Study Guide

The Marines' Hymn Introduction

The Marines' Hymn Introduction

In a Nutshell

The Marines are a proud bunch, and their official song, "The Marines' Hymn," is a proud musical monument to the role that the Corps has played in America's past wars. 

But Marines don't sing the song just for the sake of pride. They sing it to remind presidents, congresspersons, and the general public that they've been a critical part of America's defense establishment for centuries. The fact of the matter is that while the Marines are an old and honored branch within the U.S. military, they've been on the chopping block since the 1830s. Presidents like Andrew Jackson and Dwight Eisenhower have wanted to eliminate the Marine Corps.

So, what exactly does "The Marines' Hymn" celebrate? Why does the Corps promise to fight from the "Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli?" And why would so many government officials be so anxious to eliminate this branch? 

Don't worry. Shmoop's got all the answers you need right here.

About the Song

ArtistN/A
Year1867 (words written ca. 1850)
Writer(s)Jacques Offenbach (music), Words—unknown
Learn to play

Music Video

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Influences on N/A

You wanna talk about influences? “The Marines’ Hymn” has been inspiring young Corpsmen for well over a century. The song is sung as a reminder of the great deeds that the Marine Corps has performed in the past and the tenets they strive to uphold.

Oh yeah, and the song takes its music from a French opera (see above).

The Marines' Hymn Resources

Books

The United States Marines: A History, by Edwin H. Simmons (2002)
Written by a Brigadier General, this book traces the history of the Corps from its creation in 1775 through the Persian Gulf War. Simmons is primarily interested in the Marines’ military record, but he also explores their tense relationship with the other military branches and the recurring questions of the Corps’ role within a changing defense establishment.

The Greatest U.S. Marine Corps Stories Ever Told: Unforgettable Stories of Courage, Honor, and Sacrifice, by Iain Martin, ed. (2007)
This is not an objective history, nor does Martin spend any time discussing the decades-long debate over the role of the Marine Corps’ within America’s defense strategy. This is a collection of stories about the Marines in action. If you like war stories, you’ll like this book. If you are a fan of the Marines, you’ll love it.

Images

Stephen Decatur
Naval officer Stephen Decatur wrestles with a Barbary pirate in this painting commemorating the re-capture of the USS Philadelphia.

Battle of Chapultepec Castle
This 1848 lithograph celebrated the American victory during the war with Mexico.

Iwo Jima
In this iconic World War II photo, Marines raise the American flag on Mount Suribachi.

Uniform History
Marine uniforms, 1741-1859

Civil War Marines
The marines played a limited role in the Civil War.

World War I Recruiting Poster
The Marines fought a crucial battle at Belleau Wood in 1918.

Vietnam War
The Marines played a central role in the Vietnam War. Marine fatalities accounted for roughly one-third of the American total.

Movies & TV

The Marines (2006)
This PBS documentary takes a fascinating look at the culture of the Marine Corps. A close look at training methods in particular illustrates how Marines are “made,” while interviews with members of the Corps reveal the depth of their commitment to Corps ideals.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Legendary director Stanley Kubrick looks at both the Marines and the Vietnam War in this critically acclaimed film. It’s not for the faint of heart, nor will everyone agree with Kubrick’s portrait of Marine training or his analysis of the war, but it’s a well-made and provocative film.

A Few Good Men (1992)
This is more of a courtroom thriller than a look at the Marine Corps or its history, but it reveals a bit about the relationship between the Corps and the other branches, and the Marines on trial and their commander (played by Jack Nicholson) provide an interesting look at Marine beliefs.

Websites

National Museum of the Marine Corps
You can take a virtual tour of the National Museum of the Marine Corps at the museum’s site.

USMC Hangout
This is one of several “fan sites” dedicated to the Marines Corps. Included in the history section is a description of Corps traditions and customs.

Video & Audio

Marines’ Hymn (with lyrics)
Performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Marines’ Hymn (instrumental)
Performed by the US Marine Corps Band

"Couplets des Deux Hommes d'Armes" or "Gendarmes' Duet"
Jacques Offenbach’s operatic duet that provided the music for “The Marines Hymn”

USMC Marching Cadence
A cadence used in training exercises

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