Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Marine Corps Hymn Redux

The Marines' Hymn is arguably the most recognizable military theme on the planet. It still sends chills up my spine whenever I hear it, even all these years after leaving the service.

The music itself is from the 1859 Jacques Offenbach comic opera Genevieve de Brabant. Ironically, it's the piece called the Gendarme's Duet, in which two French cops sing about how lazy and afraid of confrontation they are. Supposedly, a Marine officer stationed in Paris heard this popular tune, and it later was used as the basis for the Hymn.  Here is the Gendarme's Duet.

I think most people know at least the first part of The Marines' Hymn lyrics: From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.

The "halls of Montezuma" refers to the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War. In 1847, Marines led an attack on artillery emplacements within the Mexican army stronghold, Chapultepec Castle. The elimination of the artillery allowed other forces to enter the citadel. Some other pretty good, albeit non-Marine, fighters present included Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and George Pickett (of Pickett's charge).

The "shores of Tripoli" refers to the Battle of Derne during the First Barbary War. In 1804, 1st Lt. Presley O'Bannon and just eight Marines spearheaded a force of 500 mercenaries in assaulting Derne, Tripoli. O'Bannon raised the American flag on the fortress wall. He was later awarded the Mameluke sword by the Ottoman Empire monarch's representative. Swords based on the Mameluke design are still worn by Marine officers today. It looks like this:

Put it all together, and it sounds like this: Please stand at attention while this plays!

No comments: