Never Faithful; The Rivalry Between our Army and Marines

A. Scott Piraino

The United states has two armies. Today we take this for granted, and don’t question the reasons for funding both the United States Army, and the United states Marine Corps. But it wasn’t always this way.

There were no Marines in the Continental Army that won the Revolutionary War. During the Civil War, Congress authorized less than 3,200 men for the Marine Corps, this while the Union Armies totaled nearly one million men. The fact is, for most of their history the United States Marine Corps was little more than a security force for the Navy.

The myth of the Marine Corps as a second army began in WW I. When the United states entered the war in 1917, over two million U.S. Army soldiers were deployed to France along with one brigade of marines, about ten thousand strong. Despite being a tiny fraction of the American forces fighting in WW I, the Marines managed to make a name for themselves at the U.S. Army’s expense.

General Pershing, the Commander of all U.S. Forces in France, had ordered a news blackout that prevented reporters from mentioning specific units in their dispatches. The purpose of the order was obvious; to prevent German intelligence from learning about American troop movements. But one reporter circumvented the order, a war correspondent for the Chicago Tribune named Floyd Gibbons.

After Mr. Gibbons was severely wounded at the battle of Belleau Wood, the press corps passed on his dispatches without the approval of Army censors. The result was a storm of press coverage in the US claiming that the Huns were being defeated with “the Help of God and a few Marines”. No mention was made of the thousands of Army soldiers who were fighting and dying with equal valor.

Floyd Gibbons made no secret of his “friendship and admiration for the U.S. Marines”. There is no proof that his writings created the mythology of the Marine Corps, but we do know he wrote a biography of Baron von Richthofen, more popularly known as the Red Baron. His description of the German aviator reads as propaganda, not journalism, and his other works were probably embellished as well.

Today all Marines in basic training are taught that German soldiers in WW I referred to them as “Devil Dogs”. H.L. Mencken, an American writing in 1921, clearly states that; “The Germans, during the war, had no opprobrious nicknames for their foes…Teufelhunde (devil-dogs), for the American marines, was invented by an American correspondent; the Germans never used it.”

In addition, there is the legend of “Bulldog Fountain”, where the U.S. Marine’s mascot originated. This fountain is located in the village of Belleau, not the wood of the same name. Although the Marines fought in Belleau Wood, the US Army’s 26th division liberated the village, three weeks after the Marines had left the area.

There is no documented evidence that Germans ever referred to Marines as “Devil dogs”, and the Marines never captured the village of Belleau with its “Bulldog Fountain”. It is not clear exactly where these stories come from, but their source is most likely Floyd Gibbons. Perhaps the Marines knew this, because they made him an honorary Marine posthumously in 1941.

Floyd Gibbons helped enhance the image of the Marines, but the United States Marine Corps as we know it today came of age in WW II. Most Americans believe that the Marine Corps won the war in the Pacific, while the US Army fought in Europe. In fact our Pacific operations were hampered by a conflict between the Army and the Navy, that split the theatre in two.

The Navy adamantly refused to place their fleet, (and their Marines), under the command of the Army. After five weeks of bureaucratic wrangling, General MacArthur was given command of the Southwest Pacific theatre, while Admiral Nimitz had jurisdiction over the remainder of the Pacific ocean. The result, in Macarthur’s own words, was a “divided effort, the… duplication of force (and) undue extension of the war with added casualties and cost”.

The US Army fought the main force of the Japanese Imperial Army in New Guinea and the Philippines. The Navy and Marines carried out an “island hopping” strategy that involved amphibious assaults on islands such as Guadalcanal and Saipan. General Macarthur complained bitterly to the President that “these frontal attacks by the Navy, as at Tarawa, are tragic and unnecessary massacres of American lives“.

By way of comparison, General Macarthur’s Army killed, captured, or stranded over a quarter of a million Japanese troops during the New Guinea campaign, at a cost of only 33,000 US casualties. The Navy and Marines suffered over 28,000 casualties to kill roughly 20,000 Japanese on Iwo Jima. Even then, the Army played a greater role than Marines like to admit; the Army had more divisions assaulting Okinawa than the Marines.

The famous image of Marines raising the US flag on Mount Suribachi is actually a photograph of the second, staged flag-raising ceremony. The Marines raised the flag a second time to replace the original, smaller flag, and to provide the press corps with a better photo opportunity. That photograph has become one of the most enduring images of WW II, and served as the model for the Marine Corps Memorial statue.

