The US Marine Corps was originally formed as the Continental Marines on November 10th, 1775 by the Second Continental Congress. Samuel Nicholas, a socially well connected philadelphian and respected owner of the Conestoga Wagon Tavern received a commission as a Captain of Marines signed by John Hancock, and set up recruiting operations at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia where he began raising two battalions of Marines to serve on ships of the Continental Navy. They fought in the Revolutionary War against Great Britain. The Marines, along with the Continental Navy, were disbanded after the war ended, in 1783. They were reinstated in 1798 by Congress as part of the preparation for the Quasi-War with France, this time as the United States Marine Corps.
Between 1801 and 1805 the Marines were involved in the First Barbary War, which was waged against the Barbary Pirates. One of the Barbary leaders was impressed enough to present the Marine First Lieutenant with a Mameluke Sword, establishing a tradition carried on to this day. In 1811 a base was established by Marines on Cumberland Island, Georgia.
During the War of 1812 the Marines established a base at Sackets Harbor, where they fought the British in two separate battles, the First and Second Battles of Sackets Harbor. Another Marine base was later established at Erie, Pennsylvania. Marines were involved in frigate battles, and helped to win some of the first American victories. They began to gain favourable reputations as marksmen. In 1813 they participated in the Battle of York and the Battle of Bladensburg. Allegedly the British so respected the skill of the Marines that they spared the Marine Barracks during the burning of Washington in 1814. During the Battle of New Orleans, Marines held the defensive line. In 1817 they captured Amelia Island and Fernandina, both in Spanish-held Florida. They continued to occupy Fernandina until 1821, when Spain ceded Florida to the States. In 1823 a base at Thompson's Island, now Key West, was established to deal with pirates. In 1825 Pensacola was garrisoned, again to deal with pirates.
After the war the Marines underwent a leadership dispute after the sudden death of the third Commandant in 1818. This was followed by two years of enervation, until Archibald Henderson was confirmed as Commandant in 1820. Under Henderson the Marines undertook a new role as an expeditionary force-in-readiness, overtaking their old roles of guarding ships and naval depots. They operated in landing parties and other operations in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, Fiji, Nicaragua and elsewhere. Attempts were made by President Andrew Jackson to combine the Marines and the Army, but these were resisted by Henderson. Instead, in 1834 the Marines were placed under the Department of the Navy, as a related service of the US Navy. Between 1835 and 1842 the Marines were volunteered for the fighting in the Seminole Wars, during which they garrisoned Fort Brooke in Tampa and fought against the Native Americans there.
In 1847 the Marines, involved in the Mexican-American War since 1846, staged the assault on Chapultepec Palace, their first major expeditionary action. They succeeded and were later placed in control of the guard duties in the palace, and one Marine was made military governor. They aided the Navy in the blockade of Mexico, and served as part of the California Battalion, fighting in a number of battles, including Monterey, Los Angeles, La Mesa, and the capture and defense of La Paz. In the 1850s they were involved in Panama, and accompanied Matthew Perry to the East. Some two hundred Marines were among the first Americans to set foot in Japan.
In 1861 the United States entered a Civil War. However, the Marines had relatively little involvement in that conflict. Prior to the war, some Marines had been involved in the arrest of John Brown, an abolitionist who had raided the local armory. At the start of the war a number of Marine officers left to join the Confederates. Those that remained were swiftly reformed. In their first engagement during the war, the First Battle of Bull Run, the Marines fled the field along with other members of the Union Army. They were only able to field about one battalion at a time, and for a majority of the war were involved mostly in blockades and ship-based battles. In 1862 the Battle of Drewry Bluff involved Marines, including the first Marine to receive a Medal of Honor, Corporal John F. Mackie. A year later, an amphibious landing was attempted at Fort Sumter, in Charlestown, but failed. In 1865 the Second Battle of Fort Fisher involved the Marines, who aided in the successful capture of the fort.
Following the war the Marines experienced a sharp decline in strength and size. As the Navy began to shift their ships from sail- to steam-powered, the place for Marines was literally lost, as they had previously perched in the crow's nest. Instead they began to move towards being a resource for interventions and landings. In 1867 they took action in Formosa, and in 1871 they went to Korea, making a landing at Ganghwa Island. For the 35 years following the war, the Marines were involved in some 28 actions in places like China, Egypt, Haiti, Argentina and Colombia, as well as the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. They also dealt with political unrest within America.
In 1898 the Spanish-American War began, and the Marines lead forces in landings in the Phillipines, Cuba and Puerto Rico. In the Battle of Cienfuegos, Marines cut undersea cables around Cuba to promote the blockade. They also aided in the capture of Guantanamo Bay, the Battle of Manila Bay, the Capture of Guam and the Siege of Baler. During the Phillipine-American War they served mainly as occupiers and peacekeepers. They were also involved in the Boxer Rebellion in China.
