National Geographic : 1950 Nov
In one phase of this Oahu espionage work the submarine, surfaced, towed ten rubber boats loaded with Marines. Only experts, capable of swimming for hours and in rough seas, can do these hard, hazardous coastal reconnoitering jobs. Often the State Department has asked the Marines to help it restore order in certain small countries where Uncle Sam has had to clean up the customs service, install a sound currency system, and per haps reorganize the local gendarmerie. But such duties seem to be diminishing. Primarily, Marines are front-line troops. As a small force, the Corps has seen much independent service as guards on shipboard, at our consulates, lega tions, and embassies, and, as said, in protecting American citizens and their property overseas. But most Marine major operations since the Seminole War of 1835-42 in Florida and our war with Mexico-have been carried out jointly with the Army and, of course, with the Navy, its sister service of the Navy Department. Usually in a Spearhead Role Because the Army and Navy are so much larger, the Marine Corps has usu ally played a spearheading, supporting, or auxiliary role. In almost every World War II landing in the Central Pacific, Marines hit the beach first, seizing airfields from which Army and Navy planes later flew long range strategic missions. The Marianas and Iwo Jima campaigns are famous examples. The Corps well knows how dangerous to Uncle Sam's aims in war it would be for the Marines to be ignorant of or to disregard the fighting powers of the other armed services. It never forgets that the Army, like the Navy, has its special powers and functions. Like them, too, it never fights to enhance the reputation of any particular com mander, or just to gain prestige for itself. Since their early days of comic-opera white or blue knee pants, scarlet sashes, and trick hats, Marines have been famed for intensive training. That's why in their first action at sea, in March, 1776, when British ships harassed our coastal trade, Marines could take Nassau, in the Bahamas, and capture much-needed can non, mortars, and powder. This was the first successful naval operation of the Revolution. It wasn't just by accident that, firing their muskets from the foretop of the 655 U. S. Marine Corps, Ofmcial Feet First, Marines Leave a "Sinking Ship" In the swimming pool at Parris Island Recruit Depot, these youngsters learn how to save themselves at the order "Abandon ship!" After climbing a debarkation net up an 18-foot wall, they jump with hands held to protect faces and bodies from floating debris. Wet dungaree trouser legs, knotted at the cuffs and inflated, form life preservers.