Saturday, January 03, 2004
THE MARINES: WHERE WE CAME FROM
Part One: Introduction to the Marine Corps
Chapter 1: Origins of a Mission
In a sense, Marines may be said to have existed in ancient times when the Phoenicians, and subsequently the Greeks and Romans, placed men aboard their ships for the specific purpose of fighting, in contrast to the crews who navigated them and the rowers who propelled them. However, Marines in the modern sense date to Seventeenth Century England where, in 1664, a regiment of ground troops was raised specifically for duty with the fleet as well as ashore. This unit bore the somewhat ponderous title: "Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot." Over a period of many decades of expansion and evolution, during much of which nobody knew for certain whether it belonged to the Army or the Navy, this basic unit developed into the corps known today as the Royal Marines.
By the time of the American Revolution, the status of the British Marines had jelled firmly. Thus, when the American Colonies revolted and began setting up their own armed services, they modeled these much along the lines of the similar components of the mother country, these being the forms with which they were most familiar and which suited them best temperamentally. This was true of the Continental Marines and to an even greater degree of the Marine Corps, reactivated under the Constitution in 1798.
In the days of wooden, sail-propelled ships the functions of the Marines became well defined. At sea they kept order and were responsible for internal security. In combat they became the ship's small-arms fighters: sniping from the fighting tops, and on deck spearheading boarding parties in close action or repelling enemy boarders. Ashore they guarded naval installations, both at home and abroad, and upon occasion fought on land beside Army components. Amphibious-wise, they were available as trained landing parties, either to seize positions on hostile shores, or to protect the lives and property of nationals in foreign countries. Both the British and U.S. Marines have seen much such service.
At the time of this writing the Marine Corps is 181 years old, according to its own reckoning, though its service has not been continuous. Marines celebrate their Corps' birthday on 10 November, this being the date in the year 1775 when the Continental Congress authorized the raising of two battalions of Marines for the Continental service. The scanty records extant show nothing to indicate that those battalions were actually raised, but many Marines were recruited for service on board the ships of the infant Navy where they performed creditably in all the major sea actions of the Revolutionary War, staged two important amphibious landings in the Bahamas, and ashore participated in the Trenton-Princeton campaign under General Washington.
The Continental Marines, like the Navy and all but a minuscule detachment of the Army, passed out of existence following the close of the Revolutionary War. However,
foreign pressures brought the Navy back into existence in 1798 under the recently adopted Constitution, and on 11 July of that year the Marine Corps was reactivated as a separate service within the naval establishment.
Since that date Marines have fought in every official war the United States has had--and scores of obscure affairs that lacked official blessing but in which, to quote the eminent Marine writer, John W. Thomason, Jr., "...a man can be killed as dead as ever a chap was in the Argonne."1 They have served as strictly naval troops, both ashore and afloat, and participated in extended land operations under Army command, notably in the Creek-Seminole Indian Wars of the 1830's, the Mexican War, both World Wars, and in Korea.
All over the world, Britain's Royal Marines were seeing much the same type of service. For a century or more the courses of the two corps ran parallel, and they were as functionally alike as it is possible for any two military organizations to be. Individual members of these services had so many interests in common that, as one British writer put it, they had a tendency to "chum up"2 when ships of the two nations put in to the same ports. Even the present U.S. Marine emblem....
(CONTINUED--CLICK ON LINK BELOW)
RESTORE THE REPUBLIC!
R.W. "D1ck" Gaines
GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952- (Plt #437PISC)-'72
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