Marines' Hymn

The "Marines' Hymn" is the official hymn of the United States Marine Corps, introduced by the first director of USMC Band, Francesco Maria Scala. It is the oldest official song in the United States Armed Forces.[1] The "Marines' Hymn" is typically sung at the position of attention as a gesture of respect. However, the third verse is also used as a toast during formal events, such as the birthday ball and other ceremonies.

Marines' Hymn

Service song of the United States Marine Corps
LyricsThomas Holcomb, 1942
MusicJacques Offenbach, 1867
Adopted1929 (1929)
Audio sample
"Marines' Hymn" (instrumental)
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Some lyrics were popular phrases before the song was written. The line "To the shores of Tripoli" refers to the First Barbary War, and specifically the Battle of Derne in 1805.[2][3] After Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon and his Marines hoisted the American flag over the Old World for the first time, the phrase was added to the flag of the United States Marine Corps. "The Halls of Montezuma" refers to the Battle of Chapultepec on 12/13 September 1847 during the Mexican–American War, where a force of Marines stormed Chapultepec Castle.

While the lyrics are said to date from the 19th century, no pre-20th century text is known. The author of the lyrics is likewise unknown. Legend has it that a Marine on duty in Mexico penned the hymn. The unknown author transposed the phrases in the motto on the Colors so that the first two lines of the Hymn would read: "From the Halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli", favoring euphony over chronology.

The music is from the Gendarmes' Duet (the "bold gendarmes") from the revision in 1867 of the Jacques Offenbach opera Geneviève de Brabant, which debuted in Paris in 1859. Correspondence between Colonel Albert S. McLemore and Walter F. Smith (the second leader of the United States Marine Band) traces the tune:

The name of the opera and a part of the chorus was secured from Major Wallach and forwarded to Mr. Smith, who replied:

John Philip Sousa once wrote:

The lyrics are also contained in the book Rhymes of the Rookies published in 1917. The author of these poems was W.E. Christian. The book is available online in several formats. It consists of a series of poems regarding military life prior to World War I.

Some websites, including the official USMC website,[4] claim that the U.S. Marine Corps secured a copyright on the song either 19 August 1891 or 18 August 1919;[5] however, U.S. Copyright Law prohibits the federal government, including subordinate agencies, from holding domestic copyrights,[6] and in this way, the song falls into the public domain. However, several composers do hold copyrights on different arrangements of the song. These copyrights cover only the specific arrangements and not the song as a whole.[7] In 1929 the commandant of the Marine Corps authorized the three verses of the Marines' Hymn as the official version, but changed the fifth through eighth lines:

Pre-1929 version Authorized change
Admiration of the nation,
we're the finest ever seen;
And we glory in the title
Of United States Marines.
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.

This older version can be heard in the 1951 film Halls of Montezuma. On 21 November 1942, Commandant Thomas Holcomb approved a change in the words of the first verse's fourth line from "On the land as on the sea" to "In the air, on land, and sea" to reflect the addition of aviation to the Corps' arsenal.[8]

Western Illinois University uses the hymn prior to all football games. They are the only nonmilitary academy allowed to use the hymn. The university has had permission to use the official nickname, mascot, and hymn of the Corps since 1927.


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 ev'ry 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.

See also


  1. "The Marines' Hymn". United States Marine Corps Band. Archived from the original on 2007-04-28. Retrieved 2007-04-20.
  2. "To the Shores of Tripoli: Battle of Derna". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  3. Kelly, Jack (April 12, 2009). "Kill the pirates". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  4. "What is the Marines' Hymn?". Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  5. Fuld, James J. (2000). The Book of World-Famous Music (Fifth ed.). N.Y.: Dover.
  6. 17 U.S.C. § 105
  7. United States. Library of Congress. Copyright Office. Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third Series - Music. Part 5. No. 1. Sec. 1. Washington:, 1970. p. 830. Print.
  8. Marine Corps Lore. Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Department of the Navy. 1963. p. 17.


Further reading

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