American Marines

Prologue

EGA BlackA European tradition of naval infantry extends back to Spain’s Infanteria de Marina (formed in 1537).  A British formation of naval infantry was formed as the Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot, also called the Admiral’s Regiment, on 28 October 1664.  The regiment consisted of six 200-man companies, initially commanded by Colonel Sir William Killigrew, with Sir Charles Lyttleton serving as lieutenant colonel.

As we revel in the history of our American Marines, let us begin with an understanding of world events between 1720 and 1750.  Suffice to say that diplomatically, nothing is ever simple in Europe, not then or now.  The Treaty of Seville[1], for example, may have settled the Anglo-Spanish War between Great Britain, France, and Spain, but it also led its participants down the road of renewed conflict within a few short years.  One aspect of this treaty was that it acknowledged British control over Port Mahon and Gibraltar, but in a typically tit-for-tat arrangement, demanded that the British support Queen of Spain’s claim to the Duchy of Parma.

There was more to this treaty, however.  Spain agreed to open its South American colonies to trade with Great Britain, insofar as trading ships were limited each year, while granting to the British a monopoly in providing 5,000 slaves annually to the Spanish colonies[2].  The contract for providing slaves went to the South Sea Company, which history can only describe as an economic disaster lasting through the First World War.

As British bankers and merchants demanded expanded access to markets within Spain’s colonies, the Spanish colonists themselves increased their demands for British made goods, and what ultimately evolved from this was an ever-burgeoning black market of smuggled goods.

To address the problem of smuggling, Spain established a system of coastal guards and customs officials.  One of these officials boarded a British vessel in 1731 and, after some disagreement with Captain Robert Jenkins, the ship’s master, the Spanish official drew his sword and sliced off Captain Jenkins’ ear[3].  Except for the testimony before Parliament of Captain Jenkins some years later, we cannot say with any certainty that this incident occurred; what we do know is that managing directors of the South Sea Company actively sought to incite British sentiments against Spain, believing that a victorious war would improve British trading opportunities in the Caribbean.  Given the corrupt history of the South Seas Company, it is entirely possible that Captain Jenkins was paid for his testimony.

Following Captain Jenkins’ testimony in 1738, Parliament sent an address to the King asking for a redress against Spain.  Another year passed without any diplomatic successes so King George II authorized the British Admiralty to implement maritime reprisals against Spain.  Vice Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757) was given command of the British fleet.  Vernon realized that to properly chastise the Spanish, he would require military as well as naval assets —and then someone within the Admiralty thought it might be a good idea to augment a standing British Army contingent with an American maritime regiment.

Admiral Vernon began to plan an assault upon the Spanish colony of Cartagena, New Granada (now Colombia) and then turning to the American colonies, Vernon urged governors to raise a regiment of Marines for his undertaking.  Vernon supposed that the number of Marines required should be around 3,000.

Of the responding colonies, only Virginia pressed its citizens into service.  Eight companies were raised from Pennsylvania; five from Massachusetts and New York; four companies from Virginia and North Carolina, three companies from Maryland and New Jersey, and two companies each from Rhode Island and Connecticut.  These 36 companies would be organized into four battalions.

William GoochLieutenant Colonel Alexander Spotswood (a former lieutenant governor of Virginia) was appointed colonel of the regiment, but before he could assume command, Spotswood, aged 64 years, suddenly passed away.  Command of the regiment passed to Sir William Gooch (shown right).  Officially, Gooch served as Virginia’s lieutenant governor, but since the appointed governor never once set foot in Virginia, Gooch was the de facto Governor of Virginia.

Beneath Gooch, field officers came from the British Army; company officers originated from the so-called colonial elite.  Marine Captain Lawrence Washington commanded one of these companies; he was the older half-brother of George Washington[4].  Organizationally, the regiment consisted of one colonel, four lieutenant colonels, four majors, 36 captains, 72 lieutenants, four adjutants, four quartermasters, one surgeon, and four surgeon’s mates.  There were also 144 sergeants, 144 corporals, 72 drummers, and 3,240 privates.

