United States Marine Corps

United States Marine Corps, military service of the United States within the Department of the Navy. Marines are trained and equipped primarily to fight in combined land, sea, and air operations. In 2003 the Corps included about 174,000 active-duty marines, 42,000 reserve marines, and 18,000 civilian support employees.

The Marine Corps is prepared to deploy troops quickly anywhere in the world. In addition to serving as a key element of America’s rapid response capability, the Marines are trained in amphibious warfare—launching attacks from the water against enemy forces onshore. Marines are trained to seize enemy naval bases and to defend United States naval bases in remote areas. The Marines also conduct land operations in support of the U.S. Navy and have responsibility for the development of amphibious warfare tactics, techniques, and equipment. In addition, the Marine Corps also provides security on armed U.S. Navy vessels and naval bases, and at United States embassies abroad.
The Marine Corps is organized into three Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEFs) and three air wings. The Marine Expeditionary Forces are stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Camp Pendleton, California; and in Okinawa, Japan. The main combat force in each MEF is the Marine Expeditionary Unit, abbreviated as MEU. In 2003 the two MEFs based in the United States each had three MEUs, and there was an additional expeditionary unit in Japan.
Each expeditionary unit is a self-contained naval, air, and ground task force, capable of putting 1,000 marines ashore. Expeditionary unit marines can wait in a U.S. Navy ship offshore of a potential trouble spot for months and then quickly deploy ashore in helicopters, armored amphibious vehicles, or conventional or air-cushioned landing craft. The MEU will either quickly accomplish its mission and withdraw, or serve as a spearhead for the follow-on heavy forces of the Marines or the U.S. Army.
Each MEU that leaves its home base is required to be trained as “special operations capable,” so the unit is then abbreviated as MEU (SOC). This force is capable of performing limited special operations without reinforcement. Generally, one MEU from the East Coast and one from the West Coast are deployed aboard ships at any given time. By keeping Marines combat-ready both in the United States and at sea, the Marines help protect American interests around the world.
In addition to constant readiness for small-scale emergencies, the Corps retains the ability to deploy up to 15,000 marines quickly by air to locations stocked with prepositioned equipment. This equipment is stored on land at a Marine base in Norway and on ships of the Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS) based in the Mediterranean Sea, in Guam, and at Diego Garcia, a small island in the Indian Ocean. These locations make it possible for the Marines to launch major operations anywhere in the world on two weeks’ notice. The supplies on the ships can sustain an MEU for a month.

Although every major country in the world has an army, and most also have a navy, only about 30 maintain a marine corps. Of these, only the United States Marine Corps is a truly independent fighting force. Because the United States has long coastlines and a long history of maritime trade, the Marine Corps has gained a prominence not seen in other countries’ military forces. In most other countries that do have a marine corps, the role of the marines rarely extends beyond that of naval infantry. These forces are usually unable to fight as an independent force without substantial army or navy support. Russia, for instance, in 2003 had just 7,500 naval infantry soldiers, organized into one small division, three independent brigades, and three special operations brigades. The United Kingdom had just 7,000 marines in 2003. The People’s Republic of China had a force of 10,000 marines in 2003 organized into two brigades. These forces could be increased to a total of three divisions with the mobilization of China’s reserve forces. Only the U.S. Marines have their own aviation units, which provide the support of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to Marine operations.

The U.S. Marines are stationed all over the globe, although most serve at bases on the East and West coasts. About 20,000 marines are stationed in Okinawa, Japan, at any given time, with another 5,000 on board U.S. Navy ships around the world. Of the 174,000 marines on active duty in 2003, nearly 18,000 were officers and 156,000 were enlisted personnel. The troops on ships must endure the loneliness of the Navy’s long cruises, which separate marines from friends and family for several months or more. Marines train continuously to maintain proficiency in their individual specialty and to ensure their units are ready to accomplish their assigned missions. Marines train at their home stations and at the advanced training center at Twentynine Palms, California. Many marines assigned to these bases live on or near the base in housing provided by the Marine Corps.

A Officers:
Marine officers earn their commissions at the United States Naval Academy, from the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), or from Officer Candidate School (OCS). OCS accepts college graduates who are between 20 and 28 years old for ten weeks of intensive training at Quantico, Virginia. Some enlisted marines can also earn commissions through OCS. Nearly all Marine officers must have four-year college degrees, and all must be United States citizens. Marine officers attend a 21-week training course at Quantico known as Basic School, followed by additional training in their specialty. Most Marine officers serve in the infantry, but others serve in armor, artillery, aviation, and combat support branches. Officers may also fly helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft such as jets. Most Marine aviators are based on aircraft carriers, and they can be stationed anywhere in the world. See also Education, Military.

