed and act from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima, from Inchon to the Korean Armistice, in interventions from Lebanon to the Dominican Republic, and from the opening battles in Vietnam to the Mayaguez rescue, Marines have contined to epitomize those qualities which are their legacy.  The sucess which they have achieved in combat and the faith they have borne in peace will continue.  The Commandant and our many friends have added their hearty praise and congratulationso this, out _____ birthday (underscore supplied.)

Star Spangled Banner Lyrics

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

History of Taps

Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to render emotion than Taps. Up to the Civil War, the traditional call at day's end was a tune, borrowed from the French, called Lights Out. In July of 1862, in the aftermath of the bloody Seven Days battles, hard on the loss of 600 men and wounded himself, Union General Daniel Adams Butterfield called the brigade bugler to his tent. He thought "Lights Out" was too formal and he wished to honor his men. Oliver Wilcox Norton, the bugler, tells the story, "...showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope, (he) asked me to sound them on my bugle. I did this several times, playing the music as written. He changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for Taps thereafter in place of the regulation call. The music was beautiful on that still summer night and was heard far beyond the limits of our Brigade. The next day I was visited by several buglers from neighboring Brigades, asking for copies of the music which I gladly furnished. The call was gradually taken up through the Army of the Potomac." 

This more emotive and powerful Taps was soon adopted throughout the military. In 1874 It was officially recognized by the U.S. Army. It became standard at military funeral ceremonies in 1891. There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the music of this wonderful call. Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air.

Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct, which was introduced by President Eisenhower in 1955, is based on time-honored concepts and traditions dating back to the American Revolution.

The six articles outline the obligations and responsibilities of U.S. service members in harm's way.

ARTICLE I:
I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense. 

ARTICLE II:
I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist. 

ARTICLE III:
If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy. 

ARTICLE IV:
If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmfull to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them in every way. 

ARTICLE V:
When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country or its allies or harmful to their cause. 

ARTICLE VI:
I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.