After a delay of four months, the British contingent of the expedition sailed from England in early November 1740.  They eventually joined Admiral Vernon at Jamaica in January 1741, but by then sickness and scurvy were rampant among the troops.  The army commander, Lord Cathcart, himself lay dead of disease, and the American regiment was already ashore —but none of these men were adequately trained for sea service.  Moreover, there was no effort from the British government to feed or care for any of the Americans, so the colonials became what was later described as an undisciplined mob[5].

Ashore at Jamaica, sickness among the Americans was even more rampant than it was aboard ship.  Despite these unhappy circumstances, Vernon’s fleet sailed for Cartagena around mid-March.  To reach its destination, the fleet had to force entry through Boca Chica, a small passage defended by three forts.  British troops were landed to demolish the forts, but only 300 of the American regiment were considered sufficiently trustworthy to leave the ship and participate alongside the British contingent.  Then, having opened the passage, Vernon’s fleet continued to Cartagena.

Goochs Marines 1741On 20 April, a new British commander arrived to take charge of the landing forces; Lieutenant General Thomas Wentworth directed the attack against the outworks of Cartagena but by this time, the fighting force had been rendered ineffective due to an epidemic of yellow fever.  General Wentworth could muster no more than half of his entire landing force, so when the general realized that the Spanish were about to cut off and surround his enfeebled force, he ordered a withdrawal.  Returning to Jamaica, the scene was pathetic as literally hundreds of men lay dying in their hammocks without anyone to care for them.  By this time, the entire landing force had been reduced to 2,700 British Army and American Marines.

In August, Admiral Vernon decided to invade Cuba.  His fleet anchored at Cumberland Bay, some 90 nautical miles from Santiago de Cuba, and he immediately began to land his men and supplies.  The troops remained encamped through the end of November, however, with no attempt to engage Spanish forces.  Vernon re-embarked the troops and returned to Jamaica in early December; the sickness continued.  In February 1742, three-thousand fresh troops arrived from England, but they too began to fall sick and die.

According to Fortescue, the officers and men of the American regiment were untrustworthy.  I presume by this he refers to the fact that the Americans, unaccustomed as they were to the British bended knee tradition, did not hesitate to register their complaints to British leaders —and there were plenty of reasons for complaints.  Beyond the issue of rampant disease, which attached itself to men regardless of their service or their rank, the Americans felt betrayed by the fact that the British lacked adequate surgeons and medical stores and effectively left the sick men to die unattended in their hammocks.  Moreover, the lack of nourishment at Jamaica forced the regiment’s officers to take out personal loans (at exorbitant rates of interest) to feed their men.  Last, but not least among these complaints, the American Marines strenuously objected to being assigned to labor gangs alongside African slaves, a disrespectful gesture reflecting British disdain for the value of their American Marines, as well as the harassment they received from navy crewmen.

In October 1742, all that remained of the American regiment were discharged; of the 4,163 officers and men formed, 1,463 survived.  Surviving officers received half-pay for the rest of their lives, but only after they pled their case before a Board of Generals in London.  Surviving enlisted men received no more than their memories of a horrifying deployment.

Thus, the first American Marines were not the Continental Marines of 1775; they were Gooch’s Marines, formed in 1739.

Epilogue

The War of Jenkins’ Ear metamorphosed into the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) … because at that time, the British simply could not resist their urge to control the world around them.

Notes:

[1] The Treaty of Seville (1729) opened the door in 1731 to the Treaty of Vienna, which dissolved the Anglo-French Alliance and replaced it with the Anglo-Austrian Alliance.

[2] Under the Treaty of Tordesillas, Spain was prohibited from engaging in the slave trade: this was left to every other European maritime country, who profited by transporting slaves from Africa into the Spanish colonies.