The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, was on Iwo Jima that morning in 1945, and when he saw the Stars and Stripes go up he declared; ‘The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years!”

In fact the Marine Corps was nearly legislated out of existence two years later. After the bureaucratic infighting that characterized inter-service relations during WW II, there was a strong desire among military professionals to unify the military commands. President Truman agreed, and in 1946 his administration proposed a bill to unify the separate service bureaucracies.

Having one budgetary authority for the Armed Forces, and one chain of command each for land forces, ships, and aircraft makes sense. But this would have placed the US Navy at a distinct disadvantage. The Navy had their own air wings aboard their carriers, and their own army, the Marine Corps.

The Navy and Marine Corps were determined to scuttle this legislation. Marine generals created a secret office code named the Chowder Society to lobby behind the scenes, (in opposition to their President and Commander in Chief), and thwart the unification bill before Congress. The Commandant of the Marine Corps even made an impassioned speech before Congress to plead for his separate service.

It worked. Congress rejected the Truman administration’s unification bill, and instead passed the National Security Act of 1947. This Act guaranteed separate services, with their own independent budgets, and was a victory for the Navy and Marine Corps.

In addition, the Marines succeeded in having their separate force structure written into the language of the legislation. It is very unusual for Congress to dictate the actual composition of a military service. Yet the National Security Act mandates that the Marines Corps must maintain “not less than three combat divisions and three aircraft wings and such land combat, aviation, and other services as necessary to support them“.

President Truman was furious, and military professionals were appalled. General Eisenhower characterized the Marines as “being so unsure of their value to their country that they insisted on writing into the law a complete set of rules and specifications for their future operations and duties. Such freezing of detail…is silly, even vicious.”

The war between the Army and Marines would get more vicious in Korea. On November 27th, 1950 a division of Marines 25,000 strong, was ordered to proceed along the west side of the Chosin reservoir, while a much smaller task force of 2500 Army troops went up the eastern side. Waiting for them were 120,000 troops of the Chinese Communist 9th Army Group.

The Army soldiers fought a running battle for three days against a Chinese force eight times their size, in temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees. Despite the death of two commanding officers, the task force lumbered south with over 600 dead and wounded soldiers loaded into trucks, fought through repeated ambushes, and was even mistakenly bombed by US Marine aircraft. Finally, just four miles from safety, the convoy was cut off by the Chinese and annihilated.

385 men made it to the safety of American lines by crossing the frozen Chosin Reservoir.

The First Marine Division, with the help of allied air power, managed to fight their way out of the Chinese encirclement. Marines claimed that the Army had disgraced itself, and passed on stories of US soldiers throwing down their weapons and feigning injuries. A Marine Chaplain even made statements to the press and wrote an article accusing army soldiers of cowardice.

There were so few officers and men left from the Army task force that the Marine’s claims were accepted as fact. But newly released Chinese documents prove otherwise. The Army task force fought bravely against overwhelming odds before being destroyed, and their stubborn defense bought time for the Marines to escape the encirclement.

Nevertheless, Marines to this day hold up the fight at the Chosin reservoir as proof of their superiority over the Army.

In Vietnam, a Marine regiment at Khe Sanh refused to come to the aid of a Special Forces outpost only four miles from their perimeter. On Febuary 7th, 1968, the camp at Lang Vei was overran by heavily armed North Vietnamese troops during an all-night battle. The Marines had earlier agreed to reinforce the camp in the event of an attack, but two requests for assistance were denied.

General Westmoreland himself had to order the Marines to provide helicopters for Special forces personnel, so they could be airlifted into the besieged outpost. By this time the post had been overrun, at a cost of 208 soldiers killed and another 80 wounded. Ironically, two months later this same Marine regiment would be besieged at Khe Sanh, and they would be relieved by Army troops of the First Cavalry Division.

During Operation Desert Storm 90,000 Marines attacked Iraqi forces alongside over 500,000 US Army and coalition troops. Yet the Marines garnered 75 percent of the newsprint and TV coverage. This was not an accident.

