History is Written by the Victors.

Anyone who has been in the marine corps for any length of time knows that the corps prides itself on its history and traditions.  I’m sure we can all remember during bootcamp, being indoctrinated with assorted tales of Smedley Butler, the Battle of Chapultepec, the “Frozen Chosin”, and the list goes on.  But to say that the marine corps prides itself on its long and illustrious history is something that no one who has ever served in the corps can deny.

However, history is written by the victors, and victors have a nasty habit of skewing facts in their favor and the corps is no exception to that rule.

 

Let me start at the beginning, the marine corps birthday.  Tradition holds that the usmc was created at Tun Tavern, Philadelphia on Nov 10, 1775.  The facts are, the Continental Marines had it’s origins in Tun Tavern, on Nov 10, 1775.  After the Revolutionary War was won, the Continental Marines were disbanded.  The usmc was created on July 11 1798.  This date continued to be recognized as the marine corps’ birthday until 1921 when Gen Lejeune decided that the usmc and it’s predecessor, the Continental Marines, were one and the same, and changed the birthday accordingly.  I feel it is also noteworthy that prior to 1921, the marine corps birthday was not a cause for a giant celebration as it is today, it was just another day at work.

 

Moving on, marine corps tradition holds that the “Blood Stripe” is worn on the trousers of Officers, SNCO’s and NCO’s to commemorate the heavy losses of these ranks during the Battle of Chapultepec.  History, on the other hand, tells us that the Battle of Chapultepec occurred on Sept 12-13, 1847, meanwhile marines began wearing the Blood Stripe in 1837 (a full 10 years earlier) by order of President Andrew Jackson, so that the corps would match the army’s practice of wearing trouser stripes of the same color as the jacket facings.

So there is an issue of chronology, this much is beyond doubt, but the misrepresentation of history doesn’t end there.  If you do a little bit of independent research, you’ll shortly learn that the Battle of Chapultepec involved 13,000 U.S. troops.  Of these 13,000 men, 130 were killed, 703 were injured, and 29 were missing, for a grand total of 862 casualties, or 6.6%.  Now I personally know several marines who went to Afghanistan and never came back, so I fully realize that any loss of life is a tragedy, and I’m not trying to downplay that.  However, at the same time we have to realize that in war people are going to die, and for the battles of the Mexican-American war, 6.6% is actually pretty average.  So to say that this particular battle – and these particular 130 dead – were somehow worthy of being commemorated with a stripe on a dress uniform while no other dead have been deemed worthy of being forever commemorated by such a gesture, is an absurdity.  (The closest thing to this is the French Forage, which is only allowed to 2 Regiments)

 

Continuing on our review of marine corps history, let us move on to the Battle of Belleau Wood in WWI.  Any good marine will tell you that this was battle in which the Germans gave us the nickname “Devil Dogs” or  “Teufel Hunden” (Or “Teufelshunde” as it should be spelled).  I once had the pleasure of serving with a marine of Canadian origin, who showed me in Canada’s military history, that the Germans had called Canada’s soldiers “Teufelshunde” in 1917 a full year prior to the Battle of Belleau Wood.  So at the end of the day, it wasn’t that marines were necessarily that frightening, it was just the nickname claimed by any force that happened to soundly beat the Germans on any particular day.

 

Our final stop on this lovely journey through time is the Chosin Reservoir.  Possibly the most brutal battle (in terms of weather) ever fought, with temperatures around -40* F.  (This battle has, in practice, already been reduced to little more than a reason for a SNCO to throw a fit over a cold marine with his hands in his pockets, because the “Frozen Chosin” fought through colder conditions.  Be that as it may, I wish to address the battle without regard to the cheapening which the corps has done for me)

I have also had the pleasure of speaking to a marine who was on the front lines of this battle, and after he recounted how the 1st marine division was outnumbered 8 to 1 by the Chinese Army, and the extreme weather conditions meant no air support (This is the place where most well known versions of the story end) he went on to describe the enemy he and his comrades found themselves pitted against.  His description was as follows: “Those who had bullets had no boots, those who had boots had no coats, those who were not freezing to death were starving to death… That battle was 60,000 mercy killings…”

 

Again, my aim in this is not to belittle the men who fought and died during the Chosin Reservoir, Belleau  Wood, and the many other battles throughout this nation’s short history.  I aim instead to demonstrate through these instances the disturbing trend of high-ranking officials of the marine corps altering or omitting facts of the marine corps’ history in an effort to continue to ride the coattails of a renown which is not theirs and which they have not earned.  It is this rigid clinging to delusions of grandeur that lead President Truman to say  “The Marine Corps is the Navy’s police force and as long as I am President that is what it will remain. They have a propaganda machine that is almost equal to Stalin’s.” 

 

“But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.” ~ Adolf Hitler

 

Safety and Peace

  • Doogie

    You have any references to back up your claims boss? Not doubting you but I am very interested to know if there is any truth to your comments. Obviously anyone can post anything they want to on the Internets (cough *Wikipedia* cough). And yes I could research them myself but you are the one making the claim. Thanks.

    • Outtacontrol Is Incontrol

      Yes, please post any references id love to prove to these idiot motards in my platoon how much of the bs we spew is bs.

      • Anonymous

        I unfortunately can’t prove my talks with the Canadian Marine, and the Chosin Reservoir Vet because they’re personal experiences, but I’ll look up my sources for the rest of it once again, and post up a link or two.

        • Madmike19682003

          read “east of chosin” for the story of the army unit at that battle

  • Doogie

    You have any references to back up your claims boss? Not doubting you but I am very interested to know if there is any truth to your comments. Obviously anyone can post anything they want to on the Internets (cough *Wikipedia* cough). And yes I could research them myself but you are the one making the claim. Thanks.

    • Outtacontrol Is Incontrol

      Yes, please post any references id love to prove to these idiot motards in my platoon how much of the bs we spew is bs.

      • NINJA_PUNCH

        I unfortunately can’t prove my talks with the Canadian Marine, and the Chosin Reservoir Vet because they’re personal experiences, but I’ll look up my sources for the rest of it once again, and post up a link or two.

        • Madmike19682003

          read “east of chosin” for the story of the army unit at that battle

  • Doogie

    Never mind boss. didnt see the tags below your post. My bad. Consider me informed. Thanks again.

  • Doogie

    Never mind boss. didnt see the tags below your post. My bad. Consider me informed. Thanks again.

  • Semper HUH?

    Remember Marines don’t blame the  instution, blame bad leadership.

  • Semper HUH?

    Remember Marines don’t blame the  instution, blame bad leadership.

  • Madmike19682003

    the primary difference between the corps and the other branches is this….the corps must justify it’s own existence while the others do not. everyone knows why we need a army,to control the ground or a navy,to control the ocean, or a airforce,to control the sky. but why a marine corps? i’m a former marine and i don’t know why we need the marines. the first rule of any bureacracy is to protect itself and all other considerations are secondary. the corps is a government agency no different from FEMA or the TSA. the way it must protect itself is to convince everyone that it is better than the others and has some magical power the other branches don’t. everything in the corps is designed to promote it’s image,to look good not be good.

  • Madmike19682003

    the primary difference between the corps and the other branches is this….the corps must justify it’s own existence while the others do not. everyone knows why we need a army,to control the ground or a navy,to control the ocean, or a airforce,to control the sky. but why a marine corps? i’m a former marine and i don’t know why we need the marines. the first rule of any bureacracy is to protect itself and all other considerations are secondary. the corps is a government agency no different from FEMA or the TSA. the way it must protect itself is to convince everyone that it is better than the others and has some magical power the other branches don’t. everything in the corps is designed to promote it’s image,to look good not be good.

  • Madmike19682003

    the germans NEVER gave scary nicknames to whatever enemy they had at the moment that is propaganda for the opponents the germans had. also a massive percentage of communists that died at the frozen chosin were killed by soldiers of a u.s. army division that covered the marines march and guarded the flanks. because more marines survived due to soldiers bearing the brunt of the battle the marine corps version has become the accepted one. i took army ROTC for a year in college before i joined the marines and contrary to what marines think the army doesen’t really think or care about the marines at all. in a whole year i NEVER heard the phrase “marine corps” mentioned.

