The U.S. Marine Corps song (the Marines’ Hymn) has been around since at least the start of the 20th century. Legend suggests that the first verse was penned by a Marine while on duty in Mexico, though neither the identity of the soldier nor the date of the verse’s creation is known. Likewise, the exact origin of the melody that goes along with the lyrics is still unknown. Colonel McLemore and Walter F. Smith (a member of the Marine Band) put in a genuine effort to find the origins of the tune. Although neither of them found a definitive answer, it is reasonably certain that the tune was taken from either an opera titled “Genevieve de Brabant” or a Spanish folk song with a similar melody.
The United States Marine Corps received copyright ownership in 1891, though this song is now in public domain. In 1929, three verses to the hymn were made official. At that time, lines 5 through 8 were altered, but since then, only one phrase has been changed to better reflect the scope of the Marines skills. This was the fourth line of the first verse which originally read “on the land as on the sea.” We now know this line as “in the air, on land, and sea.” Several lyrics in the song also refer to historic points for the Marine Corps. For example, the line that reads, “From the shores of Montezuma to the hills of Tripoli” refers to two separate battles that the Marine Corps took part in: the Battle of Chapultapec in 1847 and the Battle of Derne in 1805, respectively.
Even though there are only three official verses, many unofficial verses have been written over the years. Whenever the Marine Corps participates in a new battle or action, someone steps up to add another verse to the Marine Corps Hymn collection. Just a few of these extra lyrics were written after occupying Iceland during World War II, invading Japan during the same war, and also after Operation Desert Storm.
Marine Corps Hymn Played upon Occasion
Each branch of the military has its own band, but the Marine Band is the only one known as “The President’s Own.” It wasn’t just formed because someone had a brilliant idea; the Marine Band was actually formed by an act of Congress in 1798 during President John Adams’s term. This band exists to play for the President of the United States, and as “The President’s Own,” it has had a lot of interesting interactions with United States presidents over the years, including playing at every inauguration. The Marine Band is the oldest musical organization in the country, and it plays an incredible 500 performances a year.
The Marines’ Hymn is pulled out during special occasions and is often played by the Marine Band. At formal events, such as the Birthday Ball, the third verse is played and sung as a toast. While singing this hymn, soldiers will stand at attention as a way of showing respect, and for the Marines, this hymn has come to symbolize pride and professionalism in their service.
The legacy of the Marines’ Hymn will continue as the Marine Corps continues to protect our country. Perhaps more lyrics will be added as the Marines take on more ventures and history is made again and again. At Low VA Rates, we love to hear this anthem played, and the words remind us of the service our veterans and active military members have given and continue to give every day.