The Marines’ Hymn

July 11th, 2013

Today marks the 215th anniversary of the Marine Corps’ re-chartering by Congress, which made the Corps a permanent part of the US military. Throughout its storied history, the Marine Corps is most famous for its valor at the Battle of Belleau Wood in World War I, its success at the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, and for its uplifting and patriotic “Marines’ Hymn.”

The stirring “Marines’ Hymn” is the oldest and best known official song in the US military, yet its precise origins remain unclear.

Major Richard Wallach, upon his visit to Paris in 1878, noted that the music from the “Marines’ Hymn” could be found in a French opera, Genevieve de Brabant, written by Jacques Offenbach, though that may not be the original source of the melody.

Tracing the origins of the lyrics to the “Marines’ Hymn” is similarly problematic, though common legend states that it was written by a Marine who was serving a tour of duty in Mexico in the 19th century:

From the Halls of Montezuma,
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land, and 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 every 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.

While the origins of the lyrics remain hazy, the historical significance of the opening lines is clear. The “Halls of Montezuma” refers to the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War in which the Marines captured Chapultepec Castle, near Mexico City. “To the shores of Tripoli” refers to the Battle of Derna in 1805 during the First Barbary War, a decisive victory led by a detachment of US Marines.

Listen to a rendition of the “Marines’ Hymn,” and  learn more about its history.

Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

Tags: ,