B Enlisted Personnel:
In 2003 about 95 percent of the Marines’ new enlisted personnel were high school graduates. Marines (and all U.S. Navy personnel) must be at least 17 years old, and most new recruits must be under 25. New enlisted personnel attend 12 weeks of basic training either at Parris Island, South Carolina, or the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California. Basic training is known as boot camp because recruits were once called boots. During boot camp the recruits undergo demanding training in formal marching drills, close-quarters combat, rifle and weapons use, swimming and water survival, military courtesy, and the history and traditions of the Marine Corps. A drill instructor, or DI, supervises the training process. Boot camp concludes with a demanding three-day test of physical endurance and combat tasks known as the Crucible. During the Crucible recruits march with fully loaded packs, crawl through mud, carry heavy ammunition cases across simulated battlefields, and face many other physical challenges, all with little food or rest.
Unlike the other branches of the U.S. armed forces, in the Marine Corps men and women are separated during basic training. Female Marine recruits receive essentially the same training and have to qualify on all of the same weapons and obstacle courses as do male Marine recruits. Supporters of gender segregation in basic training argue that it reduces distractions during the rigors of basic training and helps both men and women reach their full potential. Leaders in the other armed forces argue that it is best to integrate basic training because men and women work alongside each other in nearly all other aspects of military life.
Upon graduation from Parris Island or San Diego, enlisted marines go on to additional training in a specialty, including infantry, field artillery, armor, logistics specialist, communications specialist, and aircraft maintenance technician. Enlisted male marines all attend the School of Infantry at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where they learn infantry tactics and how to fire heavy weapons. Every male marine is thus qualified as an infantryman.
About 6 percent of Marine officers and enlisted personnel are women. Over 90 percent of all occupations in the Marine Corps are open to women, including flying helicopters and jet aircraft. However, female marines are prohibited from participating in activities involving direct ground combat, including infantry service and tank and artillery duty.

C Weapons and Equipment:
The basic weapon of all U.S. marines is the M16A2 assault rifle, and every marine is required to demonstrate competence with it annually. Marine officers also are required to qualify annually with the Beretta M9 9mm pistol. Marines also learn to use a wide variety of other infantry weapons, including the M203 grenade launcher, the M60E3 7.62mm machine gun, and M252 81mm mortar. Marines also have M1A1 Abrams tanks and wheeled light-armored vehicles (LAVs) for sustained ground combat operations. For attacking enemy beaches, marines may use the landing craft air cushioned (LCAC), a hovercraft designed to carry troops and equipment into battle from U.S. Navy vessels offshore. Marines may also go ashore in the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter. The Marines are developing a tilt rotor aircraft called the V-22 Osprey that can take off and land like a helicopter but change its engine configuration in flight so that it flies more like a regular airplane. Assault forces receive air support from Marine aviators flying the vertical takeoff and landing Harrier AV-8B Harrier II jet, as well as the F/A 18 fighter/attack aircraft.

A HISTORY & Early Years:
The Continental Congress authorized the formation of two battalions of United States Marines on November 10, 1775, to fight in the American Revolution (1775-1783). The first Marine landing on a hostile shore occurred when a force of marines captured New Province Island in the Bahamas from the British on March 3, 1776. Marines served on both land and sea during the remainder of the Revolutionary War, but were deactivated after the war ended (as was the Continental Navy) in 1783.
Reactivated by Congress in 1798, marines served in an undeclared war with France from 1798 to 1799, after French vessels seized American cargo ships. Marines also fought against the Barbary pirates of North Africa from 1801 to 1805 in an effort to stop the pirates from seizing American ships. In one famous episode of the Barbary campaign, naval agent William Eaton led a force comprised of marines and other troops across about 1,000 km (about 600 mi) of desert in a successful attack on Darnah, Tripoli (now Libya), in 1805. The march inspired the line in the “Marines’ Hymn” that refers to “the shores of Tripoli.” During the War of 1812 (1812-1815), in which the United States fought the United Kingdom over maritime rights, marines served on the Great Lakes and on warships in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. During this war the Marines also helped in the unsuccessful defense of Washington, D.C., and in the successful defense of New Orleans.

