In 1957 Marine Brig. Gen. Victor Krulak wrote to Gen. Randolph Pate, commandant of the Marine Corp, "The United States does not need a Marine Corps. However, for good reasons which completely transcend cold logic, the United States wants a Marine Corps."
Both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps started at about the same time, during the Revolution. The Marines, like those in Europe, were seaborne, protecting U.S. Navy ships against boarding and mutinies, as well as leading raiding parties. The Army did what other armies did, fight the land war. Then the 20th century came along and the Marines didn’t have enough pirates to fight and sailors cut down on mutinies.
In World War II the Marines earned their keep by doing the dirty work for the navy in the Pacific, amphibious invasions; or as Marines like to say, “kick in the door.” Yep, they kicked in a lot of doors. But so did the Army. In fact, the Army did the heavy lifting in the Pacific. During World War II, the Army deployed five times as many troops to the Pacific Ocean as the Marines.
The Army took on the main force of the Japanese Imperial Army in New Guinea and the Philippines while Navy and Marines were “island hopping” –– amphibious assaults on islands such as Guadalcanal and Saipan. General MacArthur thought these assaults unnecessary; here’s his quote “these frontal attacks by the Navy, as at Tarawa, are tragic and unnecessary massacres of American lives.” The Army killed, captured, or stranded over a quarter of a million Japanese troops on New Guinea, at a cost of only 33,000 US casualties. The Navy and Marines, on the other hand, suffered over 26,000 casualties to kill roughly 20,000 Japanese on Iwo Jima.
To this day, the Marines say that their job is to kick in the door. The biggest door we ever kicked in was D-Day, Normandy, 1944. The Army kicked in the door. The only doors the Marines were responsible for at D-Day were the doors they opened on Navy ships for the admirals.
"The Marine Corps is the nation's 911 force — you call and we respond.” This was in an article written by a Marine officer. But it makes me wonder. A Marine expeditionary unit, a reinforced battalion, rides on ships that move at about 25 mph. Okay, let’s say they’re about a thousand miles from the trouble spot. It’ll take them forty hours to get there. What if the trouble is in a country like Afghanistan, landlocked … America’s real 911 is the 82nd Airborne Division. The Air Force takes them to the fight on C-17A Globemasters, traveling at 540 mph. Thanks to air-to-air refueling they can drop the 82nd Airborne Division anywhere in the world.
Let’s look at Brig. Gen. Victor Krulak again, "The United States does not need a Marine Corps. However, for good reasons which completely transcend cold logic, the United States wants a Marine Corps.” He wasn’t the first person to realize that we don’t need the Marine Corps. After World War Two President Truman believed the Marine Corps was simply a smaller and redundant force with a mission better performed by the Army and Air Force. The Marine’s senior leadership rallied their allies in the government and managed to have the presence of the Marine Corps made a matter of law. The National Security Act of 1947 established the USMC as a separate service, though part of the Navy, and even made its size a matter of law.
Okay, let’s not rag on the Marines. America loves the Marine Corps, actually, America almost loves the Marine Corps as much as the Marine Corps love the Marines Corps. They are the only “army” that comes with its own air force; or is it an air force that has its own army? Two things you can never take away from the Marines is that they have the coolest uniforms and the best song. So everyone on your feet and as loud as you can begin singing …
“From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles
On the land as on the sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.
Our flag’s unfurled to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in ev’ry clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off Northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job
The United States Marines
Here’s health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we’ve fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.”
Note, we wrote a followup to this article titled "10 Myths About the Marine Corps." Click to read.