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The Most Epic Things the United States Marine Corps Has Ever Done

Updated September 23, 2021 74.7k views12 items

Ships hold the seas and armies hold the land, but someone has to take land and sea alike before they can be held. The Marines are the tip of America's military spear. They're the first feet on the beach, the first to kick down the door. Called stormtroopers and Devil Dogs by adversaries, the Marines's almost cult-like devotion to aggressive action and gaining ground has earned the Corps a level of universal respect granted to few military forces in the world. 

While at one time Marines were a simple expeditionary force carried around by Naval ships, these days the Corps maintains its own transportation and methods of launching mechanized warfare. Whether fighting on land, in the sea, or in the sky, every member of the Corps is one thing above all else: a Marine. All else, even death, is secondary. 

Read on if you've ever wondered "what is the Marine Corps like?" or are simply interested in stories about the Marine Corps. This list compiles some of the most important Marine Corps missions.

  • Photo: United States Marine Corps / Public Domain

    The phrase "One-Man Army" is over-used, but if anyone deserves the moniker, it's Platoon Sergeant Joseph Randolph Julian.

    During the siege of the Iwo Jima, Julian's platoon inadvertently stumbled onto one of the many hidden mini-fortifications on the island. Determined to break through the defended Japanese trenches, which were buttressed by a number of pillboxes and cave positions, Julian left his gun, grabbed demolition charges and phosphorus grenades, and rushed a pillbox throwing explosives. Two pillbox occupants were killed, and the remaining five tried to flee into the adjacent trench.

    Julian picked up a dead Japanese soldier's discarded rifle, jumped into the trench, and killed the fleeing Japanese. Still, he wasn't done. He grabbed more explosives and charged two cave positions, hurling grenades and killing all present. He found a Japanese bazooka and box of rounds. Unassisted, he proceeded to fire three bazooka rounds into the pillbox.

    The rocket fire alerted enemy soldiers to his position. They opened fire on Julian as he fired his final round. It hit the pillbox's ammo magazine, and the last bastion of Japanese resistance went up in a terrific explosion as Julian fell, dead, to the ground. 

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  • The Battle of Iwo Jima

    Photo: United States Marine Corps / Public Domain

    Iwo Jima was not an island. Iwo Jima was a fortress in the South Pacific. The fact that Iwo Jima seemed fairly barren from the surface was  a ruse by Japanese military planners. They had long ago commissioned the construction of approximately 11 miles of underground tunnels, on an island only eight square miles in area. Not only was Iwo Jima bristling with pill boxes, gun emplacements, and minefields, it was home to an entire tank regiment, as well as a naval guard force and a contingent of kamikaze pilots. 

    In a rare instance of Marines having a numerical advantage, more than 110,000 Devil Dogs waded ashore in February 1945. While they faced "only" 20,000 Japanese, Iwo Jima's defensive network made it near impregnable, especially given the fact that the Japanese vowed to fight to the last man to keep it. And that they almost did.

    After three weeks of some of the bloodiest, most intense fighting in history, the Devil Dogs triumphed. Almost 19,000 of Japan's last 20,000 professional soldiers were dead and an American flag was planted atop Mount Suribachi. 

  • The Battle of Da Nang

    Photo: manhhai / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    In March 1965, the Viet Cong attacked Da Nang air base, an installation in Vietnam defended by Marines. Hundreds of mortars and rockets hit the base, resulting in the destruction of three C-130 cargo planes and two F-104s. The base was almost completely destroyed, and took months to rebuild.

    When the VC showed up again on October 30, 1965, they found a new group of Marines. Despite being caught in a surprise attack, the Marines held off wave after wave of VC. For hours on end they defended Da Nang, until the huge VC force retreated.

    Among the 58 dead VC, Marines found the body of a 13-year-old boy who had a map of the air base and Marine defensive positions. The boy had been there the day before, selling drinks to soldiers. 

  • Marine's Makes Last Stand, Saves Team After Getting His Own Leg Blown Off

    Photo: United States Marine Corps / Public Domain

    Second Lieutenant John. P. Bobo was not in an enviable position on March 30, 1967, when his company was ambushed by Viet Cong. Heavy machine-gun and mortar fire rained down. Outnumbered and outgunned, Bobo's team took heavy casualties. A mortar blew off the bottom half of Bobo's leg, but that barely slowed him down. The Lieutenant wrapped the stump with a web belt and continued to pour fire down on the VC.

    Behind the Americans lay a better position, from which the team could evacuate. But not with the VC raining down hell on them. Medics tried to pull Bobo out and evacuate him, but he refused. Instead, he jammed the end of his stump in the dirt to slow the bleeding, pointed his belt-fed M60 at the enemy, and told his team to get out. 

    The Lieutenant stayed behind, laying down suppressive fire. Bobo never took his finger off the trigger, running thousands of belt-fed rounds through the overheating barrel of his M60. Bobo's vicious spree stopped that entire advancing VC battalion just long enough for his team to get away.