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Celebrating the History of the United States Marine Corps

Since its formation nearly two and a half centuries ago, the United States Marine Corp has made some incredible contributions to the United States. As a vendor to all branches of the U.S. military, we thought we’d honor their rich history and celebrate their legendary achievements by sharing some interesting facts about the Marines.

The Marine Corps technically has two birthdays.  

Like the Navy (who also recently celebrated their 241st birthday), the United States Marine Corps was originally formed on November 10, 1775 and named the Continental Marines. Because the Marines were initially founded solely to aid in Revolutionary War efforts, the were disbanded in April 1783. However, the United States quickly realized the need for defense, therefore the Marines were resurrected on July 11, 1798 under their present name, United States Marine Corps.

According to legend, the first Marine Corps recruitment took place in a bar called the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.

As the story goes, Captains Robert Mullan and Samuel Nicholas attracted potential Marines by luring them with beer and stories of adventure at sea. While some historians may dispute aspects of this story, the tale is carried on as Marine lore. In fact, there’s even a restaurant named Tun Tavern at the National Museum of Marine Corps in Virginia!

The phrase “a few good men” originated in 1779.   

On March 20, 1779, Captain William Jones of the Continental Marines placed a recruiting advertisement in the Providence Gazette stating, “The Continental ship Providence, now lying at Boston, is bound on a short cruise, immediately; a few good men are wanted to make up her complement.” The phrase was revived in 1970 by adman Warren Pfaff and used in recruitment ads for decades. However, younger recruits might be more familiar with their current slogan, “The Few, the Proud, the Marines” which was created in 2007.

The United States Marine Corp logo.

Chuck Norris and Gary Sinise are honorary Marines. 

The title of “Honorary Marine” was established as a way to recognize civilians who have made extraordinary contributions to the Marine Corps. For example, Gary Sinise – who played Lieutenant Dan in “Forrest Gump” – went on to form The Lt. Dan Band with the goal of raising money for wounded veterans, boosting morale on military bases, and spreading awareness. You can explore the full list of Honorary Marines on the USMC website.

In 1883, the Marine Corps adopted their motto, “Semper Fi”

You’ve probably seen this motto plenty of times, but what does Semper Fi actually mean? It’s actually a shortened version of the Latin phrase, “Semper Fidelis”, which means “Always Faithful”. In 1888, American composer John Philip Sousa wrote the march Semper Fidelis, the official march of the US Marine Corps.

The Marines’ mascot is an English Bulldog

The English Bulldog became the official mascot of the Marines after they were referred to as ‘devil dogs’ in World War I. The English Bulldog is loyal, tenacious and faithful breed, making it the perfect mascot for the United States Marine Corps given their motto. In 2013, a bulldog named Pfc. Chesty XIV became the Marines’ current mascot.

“Jarheads” is a slang term for Marines. 

During World War II, sailors began to refer to Marines as “Jarheads”. While some say this refers to their “high-and-tight” haircuts, others claim it was because the high collar on the Marines’ WWII era dress uniforms made their heads look like Mason jars. Of course, this wasn’t the first time sailors attempted to insult Marines with silly nicknames. During WWI, members of the U.S. Navy would use the term “gyrene” in reference to a Marine. In both instances, the Marines took the intended insult in stride and actually embraced the nicknames.

One of The Golden Girls was a real-life Marine. 

It’s hard to imagine any of The Golden Girls being a Marine in real life, but during the 1940’s, Bea Arthur (AKA Dorothy Zbornak) was just that. During her 30 months in service, she went from typist to truck driver and moved up the ranks from private to staff sergeant. She also met her husband, Private Robert Arthur, while enlisted.

The Marine Corps is grouped under the Department of the Navy. 

While the Marine Corps is its own branch of the U.S. military, they don’t have their own department within the Department of Defense. Instead, the Marine Corps is grouped under the Department of the Navy.

The Marines have a book club of sorts. 

The Commandant’s Reading List outlines annual and recommended reading requirements for all Marines. The books and documents included on the list are intended to both encourage Marines and expand their intellectual capabilities. Every U.S. Marine is required to read a minimum of three books from the Commandant’s Choice or Grade Level sections each year.

As of 2016, retired Marines have collected over 512 million toys for children in need. 

A United States Marine in uniform standing in front of a camouflage truck and Toys for Tots boxes.

While most people have heard of Toys for Tots, many don’t realize this wonderful organization is actually a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve mission! The organization was founded in 1947 when Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR, was inspired by his wife to gather a group of Los Angeles-based Marine reservists with the goal of collecting toys to be distributed to families-in-need during the holidays. The group wound up collecting over 5,000 toys in that first year, and made Toys for Tots a national effort the following year.

The stated goal of Toys for Tots is to “deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, and patriotic citizens.” This wonderful organization collects new, unwrapped toys for needy children during the months of October, November and December.

If you’re able to donate a toy to a child this holiday season, visit the Toys for Tots website to find a drop off location near you, or to request a toy for a family in need! In addition to toy donations during the holiday season, Toys for Tots accepts various types of donations year-round, including donations in honor of a loved one.



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