[3] There is no hard evidence of this incident because the severed ear was never heard from again.

[4] Lawrence Washington was the original title holder of a Virginia plantation he named in Admiral Vernon’s honor: Mount Vernon.

[5] Noted British historian Sir John William Fortescue.

The Marines and Their Bulldog

EGA BlackIn 1917, Major General George Barnett, then serving as Commandant of the Marine Corps, established a committee to consider various locations for a new Marine Corps training base.  The area selected was Quantico, initially titled Marine Barracks, Quantico.  The initial complement consisted of four officers and 91 enlisted Marines.  Quantico became the training ground for Marines being ordered to Europe with the American Expeditionary Forces.  One of the early commanders at Quantico was Smedley D. Butler, the only Marine Officer to receive two awards of the Medal of Honor.  After World War I, Quantico became the site for Marine Corps Schools.

While at Quantico in 1922, then Brigadier General Smedley Butler presided over a ceremony where the first English Bulldog was enlisted as a mascot into the Marine Corps.  Well, okay … mascots appear in all the services in the US Armed Forces, but why did the Marines settle on an English Bulldog?  In order to answer this question, we must first return to the time of World War I, which was the first major test in battle for the United States Marine Corps.

The test occurred at a place called Belleau Wood.  The Germans had advanced within fifty miles of Paris, France and Belleau Wood was part of an allied campaign designed to push back against the German Spring Offensive.  The battle raged for three excruciating weeks before the Marines defeated their German enemies.  After the battle, General Pershing said that he thought Belleau Wood may have been the most important American battle since the Civil War.

Devil Dog Poster 001Belleau Wood is where the fighting Esprit of the Marines and the tenacity of the English Bulldog became as one.  What German prisoners told us was that the American Marines fought liked devil dogs —and so the Germans began calling the Marines Teufel Hunden.  In Bavarian mythology, devil dogs were wild animals that lived in the mountains; it was a myth that caused as much fear among local people as did stories of werewolves.  The ferocity of the U. S. Marine in combat at Belleau Wood produced the same effect upon their German opponents.  Soon afterwards, Charles Falls produced a recruiting poster (shown right).  From this point on, the English Bulldog and U. S. Marines were on the same team.

In 1922, the owner of the prized English Bulldog registered as Rob Roy presented one of his offspring, born on 22 May 1922, to the Marine Corps as their mascot.   The pup was initially registered and named King Bulwark, but after presenting the puppy at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Brigadier General Butler changed his name to Jiggs.  Private Jiggs was enlisted into the U. S. Marine Corps on 14 October 1922.

SgtMaj JiggsAs everyone knows, a dog lives seven years for each human year —and so it was that Private Jiggs had a rather spectacular rise in the rank structure.  Three weeks after his initial enlistment, he was already serving as a corporal.  By 1924, Jiggs was a full-fledged sergeant major —which was quite an accomplishment given his several (although minor) disciplinary infractions.  Sergeant Major Jiggs (shown left) appeared with Lon Chaney[1] in the film Tell It to The Marines (1926).

Sergeant Major Jiggs passed away in 1927, the result of excessive drinking and not being able to push himself away from his food bowl; he was given an appropriate funeral, of course.  Soon afterwards, boxing champion James “Gene” Tunney[2] donated another Bulldog to the Marine Corps.  Known as Jiggs II, this second mascot was by comparison an undisciplined malcontent.  Among many complaints, he chased after cars, bit people, and barked at all hours of the night.  Jiggs II was called home in 1928, a victim of heat exhaustion.  His funeral wasn’t quite as nice as that of his predecessor.

From the 1930s through the 1950s, all official Bulldog mascots were named in honor of Major General Smedley D. Butler, but this was changed in 1957; all new mascots were named in honor of Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, USMC[3].   Puller is the most decorated Marine in its entire history, earning five Navy Cross medals throughout his distinguished career.

