History of the Marine Corps


A Continental Congress Resolution on 1775 helped establish the United States Marine Corps as a force whose original purpose was to serve as landing forces within the fleet. It is important to note that formation of the US Marine Corps closely followed the Royal Marines model. The Marine Corps still serve in the land and sea and have taken part in every major armed conflict involving the US.

The Marines main focus is amphibious warfare whose success is evident in many operations meant to protect US civilians and foreign nationals in various trouble spots all over the world[1]. Policy formations and reversals lace the history of the Marine Corps. Various conflicts whose nature has required use of the Marine Corps have greatly contributed to development of the Marine Corps as it is today.

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The cyclical nature of these conflicts will be the main focus of this essay. The essay will examine the history of the Marine Corps through both description and subtle analysis of the changes the unit has gone through to evolve as one of the finest amphibious units in the globe. In essence therefore, the analysis will comprise an overview of over two hundred years of active service and development of the US Marine Corps.

History of the Marine Corps

The American Revolution brought with it many changes through political discussions. The need for amphibious expeditions led to establishment of the continental marines. At the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, a committee of the continental congress drafted a resolution that called for establishment of two battalions that could be used to fight in the sea, and at the shores. Approval of the resolution took place on 10th November 1775[2].

Samuel Nicholas and Robert Mullan became commandant and captain respectively, of the new marine unit. By 1776, Mullan had recruited enough men and the units were ready for their first missions. In March 1776, the marines undertook an operation in New Providence Island in Bahamas securing two forts within thirteen days.

They also occupied Nassau seizing military equipment and controlling the government. In December the same year, the Marines assisted Washington’s army in the second battle of Trenton. Performance of the Marines in the battle impressed Washington who later recruited some of them to the artillery units of his army. In 1778, Marines sailed to Mississippi and secured New Orleans from the British.

Also, in the same year the Marines raided Great Britain twice marking the first time in 700 years that such a raid took place on British soil. In the years 1783, Marines took part in the seizure of the British ship Baille in the West Indies. The Marines went out of existence together with the navy in 1785 after the end of the revolution[3].

Perhaps, intensity of naval conflicts with the British and the looming quasi war with France pushed Congress to enact legislation that created the US Navy and the Marine Corps. In 1798, President John Adams signed to law a bill creating the US Marine Corps as part of the Navy.

It marked the beginning of formation of the modern Marine Corps in service today. Their entry to the navy coincided with development of new frigates that marines enlisted from 1797 used. It is important to note that the use of frigates is historically symbolic as it set precedent of using high-tech equipment by the Marines.

The role of Marines in the US military has changed over time since its formal establishment by the Marines bill. Besides the above named conflicts, the marines took part in conflicts including the Spanish and Philippine American wars, the World War one and two, the Korean war, the Vietnam war, the Gulf war, the Bosnian war and the most recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars[4].

While the ideals of establishing the Marine Corps still remain, it is important to acknowledge that the post continental marines are a bit differentiated compared to the continental and colonial marines. The Marines, like other military units in the US and other countries face many challenges that require innovation and continuous improvement. In the 21st century, marines take part in missions wide in scope and whose frequency is unlike in the past.

Deployment in their hundreds of thousands takes place regularly all over the world. Given complexity of their operations, development of advanced arms systems has become the norm. Deployment of Marine Expeditionary Units today uses amphibious assault ships that freely move in the high seas and represent one of the most flexible avenues through which the US exerts its military strength. Besides the ships, Marine Corps operate an aviation wing, fully equipped with jets and helicopters, a far cry from the early marines[5].


One of the most prominent aspects about the history of the US is development of its military. This history of the Marine Corps is just one part of the historical development of the US armed forces. This history cannot be told in a few words. However, it is important to note that the unit has steadily evolved over time from its time of formation to become one f the most dependable units in the US military.


Hearn, Chester. Marines: An Illustrated History: the United States Marine Corps. St. Paul: Zenith Press, 2007.

Hoffman, Jon. USMC: a complete history. New York: Marine Corps Association, 2002.

Chester Hearn, Marines: An Illustrated History: the United States Marine Corps (St. Paul: Zenith Press, 2007), 47.
Chester Hearn, Marines: An Illustrated History: the United States Marine Corps (St. Paul: Zenith Press, 2007), 62.
Chester Hearn, Marines: An Illustrated History: the United States Marine Corps (St. Paul: Zenith Press, 2007), 74.
Jon Hoffman, USMC: a complete history (New York: Marine Corps Association, 2002), 98.
Jon Hoffman, USMC: a complete history (New York: Marine Corps Association, 2002), 110.


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