Marine Corps FAQs
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- What was the first major American ground combat of the Vietnam War?
- How do I keep my white gear white?
- Is it the Medal of Honor or Congressional Medal of Honor?
- Is the Corps the oldest service?
- When did the U.S. Marine Corps—or in what era did the Corps—have a blue flag?
- What is the origin of the eagle, globe and anchor?
- What is the reason for the phonetic alphabet?
- When did the term "Semper Fi," an abbreviation of Semper Fidelis, come into being?
- What is the origin of the melody to "The Marines' Hymn"?
- What is the oldest military insignia in continuous use in the Armed Forces of the United States?
- How are recruit platoons numbered?
- I enlisted in 1940. What is a lance corporal?
- Why do shore party and beach party Marines wear red patches?
- Why do Marines and sailors call the latrine a "head"?
- What model of rifle is on the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal?
- What is the significance of the star on the upper blade of the officer's and noncommissioned officer's swords?
- When and why did the Corps' emblem change from showing two banners to the present emblem showing a single banner in the eagle's beak that reads "Semper Fidelis"?
- What is the recipe for SOS?
- What is the recipe for 1775 Rum Punch?
- What is the recipe for Hot Buttered Rum?
According to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., Web site, http://www.mcrdpi.usmc.mil/, photos back to 1939 can be obtained by calling: (843) 228-1555.
For MCRD San Diego photos visit its Web site, https://secure2.comentum.com/~mcrdmuse/histsoc/histsoc-photos-order.php, or write or call Building 26, P. 0. Box 400085, San Diego, CA. 92140-0085. Office Phone: (619) 524-4426, Fax Phone: (619) 524-0076.
National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
The fax request number is (314) 801-9195. The Center will respond in writing by U.S. Mail. Or visit the National Personnel Records Center online at: http://www.archives.gov/research_room/vetrecs/index.html.
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps
Military Awards Branch (Code MMMA)
3280 Russell Rd.
Quantico, VA 22134-5103
Reservations should be made early, in advance of your visit to the nation's capital. To make reservations, visit the Marine Barracks Web site at www.mbw.usmc.mil/parades/parade_eveningdefault.asp.
Locating Former Marines:
Leatherneck runs a monthly column titled "Mail Call." The column is free and printed on a space-available basis. Write:
Mail Call Editor
P.O. Box 1775
Quantico, VA 22134
or send an e-mail to the Mail Call Editor. Include any information such as names, units served in, locations, dates, etc., to help identify the Marine. Allow two to three months for publication. (Leatherneck reserves the right to edit or reject any request for correspondence.)
Locating Active-Duty Marines:
To locate active-duty Marines, contact the Marine Corps World Wide Locator at Quantico, Va. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ET). Call: (703) 784-3942. The address is:
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps
Personnel Management Support Branch
2008 Elliot Rd.
Quantico, VA 22134-5030
For Marines with common last names, a Social Security number may be required.
Additionally, base locators are available at all major USMC commands.
The financial-aid booklet "Need a Lift" lists scholarships available for family members of servicemembers as well as for active-duty servicemembers who are leaving the service soon and want to go to college. For a list of sources of financial aid, send $3 to:
The American Legion
National Emblem Sales
P.O. Box 1050
Indianapolis, IN 46206
The following organizations provide scholarships to sons and daughters of active-duty, Reserve and former U.S. Marines. For information, write or call:
Marine Corps–Law Enforcement Foundation
P.O. Box 37
Mountain Lakes, NJ 07046
Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 3008
Princeton, NJ 08543-3008
(800) 292-7777 or (609) 921-3534
On November 1st, 1921, John A. Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, directed that a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps be published by every command, to all Marines throughout the globe, on the birthday of the Corps. Since that day, Marines have continued to distinguish themselves on many battlefields and foreign shores, in war and peace. On this birthday of the Corps, therefore, in compliance with the will of the 13th Commandant, Article 38, United States Marine Corps Manual, Edition of 1921, is republished as follows:
"(1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name Marine. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.
"(2) The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long era of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres, and in every corner of the seven seas that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.
"(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.
"(4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish, Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as 'Soldiers of the Sea' since the founding of the Corps."
