On November 10, 1775, the following resolution was proposed by John Adams, future President of the United States, and carried by the Second Continental Congress:
Resolved: That two battalions of marines [sic] be raised, consisting of one colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors, and other officers as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to offices, or inlisted [sic] into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required; that they be inlisted [sic] and commissioned to serve for and during the present war between Great-Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the first and second battalions of American marines [sic], and that they be considered as part of the number which the continental army before Boston is ordered to consist of.
With that, the resolution carried and the Continental Marines, now the United States Marine Corps, was born. Though they were disbanded at the end of the Revolutionary War, they were called back into action by President John Adams in 1798, designating them as an infantry division tasked with protecting Navy ships engaging in maritime conflicts with France. Attacks by Barbary pirates of North Africa further encouraged Adams to re-form the Marines.
For more than two centuries, the Marines have continued their proud history of service and sacrifice, fighting in every war in which the U.S. has engaged, and executing countless operations and landings on foreign shores. Though they originated as an amphibious unit of the U.S. Navy, their role has expanded to include non-amphibious missions, as well, and they are frequently the first units to land in foreign territories or engage in action. They also protect the president during retreats, and they transport the president, the vice president, members of Congress, and other VIPs, via helicopter.
The Marines are equipped to deploy with very little notice, engaging in both protective and humanitarian missions. Their website states that “the Marines are our first responders — our nation’s 911 force.” They quickly mobilized to provide assistance after earthquakes in both Haiti and Japan, for example, and have aided in numerous efforts to stabilize foreign governments, protecting interests of Americans at home and abroad. Of the Marines, former President Ronald Reagan said “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem.”
Countless Ohioans have served in the Marines throughout its history, and Ohio Memory holds materials related to that service. You can view photos of service members, for example, or see a list of former residents of the Junior Order of United American Mechanics Orphans Homes (also called the Junior Home) who were killed in World Wars I and II; this list included multiple Marines.
Ohio Memory also holds items relating to women’s service in the Marines, including posters encouraging women to fight or, in one case, to enlist so men can fight, and a document promoting Ouida Okey of Graysville, Ohio, to the rank of corporal. Okey was one of 200 women to be chosen from 5,000 female applicants to serve in the Marines during World War I. You can see a photo of Ms. Okey here, her building pass here, and a Woodsfield High School article about her and her service here.
In a previous blog post, we shared documents encouraging women to serve in the military, and one of them focused on women in the Marine Corps; you can see that document here. We’ve also added a pamphlet that focuses on the Marines’ service during World War II.
As the Marine Corps website says, the history of the Marines is intrinsically bound with that of the United States. Happy Veterans Day tomorrow to all who have served, and this Monday, when you see a Marine, thank him or her for their service, and please be sure to wish him or her a happy birthday!
Thank you to Shannon Kupfer, Digital Initiatives Librarian at theState Library of Ohio, for this week’s post!