Nov 10

November 10, 1775: The Birth of the Marine Corps

Saturday, November 10, 2012 1:00 AM

The following article by Major General John A. Lejeune, United States Marine Corps, was originally published inProceedings magazine in October 1925 .

THE TENTH day of November of this year will mark one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the United States Marine Corps, since on November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the raising of two battalions of marines for the defense of the colonies which were then to protect their rights, as they saw them, against the aggressions of the mother country.

The men recruited for this force were to be familiar life of the sea, but were to be trained as a military force, and was the intention to have them serve aboard the ships to be provided for the defense of the colonies. It is evident that the founders of the Marine Corps had in mind the fine services previously rendered by the British marines, both afloat and ashore, and that it was the intention to use the marines aboard the ships in naval battles when on the high seas and as landing forces when occasion might offer.

From that distant date down to the present day the United States Marines have continued to serve as an integral part of the United States Navy and in peace and war have proved the military army of the Navy. In all of the wars in United States have engaged the marines have played their part according to their abilities and the occasions offered, and how well this part has been played is amply testified to in the many reports of the admirals who have commanded our squadrons on the seven seas throughout the 150 years that have looked down upon the organization and growth of our nation.

There is neither space nor inclination to give here even passing note of the incidents that have contributed to the pages of history due to the acts of the Marine Corps; but it appears to be proper to state here the present-day mission of the corps which derived from the experiences of a century and a half of service in the Navy and to call attention to what has been done in recent times to fit the corps to meet in a creditable and efficient the requirements of the mission assigned to it by the highest authority in control of the military and naval destinies of the nation.

The mission of the Marine Corps, briefly stated, is:
“To support the fleet, or any part thereof, in the accomplishment of its mission.”

The principal mission of the Navy as a whole may be briefly stated, in the language of the great Mahan:
To gain command of the sea and hold it.”


Having these two basic statements in view, it will be seen that the support considered is of a nature such that it can best be accomplished by a compact military force of all arms, thoroughly trained to carry out the specific military tasks involved in the duties which may properly be assigned to the Marine Corps as an important part of the Navy.

The duties referred to are enumerated in the U.S. Navy Regulations as follows: (Article 552 (7).)

7. The following duties may be performed by the Marine Corps, when so directed by the Secretary of the Navy:
a) To furnish organizations for duty afloat on board armed transports for service either with fleets, squadrons, or divisions, or on detached service.
b) To garrison the different navy yards and naval stations, both within and beyond the continental limits of the United States.
c) To furnish the first line of the mobile defenses of naval bases and naval stations beyond the continental limits of the United States.
d) Ta man such naval defenses and aid in manning, if necessary, such other defenses as may be erected for the defense of naval bases and naval stations beyond the continental limits of the United States.
e) To furnish such garrisons and expeditionary forces for duties beyond seas as may be necessary in time of peace.

In addition to the above specific duties, which may be classified as expeditionary service, the Revised Statutes (Section 1616) prescribe that:
Marines may be detached for service on board the armed vessels of the United States, and the President may detach said vessels such of the officers of said corps as he may deem necessary.

In order that the military services of the Marine Corps may be employed to the utmost, when occasion requires, the Revised Statutes also provide that any portion of the corps may be detached for service with the United States Army, by order of the President, and the occasions have been frequent when this has been done and the services of the marines could be temporarily spared by the Navy.
Unless the forces of the Marine Corps are so organized and so trained as to be able and competent to carry out the tasks which may be assigned to it in furtherance of its mission, as above enumerated, the fleet may be seriously handicapped in its operations or even prevented from accomplishing its mission in peace and war.

