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U. S. Marines have appropriated the term esprit de corps as theirowntheir esprit, their Corps.The personal ties between a Marine and his Corps are strong. Marines believe in their Corps. They also believe that they are the best. They insist that the "M" in "Marine" be capitalized.The highest accolade they can bestow on a member of another service is "Hewould make a good Marine."
Part of that esprit, perhaps the very root, is that Marines are much aware of their history and traditions. In recruit training, enlisted Marines get a good dose of both in "boot camp" at Parris Island or San Diego. So do the new lieutenants, who after pursuing one of the several pathways to a Marine commission, go to The Basic School at Quantico. "TBS" is well titled; it is where the basics are taught, and history and traditions form a basic foundation for belief in the Corps. And injections of traditions and customs, even language, continue for the rest of their time in the Corps.
Through the pages of The Battle History of the U. S. Marines : A Fellowship of Valor march most of the somewhat larger-than-lifesize heroes of the Corps, among them Presley O'Bannon, Archibald Henderson, Tony Waller, "Handsome Jack" Myers, Smedley Butler, John Lejeune, Dan Daly, Herman Hanneken, Chesty Puller, Lem Shepherd, Cliff Cates, Brute Krulak, Manila John Basilone, Lou Wilson, Lew Wait, Bob Barrow, the several General Smiths, including Howlin' Mad, and many more.
Marines should be forgiven if they assert a bit too aggressively that Washington might not have succeeded at Princeton if it had not been for a small battalion of Continental Marines.Or that the great frigate duels of the War of 1812 might have ended differently if it were not for the Marine sharp-shooters and grenadiers in the fighting tops of such as Old Ironsides.
Marines can talk sagely about their forerunners chasing Indians through Georgia and Florida in the Seminole Wars with their Commandant of the time, Archibald Henderson, leading the regiment. They believe quite sincerely that Winfield Scott would not have taken Mexico City in 1847 except for the work of his Marine Battalion at Chapultepec and San Cosme Gate. They are apt to be silent about the Civil War. Fratricide is not to their taste. They prefer to do their fighting on foreign shores.
There are fond tribal memories of expeditionary duty in such places as China, Panama, Cuba, Nicaragua, Santo Domingo, and Haiti. When Marines on guard at Guantanamo look across the wire into Castro's Cuba they know that other Marines have been on post there for a hundred years.
Then there are the big wars. Marines know that other Marines went to France in the First World War. They will tell you that the Marine Brigade stopped the German army on the road to Paris with aimed fire from their Springfield rifles, then counterattacked through Belleau Wood, went forward to Soissons, and pushed on until they had cracked the Hindenburg Line.
They will tell you that the Second World War, as fought in the Pacific, was particularly well suited to Marine Corps ship-to-shore talents. From their grandfathers (the tendency to join the Marines is remarkably hereditary) they have heard of such epic battles as Guadalcanal,Tarawa, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.
They have been told of that bitter war in Korea where the fire-brigade defense of Pusan, MacArthur's master stroke at Inchon, and the glory of the stubborn fallback from the subzero Cbosin Reservoir faded into a War of the Outposts, while the wrangling went on over an armistice at Panmunjom.
There are still Marines on active duty who were in the northern five provinces of South Vietnam. They fought in the big scraps such as Hue City and Khe Sanh and in thousands (yes, there were thousands) of nasty little fights in the rice paddies and the mountains to the west.The Marine Corps bought more than its share of that war.
Marines know the importance of the Marine air-ground team. A quarter or more of today's Marines are in Marine aviation. Marines can tell you that Marine aviation got its start early, in 1912, that four squadrons were sent to France in the First World War, that the Banana Wars gave opportunities for experimentation in close air support and dive-bombing. They like to talk of the World War 11 aces, among them Joe Foss, Marion Carl, John Smith, and Pappy Boyington.They know that Marines did as much as anyone to make helicopter flight practical and that Marine helicopter pilots still fly the President of the United States and his entourage.They know also of the Harrier, a remarkable aircraft that can take off and land vertically, which the Marines brought into the U.S. Armed Forces.
There are plenty of Marines around, Regulars and Reserves alike, who went to the Persian Gulf. They can tell you that General Schwarzkopf gave the Marines the task of attacking frontally against the forbidding Saddam Hussein line, while U.S. Army and Allied mechanized and armored forces made that great swinging attack around the Iraqi right flank. They will go on to say that the Marines cracked the line so deftly that the schedule for the flanking attack was advanced a day.
Before and since the Persian Gulf there have been other expeditions and interventions, most of which were "humanitarian," among them: Lebanon, Panama, northern Iraq, Bangladesh, Liberia, Somalia, and a bit of Bosnia.These adventures get rehashed wherever Marines gather in the evening. Marines are not noted for their modesty. Tales get more brightly colored as they are told and retold. History becomes legend and legends can become myths, but threaded through it all is that business of esprit.