The Commanding General of the Marines in Iraq, Gen. Walt Boomer, was the former Director of Public Affairs for the Corps. He issued the following order to Marine units in the theater:

“CMC [Commandant of the Marine Corps, then General A. M. Gray] desires maximum media coverage of USMC … The news media are the tools through which we can tell Americans about the dedication, motivation, and sacrifices of their Marines. Commanders should include public affairs requirements in their operational planning to ensure that the accomplishments of our Marines are reported to the public.“

During the war Marine officers used military communications systems to transmit stories for reporters in the field, and even assigned personnel to carry press dispatches to rear areas. The Marine Commander also had his own entourage of reporters complete with satellite uplinks, and used them to good effect. He received far more air time than his Army counterparts.

The US Army performed a “Hail Mary” operation that trapped Iraq’s Republican Guard divisions and fought numerous running battles in the Iraqi desert. But no one saw them. Instead the press focused on Lt. Gen. Walter Boomer parading triumphantly through the streets of Kuwait City.

When George Bush the Second launched his misguided invasion of Iraq, the Marines were once again included, and this time the goal was Baghdad. The invasion, which began on March 20th, 2003, called for a two pronged assault on Baghdad. The Army’s 5th Corps would advance from the desert west of the Euphrates river, while the First Marine division was ordered to cross the Euphrates and make a parallel advance through central Iraq.

The invasion did not go well for the Marines. In several cities, including Umm al Qasr and Nasiriya, their units suffered heavy casualties fighting remnants of the Iraqi Army and fedayeen guerrillas. Since the Marines had fewer armored vehicles, and they were exposed to a more tenacious enemy, their progress was slower than the Army’s.

Major General Mattis, the commanding general of the Marines in Iraq, was not pleased. He repeatedly pressured his regiments to make greater speed, and this pressure grew more intense as the Marines lagged further behind Army units. On the morning of April 3rd, the First Marine Regiment, commanded by Colonel Dowdy, was ordered to drive to the town of al-Kut.

The city was another choke point, where Iraqi fedayeen guerrillas could ambush Marine convoys in city streets. As soon as his Marines reached the city, they began taking fire. Colonel Dowdy could not forget the mauling another regiment had received in Nasiriya, where 17 Marines were killed and another seventy were wounded.

He had to make a choice. His orders were to proceed to al-Kut, but the decision to push through or bypass the town was up to him. However, Colonel Dowdy was receiving mixed signals from his superiors. According to him “there was a lot of confusion”, some officers were recommending an attack, others urged withdrawal.

Colonel Dowdy decided to bypass al-Kut. His regiment would take an alternative route to Baghdad that was safer, but the detour of 170 miles meant that the Marines fell further behind schedule. Colonel Dowdy‘s superiors were furious with his decision.

After the withdrawal from al-Kut, General Mattis and other staff officers let the Colonel know that his regiment was to make greater speed. That night on the road to Baghdad, vehicles of the First Marine Regiment were ordered to drive the highways of Iraq with their headlights on, irregardless of security. But their progress was not good enough, the Army‘s Fifth Corps had already reached Baghdad.

Colonel Joe Dowdy was relieved of his command the following day. The Marine Corps will never admit it, but he was fired because he failed to carry out the Corps most important mission in Iraq: Colonel Dowdy failed to upstage the US Army by being the first to reach Baghdad.

The Marines would return to Iraq one year later, when the First Marine Expeditionary Force assumed responsibility for Al Anbar province, which includes the city of Fallujah.

During the change of command ceremony Lt. Gen. James T. Conway of the I MEF proclaimed that; “Although Marines don’t normally do nation-building, they will tell you that once given the mission, nobody can do it better.” The Marines took control of the area from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, and they made no secret of their distain for the Army’s strategy in Iraq.

Before deploying, General Conway had told the New York Times “I don’t envision using that tactic“, when asked about Army troops using air strikes against the insurgents. “I don’t want to condemn what [Army] people are doing. I think that they are doing what they think they have to do.”

On March 30th, General Conway told a reporter that “There’s no place in our area of operation that we won’t go, and we have taken some casualties in the early going making that point“. The next day four civilian contractors were killed and mutilated in Fallujah, and five Marines also lost their lives. The Marines sealed off the city and attempted to reassert control over Fallujah, but the insurgents proved to be more determined than expected.

When their patrols came under heavy fire the lightly armed Marines had only two choices; Fight it out with the insurgents on foot, or call in artillery and air strikes. The inevitable result was scores of Marines killed or wounded, and hundreds of civilian casualties. The world was appalled by the carnage in Fallujah, and the Marines were called off.