    • Anonymous

      Realized that, and also realized my poor wording of that sentence.  That situation has been remedied.

  • Madmike19682003

    the germans NEVER gave scary nicknames to whatever enemy they had at the moment that is propaganda for the opponents the germans had. also a massive percentage of communists that died at the frozen chosin were killed by soldiers of a u.s. army division that covered the marines march and guarded the flanks. because more marines survived due to soldiers bearing the brunt of the battle the marine corps version has become the accepted one. i took army ROTC for a year in college before i joined the marines and contrary to what marines think the army doesen’t really think or care about the marines at all. in a whole year i NEVER heard the phrase “marine corps” mentioned.

    • NINJA_PUNCH

      Realized that, and also realized my poor wording of that sentence.  That situation has been remedied.

  • Guest

    I find it interesting that Truman and other Army brass tried to get rid of the USMC in WW2. IF there was a perfect time to get rid of the USMC- after WW2 would have been the best time to do it because the Army at the time were capable of conducting many USMC style operations at the time; however, the USMC did train many Army units in amphibious operations. History will ALWAYS be exaggerated depending on who is telling it.  

    • Madmike19682003

      read the book “there’s a war to be won” a excellent account of the u.s. army in ww2. it deals with some of the conflicts the army had with the corps and differences in how the 2 branches did things. the army borrowed a few ideas from the corps but than heavily improvised tactics that fit soldiers better. the army was much more cautious with soldiers lives and preferred thinking or shooting the way out of a bad situation rather than frontal charges against heavily fortified defences.

  • Guest

    I find it interesting that Truman and other Army brass tried to get rid of the USMC in WW2. IF there was a perfect time to get rid of the USMC- after WW2 would have been the best time to do it because the Army at the time were capable of conducting many USMC style operations at the time; however, the USMC did train many Army units in amphibious operations. History will ALWAYS be exaggerated depending on who is telling it.  

    • Madmike19682003

      read the book “there’s a war to be won” a excellent account of the u.s. army in ww2. it deals with some of the conflicts the army had with the corps and differences in how the 2 branches did things. the army borrowed a few ideas from the corps but than heavily improvised tactics that fit soldiers better. the army was much more cautious with soldiers lives and preferred thinking or shooting the way out of a bad situation rather than frontal charges against heavily fortified defences.

  • Anonymous

    The full history of the marine corps birthday can be found here: http://www.tecom.usmc.mil/HD/Customes_Traditions/Birthday_Celebration.htm

    The full history of the blood stripe can be found here: http://www.usmcmuseum.com/museum_lorecorps.asp
    The full history of the Battle of Chapultepec can be found here: http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Battle_of_Chapultepec.aspx
    (Note:  This wasn’t my original source, however I cannot seem to locate my original source at this time.  According to this source the casualties were 138 dead, and 673 wounded.  I fell that this small discrepancy does not detract from my case, and as such, I am not concerned about it.)

    As I have said before, I cannot prove my statements regarding the Canadian army, and my conversation with the Chosin Reservoir veteran because they were personal experiences, and I have not been able to find information to support them on the internet.

  • NINJA_PUNCH

    The full history of the marine corps birthday can be found here: http://www.tecom.usmc.mil/HD/Customes_Traditions/Birthday_Celebration.htm

    The full history of the blood stripe can be found here: http://www.usmcmuseum.com/museum_lorecorps.asp

    The full history of the Battle of Chapultepec can be found here: http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Battle_of_Chapultepec.aspx
    (Note:  This wasn’t my original source, however I cannot seem to locate my original source at this time.  According to this source the casualties were 138 dead, and 673 wounded.  I fell that this small discrepancy does not detract from my case, and as such, I am not concerned about it.)

    As I have said before, I cannot prove my statements regarding the Canadian army, and my conversation with the Chosin Reservoir veteran because they were personal experiences, and I have not been able to find information to support them on the internet.