B Mexican War and American Expansion Overseas:
Marines were among the first United States forces to set foot on Mexican soil during the Mexican War (1846-1848), when fighting broke out in what is now Texas. One of the most memorable moments in Marine Corps history occurred during an assault on Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City. The U.S. troops won after a valiant defense by the Mexican forces. The difficult victory was later memorialized as “halls of Montezuma” in the “Marine’s Hymn.” Marines also served on the Pacific Coast during the war with Mexico, occupying the Mexican port of Mazatlán until Mexico surrendered in 1848.
The Marine Corps was reduced to about 1,200 men after the Mexican War, but these few marines continued to serve around the world. Marines were among the first U.S. soldiers to enter Japan in 1853 when U.S. forces led by Matthew Calbraith Perry compelled Japan to accept Western trade. The Marines also landed at China twice in the 1850s—at Shanghai in 1854 and Canton (present-day Guangzhou) in 1856—on expeditions to forcibly open China to trade with the West. Marines also intervened in Panama in 1856, Nicaragua in 1857, Uruguay in 1855 and 1858, and Paraguay in 1859, interventions that were intended in significant measure to protect U.S. business interests in the region.
The 19th century also saw the Marines fight on U.S. soil. United States Army general Robert E. Lee led marines at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), on October 17, 1859, quelling an insurrection led by the abolitionist John Brown. The American Civil War (1861-1865) split the Marine Corps, as it did the Army and the Navy. Many marines resigned to join the Confederate Marines. During the war United States marines fought in the front lines at the Battle of Manassas; in the defense of Washington, D.C.; and in the Mississippi Valley. They also helped enforce the Union blockade of the Confederate shoreline. However, since the Marine Corps never exceeded more than 4,000 marines during this period, the Corps was stretched to its limits throughout the war and was nearly disbanded after the war ended in 1865.

C The Spanish-American War and the American Empire:
During the three decades after the Civil War, the U.S. Marines continued to mount expeditions throughout the world, including in Egypt, Colombia, Mexico, China, Cuba, the Arctic, Formosa, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Haiti, Alaska, Nicaragua, Japan, Samoa, Panama, and Korea. On February 15, 1898, the USS Maine exploded and sank in Cuba’s Havana Harbor, killing 28 marines. The event helped spur the United States to declare war on Spain later in 1898 (see Spanish-American War). A 1976 U.S. Navy study determined that an explosion in the ship’s coal bunker caused the sinking, not an attack by Spain. Marines were among the first to land in the Philippines and in Cuba during the war, and they established an important base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. About 3,300 people served in the Marines during the Spanish-American War, and just 6 died in combat.
The end of the Spanish-American War left the United States with a new empire in the Pacific, including the key footholds in Asia of Guam and the Philippines. The Marines helped the United States control these new holdings. In the Philippines, marines and U.S. Army soldiers took part in the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), during which indigenous Filipinos led by Emilio Aguinaldo fought U.S. occupation. Marines also helped suppress the Boxer Uprising in China in 1900 and provided security during the construction of the Panama Canal. The Marines were also active closer to American shores. In 1906 a small contingent of marines helped suppress a rebellion in Cuba at the Cuban government’s request. The Marines returned in 1912 to put down another rebellion, and again in 1917 to signal U.S. disapproval of fraud in the Cuban presidential election. Marines were also deployed in Mexico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.
About this time the Marine Corps leadership began to focus on the unusual challenges of amphibious warfare. As part of this new emphasis, the Marines established the Advanced Base School in 1910 in New London, Connecticut, to teach methods of seizing and defending objectives on shore. In 1912 the first Marine pilot, Alfred Cunningham, flew an airplane, and in the next few years the Marines and the U.S. Navy began experimenting with launching airplanes from ships.