The first Chesty appeared at the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks, Washington, on 5 July 1957.  Looking smart in his modified dress blue uniform, he instantly won the hearts of the (then friendly) media.  As it turns out, following the loathsome path of Jiggs II, Chesty II was not a very good Marine.  He went AWOL for two days and was only returned to the base in a local paddy wagon.  He did sire a litter of pups, however, and one of these became Chesty III —a model Marine who earned the Good Conduct Medal and the love and affection of neighborhood children.

Chesty 002Chesty XIV began his military career in 2013.  The duties of the official mascot include marching in the Evening Parade events at the Iwo Jima Memorial, greeting dignitaries, helping with tours at the home of the Commandant, and attending various events in the greater Washington DC area.  The English Bulldog is a loyal, tenacious, resolute, and faithful animal; it best reflects the official motto of the United States Marine Corps: Always Faithful.  Its “never quit” attitude is what makes this animal the perfect mascot for Marines.

Notes:

[1] Lon Chaney, known as the man with a thousand faces, was appointed an honorary Marine for his performance in the film Tell It to The Marines.

[2] Tunney served in the Marine Corps during World War I, with service in France.

[3] Chesty is the official Marine Corps mascot; while other Marine units also have adopted the English Bulldog as their mascot, they are named after other personages: As an example, the Bulldog mascot at MCRD San Diego is named after Smedley Butler, while the mascot at MCRD Parris Island is named Legend.

Gone to Fight the Indians —Part II

At the outbreak of the Second Seminole War, the Commanding General of the U. S. Army was Major General Alexander Macomb. There were only four other flag officers serving at the time: Brigadier Generals Edmund P. Gaines, Winfield Scott, Thomas Jesup, and Zachary Taylor.

The first American commander of the Seminole War was Winfield Scott. Scott initiated a conventional military strategy against the Seminoles; Napoleonic style maneuvers typical of Army doctrine at the time. With three converging columns, Scott marched on the main Seminole camp near present-day Lake Apopka. The Seminoles responded by scattering into the Florida swamps and resolved themselves never again to mass in one place.

Scott’s ineffectiveness early in the war was likely the result of public quarreling with General Gaines over Macomb’s appointment; Scott simply could not focus. Neither could Scott negotiate with the Seminoles. Not bargaining from a position of strength, the Seminoles saw no basis to relinquish their hit and run resistance strategy.

BrigGen Thomas S. Jesup
BrigGen Thomas S. Jesup

Brigadier General Jesup, however, proved to be a more effective field commander. Having successfully suppressed a Creek uprising in western Georgia, Jesup realized that the only way the Americans could defeat the Indians was to employ unconventional tactics. He mustered a force of 9,000 men (half of whom were regular army) and a battalion of Marines consisting of 38 officers, 400 enlisted men. Jesup organized the Army of the South into two brigades. On January 8, 1837, Jesup gave Colonel Henderson command of the Second Brigade. To Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Miller he gave responsibility to guard convoys moving between Tampa Bay and the Army depot at Fort King (near present-day Ocala, Florida).

General Jesup directed his commanders to begin a series of search and destroy operations that soon produced a positive result. Over time, Jesup was able to wear the Indians down with small attacks that threatened their families and their sources of supply. It was an effective counter to Osceola’s hit and run strategy.

On January 23, 1837 near Lake Apopka, a detachment of Captain John Harris’ company of horse Marines engaged a large body of Seminoles; the Indians quickly disengaged into the thick underbrush. Five days later, Colonel Henderson led a force into the Swamp to locate and engage the main body of Indians. When allied Indians made contact with the Seminoles, Henderson set in a line of Marine and Army marksmen along the Hatchee-Lustee River. Allied Indians and Seminole engaged in a lively exchange of fire, and when the fire slackened among the Seminoles, Henderson knew the enemy had begun their withdrawal. Captain Harris aggressively attacked across the 20-yard wide river. Mounted Marines captured some women and children; also taken were one hundred packhorses, and 1,400 head of cattle. The warriors escaped, taking their dead and wounded with them.