—Extracted from "The Marine Officer's Guide"
For still photos taken prior to 1982, write:
National Archives & Records Administration (NARA)
Still Pictures Branch
8601 Adelphi Rd.
College Park, MD 20740-6001
The early Marine emblem with an eagle clutching an anchor fouled by an anchor cable is the oldest still in use. The Corps was using it in 1804. That emblem is still worn on the buttons of the green and blue service and dress uniforms. In 1867, when the Corps decided to have an official emblem, then-Commandant, Brigadier General Jacob Zeilin convened a board of officers who submitted a recommendation of the eagle, globe and anchor to the Secretary of the Navy. The emblem was adopted in 1868 and included a fouled anchor similar to those on the emblems of the British Navy and Royal Marines.
Since then, there have been several versions of the eagle, globe and anchor. The most notable difference is that over the years, some emblems have a fouled anchor and some do not. The reason is somewhat uncertain, but in 1877, the first collar ornaments were authorized and were worn by Marine officers. Those collar ornaments did not have an anchor cable. When the enlisted collar emblems were authorized in 1920 they, too, were sans anchor cable. Then in 1955 the Corps authorized the anchor cable on enlisted emblems. In 1962 the anchor cable became standard on the collar emblems of Marine officers. The officer and enlisted cap ornament, since it was authorized in 1868, has always had an anchor cable.
The banner actually is called a riband, or decorative ribbon. The emblem as we have it today first appeared on the redesigned Marine Corps Seal adopted in 1954. Why they streamlined the emblem is unknown.
Always referred to as the Marine Corps emblem and never as the "EGA," the Marine Corps emblem on the battle color dates from 1868. It was contributed to the Corps by Brigadier General Jacob Zeilin, 7th Commandant. Until 1840, Marines wore various devices mainly based upon the spread eagle or fouled anchor.
In 1868, Gen Zeilin felt that a more distinctive emblem was needed. His choice fell on the device borrowed from the British Marines: the globe. The globe had been conferred on the Royal Marines in 1827 by King George IV. Because it was impossible to recite all the achievements of the Marines on the Corps color, said the King, "the great globe itself" was to be their emblem, for Marines had won honor everywhere.
Gen Zeilin's U.S. Marine globe displayed the Western Hemisphere, since the "Royals" had the Eastern Hemisphere on theirs. The eagle, which is a Golden Eagle, and fouled anchor, which means the anchor has a cable attached on the emblem, were added to leave no doubt that the Corps was both American and maritime.
Scarlet and gold are the official colors of the Marine Corps per Marine Corps Order No. 4, April 18, 1925. The colors, however, were not reflected in the official Marine Corps standard until Jan. 18, 1939. All guidons, banners, athletic ribbons, pennants and other articles ordinarily designed to represent the Marine Corps will use these colors.
According to the U.S. Marine Corps Flag Manual (MCO P10520.3), the Marine Corps standard with a blue field was carried at the time of the Vera Cruz landing in 1914. Marine Corps Order No. 4 of April 1925 designated scarlet and gold as the official colors. These colors were not incorporated into the new Marine Corps colors until January 1939. Some overseas units would not have the new flag until even later. The design has remained the same since.
Marines began carrying the "Stars and Stripes" with "U.S. Marine Corps" embroidered in yellow on the middle red stripe in 1876. In April 1921, the Marine Corps directed that any new national colors delete the words "U.S. Marine Corps."
According to historian Ken Smith-Christmas, a curator at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Museum, Quantico,Va., the six-pointed star on the swords was originally a guild proof called the "Star of Damascus," an Eastern mark of distinction found on swords of high-quality workmanship. Over the years, the marking disappeared on blades. Museum correspondence with sword makers such as Wilkinson and N. S. Meyers indicates manufacturers, primarily British, have reintroduced that marking on swords.
The weapon on the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal is the Model 1895 6 mm U.S. Navy Winchester–Lee straight-pull rifle, according to Neil Abelsma, a uniform specialist at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Museum, Quantico, Va. The Lee was adopted by the Navy in 1895 and used by Marines in the Spanish–American War and the Boxer Rebellion.
"Head" is a term from our naval brethren derived from the days of wooden ships and iron men. Those were the days when the comfort station for the crew was forward on either side of the ship's bowsprit. The bowsprit is a built-in spar projecting forward and angling up from the bow of a sailing vessel. It extends the head sails and helps support the mast(s) through head stays. Thus the word "head."