D World War I and Interventions in Latin America and Asia:
The Marine Corps trained and deployed thousands of troops to fight in World War I (1914-1918), while maintaining existing Marine forces in Nicaragua, Haiti, Cuba, and Santo Domingo during the war. The most notable Marine battle of the war came in France in 1918, when the 4th Marine Brigade doggedly assaulted a strong German defense in the Battle of Belleau Wood. The grateful French later renamed the woods Bois de la Brigade de Marine (Wood of the Marine Brigade). Marine Corps aviation flew its first missions in support of the Corps during World War I, bombing enemy targets and dropping supplies to the allied forces from a base on the Azores, off the Portuguese coast. About 78,000 people served in the Marines during World War I, and about 2,500 died in battle.
After World War I the Marines embarked on many missions around the world. In 1918 marines set out with a large contingent of U.S. soldiers on an ultimately unsuccessful mission to eastern Siberia in Russia to support anti-Bolshevik forces. During the 1920s the Marines earned the title of “the State Department’s army” for their repeated missions to put down rebellions and protect American business interests in Latin America. Marines left the Dominican Republic in 1924, after eight years of occupation, but left behind financial controls to protect the interests of creditors in the United States and Europe. The Marines had occupied Haiti since 1915, and in 1922 Marine general John H. Russell was appointed U.S. High Commissioner to administer American control. Marines were finally withdrawn from Haiti in 1934, leaving behind the Marine-trained Gendarmerie d’Haiti (Haitian Police) and a greatly improved government and infrastructure. These reforms had weak foundations in Haitian society, however, and were soon swept away by corruption and dictatorship.
The U.S. Marines had an even more decisive impact on Nicaragua. They had maintained a small presence in Nicaragua since 1912 to demonstrate U.S. support for the country’s conservative government and to assert U.S. power in the region. A 1916 treaty essentially made the country a protectorate of the United States. The Marines remained in Nicaragua into the 1920s, staying longer than planned in order to create and train the Guardia Nacional (National Guard). The Marines left in 1925 but returned the next year after political turmoil raised the prospect of a leftist political victory and possible threats to U.S. property. The Marines then remained until 1933, helping fight the independence movement led by Augusto César Sandino. Marine aviators played an important role supporting operations in Nicaragua, providing close air support, logistic support, and medical evacuation for marines on the ground. By the time the Marines left in 1933, they had turned the Nicaraguan National Guard into the most powerful force in Nicaraguan politics.

E Improving Amphibious Warfare Tactics:
In addition to these regional operations, the Marine Corps turned its attention to improving its techniques of amphibious assaults against defended coastlines. The Marine Corps opened schools in Quantico, Virginia, in 1920 to address this problem under the leadership of Commandant General John Lejeune. By 1934 Marine tacticians had developed effective amphibious techniques, and that year the Marine Corps published the Tentative Landing Operations Manual, which remains an important source for amphibious warfare doctrine.
The Marines put this theory to work in 1933, creating the Fleet Marine Force from what had been known as the Advance Base Force. The Fleet Marine Force served as America’s quick-reaction force and helped test emerging ideas on amphibious warfare through annual fleet landing exercises. This preparation proved invaluable in World War II (1939-1945), when the Marines not only spearheaded many of the attacks against Japanese-held islands in the Pacific theater of war, but also trained the U.S. Army divisions that participated in the island-hopping campaign. Another important milestone was the creation of the amphibian tractor, sometimes known as Amtracs, which was brought into the fleet in 1940. The amphibian tractor could ferry troops from a ship to the shoreline and then continue driving on land with the marines protected inside. Although amphibious landings continued to be very dangerous, the development of amphibian tractors gave the Marines better odds in such conflicts.

F World War II:
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, surprised the world and brought the United States into World War II (1939-1945). American strategy during the war focused the country’s military efforts on defeating Germany first, while trying to fight Japan to a stalemate in the Pacific. Japanese forces advanced across the Pacific during 1941 and 1942, taking important American island outposts. The U.S. Marines fought valiant defensive actions at Wake Island and Midway (see Battle of Midway), and on the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor in the Philippines. The Marines fought their first offensive battle of World War II on August 7, 1942, when the 1st Marine Division landed at Guadalcanal to secure a base in the Solomon Islands. Fighting in the jungles of Guadalcanal lasted for months, and American forces defeated the Japanese only in February 1943. Later the Marines swept through the South Pacific, successfully wresting control of the islands of New Georgia, Bougainville, and Choiseul in 1943, and of New Britain in 1944. The United States began to gain the upper hand in the Pacific in mid-1943, but the Japanese continued to mount a strong defense.
The persistent Japanese resistance resulted in many bloody battles for the Marines, including amphibious assaults against Tarawa in 1943, the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, and Pelieu in 1944, and Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945. Iwo Jima was the site of the most ferocious battles in Marine Corps history. American bombers, destroyers, and battleships pummeled the small island to ease the way for the invading force, but most of the Japanese defenders were safely protected in caves and bunkers. About 71,000 marines went ashore and fought against withering machine gun fire and intense shelling for nearly a month before overcoming the defenders. Nearly 6,000 Marines died and more than 17,000 were wounded at the Battle of Iwo Jima. The Japanese dead numbered about 20,000. After the fighting, U.S. Navy admiral Chester Nimitz, who helped direct the battle, marveled at the bravery of the marines, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” By the end of the war in the Pacific, Marine forces were prepared to invade Japan, but the Japanese surrendered before such an operation was necessary.
When the United States entered the war in 1941, the Marine Corps strength included 70,425 troops organized into two divisions and two air wings. By 1944 it had expanded to six divisions, four air wings, and 471,905 troops. By the end of the war nearly 20,000 marines had died in battle. The Marine Corps rapidly reduced its personnel strength after the war. The Marines proved their worth during World War II, and Congress guaranteed the Corps’s status as an independent service with the National Security Act of 1947. The law also gave the Marine Corps primary responsibility for amphibious tactics, equipment development, and doctrine. A 1952 law created the modern organization of the Marine Corps. The law mandated that the Corps be led by a commandant with the rank of four-star general, the highest rank that can be obtained in the U.S. military and the equivalent of an admiral in the U.S. Navy. The commandant of the Marine Corps is a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and may serve as chairman.

