U.S. Marines – United States Marine Corps

Culture

The Marine motto “Semper Fidelis” means “Always faithful” in Latin. This motto often appears in the shortened form “Semper Fi!” It is also the name of the official march of the Corps, composed by John Phillip Sousa. Another motto is Marines – The Few. The Proud.

The colors of the Marine Corps are scarlet and gold. They appear on the flag of the United States Marine Corps, along with the Marine Corps emblem: the eagle, globe, and anchor, with the eagle representing service to the country, the globe representing worldwide service, and the anchor representing naval traditions. The emblem, adopted in its present form in 1868, derives partially from ornaments worn by the Continental Marines and the British Royal Marines, and is usually topped with a ribbon reading “Semper Fidelis”.

Two styles of swords are worn by Marines. The Marine Corps officer sword is a Mameluke sword, similar to the sword presented to Lt. Presley O’Bannon after the capture of Derne during the First Barbary War. Noncommissioned officers carry a different style of sword, similar in style to a Civil War cavalry sabre, making them the only enlisted personnel in the U.S. military authorized to carry a sword.

Marines have several generic nicknames, mildly derogatory when used by outsiders but complimentary when used by Marines themselves. They include “jarhead” (it was said their hats on their uniform made them look like mason jars, or that the regulation “high and tight” haircut gave the appearance of a jar-lid), “gyrene” (perhaps a combination of “G.I.” and “Marine”), “leatherneck”, referring to the leather collar that was a part of the Marine uniform during the Revolutionary War period, and “Devil Dog” (German: Teufelshund) after the Battle of Belleau Wood.

This nicknaming extends to the Corps itself. The acronym ‘USMC’ is regularly reworked into “Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children” or, even, “Upper Sandusky Motorcycle Club”. The word ‘Marine’ is said to stand for ‘My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment’ or ‘My Ass Really Is Navy Equipment’. Even Marines themselves have semi-derogatory nicknames for their Corps, with Marines during the Vietnam era labeling it ‘the Crotch’ and Cold War era Marines preferring ‘the Suck’.

A spirited cry, “Oorah!”, is common among Marines, being similar in function and purpose to the Army’s “Hooah” cry, but is probably more commonly used among Marines than “Hooah” would be in the Army. “Oorah!” is usually either a reply in the affirmative to a question, an acknowledgment of an order, or an expression of enthusiasm (real or false).

In the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi soldiers nicknamed the Marines “Angels of Death”. Another so-called term of endearment for Marines was “blackboots”. This was due to supply shortages, leaving tan, desert boots unavailable to most Marine units. Haitians called Marines participating in relief operations “whitesleeves” because of the way they roll up the sleeves of their utility uniform, called “cammies” colloquially. In Somalia, they were referred to as “The Devils in black boots”, due to their rapid deployment preventing them from acquiring desert boots.

Learn more about the language within the United States Marine Corps by visitngĀ DevilDogs.CC

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2 Comments for this entry

  • Isidro

    please note that the black boot nickname in Somalia was meant for 2nd battalion 9th Marines. We did not receive desert boots due to being the step child of the 5th Marines; they didn’t have any to issue to us so we deployed without them. Other Marine units showed up with desert boots.

  • Steve

    I was in the Corps 1958-62. During that time I never heard Oorah. That term might have become used during Viet Nam.

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