The military tasks which may be assigned to the Marine Corps, if they are to be executed so as to obtain the best and quickest results, require:

a) Unity of Command. – By law naval officers cannot command any forces or vice versa, but this restriction does not apply to the Marine Corps, since the latter is an integral part of the naval establishment.
b) Flexibility of Organization. – The Marine Corps has been constantly practiced on the organization and training of the different type-task units required for the varying service demanded by its mission, and to meet these requirements it is purposely not organized into the rigid units necessarily employed by the army forces.
c) Mobility by Sea. – Throughout its history the Marine Corps been constantly indoctrinated with the sea idea through service of certain of its units on the active ships of the fleet, and through expeditionary service at sea and overseas in naval transports, as well as by keeping alive a traditional interest in all naval affairs recruiting its commissioned personnel in part from graduates of the Naval Academy.
d) Training in the Specific Duties Required. – The training of Marine Corps personnel to accomplish the various duties which assigned to it has been accomplished in the past by assigning a part of the officers and enlisted men to regular sea service in ships of the fleet, by frequent expeditions overseas, both in peace and war, for the settlement of questions arising from of the Monroe Doctrine, for the establishment of in certain unstable countries requiring the protection of the United States to insure their independence and prosperity as nations, and for the training of the forces in such overseas operations with the fleet as may be required in time of war.

The natural model for the organization of a strictly military force would appear to be the United States Army, since all of its duties are of a strictly military nature, and it is the service which conducts land warfare on a large scale according to the requirements of the country’s defense. However, the mission of Marine Corps requires of it a specific support of the fleet in naval warfare, and the land operations of the corps in connection with the operations of the fleet are always incidental to the sea operations of the fleet in its efforts to gain command of sea and hold it so that the Army may move in force across a protected water route to attack an overseas land force enemy and thus end a war with an overseas power.

For these reasons the Marine Corps must ever be closely associated with the Navy, understanding the life at sea, the requirements and methods of naval warfare, and being imbued with esprit of the naval service; and it must be organized and meet the peculiar requirements of naval expeditionary duties with the fleet.

The experience gained by the Navy during the Spanish-American War and a study of former wars caused the leaders of advanced thought on preparedness in the Navy to advocate the organization and training of a force of marines as a naval advanced base force, to be held in readiness for service as a part of the fleet when it should be deemed advisable for the fleet to seize an overseas base for distant operations. The duties for this force would require a possible seizure of a suitable site for a naval advanced base by landing operations against its enemy defenders, and the subsequent erection of such temporary fortifications and armament as would be required to make it a protected anchorage for such ships of the fleet as might require re-fuelling, re-victualling, or repairs, as well as for the numerous unarmed vessels of the fleet train.

From 1902 to the present time numerous exercises have been held at selected overseas locations to train the marines in the execution of the details of the defense of such naval bases overseas, and from the experience gained, as well as from a study of certain operations during the World War, the present marine corps expeditionary forces have been evolved. As a result, there are at present two organized marine corps expeditionary forces, the larger one being based at the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia, and the second, or smaller one, being based at the Marine Corps Base, San Diego, California,

These marine corps expeditionary forces, while primarily intended to be organized and trained for service with the fleet in war, are available for any military duty that may be required of the Marine Corps at home or abroad. Expeditionary forces for the peace-time requirements arising at home or abroad may vary in size from a single company to the whole available strength of the marine corps expeditionary force, and the training of the force must be such as to best fit the whole or any part of it to meet such requirements.

The peace-time expeditions usually partake of the nature of combined operations afloat and ashore, the naval ships furnishing the floating force and the marines furnishing the landing force, and from their very nature they require the unity of command, flexibility of organization, and mobility by sea which must be inherent in the Marine Corps as a part of the Navy if the corps is fully to accomplish its assigned mission.

When the whole marine corps expeditionary force is operating with the assembled fleet the duties required will be in the nature of war-time operations in the face of the enemy; but when conducting minor operations in which a portion of the marine corps expeditionary force operates in conjunction with a detachment of the fleet the operations will partake more of the nature of peace­time operations. Such peace-time operations may prove to be the preparatory stages of war on a large scale, or if they are successfully carried out they may serve to prevent such a war.

Considering only the requirements of the Marine Corps to furnish such expeditions as may be required during peace and to furnish the larger force necessary to seize and defend a naval advanced base in time of war, the training of the marine corps expeditionary force might be carried on without reference to the rest of the Marine Corps; but the other duties assigned to the corps must be provided for and at the same time the personnel assigned to these other duties must be so trained that it will always be prepared for amalgamation with the expeditionary forces when the imminence of war indicates the necessity for operations on a major scale of effort.

