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Monday, November 8, 2010

Semper Fi for 235

“If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven's scenes; they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.” — United States Marine Corps Hymn.  

 235 years ago, on November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia passed a resolution stating that "two Battalions of Marines be raised" for service as landing forces with the fleet. This resolution established the Continental Marines and marked the birth date of the United States Marine Corps. Serving on land and at sea, these first Marines distinguished themselves in a number of important operations, including their first amphibious raid into the Bahamas in March 1776, under the command of Captain (later Major) Samuel Nicholas. Nicholas, the first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines, remained the senior Marine officer throughout the American Revolution and is considered to be the first Marine Commandant. The Treaty of Parris in April 1783 brought an end to the Revolutionary War and as the last of the Navy's ships were sold, the Continental Navy and Marines went out of existence.

Following the Revolutionary War and the formal re-establishment of the Marine Corps on 11 July 1798, Marines saw action in the quasi-war with France, landed in Santo Domingo, and took part in many operations against the Barbary pirates along the "Shores of Tripoli".

In preparation for the Quasi-War with France, Congress created the United States Navy and the Marine Corps. The "Act to provide a Naval Armament" of 27 March 1794 authorizing the construction of new frigates for the war specified the numbers of Marines to be recruited for each frigate. Marines were enlisted by the War Department as early as August 1797 for service in these frigates. Daniel Carmick and Lemuel Clerk were commissioned as Lieutenants of Marines on May 5, 1798.

Under the "Act for establishing and organizing a Marine Corps", signed on 11 July 1798 by President John Adams, the Marine Corps was to consist of a battalion of 500 privates, lead by a major and a complement of officers and NCO's. The next day, William Ward Burrows was appointed a major. In the Quasi-War, Marines aboard the USS Constitution and other ships conducted raids in the waters off Hispaniola against the French and Spanish, making the first of many landings in Haiti and participating in the Battle of Puerto Plata Harbor.

Among the equipment Burrows inherited was a stock of leftover blue uniforms with red trim. These uniforms became the the basis for the modern Blue Dress Marine uniform. When the capital moved to Washington, D.C. in June 1800, Burrows was appointed Lieutenant Colonel Commandant of the Marine Corps. In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson and Burrows rode horses about the new capital to find a place suitable for a Marine barracks near the Washington Navy Yard. They chose the land between 8th and 9th, and G and I streets and hired architect George Hadfield to design the barracks and the Commandant’s House, in use today as Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.. Burrows also founded the United States Marine Band from an act of Congress passed on July 11, 1798, which debuted at the President's House on 1 January 1801 and has played for every presidential inauguration since. The most famous conductor/composer of the Marine Band was John Philip Sousa, whose famous march Semper Fidelis became the official march of the United States Marine Corps.

The Marines' most famous action of this period occurred in the First Barbary War (1801–1805) against the Barbary pirates, when William Eaton and First Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon led a group of eight Marines and 300 Arab and European mercenaries in an attempt to capture Tripoli. Though they only made it as far as Derne, Tripoli has been immortalized in the Marines' Hymn. The Ottoman viceroy, Prince Hamet Karamanli was so impressed with the Marines that on December 8, 1804, he presented a Mameluke sword to O'Bannon inscribed in memory of the Battle of Tripoli Harbor, a tradition continued today by the swords worn by Marine officers. Several years ago, while vacationing in Spain, I had an opportunity to visit the factory in Toledo where each Marine sword is painstakingly forged and crafted to perfection.

Marines participated in numerous naval operations during the War of 1812, as well as participating in the defense of Washington at Bladensburg, Maryland, and fought alongside Andrew Jackson in the defeat of the British at New Orleans. The decades following the War of 1812 saw the Marines protecting American interests around the world, in the Caribbean, at the Falkland Islands, Sumatra and off the coast of West Africa, and also close to home in the operations against the Seminole Indians in Florida.

