The Marine TraditionMCWP 6-11 – Leading Marines; U.S. Marine Corps, 27 Nov 2002
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.
"Such as regiments hand down forever." The individual Marine, recruit and officer candidate training, "every Marine a rifleman," and our maritime character contribute to our heritage. Separately and collectively, they set us apart from other fighting forces and are the cement that glues the Marine Corps together and gives Marines a common outlook that transcends their grade, unit, or billet. Self-image is at the heart of the Marine Corps–a complex set of ideals, beliefs, and standards that define our Corps. Our selfless dedication to and elevation of the institution over self is uncommon elsewhere.
Ultimately undefinable, this self-image sets Marines apart from others and requires a special approach to leading. Consequently, Marine leaders must be forged in the same crucible and steeled with the same standards and traditions as those placed in their charge–standards and traditions as old as our nation itself.
Those who know Marines give many reasons why America needs a Marine Corps, but first and foremost, Marines exist to fight and win. From this duty, from this reason for being, everything else flows. If it doesn't, it is meaningless. This spirit is the character of our Corps. It is the foundation of our cohesion and combat effectiveness, and it gives Marines that "swagger, confidence, and hardness" necessary for victory–qualities seen in the hills of Korea and in hundreds of other engagements before and since.
Marines believe that to be a Marine is special; that those good enough to become Marines are special; and that the institution in which they are bonded is special. That is why the legion analogy is so appropriate for the Corps. Marines, far flung, performing dangerous–sometimes apparently meaningless and often overlooked missions–find strength and sense of purpose simply knowing that they are Marines in that mystical grouping they know as the Corps.
Among the five Armed Services of our nation, four have Service songs; only the Marine Corps has its Hymn. For scores of years before it became recently fashionable to stand for all Service songs, Marines always stood when our Hymn was played. And to this day, while others stand with cheers and applause to their Service song, Marines stand quietly, unwaveringly at attention, as the Hymn of their Corps is played. Marines are different.
"The 1st Marine Division, fighting its way back from the Chosin Reservoir in December 1950, was embattled amid the snows from the moment the column struck its camp at Hagaru. By midnight, after heavy loss through the day, it had bivouacked at Kotori, still surrounded, still far from the sea." The commanding general was alone in his tent. It was his worst moment. "The task ahead seemed hopeless. Suddenly he heard music." Outside, some Marines, on their way to a warming tent, were softly singing the Marines' Hymn. " 'All doubt left me,' " said the general. " 'I knew then we had it made.' "
For more than 200 years, the steady performance of the Marine Corps has elevated it to the epitome of military excellence. It is an elite fighting force renowned for its success in combat, esprit de corps, and readiness always to be "first to fight." "More than anything else, Marines have fought and … won because of a commitment–to a leader and to a small brotherhood where the ties that bind are mutual respect and confidence, shared privation, shared hazard, shared triumph, a willingness to obey, and determination to follow."
"The man who will go where his colors go, without ask ing, who will fight a phantom foe in jungle and mountain range, without counting, and who will suffer and die in the midst of incredible hardship, without complaint, is still what he has always been, from Imperial Rome to sceptered Britain to democratic America. He is the stuff of which legions are made.
"His pride is in his colors and his regiment, his training hard and thorough and coldly realistic, to fit him for whathe must face, and his obedience is to his orders. As a legionary, he held the gates of civilization for the classical world; … he has been called United States Marine."
The Marine Corps' vision of leading is less concerned with rank, self-identity, recognition, or privilege than the essence of our Corps: the individual Marine and the unyielding determination to persevere because Marines and the Corps do not fail.Our vision of leading is linked directly to our common vision of warfighting, which needs leaders devoted to leading, capable of independent and bold action, who are willing and eager to assume new and sometimes daunting responsibilities, willing to take risks–not because they may succeed, but because the Corps must succeed.
This always has been, and always will be, what leading Marines is all about.