According to former Leatherneck editor, Col James A. Donovan, USMC (Ret), the red patches worn upon helmets and at the knees of the trousers by service battalions were the consequence of a Second Marine Division planners' conference early in 1944 dealing with lessons learned at the Battle of Tarawa.
It had been noted that there were too many Marines lingering on the beach behind the sea wall, helping with wounded and unloading supplies. They actually belonged on the forward firing lines with their rifle squads, but it was difficult to tell who the proper shore party and beach party were in the general confusion of those first violent hours.
The planners decided that a distinguishing square red patch on the helmet covers would help, but in the tropic heat, many men took off the hot helmets. A patch on the shirt sleeve where most unit patches were worn was not considered acceptable because again the troops in the rear areas frequently stripped off their uniform shirts in the burning tropic heat. So, assuming most Marines keep their trousers on in combat, the knee of the trousers was accepted as a good location for a little square red patch of cloth.
There were no lance corporals in the Marine Corps when you served. The rank, which falls between private first class and corporal, has been around since the 1830s when the Corps also had lance-sergeants. It went out of use sometime after 1930 and was reinstituted in 1958. Reference: "Handbook for Marine NCOs" by Col Robert D. Heinl, USMC (Ret)
According to the 1979 edition of the handbook, the term "lance corporal" results from a marriage of the French word lancepesade and corporal. Lancepesade means "broken lance." Therefore, the term lance corporal can be translated as "an old soldier who has broken many a lance in combat."
Over the years, there seems to have been several systems used to designate recruit platoons at San Diego and Parris Island. However, the way it has been for the last 30 years or so is that the first numeral on the guidon signifies the recruit battalion, and the rest is pretty simple. The platoons are numbered numerically as they are formed after the start of the calendar year (e.g., 3d Recruit Training Battalion's first platoon would be 3001. In the early 1960s it would have been 301). When the year ends, they start over again. The depots have more or less always followed a similar system of numbering. Recruit Training Regiment has custody and responsibility for the guidons and maintains that it would go broke making and dry-cleaning individual flags for every new platoon.
Resolutions of the Continental Congress established the Army on June 14, 1775; the Navy on Oct. 13, 1775; and the Marine Corps on Nov. 10, 1775. The Marines follow the Army and precede the Navy in shore ceremonies as a tradition of long standing. This tradition was affirmed by pronouncement of the Joint Board (Army and Navy) in 1910, 1927 and 1929. The National Military Establishment reaffirmed it in 1949.
The exact history is unclear. Legend has it that in 1847 a Marine stationed in Mexico during America's war with that country wrote the original words of the first verse. The melody (although not exactly the same) can be found in the French composer Jacques Offenbach's operetta "Genevieve de Brabant," which was produced in Paris in 1867. The tune is believed to be originally from an old Spanish folk song.
What are the oaths of enlistment and oaths for officers?
Enlisted: I (state your name) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
Officer: (state your name) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
The Marine Shop in Quantico, Va., passed these instructions for cleaning white dress trousers, belt, gloves and cover for the barracks hat to Leatherneck.
"The uniform may be cleaned, but the chemicals have a tendency to discolor or the fabric to a 'grayish' tint.
"To remove discoloration and revive the 'whiteness' of fabric, you will [need the following]: one box of 'RIT' color remover, one box of 'Snowy Bleach' and on bottle of 'Wisk' detergent.
"Dissolve the 'RIT' in water. Soak the items in the solution for approximately one hour: Launder through one complete gentle cycle in warm water, cold rinse. Remove from the washer."
To complete the process and for regular maintenance in the future, add "two cups of 'Snowy Bleach' and ¼ cup of 'Wisk.' Allow washer to fill with warm water and agitation [to] commence to ensure that the bleach and detergent are thoroughly dissolved. Stop the washer, add the uniform [items] and allow [them] soaking for approximately one to two hours.
"Restart the washer and launder … through the complete gentle cycle on warm wash and cold rinse. Drip-dry on wooden hanger, ensuring that the hanger stem does not [contact the items and thus] discolor [them]."
The white items may be "steamed-ironed or professionally pressed."