During the Mexican War (1846-1848), Marines seized enemy seaports on both the Gulf and Pacific coasts. A battalion of Marines joined General Scott's army at Pueblo and fought all the way to the "Halls of Montezuma," Mexico City. Marines also served ashore and afloat in the Civil War (1861-1865). Although most service was with the Navy, a battalion fought at Bull Run and other units saw action with the blockading squadrons and at Cape Hatteras, New Orleans, Charleston, and Fort Fisher. The last third of the 19th century saw Marines making numerous landings throughout the world, especially in the Orient and in the Caribbean area.

Following the Spanish-American War (1898), in which Marines performed with valor in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, the Corps entered an era of expansion and professional development. It saw active service in the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902), the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900). and in numerous other nations, including Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Mexico, and Haiti.

In World War I the Marine Corps distinguished itself on the battlefields of France as the 4th Marine Brigade earned the title of "Devil Dogs" for heroic action during 1918 at Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Michiel, Blanc Mont, and in the final Meuse-Argonne offensive. Marine aviation, which dates from 1912, also played a part in the war effort, as Marine pilots flew day bomber missions over France and Belgium. More than 30,000 Marines had served in France and more than a third were killed or wounded in six months of intense fighting.

During the two decades before World War II, the Marine Corps began to develop in earnest the doctrine, equipment, and organization needed for amphibious warfare. The success of this effort was proven first on Guadalcanal, then on Bougainville, Tarawa, New Britain, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. By the end of the war in 1945, the Marine Corps had grown to include six divisions, five air wings, and supporting troops. Its strength in World War II peaked at 485,113. The war cost the Marines nearly 87,000 dead and wounded and 82 Marines had earned the Medal of Honor.

While Marine units took part in the post-war occupation of Japan and North China, studies were undertaken at Quantico, Virginia, which concentrated on attaining a "vertical envelopment" capability for the Corps through the use of helicopters. Landing at Inchon, Korea in September 1950, Marines proved that the doctrine of amphibious assault was still viable and necessary. After the recapture of Seoul, the Marines advanced to the Chosin Reservoir only to see the Chinese Communists enter the war. After years of offensives, counter-offensives, seemingly endless trench warfare, and occupation duty, the last Marine ground troops were withdrawn in March 1955. Of the 54,000 Americans killed in the Korean War more than 4,000 were U.S. Marines (4,267 Marines were killed and 23,744 wounded) with 42 being awarded the Medal of Honor.

One of the legends that are attributed to the Marine Corps is their famous evacuation from the Chosin Reservoir. The 1st Marine Division after landing on the East Coast of the Korean Peninsula at Wonsan had advanced to the Yalu River near the Chinese boarder to a place on the map identified as the Chosin Reservoir. The Chosin Reservoir is a man-made lake located in the northeast of the Korean peninsula. The name Chosin is the Japanese rendition of the Korean place name Changjin, and the name stuck due to the outdated Japanese maps used by UN forces. The battle's main focus was around the 78 miles (126 km) long road that connects Hungnam and Chosin Reservoir, which served as the only retreat route for the UN forces.

On the night of 27 November, 1950 thousands of Chinese troops surrounded the 5th, 7th and 11th Marines. It soon became apparent to Major General Oliver P. Smith, commander of the 1st Marine Division that they had run into a trap and would have to withdraw. This was not an easy task as the topography and weather was against the Marines and there was only one road that could be used and this road was under constant attack by the Chinese.

With temperatures reaching as low a 35 degrees below zero and the use vehicles not feasible due to the constant Chinese attacks the Marines had to walk the 78 miles to safety. When asked about the retreat General Smith replied “that the “Marines weren't retreating, they were simply attacking in a different direction.” This response has gone down in history as a mark of the U.S. Marine Corps.

One of the Marines involved in this operation is my friend Jimmy Toler. Jimmy was a Navy Corpsman (Marine Medic) who received a Navy Cross during this operation. He was holed up in a cave attending to over 30 wounded Marines when the cave came under attack by hundred of Chinese troops. Jimmy, he only able-bodied fighter in the cave used every weapon he could gather from he wounded Marines to repel the attack. Finally after about 15 minutes he was able to turn the attackers away after killing 33 and wounding scores of others. He saved every one of those wounded Marines and for his actions he was awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest medal in the United States Navy, second only to the Medal of Honor. Jimmy received several other medals while he served in Korea with the Marines.