Because the Marines were so quick to mobilize, they were assigned the responsibility of capturing and holding advanced naval bases in 1900. Three years later they blocked the advance of the Columbian Army into Panama to quash a rebellion, which directly lead to the independence of Panama. From 1903 to 1904 they were involved in protecting diplomats in Abyssinia, and in the resolution of the Perdicaris incident. In 1912 the Marines began to cultivate their interest in aviation. The number of Marines in aviation rapidly expanded, and in January of 1914 the Marine Section of the Navy Flying School was established. From 1900 to 1916 they were involved in the Banana Wars in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
In World War I the Marines played a large part in the US entry into the war. Their most famous battle at this time was the Battle of Belleau Woods. It was the largest that the Marines had participated in to that date, and cemented their fearsome reputation. They received the Croix de Guerre from the French Government. By early 1918 Marine aviation had grown immensely, and become involved in the hunt for U-boats as well as providing bomb support for the Navy aviation wing. In June of 1918 some Marines were sent briefly to Russia to protect American citizens. They later returned in 1920, and remained until 1922, to protect communication infrastructure. After the war the Marines were heavily involved in the development of amphibious techniques that would later benefit them in the war. As war came closer, Marine commanders urged amphibious practice maneuvers and acquired technology that would aid them in a sea war.
In World War II the Marines participated mainly in the Pacific Theatre. The Corps grew a great deal, expanding to about 475,000 Marines, the most in history. They fought in nearly every major battle, including Taiwan, Guam and, most notably, Iwo Jima, where the famous picture of five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the American flag was taken. They saw a great deal of success against the Imperial Japanese Army. After the Battle of Tarawa, the Marine aviation wing was recommended as air support. Some Marines also operated in the European Theatre, North Africa and the Middle East, though mostly they were assigned to guard naval bases or worked on war ships. Some Marines also served with the Office of Strategic Services.
Following the war, the Marines underwent a crisis as Army leaders attempted to fold the Marines into the Navy and the Army, These efforts failed, however, and the separation of the Marines from other military wings was officially recognized in the National Security Act of 1947. The size of the Marine Corps also decreased dramatically in the postwar period. Into the 1950s the Marines were subject to budgetary restrictions, thanks in large part to President Harry S. Truman, who held a dislike of the Marines dating back to the First World War. Secretary of Defense Louis A Johnson attempted to remove the Marine Corps entirely, removing the Commandant from rolls of honor and forbidding him from attending meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, forbidding the celebration of the Marine "birthday", and severely reducing the Marine Corps' surface and amphibious fleet. After he cancelled the USS United States, the Revolt of the Admirals was begun, that ultimately resulted in an end to the cuts. However, he had had such an effect that the Marines were unprepared to enter the Korean War in 1950.
The Korean War saw the first use of Marine helicopters. The Marine Corps in general was used by General Douglas MacArthur in an ultimately successful amphibious landing in the Battle of Inchon. The Marine Corps rebounded from cuts, swelling to about 261,000 by the end of the war in 1953. After the war the Marines were sent to smaller crises, such as the Suez Crisis in 1956, the Lebanon crisis in 1958, and the Cuban Revolution in 1959, among others.
During the Vietnam War the Marines fought in battles at Da Nang, Hue and Khe Sanh. Throughout their time there they were involved in a near-constant guerilla war with the Viet Cong, and less regularly in conventional warfare with the North Vietnamese Army. They also worked in counterinsurgency efforts through the Combined Action Program. The Marines withdrew from Vietnam in 1971, though returned briefly in 1975 in the attempt to rescue the crew of the Mayaguez. Three Marines were left behind in the evacuation, and later captured and killed by the Khmer Rouge.
After the return from Vietnam the Marine Corps experienced an extremely high number of courts-martial and desertions among other disciplinary issues. The 1970s saw a retooling of the policy on discharging new recruits, and the quality of the Marines began to improve, and the Marine Corps again returned to their expeditionary remit. In 1980 the Marine helicopters attempted a rescue of the Embassy of the United States in Tehran, but failed disastrously. In 1982 they went to Beirut as part of the Lebanon War, remaining until public pressure forced them to retreat in 1984. This was followed by several successful campaigns. First, the Invasion of Grenada in 1983, then the protection of the Embassy of the United States in Manila in 1989, and the Invasion of Panama that same year. In 1990 they were involved in the liberation of Kuwait through Operation Desert Storm. Also in 1990 they aided in noncombatant evacuation from Liberia. In 1992 they were in Somalia where they engaged Somali militia in combat. In 1993 they participated in the Bosnian War, mainly in a support capacity. They remained there until 1999.
On September 11th, 2001 the United States was attacked by terrorists. The Marine Corps, along with other parts of the US military and NATO, became involved in the Global War on Terror. In October of 2001 they were involved in the invasion of Afghanistan and continue to be involved in fights with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. They were involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and began occupation in 2004, with responsibility for Al Anbar province, near Baghdad. They fought at Fallujah, and received some controversy for the Haditha killings and Hamdania incident. Marine interests in Iraq officially ended in January of 2010, when responsibility for Al Anbar was handed to the US Army.
The US Marine Corps operates out of a number of major bases. It has four major components: Headquarters Marine Corps, the Operating Forces (further broken down into Marine Corps Forces, Marine Corps Security Forces and Marine Corps Security Guard), the Supporting Establishment and the Marine Forces Reserve. Currently there are 202,779 Marines on active duty, and a further 40,000 in the reserve. They are also known as The Few and The Proud, Jar Heads, Shock Troops and Devil Dogs.