Origin of Marine Corps Hymn

Carl | June 27, 2013 

According to legend, the first verse of the Marine Corps Hymn was written by a Marine veteran of the Mexican War and sung to a folk tune heard in Mexico. The words “From the Shores of Tripoli to the Halls of the Montezumas” appeared on Marine Corps standards shortly after the war, but the author reversed them with poetic license. The Civil War then gave new popularity to the Hymn.

In 1878 a member of the Marine Band reported that his wife remembered the melody as a folk song heard during her childhood in Spain. John Philip Sousa, long a leader of the MarineBand,
identified the tune as a song in Jacques Offenbach’s comic opera, “Genevieve de Brabant”, first performed in Paris in 1859. It is known, however, that Offenbach liked to use Spanish folk music as a basis for his melodies.

A variety of verses were added to the first one through the years–each Marine campaign inspiring new ones. But by 1890 the first verse, at least, had become standard. The words remained settled until 1919 when the Commandant approved a revision of the
last four lines, which were previously as follows:

Admiration of the Nation
We’re the finest ever seen,
And we glory in the title of
United States Marine.

In 1942, by way of tribute to Marine aviation the line “On the land as on the sea” was changed to “In the air, on land, and sea.”

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