The landing of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Da Nang in 1965 marked the beginning of large-scale Marine involvement in Vietnam. By summer 1968, after the enemy's Tet Offensive, Marine Corps strength in Vietnam rose to a peak of approximately 85,000. The Marine withdrawal began in 1969 as the South Vietnamese began to assume a larger role in the fighting; the last ground forces were out of Vietnam by June 1971. The Vietnam War, longest in the history of the Marine Corps, exacted a high cost as well with over 13,000 Marines killed and more than 88,000 wounded. In the spring of 1975, Marines evacuated embassy staffs, American citizens, and refugees in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. Later, in May 1975, Marines played an integral role in the rescue of the crew of the SS Mayaguez captured off the coast of Cambodia.

The mid-1970s saw the Marine Corps assume an increasingly significant role in defending NATO's northern flank as amphibious units of the 2d Marine Division participated in exercises throughout northern Europe. The Marine Corps also played a key role in the development of the Rapid Deployment Force, a multi-service organization created to insure a flexible, timely military response around the world when needed. The Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS) concept was developed to enhance this capability by prestaging equipment needed for combat in the vicinity of the designated area of operations, and reduce response time as Marines travel by air to link up with MPS assets.

The 1980s brought an increasing number of terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies around the world. Marine Security Guards, under the direction of the State Department, continued to serve with distinction in the face of this challenge. In August 1982, Marine units landed at Beirut, Lebanon, as part of the multi-national peace-keeping force. For the next 19 months these units faced the hazards of their mission with courage and professionalism. In October 1983, Marines took part in the highly successful, short-notice intervention in Grenada. As the decade of the 1980s came to a close, Marines were summoned to respond to instability in Central America. Operation Just Cause was launched in Panama in December 1989 to protect American lives and restore the democratic process in that nation.

Less than a year later, in August 1990, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait set in motion events that would lead to the largest movement of Marine Corps forces since World War II. Between August 1990 and January 1991, some 24 infantry battalions, 40 squadrons, and more than 92,000 Marines deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield. Operation Desert Storm was launched 16 January 1991, the day the air campaign began. The main attack came overland beginning 24 February when the 1st and 2d Marine Divisions breached the Iraqi defense lines and stormed into occupied Kuwait. By the morning of February 28, 100 hours after the ground war began, almost the entire Iraqi Army in the Kuwaiti theater of operations had been encircled with 4,000 tanks destroyed and 42 divisions destroyed or rendered ineffective.

Today I have a close family friend serving with the Marines in Afghanistan. Major Mike, a life-long friend of my nephew, is a Marine aviator flying sorties against the jihadists out of his base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Major Mike always wanted to fly fighter planes for the Marines. After his graduation from high school he attended Arizona State University where he joined the Marine ROTC. Upon his graduation from ASU Mike went into the Marines where he learned to fly F-18 Hornets and was eventually assigned to a squadron attached to the aircraft Carl Vinson (CVN 70). After several tours on the Carl Vinson Mike was stationed at MCAS Miramar. Early this year Major Mike was deployed to Afghanistan where he is now serving and giving tactical air support to the Marines that are killing the Taliban and Al Qaeda jihadists. 

Today's Marine Corps stands ready to continue in the proud tradition of those who so valiantly fought and died at Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, Fallujah and Kandahar. Combining a long and proud heritage of faithful service to the nation, with the resolve to face tomorrow's challenges will continue to keep the Marine Corps the “The Few, The Proud, The Marines.””

A Marine friend of mine once told me when I asked him the meaning of the eagle, globe and anchor in the Marine logo — “We stole the eagle from the Air force, the anchor from the Navy, the rope from the Army, and when God rested on the seventh day when he finished creating the world, we over ran his perimeter and stole the globe.”
Click here for the Marine Hymn.

Happy 235th Birthday to the United States Marines with many more to come.

Semper Fidelis!

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