Marines Corps
Culture

11 Myths About the Marine Corps

Much of what people believe about the Marines, including Marines, isn't true.

BY Rick Bursky
Feb.09,2020 / UPDATED ON JUL.01,2020

The United States Marine Corps is an organization to be admired. The facts that create their history, and current capabilities, need no help from fiction to garner respect. With that said, many who say they are Marines, ex-Marines –– or fans of the USMC ––heap myths, lies, and nonsense claims on to the Marines. Not only does the Marine Corps not need any false accolades, but these “errors” are also offensive to the men and women of the other four military services.  


A previous article we wrote about the Marines drew a ridiculous amount of comments, most of which were wrong. This article correct many of the mistaken beliefs people have about the Marine Corps. You can read that original article by clicking here.


1. The Marines are the president’s army.

We’ve heard ex-Marines say that the Marine Corps belongs to the president, that he has control over them that he doesn’t have over the other branches of the military. Well, this is complete nonsense. Anyone who believes that should sit with their comic books quietly in the back of the room while the adults talk. When your reading comprehension outgrows comic books, read the War Powers Resolution. 


2. The Marines are first to fight.

No, this is not true. The Marines have seldom been the first to fight. While it is a useful recruiting tool for the Marines, it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. We researched the wars of the twentieth century, and here is what we found.

World War One: The Marines contributed only one brigade to that war, and that brigade was attached to the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division. Their first fight took place a little more than a month after the Army’s first action. 

World War Two: The Marines were first to fight in the Pacific, but not in Europe.

Korean War: The Marines were not the first to fight in Korea. The first ground troops sent to Korea were from the Army’s 24th Infantry Division on July 1, 1950. The first Marines arrived in Korea on August 2. 

Vietnam War: The Army’s 1st Special Forces Group was in Vietnam first. 

Desert Shield/Desert Storm: The 82d Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, NC, was the first American combat unit to arrive in Saudi Arabia. The first airborne soldier was on the ground within 31 hours of the time of the initial alert. General Hopkins was ordered to begin deploying his Marine brigade on August 10. By the way, the opening volley of the ground war was also fired by the Army, Task Force Normandy of the 101st Airborne Division.

Invasion of Granada: Army and Marines attacked at the exact same time on the morning of October 25, 1983.

Invasion of Panama: When I looked up the order of battle for D-Day in Panama, no Marine units were listed, and none were listed as part of the forces on the two preceding days. But the Marines did contribute a Light Armored Battalion, one infantry company, and members of the Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (their ultimate embassy guards).

Afghanistan: Army was also first to fight here. Gen. Mattis, in his book, Call Sign Chaos, actually writes about the Marines going in only after the Army secured their landing zones. 


Going through the rest of our wars also did not lend credence to the Marines' claim that they are first to fight. Do the research; we did. With that said, it’s okay that they use it as a recruiting tool and to feel good about themselves. I’m sure if I went to the 82nd Airborne Division’s website, I would find that same claim. (Not that the Navy considers their carriers America’s 911.) I’m not a general, but I suspect in today’s danger zones, the Joint Chiefs choose the first-to-fight force package based on a criterion that does not include ego. It’s worth pointing out that in the first to fight debate, I didn’t even consider the Air Force or Navy, and they have many men and women with fingers on triggers. But the reason we’re calling out the Marines on this is that they are unique to use this false claim in an attempt to belittle other branches.


3. The red stripe on Marine trousers commemorates Marines killed at The Halls of Montezuma.

The fight for the Halls of Montezuma was actually the attack on the castle of Chapultepec in 1847. The Army, not the Marines, actually took the castle. The assault force that stormed the Mexican position was made up of 500 troops, of which 460 were Army and only 40 were Marines. Today, Marines call the red stripe on their trousers the Blood Stripe in honor of the heavy casualties suffered by Marines in the battle. But according to the Marine’s website casualties were very light. Here’s a quote from the Marine Corps “…bloodless cost for Marines who stormed the stone course of glory atop Chapultepec in Mexico…”

 Now let’s see what the National Museum of the Marine Corps says about that red stripe:

“Marine Corps tradition maintains that the red stripe worn on the trousers of officers and noncommissioned officers, and commonly known as the “blood stripe,” commemorates those Marines killed storming the castle of Chapultepec in 1847. Although this belief is firmly embedded in the traditions of the Corps, it has no basis in fact. The use of stripes clearly predates the Mexican War.

In 1834, uniform regulations were changed to comply with President Andrew Jackson’s wishes that Marine uniforms return to the green and white worn during the Revolutionary War. The wearing of stripes on the trousers began in 1837, following the Army practice of wearing stripes the same color as uniform jacket facings. Colonel Commandant Archibald Henderson ordered those stripes to be buff white. Two years later, when President Jackson left office, Colonel Henderson returned the uniform to dark blue coats faced red. In keeping with earlier regulations, stripes became dark blue edged in red. In 1849, the stripes were changed to a solid red. Ten years later uniform regulations prescribed a scarlet cord inserted into the outer seams for noncommissioned officers and musicians and a scarlet welt for officers. Finally, in 1904, the simple scarlet stripe seen today was adopted.”


4. The Marines are The President’s Own.

The people who call the Marines “The President’s Own” are typically Marines and ex-Marines. But the moniker “The President’s Own” belongs only to the United States Marine Band. It got that moniker in 1801 when President John Adams invited the band to perform at the Executive Mansion. Later, Thomas Jefferson initiated the tradition of Marine Band performances by requesting that it perform at his inauguration. The Marine Band has played at every United States presidential inauguration since. The interesting thing about the Marines in this band is that they are not sent to boot camp. The Marine Band recruits experienced musicians and selects them through auditions. They start at the rank of staff sergeant and are giving four-year contracts. So much for the idea that every marine is a rifleman. 


5. Every marine is a rifleman.

Our first response to this is "see above," every Marine doesn't even have to go to boot camp. Getting past the fact that not all Marines go to boot camp, USMC Commandant General Alfred M. Gray Jr. once said, "every Marine is, first and foremost, a rifleman. All other conditions are secondary." That makes no sense. How much time and money do the Marines spend training a jet pilot, and that skill is secondary? The same is true for training jet engine mechanics or other technical skills, after all of that training, they are first and foremost riflemen and jet engine mechanics secondary? I hope General Gray was relieved of command after making such a ridiculous assertion. That comment is also an insult to every infantry rifleman. The notion that clerks, mechanics, and assorted support people are equal to infantry Marines just because they know how to shoot a rifle, is not true. Or, wait for it … being a Marine infantry rifleman is a pretty simple job.

 

6. The Marine Corps is a light infantry force.

Today, the Marine Corps is more of an air force than a ground force. The USMC has 24 infantry battalions and 58 flying squadrons (not counting over a dozen aviation support squadrons). As of 2017, the Marine Corps numbered right about 182,000 active duty men and women. There are 903 Marines in each infantry battalion, that puts 21,672 in infantry battalions. So, what are the other 160,328 Marines doing? In their fight for relevance, perhaps they should turn their public relations machine against the United States Air Force instead of the Army.  



7. The Marines won the war in the Pacific, World War Two.

Of course, we’re talking about the ground war. The Pacific is an incredibly large ocean, and it would be hard not to offer kudos to the Navy here. The Marines fielded six divisions in the Pacific. The Army fielded twenty-two. More Soldiers were killed than Marines. The Army killed more Japanese than the Marines did.  At one point in the 1930s the War Department decided that an amphibious corps would be composed of one Army and one Marine division. The Marines never got large enough where they could contribute that much manpower. So that left the Army to do the bulk of the fighting. In many battles, lesser numbers of Marine fought alongside soldiers. Though on Saipan and Iwo Jima, there were more Marines. The biggest amphibious operation in the Pacific, the invasion of Okinawa, was mostly an Army fight. Four Army divisions and three Marine divisions made up the ground force. General Buckner, Army, not Marine, was in command. While the Marines did not win the ground war in the Pacific, their contributions were significant. 


8. Marines prepared as a backup in D-Day assault.

There was not a Marine battalion waiting in reserve just in case the Army got in trouble. The Marines at D-Day were the detachments assigned to large Navy warships for security.


9. Germans called the Marines "devil dogs" in World War I.

All Marines in basic training are taught that German soldiers in WW I called Marines "Devil Dogs." But they did not. H.L. Mencken, the famed American writer, clearly stated in 1921 that: "The Germans, during the war, had no opprobrious nicknames for their foes…Teufelhunde (devil-dogs), for the American marines, was invented by an American correspondent; the Germans never used it." That correspondent was most likely Floyd Gibbons. This claim is reinforced by the fact that several American newspapers ran stories in April 1918, claiming that Germans had nicknamed the Marines "devil dogs." These stories were before the Marines' first fight later that spring.


10. The Marine Corps does the most with the least.

The Marines buy some of the most advanced – and expensive -- weapon systems on the battlefield. For example, the Marines are buying 420 of the new F-35 fighter. The military branch that does the most with the least, is without a doubt, the Coast Guard. 


11. America needs the Marine Corps

This was the topic of our first article about the Marines, so we include it here again. But, it's worth repeating, no one at Fine Medium and Broad is suggesting we should eliminate the Marines. They are valuable to our security. They are always ready, willing, and able to defend America. They are also culturally ingrained in our history. Of course, we also get so much entertainment from some of their ridiculous chest-beating boastings. But I digress. Does America need the United States Marine Corps? We're going to let Marine Lieutenant General Victor "Brute" Krulak answer that question, and he did in his book, First to Fight: An Inside View of the United States Marine Corps. The general wrote: 

“The United States does not need a Marine Corps mainly because she has a fine modern Army and a vigorous Air Force. Her Army fights on the ground—on any kind of ground—and does it well. Her Air Force fights in the air and does it well too. Marines are designed to fight on the ground and in the air just like the Army and Air Force, and have no corner on skill in either place. 

The Marines claim to have a mystical competence in landing operations, but they really don’t. There are thousands and thousands of soldiers who have been carefully trained and thoroughly drilled in amphibious matters too, and they can do anything Marines can do. And Marine aviators have no corner on tactical air operations in support of the infantry either. Our Air Force has done a lot of it, and can do it again.”


Based on the responses we received to our first Marine article, we will, no doubt, get even more comments -- and crazier comments -- this time. The article on our Facebook page, so far collected over 380 comments by Marines, ex-Marines, wannabe-Marines, or comic book Marines — and we can’t tell the difference. That article, while true, was simply muckraking honesty written to get attention. What surprised us was the absolute ignorance of the people commenting, including those who claimed to have served in the Marines. It makes you wonder if this nonsense is truly taught by the USMC; things like “the Marines’ is job to take ground, the Army’s to hold ground,” “each Marine division keeps an airborne battalion on alert 24/7,” “every Marine infantryman is trained to the same level as an Army Ranger” –– there is no end to the ignorance. While the ignorance surprised us, the rudeness did not. We can’t do anything about the rudeness, but we can do something about the ignorance. This article will educate all of those Marines, ex-Marines, wannabe-Marines, or comic book Marines. The information here has been researched. You are welcome to leave comments, please site your references if you disagree. Rude comments will be deleted.  One of the Marines, ex-Marines, wannabe-Marines, or comic book Marines left a comment suggesting that someone joins the Army because they couldn’t make it in the Marines. Nonsense, men and women join the Army instead of the Marines because … why be Robin when you can be Batman.


If you want to read our original Marine article click here.

Keywords: Marines Corpswho named the Marines devil dogsLieutenant General Victor KrulakThe Blood Stripe
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RidgeJUN.13,2020
Myth #11: The Blood Stripe. The truth behind the blood stripe is that it was copied from the US Army's artillery stripe of the dress uniform in the early 19th century (1840). This is posted on the USMC's national museum at https://www.usmcmuseum.com/lore-of-the-corps.html
FineMediumandBroadJUN.27,2020
Thanks for the comment. I looked up your fact and you are correct. We're to update the story with your myth #11.
0311MarineMAY.01,2020
"We're here for fun. We're here for you. We believe love is louder. Let's be kind to each other." Seems to me that you all at FM&B need to take a longer look at your mission statement before you start throwing darts at others. This is hardly an article that is loving nor kind.
FineMediumandBroadMAY.06,2020
Okay, you're sort of correct. This article is different, it was written as a response to a hundred comments on our FaceBook page. We appreciate that you pointed this out.
LouisCMAR.25,2020
Hey, I read the article and then saw ajmaske's comment saying that the article was wrong about the marine band. I was curious and went to the actual marine corps website. It turns out the article is correct. The article talks about marines who play in The President's Own, the marine band in Washington. They don't go to boot camp and the start as staff segeants. Here's a link the usmc website so you can see for yourself: https://www.marineband.marines.mil/career-information/ And this is lifted from that website, a dcoument on its right rail: "Upon enlistment, new members are appointed to the rank of Staff Sergeant (pay grade E-6) in the U.S. Marine Corps and receive all pay and benefits commensurate with that grade."
ajmaskeMAR.16,2020
Not going to waste much time with a writer such as this. Anyone knowing anything about the Corps enlisted ranks can use their own favorite search engine and search for "Marine Corps Band Photos". Count how many Sgt's (E5) and below you see. Then head over to the Marine Corps Band recruiting pages, you'll see that those musically inclined Jarheads stand on the same yellow foot prints as does all other DevilDogs ... YUT! Discredit one, you've discredited it all.
FineMediumandBroadMAY.12,2020
The guy above, LouisC, provided a good response to your comment. Please read our article again, it talks about the marines who play in The President's Own, the band in Washington. They do not go to boot camp and they begin their marine careers as Staff Sergeants.
MacanaFEB.13,2020
I feel so sad for this poor bastard, he reminds me of a high school friend who wanted to join My beloved Corps, except he was rejected three times for medical conditions, he later joined the Army and to this day he bad mouths the Corps, because he was not fit to be a member of the real military.
BigGunsFEB.13,2020
Besides how petty this entire article sounded, this biggest issue I noted was the obvious lack of context. I'm glad you did some basic research on these subjects, but you clearly have not really studied any of the history you went over. Also, you took LtGen Krulak's quote out of context like you were trying to prove a point with a single Bible verse. The premise of that quote was that America does not technically NEED a Marine Corps, it WANTS one. I urge you to read "First to Fight," and also "Brute: The Life of U.S. Marine, Victor Krulak" if you want to actually learn something, instead of perusing Wikipedia.
FineMediumandBroadAPR.22,2020
Yes, I did read the book.
teufelhunden0369FEB.12,2020
Ha! This sounds like it was written by an Army solider poet.
Jetty0811FEB.12,2020
So... there’s a lot to unpack here. First of all the majority of Marines know that a lot of our “history” is bluster and bombast , but it works, it builds cohesion and esprit. You are at least partially correct in all of your assertions, but what I think you’re missing is that while maybe not “the most” the Marines have often contributed far more than their numbers would suggest. To be completely honest, this article is completely ignorant and petty. To spend so much individual effort to “dispel” things that most people already know is ridiculous. It kind of seems like someone served in the army and took good natured inter service rivalry a little too personally. We Marines aren’t the way we are out of ignorance or purely arrogance. It a healthy pride in what we’ve done and what our forebears have done. Just because we brag doesn’t mean we’re disrespecting anyone. Both of my siblings served in the army and my dad in the navy, all have seen combat from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan. I don’t think I’m any better than them, just different. This article is garbage and the author need to man up and get over whoever pissed in his Cheerios. Sgt. J.J. Jetty USMC 2006-2010 OIF 10-2
FineMediumandBroadAPR.22,2020
Your comments are appreciated.
djprengelFEB.12,2020
Every Marine is a rifleman does not mean they are infantry. Every Marine is trained extensively in rifle maintenance, operation, and marksmanship. I was a Hawk Missile tech and once your missiles were fired you need to be able to defend and protect the equipment until replenished. When that pilot gets shot down he has to have rifle or pistol skills as well. All other skills are secondary. You can take a platoon of any mixed mos Marines and they will be trained the same way and ready to fight.
litoaFEB.12,2020
The National Review, 6/4/2004 and Spearheading D-Day by Johnathan Gawne both state there was an 84 man Marine Detachment staged on the Battleship Texas at D-Day that was waived off by Army Commanders. The Army was trained in amphibious landings by the Marines. Furthermore, Marines had been in France before D-Day working with the French Resistance. The ONLY Marines that do not go through recruit training are members of the Marine Corps Band. Even most transfers from other branches still go through Marine Corps recruit training. And yes, all Marines qualify with the rifle and can be called upon at any time to fight. Just look at the Marines in the Pacific or Korea. When I was stationed at MCAS Quang Tri we had Highway 1 on one side and the Qua Viet river on the other. You best believe that those air traffic controllers, helicopter mechanics and cooks could have been called on at any time to defend the perimeter. As for those Marine Corps pilots, they went through the same OCS as any combat officer. In the battle for Wake Island, pilots became combat officers, leading ground troops. And how do you think downed pilots survived until rescued? While the Marines may be finally buying new equipment, that was not the case in Vietnam, where they used older equipment. Yes, the Pacific in WWII is a mixed bag, but on a number of occasions, the Army came ashore days after the Marines did, like the battle for Peliliu. The Marine Corps is not a light infantry, it is a coordinated amphibious force. I would suggest you do some research on the makeup up of the Marine Corps MAGTF. And by the way, I NEVER heard the Marine Corps being called the President's Army, nor did we ever believe we were under special command of the President.
FineMediumandBroadAPR.22,2020
The Marine who went ashore before D-Day was Pierre Julien Ortiz. He was sent not because he was a marine but because before coming to America he was in the French Foreign Legion. He joined FFL when he was 19 and served with them for five years. Your comment implies that he was chosen because he was a marine and that had zero to do with it. The fact that he was culturally French and served in the French Foreign Legion made him to the right man for the job. He was allowed to take along eight men he felt comfortable serving with, and that also was smart. As far as the marines being the amphibious experts in World War Two, well, let’s let marine general Victor Krulak comment on that. “The Marines claim to have a mystical competence in landing operations, but they really don’t.” No one seriously considered sending ashore the 84-man Marine Detachment staged on the Battleship Texas. “I NEVER heard the Marine Corps being called the President's Army, nor did we ever believe we were under special command of the President.” From the comments left on the Facebook link to this article it is clear many of your fellow Marines believe it is true. Thank you for your comments.
NemecFEB.12,2020
I served in the air wing 05 to 09 as and aviation electronics technician. I'm not going to lie, I dont have time to fact check when Marines went where during each conflict nor do I have the intrest in doing so. The part that I am curious about is how your going to infer that every marine is a basic rifleman is equal to a Marine rifleman. Every Marine that I am aware of has to complete bootcamp and if your not going ground side then you have to go through Marine Combat Training(MCT) where you get a small introduction into combat scenarios. Every Marine I served with was required to qualify with at least their M16A2 or M4 carbine annually at known distance. All a basic rifleman is required to know is how to move during combat, shoot at judged distances, know the rules of engagement, know the escalation of force(each listed on cards to look at during down time) and how to communicate while outside the wire. To compare someone who is primarily there to support the ground side guys to the guys on the ground clearing buildings and fighting in the streets is just ridiculous. I hope next time you try to address an issue with us you do better research before you share what in this case looks more like opinions than facts.
