The United States Marine Corps is the most elite non-special forces branch of any military in the world. Renowned for being stoic and hardened, these combat-ready warriors are not who you would want as enemies.
The Marine Corps is full of lore and legend. According to Corps tradition, the first recruits were baited into joining with the promise of a beer at a bar in Philadelphia. This legendary story is still told across the country, despite not being verifiable, as the birth of the branch.
The first battle in which Marines were involved took place in Nassau, a town in the Bahamas, on March 3rd, 1776. The Marines stormed the beach and secured Nassau, also capturing 150 barrels of gunpowder for America. Around this time, Marines were issued leather straps to wear around their necks, to prevent any enemy slashing open their throat during battle. Because of this, Marines became known as “leathernecks.” During the Battle of Belleau Wood in World War I, the Marines fought with such assuredness and ferocity, that any captured Germans left alive after the battle referred to the Marines as teufelhunden – devil dogs. Both nicknames stuck and have persisted to this day, both complimentary and derogatory terms.
During World War II, Marines became quite prominent for their ability to win battles quickly and effectively, most notably for the Battle of Iwo Jima and the famous photo of the American flag being raised on the mound after the Allied victory. During the Korean War, the 7th Infantry Division of the Marine Corps was cornered into the Chosin Reservoir in what is today North Korea. The temperatures plummeted for days on end, remaining far below 0°. The brave Marines were finally able to push back, though, against the Communist army and emerged triumphant. Today, we call the survivors of this endeavor “The Chosin Frozen”, from the saying that the Marines are “The Chosen Few.”
Today, the Marines are still a department of the Navy, but their training is far from similar. Aspiring leathernecks get shipped to one of two locations for basic training: San Diego or Parris Island. Women exclusively go to Parris Island, but men train there too. It’s a grueling process, involving pushing oneself to the limit, both physically and mentally. Despite perhaps appearing cruel and severe to some, this only goes to create the toughest individuals in our military. If one does not wish to enter at the rank of private as an enlisted man, they can go to Officer Candidate School (OCS) after 4 years of college and enter as an officer.
When you see a person in Marine Dress Blues, take a moment to admire the uniform and all it represents. The golden eagle-globe-anchor (EGA) represents the 13 weeks of their life spent training for their title. The rank on their shoulder indicates the time and effort put towards bettering themselves. The red stripe on their blue pants honors the Marines that sacrificed their lives for their country. Every individual you see in this uniform is connected to this country’s legacy and each other through the undying phrase uttered for over 200 years, “Semper Fidelis.” Always faithful.
[Source: History.com, Military.com, United States Marine Poolee Booklet (available at recruiting station), National Museum of the Marine Corps]