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Tuesday, November 10, marks the 240th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Its roots date all the way back to 1775 when it was established as the Continental Marines. The Second Continental Congress first commissioned Marines to man two vessels in the Continental Navy. Their original purpose was to provide on-board security forces and to protect the Captain and his officers.
Soon after, they would be used to conduct amphibious combat missions and raids during the American Revolution. One of their first missions was to raid a British armory in the Bahamas just months after the first two battalions were created.
In the air, on land, and at sea, a Marine must be equipped and ready to fight wherever duty calls. With Veterans Day just around the corner, we should all be sure to thank the Marines in our lives for the sacrifices they've made to protect our freedom and security, "from the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli."
To commemorate its birthday on Tuesday, we've put together five facts you might not have known about the USMC.
The First Marines Were Recruited in a Tavern
The first commissioned officer of the Continental Marines was a man named Samuel Nicholas. He was part of a well-known Quaker family from Philadelphia, and was nicknamed "the Fightin' Quaker." He was appointed the 1st Commandant in 1775 and took charge in recruiting locals to fight for America's independence from the British.
And where did he turn in his recruitment efforts? To local taverns of course! One of his first recruits was Robert Mullan, the manager of Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. Nicholas appointed him as the Chief Marine Recruiter and he would use the allure of cold beer and camaraderie to recruit new Marines. This is why the Tun Tavern is officially acknowledged as the birthplace of the Marine Corps.
The Marines Were Sidelined at Normandy
At the surface, the Normandy Invasion seems like the perfect time to deploy Marines into combat. After all, they're trained in amphibious warfare – to arrive by sea and attack by land. But they weren't really involved in storming Normandy. Instead, the Army led the attack, and for a couple of good reasons you might not realize.
First is sheer numbers. At the time, the Army had 89 divisions, while the Marine Corps had only 6. The second had something to do with the allegiances of leadership and the friendly rivalry between the Army and the Marine Corps. The leaders of the Allied Forces were mostly Army generals, who wanted the spotlight on one of the most important battles of the war. So the Marines were forced to watch from the deck of the U.S.S. Texas.
Marines Use the Oldest Weapon
Thomas Jefferson once sent a group of Marines to rescue the crew of the U.S.S. Philadelphia, which had been captured by pirates in Tripoli. It was the first time the Marine Corps had ever fought on foreign soil. The fight was led by Lt. Presley O'Bannon, who was consequently awarded a Mameluke sword from a local chieftain in North Africa. To this day, Marines wear the sword as an ornamental effect – the first of its kind used in any branch of the U.S. military. Although it's used on their dress uniform, it's still considered the oldest weapon used in active service.
The First Man in Orbit was a Marine
John Glenn was not only a Marine; he was also the first man to orbit the Earth in 1962. He even assumed manual control of NASA's Friendship 7 capsule for the final 2 revolutions around the Earth.
Other famous Marines include Drew Carey, the host of The Price is Right, political commentator James Carville, Ed McMahon of Star Search and The Tonight Show fame, pro wrestler Randy Orton, daytime TV star Montel Williams, and many others.
A report in Stars and Stripes in 1968 detailed the deadly nature of apricots – at least according to one battalion in Vietnam, the 1st Amphibious Tractor Bn. at Cua Viet. One day they were taking a break to grab a quick meal and one of the Marines was eating his C-ration apricots when they came under heavy artillery fire. They didn't think much of it, until history repeated itself only days later. One AmTrac leatherneck was quoted as saying "there is no doubt about it, apricots do cause enemy rocket and artillery attacks."
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