10th November 1775 was the day on which the Continental Congress authorised the establishment of the Continental Marines, with a view to creating a fighting force that was skilled in mounting attacks on land that originated at sea. This was only six months into the American War of Independence, and it had already become clear that the British forces, which already included an amphibious element, had a degree of flexibility that the American revolutionaries needed to match.
The first successful assault by a Marines unit was in 1776 when a British-held island in the Bahamas was taken. However the unit was retired at the end of the war in 1783 and the Marine Corps, as it became, did not reappear for another 15 years.
Since that date, US Marines have carried out more than 300 amphibious landings in wars across the world, often being the first troops to see action. Marines have played important roles in every major conflict in which the United States has been involved, although they have not always been used in a purely amphibious capacity.
The Marine Corps motto is “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful) which is often abbreviated to “Semper Fi”. However, it was the Marines of World War Two who came up with a term that has entered the English language in other contexts. This is “snafu”, which stands for “situation normal, all f***** up”.
© John Welford