Over the course of the 243-year history of the Corps, US Marines have waged war in countries around the world, building a reputation as an unstoppable force.
On many occassions, the Marines have found themselves tasked with the seemingly impossible while surrounded, outnumbered and outgunned. Often the „first to fight,“ the Marines regularly suffered heavy casualties in the bloody battles they fought, but the Devil Dogs made sure those sacrifices cost their enemies dearly.
These are ten of the toughest and most iconic battles the Marine Corps ever fought.
Battle of Derna — „To the shores of Tripoli“
Libya: April 27 – May 13, 1805
A small Marine expeditionary force under the command of Lt. Presley O’Bannon marched more than 500 miles across the Libyan Desert to storm the Tripolitan port city of Derna, where the Marines won a historic victory over the Barbary pirates of North Africa and rescued the captured crew of the USS Philadelphia.
The victory, supported by the Navy and local mercenaries, helped secure US ships and trade at a critical time in America’s development. The battle also notably shaped a handful of Marine Corps traditions.
The nickname „leathernecks“ originated at Derna, where US Marines wore high, leather collars to guard against the cutlasses carried by the pirates.
The Mameluke sword presented to O’Bannon by the rightful ruler of Tripoli, who was able to retake his throne after the battle, eventually became a part of the Marine Corps officer’s uniform. This unique sword remains the oldest ceremonial weapon in use by the US armed forces today.
And, the Battle of Derna is famously celebrated in the Marines‘ Hymn, a key verse of which reads: „From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.“
Battle of Chapultepec — „From the Halls of Montezuma“
Mexico: September 12-13, 1847
Chapultepec Castle sat atop a steep hill, serving as a critical fort for the defense of Mexico City, and US Army Gen. Winfield Scott determined that it was necessary to take it before American troops could seize the capital.
US Marines and Army soldiers fought their way up the hill through heavy musket and artillery fire to engage Mexican forces in intense hand-to-hand combat. US troops then scaled the high walls of the castle while battling it out against an enemy ready to fight until the bloody end.
At the conclusion of the two-day battle, the Marines hoisted the flag inside the fort, commonly referred to as the Halls of Montezuma. With this victory, US troops captured the last stronghold of the Mexican-American War and cleared the way for US forces to take the Mexican capital.
Not only is this battle, like the earlier Battle of Derna, commemorated in the Marines‘ Hymn, but the scarlet stripes on the Marines‘ blue dress trousers are called „blood stripes“ and are said to honor those who fell at Chapultepec. The stripes, however, reportedly pre-date this famous battle.
Battle of Belleau Wood — „Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?“
France: June 1 – 26, 1918
The Battle of Belleau Wood, one of the most brutal battles fought by American forces in World War, saw US Marines charge across a waist-high wheat field into German machine gun fire, suffering unbelievable casualties. Determined to take the forest, the Marines did not stop their advance.
„Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?“ First Sergeant Dan Daly, a legendary two-time Medal of Honor recipient, famously shouted to his troops to motivate them to continue to push forward.
Marines charged machine gun nests with fixed bayonets and engaged the Germans in fierce hand-to-hand combat while moving from tree to tree. During the brutal three-week battle, the US and German forces traded control of the forest six times.
The Marines succeeded in their mission, clearing the forest and turning the tides of the war, but victory came at a steep price. It was during this famous battle that the Marines showed the world that they are a formidable force willing to accept nothing less than victory.
And, it was there in Belleau Wood, France that the Marines earned a new nickname. German officers are said to have called the tenacious and unstoppable Marines „Teufel Hunden,“ which translates to „Devil Dogs,“ or at least that’s how the story is told.
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Source: Business insider