Hence, by frequent interchange of the personnel of the corps between the various classes of duty both ashore and afloat the whole personnel is trained for the major effort and inculcated with that indoctrination which is a prerequisite to the successful fulfilment of the war-time mission of the corps.

The peace-time strength of the Marine Corps, like that of branches of the naval establishment, is not sufficient to meet requirements of war, and this fact necessitates the training of available force with a view to its rapid expansion to a much greater strength when war looms upon the horizon; for the Navy in all of its elements should be ready to take the sea in force on the day ordered by the President and every day’s delay after that date gives the enemy more time for preparation to meet the attack, diminishes the chances of the important element of surprise, and prolongs the period and expense of the war. The training organization of the marine corps expeditionary forces is conducted with a view of having all of the available force trained so that the addition of reserves, volunteers, and newly enlisted men may be added to the force with the least chance of confusion and the best amalgamation of the entire body into a compact force shortest possible time.

The training required to fit the marine corps expeditionary forces in all arms and branches for the field service that may be required of it in peace and war embraces every step from the simple school of the soldier to actual maneuvers in unknown territory overseas in company with the fleet under simulated war conditions. This training may be divided into four phases: viz.,

a) Barracks Training, embracing all indoor and parade ground drills and exercises and the necessary schools of instruction for officers and enlisted men. For infantry this includes the theory of musketry and the technique of primary and auxiliary weapons. For artillery it includes the theory of fire and the technique of all types of guns employed by the force. For the special troops, signal troops, engineers and pioneers, and supply units, the technique of all mechanical material manned by such troops and thorough preliminary practice in the use of such equipment.
b) Target Range Training, embracing the prescribed courses in target firing to qualify all individuals as good target shots with the rifle; the training of automatic riflemen in direct fire at known distances; the training of all infantrymen in musketry problems; the training of machine gunners in direct and indirect fire on the 1,000-inch range and at longer ranges; the training of light (Stokes) mortar gunners at indirect fire at known ranges; the training of light howitzer gunners at direct and indirect range firing; the training of grenadiers at firing rifle and hand grenades; the training of squads, platoons, and companies in firing in normal attack advances under stipulated conditions as to simulated terrain; and combined attack exercises over the range employing the infantry companies of a battalion supported by all auxiliary weapons, automatic rifles, grenades, light mortars, machine guns, and light howitzers.
For artillery troops this phase includes training in the service of the guns, laying the guns, determination of ranges by all adopted range-finding methods, and firing over known ranges under simulated terrain conditions from direct and indirect fire.
c) Barracks Field Training, embracing exercises over diversified terrain in situations requiring tactical decisions; marching over roads adjacent to the barracks and through the surrounding country; advance and rear guard instruction and practice; exercises and problems in security on the march and at halts; pitching and striking camps, with attendant instruction in field cooking and sanitation; combat exercises and problems, offensive and defensive, with firing of all arms, infantry, and artillery; exercises in scouting, patrolling, and military sketch mapping.
d) Maneuvers and Exercises, embracing the training of all arms and branches in marching over unknown terrain under service conditions; advance and rear guard and camp security problems; scouting and patrolling, employing both land and air forces; problems employing all arms of force under simulated battle conditions, including the firing of the weapons of all arms; through and occupying cities and towns; problems in and holding and supplying isolated positions; night maneuvering of all arms under varying conditions of terrain and weather; embarking and disembarking the personnel and material overseas service, with proper loading and storing of equipment and supplies with a view to its order of disembarkation under simulated war conditions, the disembarkation being effected with ships, boats and barges that can be transported on the transports and freighters; landing operations on a coast assumed to be occupied and defended by an enemy; defense of an island position or section of the coast against a hostile landing force supported by such vessels of the fleet as would normally be assigned to such duty with an advanced base force; laying out and constructing semi-permanent and temporary entrenchments and defenses as would be utilized in the defense of a naval advanced base; camp sanitation and personal sanitation and hygiene on the march, on board transports at sea, and in camp; first aid treatment in the field under battle conditions; establishment and conduct of field hospitals and dressing stations; care and preparation of rations and food on the march and in camp; problems of supply on the march and in camp, including the supply of overseas forces away from established bases; the problem of the supply of widely scattered detachments, employing all classes of available transportation, steamer, railroad, motor transport, pack animals, carriers, boats, and aircraft; problems of communication by radio, field telegraph and telephone, visual day and night signals, and runners; aircraft scouting and patrolling and observation; anti-aircraft detection and defense; target practice under simulated war conditions with all classes and types of guns assigned to the artillery units of an advanced base defense against targets simulating those that would be presented in actual warfare of the nature contemplated; use of gas in attack and defense, and protection against gas attack by an enemy; planting and operating mine fields at harbor entrances and in narrow and restricted waterways; construction and protection of obstructions and barriers at beaches and probable enemy landing points; operation of range finding devices and communication systems for the artillery and other defenses of a base or position seized and held on an enemy coast; and combined problems in defense and attack coordinating all of arms and branches of the force.