While Marines were fighting in Fallujah, the US Army was heavily engaged against militiamen loyal to Muqtata al-Sadr in cities throughout Iraq. But in contrast to the Marine’s failure to recapture Fallujah, the US Army’s heavy armored vehicles could enter hostile cities with impunity. They brought al-Sadr to heel after two months of fighting, while suffering relatively few casualties.

An uneasy truce was made between the US Army and al-Sadr’s militia, that would last until the Marines again became involved. On July 31st 2004, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit replaced Army units in the holy city of Najaf, headquarters of Muqtata al-Sadr. Just five days later, al-Sadr’s militia would again be waging open war against the US, and the Marines would be calling for reinforcements.

The Marines began skirmishing with al-Sadr’s militiamen as soon as they were given responsibility for Najaf. After the uprising in April, US Army units had avoided driving past al-Sadr’s house as part of the informal truce, but this would not do for the Marines. The second Shia uprising began after Marines in Najaf provoked al-Sadr by driving their patrols right up to his stronghold.

A firefight ensued, and al-Sadr’s militiamen took up arms in cities throughout Iraq in a replay of the uprising in April. The Marines had not just picked a fight with Muqtada in Najaf, they had engaged his militia in an ancient cemetery that abutted the Imam Ali Mosque, Shiite Islam’s holiest shrine. And they did this without informing the Army chain of command, or the Iraqi government.

According to Maj. David Holahan, second in command of the Marine unit in Najaf, “We just did it”. But in a replay of the Fallujah assault, the Marines faced an enemy that they were not prepared for. Within hours of launching their attack on August 5th, the Marines were pinned down, and requesting assistance.

Unfortunately for the Marines, their rash attack on al-Sadr’s headquarters had sparked another revolt by his militiamen. Army units were once again fighting the Mahdi army in cities throughout Iraq. When the Army’s Fifth Cavalry Regiment received orders to reinforce the beleaguered Marines, they were deployed against al-Sadr’s militia in the outskirts of Bagdhad, 120 miles away.

The Fifth Cavalry arrived in Najaf after a two day drive through insurgent controlled territory. By then any opportunity to capture al-Sadr had been lost, because the press, and the Islamic world, were focused on the Imam Ali Mosque and the adjacent cemetery. Any attack on Shiite Islam’s holiest shrine, where Muqtata al-Sadr was holed up, would have had disastrous consequences for the US war effort.

In Fallujah and Najaf, inexperienced Marine units picked fights with insurgents, and in both cases ended up handing the enemy a strategic victory. Their failure to recapture Fallujah made the city a rallying cry for Islamic militarism worldwide, (that is until the second US assault rendered Fallujah uninhabitable). The Marine’s botched attempt to capture Muqtata al-Sadr has only strengthened his hand.

Today there are 23,000 Marines in Iraq, out of a total 138,000 U.S. Armed Forces personnel. Marines are 17 percent of our total force, yet they have suffered 29 percent of all U.S. casualties; 530 of the more than 1,820 U.S. service personnel killed in Iraq. The Marine’s aggressive tactics combined with a lack of armored firepower has proven lethal, their bravery notwithstanding.

The United States Marines pride themselves on being better than the US Army. They are harder, more gung-ho, and they possess some magic that enables them to do things the US Army can’t do. If this is not true, (as recent events in Iraq suggest), then there is no reason for a separate Marine Corps.

President Harry Truman once stated that Marines; “Have a propaganda machine that is almost equal to Stalin’s.” The Marines have always advertised themselves, but in Truman’s day, they at least had something to sell. The original raison d’etre of the USMC was their ability to carry out amphibious landings on hostile beaches.

The truth is, the US Army conducted the biggest amphibious assault in our nation’s history when they captured the Normandy beaches. And neither the Army or the Marines have assaulted an enemy held beach since the Korean war, over fifty years ago. In every subsequent conflict Soldiers and Marines have fought in the same way, using similar equipment and tactics.

The Marines are in fact a second Army, and since they compete with the Army for funds, missions, and prestige, their real enemy is… the US Army.

However, the Marine Corps has an unfair advantage in this competition. Since the end of Desert Storm the US Army has been downsized by one third, losing over 200,000 troops and eight combat divisions. By Contrast the Marines have lost only twenty thousand personnel. The reason is the National Security Act of 1947, which prevents any changes in the force structure of the Marines.