G Korean War to the Early 1960s:
When Communist North Korea attacked South Korea on June 24, 1950, the Marine Corps had only about 75,000 troops. The United Nations (UN) condemned the invasion, and President Harry Truman sent in U.S. forces to lead a UN operation against North Korea. In early August the 1st Marine Brigade was sent to defend part of the perimeter around the city of Pusan where South Korean and United States-led forces had retreated. Marines flew helicopters in combat for the first time in history in support of the operation. The Marines took part in the September 1950 surprise amphibious landing at Inch’ŏn, which enabled the UN forces to sever major North Korean supply lines and helped turn the war around.
The North Korean Army retreated in disarray with the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in hot pursuit. Passing the 38th parallel, which had been the prewar boundary between North and South, the United States-led UN troops and South Korean forces approached North Korea’s border with China at the Yalu River, despite Chinese warnings to stay away from the border. On November 25, 1950, the Chinese army attacked, sending eight divisions against the 1st Marine Division. The 1st Division retreated in an orderly manner despite the frigid winter and withdrew by sea. The 1st Division then continued to fight until the conclusion of active hostilities in 1953. About 424,000 people served in the Marines during the Korean War and about 4,300 lost their lives in battle. See Korean War.
After Korea the Marines continued to take a leading role in the Cold War, in which the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) vied for global dominance. Unlike other branches of the military, the Marines did not place heavy reliance on nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Instead, the Marines continued to emphasize basic infantry techniques and the ability to respond rapidly to emerging conflicts.
During the 1950s and early 1960s marines were deployed in Taiwan, Laos, Thailand, and South Vietnam to support anti-Communist forces. Marines evacuated U.S. citizens from Egypt during the Suez Crisis in 1956, and in 1958 about 14,000 marines were sent to Beirut to support the government of Lebanon during a period of regional turmoil. Marines participated in the 1962 embargo of Cuba that ended the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Lyndon Johnson sent marines and other U.S. forces to the Dominican Republic late in April 1965 to put down a rebellion against a pro-U.S. government, an act that angered many countries throughout the hemisphere.

H Vietnam War:
The U.S. Marines’ most important conflict of the Cold War began in 1962 when Marine aviators began flying support missions for the South Vietnamese military. These missions brought the Marines into the Vietnam War (1959-1975), a conflict in which the United States ultimately failed to meet its objective of preserving the government of South Vietnam. In March 1965 troops from the 3rd Marine Division were the first ground combat units to deploy to Vietnam, landing to defend the port and logistics complex of Da Nang. The 1st Marine Division soon followed, initiating a program of patrols, ambushes, and battles against the guerrilla fighters of the North Vietnamese-controlled National Liberation Front.
The Marine strategy was to control two strategic areas centered on Da Nang and the adjacent port city of Chulai. The Marines sought to dominate these areas and then gradually expand them. By the end of 1966, more than 60,000 marines had deployed to Vietnam. As the Marines, U.S. Army units, and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) began to have some successes against the guerrilla insurgents, conventional North Vietnamese units reinforced the guerrillas. The Marines fought several wars simultaneously—seizing and securing small areas, conducting extensive patrols to locate guerrillas, fighting the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) units in conventional combat, training the ARVN and the Vietnamese Marine Corps, and providing medical care and other services to Vietnamese civilians. The Marines’ superior firepower and technology could not overcome the persistent hit-and-run tactics of the guerrillas, who also enjoyed the strong support of many of the Vietnamese people.
In only a few cases did U.S. forces confront the North Vietnamese in large fixed battles. One of the Vietnam War’s most notable fixed battles was the late 1967 and early 1968 siege of the Marine stronghold at Khe Sanh, in the northeastern part of South Vietnam. American attention was focused on Khe Sanh when the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive throughout South Vietnam early in 1968. Although American and South Vietnamese forces turned back the offensive, it helped convince many Americans at home that victory would not come immediately, if ever. Marine and U.S. Army units began to turn the war over to the South Vietnamese in 1969. Nearly all U.S. forces left Vietnam in 1973, leaving a small Marine security contingent at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City). These marines helped evacuate the embassy in 1975 when North Vietnamese Army units finally succeeded in their attempts to take South Vietnam. By the end of the war, about 794,000 people had served in the Marines, and about 13,000 died in battle.