Having lost their families and food supply, Seminole warriors sued for a parley in March 1838. Several chiefs consented to a truce and relocation to the Arkansas Territory; they signed an armistice on March 6, 1838 agreeing to assemble at Fort Brooke for removal. Every indication was that the war was over, except that Osceola and Arpiucki (a.k.a. Sam Jones) did not come in. Henderson received promotion to Brevet Brigadier General, the first Marine Corps officer to hold general officer rank; Captain Harris received advancement to Brevet Major. Henderson returned to Washington in May leaving the command of 189 Marines at Tampa Bay to Brevet Lieutenant colonel Miller. According to the agreement, Seminoles began to assemble at Tampa Bay; everyone was convinced the war was over. It was not.

Late at night on June 2, 1838, Osceola led warriors into a poorly guarded encampment outside Fort Brooke, captured the compliant chiefs and their followers (numbering around 700 Seminole), and forced them to un-surrender. The war began anew —and continued for another five years. Osceola’s refusal to surrender led General Jesup to employ unconventional negotiations. In October 1838, Osceola and Coeehajo agreed to parley with General Jesup under a flag of truce. During the meeting, Jesup seized both men and took them into captivity. Osceola died of Malaria at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina three months later; he was just 33-years-old. Some sectors criticized Jesup for his un-gentlemanly tactics, but it did result in removing Billy Powell from his position as a revered Seminole leader.

Meanwhile, the Americans continued to use unconventional tactics against the hostiles. Brigadier General Walter Armistead destroyed 500 acres of Seminole crops. In another instance, Colonel Harvey had his men dress as Seminole warriors as a means of entrapping hostiles. Harvey also received $55,000 from the US Congress to bribe Seminole chiefs to bring in their bands. Braves were paid $500.00 to surrender; their wives $100.00.

In the summer of 1838, the Navy put together a special landing force consisting of small ships and dugout canoes. They called it a Mosquito Fleet. It gradually increased it strength to 652 men, which included 130 Marines. The fleet based at Tea Table Key; its mission to interdict gun smugglers from Cuba in their attempt to funnel arms and ammunition to the hostile Seminoles. Schooners patrolled off shore, barges ranged close in to shore, and canoes patrolled estuaries.

BrigGen William J. Worth
BrigGen William J. Worth

In 1841, the Seminole War was costing the US government $1.1 million annually. By this time, Brigadier General William Jenkins Worth led the war effort in South Florida. He viewed the cost of continuing the war irresponsible and convinced the Congress to leave remaining Seminoles in peace if they stayed in the southwest part of south Florida. Those left in Florida included bands led by Holata Mico (Billy Bowlegs), Arpicochi, Chipco, and the black Seminole leader Kunta Kinte [1]. The black Seminoles were especially determined to keep fighting; their point of view being that dying was better than enslavement. Well, the United States of America had had enough of the Seminole War but now that the American Army had caught the tiger, the tiger was not letting go. The Seminole Wars continued for another 40 years and the last Native Americans living in the Everglades never surrendered. Between 1835 and 1842, the US lost 1,466 men to combat or disease. Sixty-one Marines died in the conflict.

Sources

  1. Harper Encyclopedia of Military History, 1933
  2. American Military History, Army Historical Series, 2013
  3. Dictionary of Wars, Anchor books, 1987
  4. D. Burzynski, The First Leathernecks: A Combat History of the US Marines, 2013
  5. D. Ekardt, U. S. Marines in the Second Creek and Second Seminole Wars, 2013

[1] Just kidding; his name was Thlochlo Tusternuggee (Tiger Tail)

Gone to Fight the Indians —Part I

Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears

It all began innocently enough, as most things do that come out of our nation’s capital. The words even sound reasonable and benevolent: An Act to provide for an exchange of land with the Indians residing in any of the states or territories, and for their removal west of the river Mississippi. The construction of nice sounding words is what lawyers and lawmakers do for a living.