Today’s United States Marine Corps is only slightly larger than the US Army in Iraq. That war is stretching our Army to the breaking point. The obvious solution is to merge the Army and Marine corps into one service.

The savings would add up to tens of billions of dollars when their training, logistics, administration, and headquarters were merged. The personnel shortages that are now crippling both services would disappear. And so would the rivalry between the Army and the Marine Corps.

Published in: on August 7, 2005 at 7:22 pm  Comments (12)  

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Extreme bias….

  2. Finally, someone has “told it like it is”! The bravado of the Marines has, over the years, caused unecessary friendly casualties and the results/statistics have proven, although they are good ‘soldiers’ their mentality and leadership is obviously lacking. I had the opportunity to observe Marine actions close up in Vietnam as a member of Army Special Forces and had been disappointed by their lack of inter-service cooperation and lack of common sense.


  4. I am a U.S. Soldier and I find this article completely biased. The Marines were a part of the Revolutionary War, it’s a documented fact. The U.S. Marines have played important roles in ALL of our nation’s conflicts. To dismiss the Marines contributions in this was is disgraceful.

    Shame on you Mr. Piraino. Your “article” is about the most biased piece of writing that I have ever encountered. You have made no attempt to be objective.

    I have served with the Marines in the US and in the Middle East. They are one of the most effective fighting forces ever fielded by any country.

  5. People who want to believe this tripe, will. Those who don’t, won’t. Either way, I’d venture a guess that the author has not had a whole lot of combat experience, and certainly none in the vicinity of Marines. He is inaccurate in several instances, the first of which is in stating that the Marines did not serve in the Revolutionary War. In other instances, he uses the tactic of “liberal truth”, wherein he states something that is partially true but doesn’t give the whole story. Ah well, as the lyrics of a song popular during the Vietnam War stated, “all lies, and yet, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”.

  6. Why isn’t my MAIN initial COMMENT. to this article being displayed?

  7. this guy hates Marines i assume

  8. A. Scott Piraino is misleading many people on this site. He does not give all the facts. Here is what happened with Lang Vei/Khe Sanh.

    There is never, ever only one relief force, because the ability of any relief force to execute its relief mission is based on that unit’s tactical situation at the time of the request.

    An example would be during the Korean war if RCT-31 had promised to come to the aid of the Marines at Yudam-ni; it would have been impossible for them to do so because of the tactical situation they were in.

    And if the Marines at Yudam-ni had promised to come to the aid of RCT-31 it would have been impossible as well.

    So, considering the situation that Khe Sanh was in at the time of Tet. It was not feasible for the Marines at Khe Sanh to come to the relief of Lang Vei.

    That is why the Army relief force was called first.

    There were two other relief forces slated to come to the aid of Lang Vei. Both of them were U.S. Army Mobile Strike Force (MIKE Force) companies at Da Nang, commanded by Maj. Husar (USA), the MIKE Force battalion commander. Col. Schungel (USA) called Hussar at 2am in the morning and ordered him to send in the MIKE Force and informed him that he had tanks in the command post.

    It is painfully evident; that the MIKE Force relief teams earmarked for Lang Vei were not packed and ready to execute their mission. Where they were and why they were not on standby, as well as why they did not have transportation is unknown to me at this time.

    But, it is clear that Maj. Husar had to do some quick recruiting. He snatched everybody and anybody within arm’s reach. He had Chinese Nungs, Rhade Montagnards, Viet Cong Chieu Hoi, a couple of Australians, and four Americans including himself.

    He managed to assemble a total of 150 men that he loaded into trucks and headed for the airfield. The mixed bag of armed ethnic troops with different uniforms posed a serious problem. They had a hard time getting entrance into the airbase so that they could board a C-130 that was supposed to head directly to Khe Sanh. Due to a combination of poor planning and execution along with not having a vetted MIKE Force team on standby, the MIKE Force relief company never made it to Lang Vei. They ended up returning to Da Nang that evening.

    At approximately three in the morning Capt Willoughby (USA) called Jacksonville at Khe Sanh asking them to place an artillery barrage directly on his position, as well as asking the marines to execute the rescue orders. He was told that there would be no relief force.

    The news of the rescue request and its denial by the marines quickly reached the commander of all Special Forces in Vietnam, Col. Ladd (USA). Col. Ladd called Saigon immediately and spoke directly to the commanding officer of all U.S. Forces in Vietnam – Gen. Westmoreland (USA).

