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Tom Pattantyus: Happy 234th birthday to the U.S. Marine Corps

Right Here Right Now

Posted: November 5, 2009 7:49 p.m.
Updated: November 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.

On Nov. 10, 1775, the Continental Congress passed a resolution stating that “two battalions of Marines be raised” for service as landing forces with the fleet. Their first amphibious raid into the Bahamas took place in March 1776 under the command of Capt. (later Major) Samuel Nicholas. Nicholas, the first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines, is considered to be the first Marine Commandant.
The Treaty of Paris in April 1783 brought an end to the Revolutionary War and the Continental Navy and Marines went out of existence. The formal re-establishment of the Marine Corps was on July 11, 1798.
In World War I, Marine pilots flew daytime bomber missions over France and Belgium. Belleau Wood near Paris is where the Marines got their German nickname of “Teufelshunde,” or “Devil Dogs,” because of the ferocity of their attack on the German lines.

More than 30,000 Marines had served in France and more than a third were killed or wounded in six months of intense fighting.

During the two decades before World War II, the Marine Corps began to develop in earnest the doctrine, equipment and organization needed for amphibious warfare. The success of this effort was proven first on Guadalcanal, then on Bougainville, Tarawa, New Britain, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

The Marine Corps had grown to include six divisions, five air wings and supporting troops. Its strength in World War II peaked at 485,113. The war cost the Marines nearly 87,000 dead and wounded and 82 Marines had earned the Medal of Honor.

While Marine units took part in the post-war occupation of Japan and North China, a “vertical envelopment” capability for the Corps through the use of helicopters was developed and implemented.

Landing at Inchon, Korea in September 1950, Marines proved that the doctrine of amphibious assault was still viable and necessary. After the recapture of Seoul, the Marines advanced to the Chosin Reservoir only to see the Chinese Communists enter the war.
The Marines served in Korea until March 1955, and more than 25,000 Marines were killed or wounded.

The landing of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Da Nang in 1965 marked the beginning of large-scale Marine involvement in Vietnam. By summer 1968, after the enemy’s Tet Offensive, the Marine Corps’ strength in Vietnam rose to a peak of approximately 85,000.

The Marines’ participation ended in June 1971. The Vietnam War exacted a high cost as well with more than 13,000 Marines killed and more than 88,000 wounded.

The largest movement of Marine Corps forces since World War II was prompted by the first Gulf War starting in 1990. Between August 1990 and January 1991, more than 92,000 Marines were deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield.

Operation Desert Storm was launched Jan. 16, 1991, the day the air campaign began. The main attack came over land beginning Feb. 24 when the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions breached the Iraqi defense lines and stormed into occupied Kuwait.

Soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., Marine units deployed to the Arabian Sea and in November set up a forward operating base in southern Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Marine Corps units have distinguished themselves in many battles in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the largest of which were the two battles for Fallujah and the Surge in Iraq. Today, as the war in Iraq has attained lower intensity and the new emphasis is shifted to Afghanistan, the heavy lifting is increasingly on the Marines again.

There have been many other deployments of U.S. Marine units executed with bravery and valor. Considering the relative small number of the Marines their achievements and sacrifice have been enormous!

The Marine Mantra: Semper Fidelis (in abbreviated version Semper Fi) or Always Faithful is taken so seriously that not even a fallen comrade “is left behind,” whatever it takes.

For similar reasons, one can meet a lot of Marine veterans volunteering in veterans hospitals still serving the wounded soldiers or disabled, sick veterans.

Happy birthday Marines, and may God safely guide home all of you who are actively serving our country.

Tom Pattantyus is a retired electrical engineer. E-mail him at His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.


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