Early in the Nineteenth Century, the Mississippi Territory mostly belonged to the Creek Indian Confederacy. This native population lived in towns, which became significant political and tribal cultural centers were equally important to the personal identity of the people who lived in those towns. The Creek Nation consisted of two primary divisions: those known as the Upper Creek, who occupied territories along the Coosa, Alabama, and Tallapoosa Rivers in central Alabama, and the Lower Creek who lived in the areas along the lower Chattahoochee, Ocmulgee, and Flint Rivers in Southwestern Georgia. These areas generally corresponded to the upper and lower trade routes that connected the Creeks with South Carolina. Although confederated, it was a loose alliance with each tribal town governing itself. The alliance was more important during time of war or during political negotiations with encroaching colonial settlements.

The Removal Act of 1830 came almost as a second shoe to drop following the Red Stick War, fought between 1813 and 1814. Also known as the Creek Indian War, the essence of this conflict was a civil war that occurred mostly in Alabama and along the Gulf Coast. The Red Stick faction deeply resented the federal government’s meddling in Indian affairs, while the Lower Creek factions benefitted from trade with the Americans and sided with them against the traditionalists. A third group of Muscogee existed: the Creeks who ran away. In the Creek language, the word for runaway is simanooli. Today we call these Muscogee Indians, Seminoles.

What makes the Creek Indian War complex is the number of factions and agents involved. An abbreviated version of this was:

• Upper Creek militancy resisting American territorial and cultural encroachments;
• Obstinacy among the Lower Creek, who favored white civilization;
• Foolishness among federal bureaucrats meddling in matters that did not concern them; and
• British and Spanish agents who kept the Indians agitated.

In 1830, the Indian Removal Act had the support of non-Native people in the south who were eager to gain access to lands inhabited by the civilized tribes. Georgia, the largest state at that time, was engaged in a very contentious jurisdictional dispute with the Cherokee people. President Jackson sought to resolve this dispute by removing the Indians from their ancestral lands. There was also significant opposition to the Indian Removal Act: Christian missionaries protested the legislation—notably Jeremiah Evarts, and joining him was New Jersey Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen and Tennessee Congressman David Crockett.

The wording of the act strongly suggested that Indian removal was a voluntary process: an exchange of land carries with it the connotation that there would be some discussion, negotiation, and a fair swap. It was none of these things. The federal government put great pressure on Native leaders to sign removal treaties, but nearly everyone associated with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, Wyandot, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Shawnee, and Lenape tribes understood that eventually, whites would send them to a new location. Jackson’s landslide victory in 1832 was the “go” signal.

The first removal treaty was the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek on September 27, 1830; Choctaw Indians in Mississippi ceded land east of the river in exchange for payment and land in the west. In 1835, the Treaty of New Echota resulted in the removal of the Cherokee. The remaining tribes decided they would not leave without a fight; the Seminoles were no longer running away. To assist the Seminole in their resistance were the Black Seminole, or fugitive slaves living among the Seminole people.

Brevet Brigadier General Archibald Henderson, Commandant of the Marine Corps
Brevet BrigGen Archibald Henderson Commandant of the Marine Corps

During the summer of 1835, Archibald Henderson marched a battalion of United States Marines south to confront Native Americans who decided they would rather fight than switch. It was a long walk; by the time the Marines arrived in southern Alabama, the Creek refusal to relocate to western lands was already resolved. Rather than locating, closing with, and destroying highly agitated Indians, the Marines patrolled the border of Georgia and Alabama on foot and by steamboat. In October, Henderson’s battalion joined with that of Lieutenant Colonel William H. Freeman at Fort Brooke, Florida. Henderson reorganized his force into a regiment of six companies, the strength of which was more than half that of the entire Marine Corps in 1835. Augmenting the Marines were 750 Creek Indian Volunteers. Henderson detailed Marine Corps officers to command some of the Native forces.

