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The Early History of the U.S.M.C. "From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea."

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1805: Battle of Derna
In 1805, the United States government refused to continue paying Barbary Coast pirates to refrain from raiding American merchant ships.

When negotiations for a treaty failed, President Thomas Jefferson assembled an expeditionary force of Marines to respond.

Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon and his Marines marched across 600 miles of the Libyan Desert to successfully storm the fortified Tripolitan city of Derna and rescue the kidnapped crew of the USS Philadelphia.

The Marines’ victory helped Prince Hamet Bey reclaim his rightful throne as ruler of Tripoli. In gratitude, he presented his Mameluke sword to Lt O’Bannon.

This famous sword became part of the officer uniform in 1825, and remains the oldest ceremonial weapon in use by United States forces today.

The Battle of Derna was the Marines' first battle on foreign soil, and is notably recalled in the first verse of the Marines’ Hymn: "From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea."

1847: The Battle of Chapultepec
The Mexican-American War played a critical role in defining the border between the two nations that remains in place today.

In 1847, knowing that the capture of the Palacio Nacional would greatly disarm the Mexican army, the Marines stormed the enemy fortress during the Battle of Chapultepec.

After two days of battle, the Marines gained control of the castle, better known as the “Halls of Montezuma.”

The Marines were then given the honor of raising the Stars and Stripes over the palace to mark their victory. Upon returning home, the same Marines presented their flag to the commandant.

The victory at the “Halls of Montezuma” remains a part of Marine Corps tradition, immortalized in the opening line of the famed Marines’ Hymn.

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