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Updated on July 26, 2016
"The First Recruits" by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)
"The First Recruits" by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret) | Source

"A ship without Marines is like a garment without buttons." - Admiral David G. Farragut, 1862

Commandant of the Marine Corps

USS Nicholas (FFG-47)
USS Nicholas (FFG-47) | Source

Major Samuel Nicholas

Samuel Nicholas was born in Philadelphia during 1744. The U.S. Marine Corps was founded as the Continental Marines at Tun Tavern, Philadelphia on 10 November 1775. Nicholas, a Free Mason whose Masonic Lodge used Tun Tavern as a meeting hall, was commissioned as a Captain of Marines by the Continental Congress thus becoming the first Officer of Marines. He remained the Senior Marine Officer throughout the Revolutionary War and was promoted to Major during June of 1776. By tradition, he is considered the 1st Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Much of his time as Commandant was spent recruiting Marines, which he did for the most part at Tun Tavern, and training the new recruits. Operationally, he commanded the Marine Detachment aboard the Continental Navy warship Alfred, lead the Marine's amphibious raid on New Providence Island (Bahamas), and commanded the Marine battalion attached to the Continental Army during the Battle of Princeton. The amphibious raid on New Providence Island was the Corps' first amphibious landing and the first time U.S. forces set foot on foreign soil.

The Marine Corps was disbanded at the end of the Revolutionary War and Nicholas returned to civilian life. He died during 1790 in Philadelphia.

Three warships, USS Nicholas, have been named in his honor; a Clemson-class destroyer (DD-311, 1919-1923), a Fletcher-class destroyer (DD-449, 1942-1970) and a Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate (FFG-47, 1983-2014).

1776 - Revolutionary War

The Marine Detachment assist sailors of the USS Reprisal in chasing an out-gunned HMS Shark from the waters around Martinique. The Marines subsequently land an agent ashore to acquire information and weapons.


A markerMartinique -
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Typical Marine Detachment cerca 1900
Typical Marine Detachment cerca 1900 | Source

1898 - Spanish-American War

The Marine Detachment from the USS Dixie conducted a landing at Ponce, Puerto Rico subsequently capturing Ponce and La Playa when both towns surrendered. Their raising of the U.S. flag was the first time the flag had been flown over the island, and it has flown over Puerto Rico ever since.


USMC M3 Stuart on New Georgia
USMC M3 Stuart on New Georgia | Source

1943- World War II

USMC M3 Stuart light tanks from the 9th and 10th Defense Battalions supported the U.S. Army's 37th and 43rd Infantry Divisions' attack on the heavy Japanese fortifications defending Munda Airfield on New Georgia. The airfield was the main objective of OPERATION TOENAILS, the code name for the American attack and seizure of New Georgia.

The battle for Munda Airfield would continue through the 5th of August when it was captured by U.S. forces. Light tanks from the Marine's 11th Defense Battalion augmented the tanks from the 9th and 10th Defense Battalions during the final assault.

Air, ground, and naval combat in and around New Georgia would continue September of 1943. U.S. Marine carrier and ground based aircraft along with the Army Air Corps and U.S. Navy aviation contributed significantly to providing support to ground and naval forces throughout the operation.

New Georgia

A markerNew Georgia -
New Georgia, Solomon Islands
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5th Defense Battalion, Iceland
5th Defense Battalion, Iceland | Source
14th Defense Battalion, Guam
14th Defense Battalion, Guam | Source
3rd Defense Battalion, Bougainville
3rd Defense Battalion, Bougainville | Source
12th Defense Battalion en route to Cape Gloucester
12th Defense Battalion en route to Cape Gloucester | Source

Marine Defense Battalions

With the rapid expansion of the Japanese Empire throughout the Pacific basin and its imminent threat on U.S. interests and naval installations, the Marine Corps formed Defense Battalions commencing in 1939.

The role of these battalions was to provide for the defense of advance naval bases to include anti-aircraft and coastal defense. The battalions were equipped with anti-aircraft batteries to defend against air raids, coastal defense guns to defend against naval bombardment and machine guns to repel landing forces. Prior to the United States' entrance into World War II, 9 defense battalions had been formed and were posted at Wake Island (1st Defense Battalion), American Samoa (2nd, 7th and 8th Defense Battalions), Midway Island (3rd, 4th and 6th Defense Battalions), Iceland (5th Defense Battalion), and Guantanamo Bay (9th Defense Battalion).

As the the United States went on the offensive in the Pacific during 1943, the defense battalions roles were modified to defending key installations and territory seized by assault forces during the Pacific's "island hopping campaign". Along with a change in the role, light tanks and field artillery were added to their equipment inventories. Twenty defense battalions were eventually formed and these battalions participated in nearly every land battle, both Army and Marine Corps, in the Pacific Theater. These units were among the first that were disbanded at the end of World War II.


A Marine tank-infantry team advances during the Battle for Tinian.
A Marine tank-infantry team advances during the Battle for Tinian. | Source
USAAC B-29's fly overhead as Seabees work on a Tinian airfield, 1944.
USAAC B-29's fly overhead as Seabees work on a Tinian airfield, 1944. | Source

1944 - World War II

The Ushi Point Airfield becomes operational on Tinian. The airfield was captured two days earlier by elements of the 2nd Marine Division who handed it over to a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (Seabees). Assist by Marine Engineers, the Seabees quickly repaired the runway and damaged facilities to allow air operations to begin while Marines continued fighting to secure the remainder of the island.

The Seabees continued working on the runaway, expanded it to allow the U.S. Army Air Corps bombers to establish their principal base of operations in the Central Pacific. On August 6, 1945 the B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay" loaded with "Little Boy" departed Tinian en route to Hiroshima.

In the air, on land, and sea...

Keep checking back as I have, and will continue, writing these "This Day In Marine History" articles. Weekly, I’ll give you more of the Corps' facts and history. In the meantime, visit my profile page where you can find all of my Marine Corps and military-style fitness articles.

Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment with concerns, feedback or questions.

Here's health to you and to our Corps.

Semper Fidelis
Semper Fidelis | Source


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    • Kevin McClernon profile image

      Kevin P McClernon 18 months ago from Dania Beach, Florida

      Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it.