Colonel Henderson could not know that he and his Marines would participate in the longest and most costly of all Indian conflicts in the history of the United States. For seven years (1835-1942), eight different generals fought a frustrating war against an elusive adversary, aided by inhospitable terrain, hot, humid weather, and insect borne disease. Concentrating superior modern firepower and discipline against an enemy with no flanks, no lines of communication, no political or industrial bases proved an impossible task for such notable men as Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor.

Opposing America’s finest generals was Billy Powell (1804-1838), a man of mixed Creek-Scotch-Irish-English parentage. Billy’s mother raised him as a Creek Indian. Following their defeat in 1814, Billy’s mother took him south into Florida along with other Red Stick refugees. We know him today as Osceola, the influential leader of the Florida Seminole and one of the southern Creek who decided not to abide by the terms of a treaty negotiated with the United States government.

The Seminole’s first demonstration against forcible relocation was the massacre of a column of 110 soldiers led by Brevet Major Francis Dade on December 28, 1835. There were three survivors to the attack, but Seminoles killed one of those the next day. Of the two remaining survivors, one had no clear memory or understanding of what had transpired. What we know of the event we learned from one solitary survivor. The Second Seminole War was the result of this massacre along with an order to round up and kill every hostile.

Not everyone agreed with this policy: Major Ethan Allen Hitchcock participated in the search for and discovery of the remains of Major Dade’s company. In his journal he wrote about that discovery and his opposition to US policy: “The government is in the wrong, and this is the chief cause of the persevering opposition of the Indians, who have nobly defended their country against our attempt to enforce a fraudulent treaty. The natives used every means to avoid war, but were forced into it by the tyranny of our government.”

Continued Next Week

This Month in History

4 July 1801: President Thomas Jefferson reviewed the Marines, led by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, LtCol William W. Burrows and the Marine Band, on the White House grounds. The smartly uniformed Marines performed drills and fired various salutes in observance of the new nation’s 25th anniversary.

McDonnell Douglas A-4 0016 July 1990: One of the oldest and most versatile attack aircraft in Marine Corps history, the A-4 Skyhawk, retired from the Corps’ active aviation structure after over 30 years of service. The last two Skyhawks from MAG-32 flew their initial flight from Cherry Point to NAS Patuxent River on this date.

7 July 1941: The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing was activated at Quantico, Virginia. Within a year of activation, the Wing would participate in the Marine Corps offensive at Guadalcanal. That bitter campaign would be the first in a series of legendary battles in which the Wing would add luster to its reputation. The 1stMAW would earn five Presidential Unit Citations for gallantry in campaigns spanning World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

11 July 1798: President John Adams approved “An Act for Establishing and Organizing a Marine Corps”, and it became law. The following day, the President appointed William Ward Burrows as Major Commandant, United States Marine Corps.  In August, Major Burrows opened his headquarters in Philadelphia, at that time still the capital of the new nation.

14 July 1993: The USS IWO JIMA was decommissioned after over 30 years of service in a ceremony at Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia. The ship was named for the World War II battle during which three Marine divisions ousted 20,000 entrenched Japanese troops. The Iwo Jima was commissioned 26 August 1961, and it was the first ship specifically designed as an amphibious assault ship from the keel up.

18 July 1918: The 4th Brigade of Marines began an attack near Soissons, France, as part of a three-division counterattack against the Germans. In the first two days of battle, the brigade sustained 1,972 casualties.

Fighting Marines 00224 July 1944: The V Amphibious Corps, commanded by Major General Harry Schmidt, landed on Tinian, in the Mariana Islands. The following morning, the 2d and 4th Marine Divisions began a shoulder-to-shoulder southward sweep of the island. Organized enemy resistance faded within a week, and on 1 August, MajGen Schmidt declared the island secure.