The above outline shows the wide variety of drills and exercises demanded by the nature of the duties assigned to the Marine Corps as the distinctly military supporting and landing force of the Navy, and is given here in detail to demonstrate the necessity for a more complete and thorough coordination and cooperation between the fleet and the marine corps expeditionary forces, a coordination that can only be effected, if we are to secure the desired results, by frequent exercises of these forces on overseas maneuvers with the fleet. In order that such cooperation in plans and training and actual operations may secure the desired results it is necessary that every marine from the general to the private must feel that he is of the Navy and in the Navy, and likewise that everyone in the Navy from the four star admiral to the man before the mast must feel that the marine is a part of the personnel of the fleet with a definite and clear-cut line of duties to perform in the general scheme of naval operations in peace and war.

Properly to train and indoctrinate the marines for the expeditionary duties required of them under their mission a plan of exercises has been developed which contemplates two maneuvers or exercises of the marine corps expeditionary force away from its permanent base in home territory during each year. One of these exercises, designated to train the force in land operations, consists in field exercises over suitable territory within marching distance of the base; and the other annual exercise consists in embarking the force in transports and taking it with the seagoing fleet for the annual grand maneuvers of the fleet overseas. The first of these exercises, as enumerated, is for the purpose of familiarizing the personnel of the force with the conditions and demands of land service in preparation for the landing operations that will form a part of the actual war-time duties of the force in support of an overseas naval expedition. The second exercise, and the most important one, is for the purpose of preparing the force to join the fleet when required and perform its part in the general plan of an overseas naval campaign on the scale that would be required in major naval operations.

Previous to the World War the naval advanced base force, consisting of marine infantry, artillery, and special units, was frequently exercised with the fleet in maneuvers and exercises in West Indian waters and in the Philippines, but for the three years following the close of that war it was not practicable to have such overseas exercises of the marines with the fleet. However, the land exercises were carried out by the force to keep it in readiness for any service that it might be called upon to perform.

In the fall of 1921, the marine corps expeditionary force, based at Quantico, Virginia, marched from its base to the Wilderness territory, west of Fredricksburg and south of the Rapidan River, and there conducted military exercises on the famous battle fields of the Civil War, including a reproduction of certain phases of the Battle of the Wilderness.

In June, 1922, the force marched from Quantico to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, conducting field training along the route and on that famous battle field, including the reproduction of Pickett’s charge, the most noted incident of that decisive conflict of the Civil War, demonstrating the manner in which the charge was carried out the original battle, followed by a demonstration of the manner in which such an attack would be conducted under modern war-time conditions.

In the fall of 1923, the force marched from Quantico across Virginia to the upper Shenandoah Valley and encamped for two weeks at Fort Defiance, where field exercises were carried out to demonstrate the manner of occupying and holding a section of foreign territory for the protection of the inhabitants thereof in case of loyal revolution and disorder. The exercises concluded with a reproduction of the Battle of Newmarket, in which the cadets of the Virginia Military Institute enacted the role of their predecessors in the original battle.