    Gen. Westmoreland told Col. Ladd that he was not going to overrule Col. Lownds (USMC) decision.

    Col. Ladd called Gen. Westmorland a second time around 4am and requested to mount a rescue mission of his own. He was turned down.

    That same day Col. Ladd flew to Da Nang to meet with Gen. Westmorland, who had flown there from Saigon. Col. Ladd spoke with Westmorland for the third time about the Lang Vei relief effort. The answer that Col. Ladd received did not satisfy him.

    Col. Ladd, who by this time was very frustrated contacted Gen. Abrams (USA). He told Abrams that he was not getting any action from Gen. Westmorland. Gen. Abrams called Gen. Anderson (USMC) who was the commanding officer of the 1st Marine Air Wing. Gen. Anderson provided the CH-46 helicopters that would fly in the relief force and fly out the survivors and the covering force.

    Gen. Westmorland insists (in writing) that he was the one that made the decision to send in the Marine helicopters.

  9. A. Scott Piraino has got it wrong again. He claims that the second flag raising on Mount Suribachi was staged.


    The first flag raising on Iwo Jima’s Mt. Suribachi was raised around 1030 in the morning. The flag was small and was 54 by 28 inches.

    The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal wanted the Mt. Suribachi flag as a souvenir.

    Consequently, this led to the second flag raising at noon of the same day. The second and larger flag was 96 by 56 inches.

    Rosenthal took two pictures on Mt. Suribachi. The first picture was of the flag raising. Rosenthal almost missed getting the picture and quickly swung his camera up and snapped the photograph without using the viewfinder. He was not sure if he had gotten the picture of the flag raising or not.

    The second picture he took on Mt Suribachi was because he was not sure he had gotten the picture of the flag raising. So, to guarantee he had something to send to the Associated Press; Rosenthal had the forty marines of Easy Company pose for a group shot. (sitting around the base of the flag) This picture was called the “gung-ho” shot.

    A few days after the photograph was taken; Rosenthal, was asked if he had posed the photograph. Thinking the questioner was referring to the ‘gung-ho’ photograph. He replied “Sure.”

    Robert L. Sherrod was a war correspondent for Time and Life magazines covering combat on Iwo Jima during WW2. He admitted to being responsible for spreading the rumor that Joe Rosenthal’s famous photograph of the Marines’ second flag raising on Mount Suribachi was “staged”; he later confessed that he was wrong and apologized.

    Bill Genaust, who was standing almost shoulder-to-shoulder with Rosenthal about thirty yards away, was shooting motion-picture film during the second flag-raising. His film captures the second event at an almost-identical angle to Rosenthal’s famous shot.

    Genaust’s film (which still exists) proves that the flag-raising was not staged.

    In the final analysis, neither the Marine Corps nor Rosenthal staged the flag-raising.

  10. Two more of A. Scott Pirano’s falsehoods. First, he states that there were no Marines in the Continental army. Second, he states that the Marine Corps was little more than a security force for the Navy.

    Piraino leaves out the fact that you do not have to be in the army to contribute to the war effort. So, even if his statement were true that there were no Marines in the Continental army that would not mean that the Marine Corps or the Navy did not contribute to the war effort.

    The historical documented record shows that the Marines did serve on board Navy ships and on the ground with the army.


    The Continental Congress decreed the raising of Continental Marines on November 10,1775. The Marines would be trained for shipboard duty to provide discipline and security (in particular against mutiny), to man guns, and to provide boarding parties and landing forces.

    The Marines conscription, while supposedly for a year, was in effect for the duration of the war.

    On March 3, 1776, the US frigate Alfred set on shore 268 Marines, under the leadership of Captain Nicholas, on New Providence Island in the Bahamas. Within 13, days, the Marine raiding party captured two forts, occupied Nassau town, seized control of the Government house and captured 88 guns, 16,535 shells, and numerous other supplies.

    On its trip home, the Alfred met the HMS Glasgow, a 20-gun British man-of-war, off Block Island, and in a night battle the ship’s Marine unit experienced its first combat losses, 2nd Lt. Fitzpatrick and six enlisted men were killed and four wounded.

    The Glasgow sustained four casualties, all caused by the muskets of the Marines.

    Upon his return, Nicholas was promoted to Major. In December 1776 he was ordered to join his companies of Marines to Gen. John Cadwalader’s (USA) brigade south of Trenton on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, some twenty miles below Washington’s army up the McKonkey’s Ferry.