The U.S. Marines’ next major deployment came in 1983 when they served in Beirut, Lebanon, as part of a multinational peacekeeping force. In October 1983 a suicide bomber crashed his explosives-filled truck into Marine headquarters in Beirut, killing 220 marines, 18 Navy personnel, and 3 Army troops.
The Marines participated in the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada, in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. United States forces intervened after Grenada’s president was killed in a coup and then withdrew after a quick victory.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade immediately deployed to Saudi Arabia and retrieved equipment from a Maritime Prepositioning Ship (MPS). By early 1991, six months after the Iraqi invasion, the American-led forces included two Marine divisions and more than 450 Marine aircraft, a total of about 70,000 marines. When the ground fighting of the Persian Gulf War began in February 1991, the 1st and 2nd Marine divisions attacked the Iraqi forces in Kuwait and drove them out of the small oil-rich country.
In addition, two Marine Expeditionary Brigades off the coast of Kuwait threatened an amphibious attack that took up much of the attention of Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait, freezing seven Iraqi divisions in place and enabling the American forces to maneuver around strong Iraqi defenses. When the war ended in February 1991, 24 U.S. marines had died in combat. Marine aircraft participated in the enforcement of the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq following the end of the Persian Gulf War.

During the early 1990s the Marine Corps conducted a number of significant deployments, including evacuation operations in Liberia and humanitarian lifesaving operations in Bangladesh, the Philippines, and northern Iraq. In December 1992 marines landed in Somalia as part of a famine relief operation there. In 1994 marines evacuated U.S. citizens from Rwanda and deployed to Haiti in September of that year as part of the U.S. operation to restore the elected government in that country.
In the late 1990s Marine units were sent to several African nations, including the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Eritrea to provide security and assist in the evacuation of American citizens during periods of political instability in those nations. In 1998 the Marines conducted humanitarian and disaster relief operations in Kenya and in the Central American countries of Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. During the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) campaign against Serbia in 1999, Marine Corps aircraft operating from a base in Hungary participated in air strikes intended to end the Serbian repression of Albanian Kosovars. Marine ground units entered Kosovo as part of the peacekeeping force after the conflict ended.

Soon after the September 11 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Marine units deployed to the Arabian Sea near Afghanistan where the Taliban government provided refuge to the al-Qaeda terrorist network responsible for the attacks. In November 2001 the Marines set up a base in Kandahār in southern Afghanistan. The base was used as a staging area for troops engaged in combat operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces throughout Afghanistan. To assist in the search for terrorists in Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan, the United States created a special military command in the small African nation of Djibouti. Part of the 2nd Marine Brigade’s headquarters took responsibility for command and control of the Army Special Forces, Marines, and allied forces to conduct counterterrorism operations and training in the region. The Marine Corps also formed a new brigade—known as the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism)—to counter domestic terrorism. This crisis-reaction force is capable of deploying two platoons (about 75 marines) anywhere in the United States in six hours, followed by another 1,000 marines within three days.

The Marine Corps played a key role during the 2003 invasion of Iraq to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was suspected of hiding weapons of mass destruction. Members of the Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were in the forefront of an invasion force that drove from the neighboring country of Kuwait to the Iraqi capital of Baghdād, defeating Iraqi forces along a route that extended about 600 km (370 mi) in only 18 days. About 50 marines were killed between late March and mid-April when U.S. and British forces controlled all the major cities and oil fields of Iraq.

Contributed By:
Daniel J. Kaufman

email me
Paul Marquis
Web Master