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10 Big Moments in Marine Corps History

Devil Dogs, Jarheads, Leathernecks . . .

The Marine Corps has earned a long list of nicknames. They’re also known as the “First to Fight,” being at the forefront of every American war since their founding.

Birthday number 243 has rolled around for the Corps. The Continental Marines were established on November 10th, 1775, along with the Continental Navy. The Marines were formed as a service branch of infantry troops that were capable of fighting both at sea and on shore. Since then, they have worked closely with naval forces, and are an important component of the U.S. Department of the Navy. 

Moments in History

1. Fort Nassau, 1776

This marked the first successful amphibious landing on a hostile shore. The Continental Marines forced the surrender of British troops in the Bahamas, and gained a large supply of gunpowder.

2. Battle of Derna, 1805

The nickname “Leathernecks” was born here due to the Marines’ high collars of leather, worn to protect against the swords of Barbary pirates. Their victory protected U.S. ships and trading in the area.

3. Battle of Chapultepec, 1847

Marines stormed the Palacio Nacional, known as the “Halls of Montezuma.” Their role in the Mexican-American War helped define the border between the two nations, which remains the same today.

4. Battle of Belleau Wood, 1918

Though they suffered heavy casualties against their German opponents, the Marines used fixed bayonets and superior marksmanship to defeat the enemy. After 20 days of fighting it earned them the nickname “Devil Dogs.”

5. Battle of Iwo Jima, 1945

The 36-day battle was a tipping point in World War II. The iconic image of Marines raising the American flag has become a monument, and one of the most recognized pictures in history.

6. Chosin Reservoir, 1950

Despite facing record snow, wind, and -40 degree temperatures, the 1st Marine Division could not be stopped. They were outnumbered 8-to-1 by the Chinese Army and still came out victorious.

7. Battle of Hue, 1968

One of the most famous battles of the Vietnam War, it took place during 33 days in the winter of ‘68. The Marines were outnumbered against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces, but retook the ancient city of Hue.

8. Operation Desert Storm, 1991

Iraq was driven out of Kuwait by U.S. and UN forces. Using both air, water, and ground tactics, the Marine Corps led one of the most successful assaults in modern warfare.

9. Operation Enduring Freedom, 2001

The Marines were the first to land in Afghanistan after 9/11. They captured Kandahar Airport and turned it into a major U.S. command center.

10. Iraq War, 2003-2011

The method of breaching and clearing buildings was established by Marines in metropolitan areas of Iraq, especially Fallujah. This was the beginning of a whole new way of fighting.

Today . . .

The Marine Corps Birthday Ball marks its founding every year. It’s a formal ball that involves a ceremony, where Lieutenant General John A. Lejeune’s 1921 birthday message is traditionally read.

“So long as [our] spirit continues to flourish, 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,’” Lejeune said.

Lejeune served as the Marine Corps’ 13th Commandant and had nearly 40 years in the military. He is often referred to as the “greatest of all Leathernecks” and the “Marine’s Marine.”

With only 186,000 active duty members and around 39,000 reserve Marines, the USMC is the smallest military service within the DoD. With that said, it has a reputation of being the toughest among the branches.

Semper Fi, Marines! Happy birthday.


“Marine Corps History.” United States Marine Corps,

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