    As Washington was capturing the Hessians at Trenton on Christmas Day, Gen. Cadwalader could not get his troops across the ice-crusted river to assist because the ice prevented him from crossing his artillery. He did, however, cross a week later in time to join his leader for the second decisive victory at Princeton.

    When British General Cornwallis heard of the defeat of his Hessians at Trenton, he raced toward the New Jersey town.

    He was halfway between Princeton and Trenton, at Maidenhead (present-day Lawrenceville), when Washington, now augmented by Cadwalader’s division and Nicholas’s Marines, personally roused his faltering troops and outfoxed and outmaneuvered the British, soundly defeating them on 3 January, 1777.

    When Washington’s artillery regiment’s enlistments expired following the battle at Princeton, Nicholas’s Marines stayed and took over artillery for the general while the remainder went back to naval duties.

    The Marine artillerymen participated in the defense of Fort Mifflin on the Delaware River. From 22 October to 15 November 1777, a force of twelve British ships, along with Hessian artillery batteries, hammered the fortification into rubble, yet the obstinate defenders were able to fire back and stop the enemy from helping their units holding Philadelphia.

    On 10 January 1778, a small force of Marines commanded by Captain Willing set sail down the Mississippi aboard an antiquated boat renamed by Willing the Rattletrap, headed for New Orleans. During the next year, the detachment operated in the area of that city, primarily attacking British traders until they returned north to join in actions against hostile Indians.

    Some but not all of the subsequent Marine land operations of the war were: Participation in a joint army-navy attempt to seize a British fort at Penobscot Bay, Maine (though the action was unsuccessful, the Marines were commended for their ‘forcible attack on the enemy’); in May 1780, a courageous but futile attempt by 200 Marines and sailors to save Charleston, South Carolina, from a superior British force; an amphibious attack by Marines from the frigate South Carolina on the isle of Jersey in the English Channel during the winter of 1780-1781, the last such attack of the war.

    The Continental Marines, who honorably and courageously served throughout the American Revolution on board the Lexington, Reprisal, Hornet, and Wasp, as well as numerous smaller craft.

    In September of 1781 while Lord Cornwallis was capitulating to Washington at Yorktown. The Marines escorted from Boston to Philadelphia a treasure trove of French silver crowns loaned from Louis XVI. The loan enabled the finance minister Robert M. Morris to open the Bank of North America.

    Marines figured prominently in American naval actions of the war. They took part in attacks on English ships in European waters of the American ship Reprisal until its loss.

    In April 1778, the Marine detachment participated in two raids on the soil of Great Britain conducted from the Ranger, commanded by John Paul Jones.

    Aboard another command of Jones’s, the Bonhomme Richard, The Marine unit was not American but foreign, composed of 3 Irish Officers and 137 French Marines.

    Biographers of Captain Jones say he placed great reliance on Marines, and expressed his admiration for their military discipline. He attempted to persuade the Congress to increase the Continental Marines into a larger body, but without success.

    The Continental Marines’ last significant action at sea took place in January 1783 when the Marine detachment aboard the American warship Hague boarded and seized the British ship Baille in the West Indies. The signing of the Treaty of Paris on 11 April 1783 brought the war to an end.

    The Navy and Marines carried the fight to the enemy on their soil and in their territorial waters.

    The Marines serving aboard ship during the Revolutionary war would ascend into the masts of the vessel and (function as snipers) fire their muskets at the sailors of the enemy ship, concentrating on the enemy officers, helmsmen, and gunners while other Marines would be used to forcibly board enemy ships, as well as to conduct amphibious landings, and raiding parties.

    When not in action against the enemy, they were employed by the Captain of the ship to enforce discipline and to guard the brig and Naval installations.

    Today, Marine officer caps have a lace cross on top called a quatrefoil. The quatrefoil was retained from the Continental Marine sharpshooters who used this method to identify friend from foe.

    The Marine marksmen that were stationed in the tops of the ships’ masts would be able to determine their people from the enemy so that they would not have any friendly fire incidents.

    The Marine Corps mission was ‘any… duty on shore as directed.’

    The Marine Corps was to be part of the Army or Navy, ‘according to the nature of the service in which they shall be employed,’ and, therefore, regulated alternately by either the Articles of War or by Navy Regulations.

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