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Semper Fi
Highlights from the History of the US Marines

Semper Fi
  • The Battle of Chapultepec (by )
  • Strong Men Armed the United States Marin... (by )
  • Conflict the History of the Korean War 1... (by )
  • U.S. Marine Corps (by )
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The U.S. Marines Corps are an elite group who defend America on land, at sea, and via the air. Renowned for their fighting spirit, their motto Semper Fidelis (Semper Fi) means “Always Faithful” in Latin.

In Semper Fidelis, The U.S. Marines in Action, author Keith Ayling writes, 

There is dash and glamour about a marine [sic]. He is a hard man in a distinctive uniform. He talks a language of his own, sees life with a slant different from other men of other corps, and molds his entire life to the tradition of his Corps. (p. 1)

The Marines have a unique history. According to legend, the first recruitment was conducted in a tavern in Philadelphia in November 1775. Initially founded to conduct ship-to-ship fighting, the Marines also provided shipboard security and discipline enforcement, and assisted in landing forces.

In 1776, the Marines executed its first amphibious landing in the Bahamas. The group was searching for military supplies stockpiled by the British and intended to be used by British forces waging war against the 13 colonies. After capturing the town, the Marines seized the forts and stockpiles. Some of the captured supplies were later used by George Washington’s Continental Army. 

The history of the Marines’ Hymn, “From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea,” dates back to the Battle of Derna in 1805. 

Thomas Jefferson sent the force to Libya to battle pirates that were raiding American merchant ships. The Marines received their nickname “Leathernecks” at this time, due to the high leather collar they wore as protection against sword cuts. Marking its first battle on foreign soil, the Marines were victorious in rescuing the kidnapped crew of the USS Philadelphia
Other notable battles include The Battle of Chapultepec (in the “Halls of Montezuma”) in 1847, the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918, and the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, during which the Marines were sent in to capture Japanese airfields. 

But Vandegrift (General Alexander Vandegrift) was a Marine accustomed to adversity and skilled in the art of improvising. In those years between World Wars, when Congress slashed military budgets with a belligerence matched only by the ferocity of its pacifism, he had been among those officers who fought to fulfill a vision of the Marine Corps as a highly trained assault force with a special mission of making ship-to-shore landings on enemy-held terrain. (p. 10)

It was during the Korean War that the Marines earned the moniker “Chosin Few” and “Frozen Chosin.” They fought a ferocious battle by the Chosin Reservoir and were surrounded and massively outnumbered by the Chinese army. They also faced extreme weather conditions and difficult terrain., Obut once again, they prevailed. 

In Conflict, The Story of the Korean War, Robert Leckie writes, 

That same day the Eighth Army offensive jumped off in the west, and the following day, November 25, with the Marines still marking time at Chosin Reservoir, the XIII Army Group of the Chinese Communist Third Field Army launched its massive counterstroke against the Eighth Army. (p. 210)

By Regina Molaro

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