According to military historian, the late Colonel Harry Summers, USA (Ret) in his 1995 "Historical Atlas of the Vietnam War:" The Marine Corps' Operation Starlite on the Van Tuong Peninsula 12 miles south of Chu Lai in August 1965, was "the first major U.S. ground combat operation of the Vietnam." He quoted historian Edward Doyle and Samuel Lipsman, who said of Operation Starlite: "In the first major engagement between American forces and Main Force Vietcong soldiers," the Americans had been victorious." Later, he cited the U. S. Army's battle of the Ira Drang in November 1965 as the "beginning of direct massive involvement in ground combat operations…" for the United States. Starlite was the first major U.S. ground combat operation of the Vietnam struggle - the battle that "Americanized" the war.
Although not exactly recorded in history, one story stands out.
Sometime shortly after the Beirut bombing in 1983, then–Commandant of the Marine Corps General Paul X. Kelley was visiting a wounded Marine in the hospital. The lad shook the Commandant's hand and then scribbled the words "Semper Fi" on a piece of paper. It was the Marine's way of saying "Semper Fidelis." Gen Kelley became emotional and said, "Lord, where do we get such men?" The press picked up on it.
After that the term "Semper Fi" was given new life and a new meaning among Marines. However, for older Marines, the term had a slightly different meaning. Today while one understands "Semper Fi" to be a Marine greeting, in the past. "Semper Fi, Mac" meant "I got mine, how you doing?"
Leatherneck's World-Famous SOS Recipe:
- 1 1/2 pounds extra lean hamburger or ground chuck
- 2 tbsp. oleo or butter
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3 tbsp. flour
- 2 tsp. granulated garlic
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce (or less to taste)
- 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- sliced bread
Brown the meat, then drain. Add oleo. Stir in the onions and cook until you can see through them. Add flour, stir and cook two to three minutes. Add garlic, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and mix thoroughly. Add milk and stir until it thickens. Serve over bread.
Camp Lejeune's SOS Recipe for Manly Men
- 1 lb. lean hamburger
- 3 tsp. beef stock powder
- 3 tbsp. plain flour
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- ½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 pint whole milk
Brown hamburger. Add beef stock powder, flour, salt, pepper and then cook. Add Worcestershire sauce. Add milk and stir over low heat until thickened. Serve on burnt toast.
The phonetic alphabet was designed to allow clarity in communications when speaking over a radio or field phone. Due to vexing radio static or the tremendous background noise found in combat, early communicators found it difficult to distinguish between letters which may rhyme or sound similar, so the phonetic alphabet was established to avoid confusion between, say, a "B" and a "D" when spelling or using letters of the alphabet. The phonetic alphabet has evolved since its inception, and has now been standardized internationally.
Click here to see the phonetic alphabets.
The Medal of Honor is often erroneously referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor. That was never the official title or name of the award. According to several sources, the reason for the reference to the award as the Congressional Medal of Honor is because it is presented by a senior official, usually the President of the United States, in the name of the Congress of the United States.
An act of Congress on Dec. 21, 1861, authorized the award of a Navy Medal of Honor as "an award to such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and Marines who most distinguished themselves by their gallantry in action and other seaman-like qualities during the Civil War." Note that the award was for Navy and Marine Corps enlisted. Congress acted to begin the process for a Medal of Honor for Army enlisted on Feb. 17, 1862, but President Abraham Lincoln did not sign the legislation until July 12, 1862.
On March 3, 1915, Congress and the President acted to allow officers of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard to receive the Medal of Honor.
In that initial Act of Congress and through today the medal is referred to as the "Medal of Honor."
The Medal of Honor Society was founded in 1946. At first, it was not known as the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Then, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation sent to him by Congress chartering the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. That charter, according to the Medal of Honor Society Web site, was signed on Aug. 5, 1958. The name reflects the name of the chartered society and not the name of the medal.
- 1 part lime juice
- 2 parts sugar syrup
- 3 parts dark rum
- 4 parts water
Mix ingredients and pour over ice or chill. Top with a sprinkle of nutmeg and a dash of Angostura Bitters. You can substitute pineapple juice for the water.
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 lump of sugar or 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
- 1 pat of butter
- 1 jigger of Jamaican or Puerto Rican rum
- A pinch of ground nutmeg
- Boiling water
Rinse a mug with boiling water (to warm it). Put the first five ingredients in, add the boiling water and sprinkle the nutmeg on top. It'll be too hot to drink right away, but that's okay because the longer it sits, the better it is.