In these reproductions of former battles an opportunity was presented for the personnel of the force to witness a graphic exemplification of the war-time methods of the past and thus gain valuable historical military lessons.

In the winter of 1923-24, the force joined the United States Fleet and participated in the winter maneuvers of the fleet in West Indian waters. For these exercises the available marine personnel was divided into two forces, one charged with the seizure and defense of the Island of Culebra as a naval advanced base, other accompanying the fleet for duty as a landing force against the army defenses of the Panama Canal Zone and landing force for the assault of the defenses at Culebra.

In the fall of 1924, the force marched from its base at Quantico through Washington, D. C., and Frederick, Maryland, to the battlefield of Antietam, where it encamped for two weeks and conducted field training over the surrounding country in a series of problems demonstrating problems of attack and defense under modern war conditions, These exercises terminated in a demonstration of a modern battle advance and attack employing all arms of the force, infantry, artillery, signal troops, engineers and pioneers, supply troops, tanks, motor transport, and squadrons of airplanes.

In the spring of 1925, marines from the expeditionary forces stationed at Quantico and San Diego were organized into a force representing a war-time organization of two divisions of all arms, aggregating 42,000 in strength, which joined the United States Fleet at San Francisco for participation in the grand army and navy joint exercises in Hawaiian waters. This force was distributed among sixteen ships of the fleet train representing transports and proceeded with the fleet across the Pacific to Hawaiian waters, where it was employed in making a landing attack for the capture of the army defenses of the Island of Oahu and the naval base at Pearl Harbor, supported by the entire fleet.

The general staff work in preparation for these exercises was carried out insofar as possible exactly as would be the case in a war of major effort and the experience gained will prove of great value in future plans and training of the force.

The landing operations were carried out in exact accordance with the predetermined plans and the results fully demonstrated the value of the previous drills and training of the force as well as the necessity for more complete training in the future. The lessons learned will be of great value to the Marine Corps and the Navy, in general staff work, in organization and training of the force for its major mission, and in cooperation with the other important elements of the United States Fleet. It is hoped that plans for future naval exercises and maneuvers will include participation of a marine expeditionary force, for in no other way can this force be prepared for the final test of naval warfare of major magnitude.

While the marine corps expeditionary forces were being trained exercised to fit them for the execution of their major mission other duties of the Marine Corps were being carried cut at various naval stations and scenes of naval activity throughout the world. In the fleet the marine detachments have served as a of the ships’ crews, thus enabling a portion of the corps to gain an intimate acquaintance with the Navy and its personnel and to become thoroughly imbued with the life and language and customs of the sea. These officers and men so trained in the fleet will, in turn, be replaced by others and in this way the whole corps will gain in naval experience and come to the realization that the marine in blue or khaki is in every way a brother in arms of the sailor in blue and white.

At every navy yard and station of the country marines have served to guard naval property and do their part in the general work of preparing the Navy for active service at sea, and here again an intimate cooperation with the naval officer and sailor helps to indoctrinate the marine in naval ideas and customs.

The unsettled conditions in China during the past year required the despatch of reenforcements to the marines on the Asiatic Station, and these forces have been used when where required by the commander-in-chief of the naval forces on that station for the protection of American citizens and interests on the China coast and to help the Chinese authorities in the suppression of riotous attacks upon foreigners and their property.

In Haiti, where we have treaty obligations to assist the local government in the reestablishment of a government that can peacefully and capably conduct the affairs of that country, a brigade of marines has been held in readiness for such duty as may be required of it, and the authorities who have visited Haiti report that the conditions of peace and order there promise much for the future country and demonstrate the patience and efficiency with which the marines stationed there have carried out their duties.

The marines stand ready today to carry out their mission as an important part of the Navy and will continue to do all in their power to “support the fleet, or any part thereof, in the accomplishment of its mission.”

 
 
 
 
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