26 July 1947: The National Security Act of 1947 became effective, reaffirming the status of the Marine Corps as a separate military service within the Department of the Navy. The Act Provided for Fleet Marine Forces, and confirmed the Corps’ mission of seizing and defending advanced bases, as well as land operation incident to naval campaigns.

28 July 1918: Brigadier General John A. Lejeune assumed command of the 2d Division, U.S. Army in France, and remained in that capacity until August 1919 when the unit was demobilized. He was the first Marine officer to hold an Army divisional command, and following the Armistice, he led his division in the march into Germany.

Hat tip: Historical Division, HQMC

This Month in History

2 June 1918: At dawn on this date, the crack German 28th Division attacked along the axis of the Paris-Metz road hitting the American 2d Division, including the 4th Marine Brigade. The Marines opened with deadly rifle fire and helped hand the German troops a setback which set the stage for Marine victory at Belleau Wood which would soon follow, although at great cost.

8 June 1995: A Marine tactical recovery team from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit stationed on board the USS Kearsarge rescued a downed U.S. pilot, Captain Scott O’Grady, USAF, from Bosnian-Serb territory in Bosnia.

Fighting Marines 00610 June 1898: The First Marine Battalion, commanded by LtCol Robert W. Huntington, landed on the eastern side of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The next day, Lt Herbert L. Draper hoisted the American flag over Camp McCalla where it flew during the next eleven days. LtCol Huntington later sent the flag with an accompanying letter to Colonel Commandant Charles Heywood noting that “when bullets were flying, …the sight of the flag upon the midnight sky has thrilled our hearts.”

12 June 1961: President John F. Kennedy signed a Presidential Proclamation calling for the American flag to be flown at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, “at all times during the day and night.” Discussions between the Attorney General’s office and Marine Corps officials earlier in 1961 on improving the visibility and appearance of the monument led to the proposal to fly the Flag continuously, which by law could only be done by Congressional legislation or by Presidential proclamation.

Fighting Marines 00115 June 1944: Preceded by naval gunfire and carrier air strikes, the V Amphibious Corps assaulted the west coast of Saipan, Marianas Islands. By nightfall, the 2d and 4th Marine Divisions, moving against heavy opposition, had established a beachhead 10,000 yards wide and 1,500 yards deep.

20 June 1993: The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit returned to Mogadishu, Somalia, to stand ready to assist United Nations forces in maintaining peace in the war-torn country. Earlier that month, the 24th MEU had been ordered to cut short Exercise Eager Mace 93-2 in Kuwait to respond to possible contingency operations in Somalia.

25 June 1950: Shortly before dawn, eight divisions of the North Korean People’s Army crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the Republic of Korea. Within three days, the South Korean capital city of Seoul had been captured. On 30 June, President Harry S. Truman ordered a naval blockade of the Korean coast and authorized the sending of U.S. ground troops to Korea. Two days later, General Douglas MacArthur, the Commander in Chief Far East, formally requested that a Marine regimental combat team be deployed to the Far East.

25 June 1966: In Vietnam, Operation Jay began about 30 kilometers northwest of Hue, and lasted nine days. The 2d Battalion, 4th Marines landed north of the North Vietnamese 812th Main Force Battalion, and the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines landed south of the enemy’s position. Caught in between the two Marine units, the enemy suffered over 80 dead in nine days of fighting.

Fighting Marines 00726 June 1918: BGen James G. Harbord, the Commanding General of the 4th Marine Brigade, notified American Expeditionary Force Headquarters that Belleau Wood was “now U.S. Marine Corps entirely.” After 20 days of combat, and at a cost of over 4,000 casualties, the 4th Brigade of Marines had proven its fighting heart. The grateful Commander of the French Sixth Army would soon decree that in all official correspondence, Belleau Wood would henceforth bear the name, “Bois de la Brigade de Marine.”

Hat tip: Historical Division, HQMC