ApostleArthurFEB.12,2020
Where in the tomfoolery did he get some of his information? I guess I wasn't in Panama after all. Really, you are a tool of misinformation and should be shut down completely!! Just absurd that someone could be so incompetent
FineMediumandBroadAPR.22,2020
The article does not say that the Marines were not in Panama.
ThemanthemythFEB.12,2020
Aww poor thing I think someone didn't get accepted into the Marine's when she tried. No sources, no research, not anything valid. Just your overly stupid opinion. Hope your mom packed your security blanket for you.
MarineFEB.12,2020
Where are you sources listed? Oh they are not listed, then this "article" is pure speculation and your opinion.
KDoggFEB.12,2020
The U.S. very much does need a Marine Corps and the facts you listed are shit. I seriously doubt that the Corps would teach us its history if it wasnt fact. And when they say that every Marine is a rifleman they arent talking about fucking fighter pilots or Air Wingers. The Marine Corps main MOS is Infantry and all other MOSs exist to support Grunt Units in one way or another up to and including rifleman. There are no other units in any Branch,,minus Special Forces who are as dedicated to our beloved Corps as we are each other. Our pride and discipline is what sets us apart from all other branches. Youll seldom catch a Marine in Garrison without pressed cammies,blocked cover and spit shinned boots. Our size is smaller because only the best have what it takes and only a wannabe would write some stupid shit like this
FineMediumandBroadAPR.22,2020
The facts in the article are correct. Many were vetted with the Marine Corps PAO in Washington. You claim the main MOS in the Marine Corps is infantry. That makes no sense. Currently there are 24 infantry battalions in the Marines, and they are in the process of reducing that number, cutting back to 21 infantry battalions. That puts roughly 18,900 Marines in the infantry in a originization of, what will be, about 170,000 men and women. The Marine Corps is being reduced in size. Eventually, infantry units will only make up about twelve percent of the Marine Corps.
Rickjr008FEB.12,2020
As a United States Marine, I have to let you know your article is flawed, your research is poor. You need to go through the history of the Marine Corps you are clearly biased for some reason. I feel sorry for you. Go back to the table research every conflict the Marines have been involved in, they are numerous. Check the weapons systems the Marines use on the ground, of course the air wing is going to get state of the art equipment. Your examples are limited. I find your story amusing, that's all.
FineMediumandBroadAPR.22,2020
The facts of the article are correct. Many were vetted with the Marine Corps PAO in Washington.
ScotjacksonFEB.12,2020
When I read this article it is obvious most of the information in incorrect. Marine Corps is typically around 180,000 personnel directly tied to the Department of the Navy. We are a direct action force. All go through recruit training where you earn the title of Marine. Marines are typically the first to fight since of all the combat services Marines through their deployment structure can engage and sustain themselves without resupply for thirty plus days. Even at the 180,000 structure the Corps operates at or above the deployment capability of other direct combat services. General Gray is a hard charger and doesn’t have to answer to idiots of your caliber. Matter of fact he would probably knock your teeth out today and laugh at you. Your research is extremely poor, your attempt at bravado is weak and you couldn’t handle what the average Marine goes through daily. The next time you see a Marine or Marine Veteran ( cause Ex-Marine isn’t even a real thing ), let him know your thoughts. Make sure to tell him your allergies and blood type since he will have to let the paramedics know when they get there and you won’t be conscience.
FineMediumandBroadAPR.22,2020
What infomation is incorrect? Many of the facts were vetted with the Marine Corps PAO in Washington, including the fact that the USMC is typically first to fight. They are not.
rippleyaliensFEB.12,2020
Written, clearly.. By an Army person. Or DEFINITELY, does only WIKI research.



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