The emblem of the United States Marine Corps is one of the most recognizable symbols in America. The Corps accepts only the most elite, dedicated soldiers, and that dedication truly lasts a lifetime. Marines proudly display the Corps emblem on their vehicles, their clothing and even their skin!
The flag of the Marine Corps flies outside homes across the country, showing support for the members of this elite group that protects our country. While the flag displays the iconic emblem, there are also other important features to understand on this proud banner and the history behind its creation.
The Marine Corps flag we know today bears very little resemblance to the flags carried by U.S. Marines in the 19th and even early 20th centuries. It is not clear which flag the very first Marines who served during the American Revolution carried, though some records indicate they fought under the Grand Union flag and the Gadsden flag.
By the early 1800s, a standard flag had emerged and was the first design to feature an eagle and anchor intertwined. This flag also featured a line from the Marines’ Hymn – “To the Shores of Tripoli.” After their victory in the Mexican-American War, the legend on the flag was modified and read, “From Tripoli to the Halls of the Montezumas.”
Between the American Civil War and the beginning of World War II, the Marine Corp flag went through about three different designs. The longest lasting during that period was the official flag from 1914 to 1939. This flag showcased an emblem in the center that is nearly identical to the emblem we know today.
It featured an eagle with spread wings, perched on top of the globe. The globe was superimposed over a golden anchor and surrounded by a laurel wreath. This early flag also sported red ribbons with the words “United States Marine Corps” and their motto, “Semper Fidelis,” on a navy-blue field.
The official U.S. Marine flag we know today was adopted on January 18, 1939. Similar to its predecessor, the flag features the eagle, globe and anchor centered on the flag, however instead of full color, these appear rendered in gray and gold. The eagle holds a ribbon in its beak that carries the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis. Beneath the emblem is a white ribbon edged in gold with the words, “United States Marine Corps” in red.
The flag itself is red and is edged in gold fringe for indoor and parade flags. When displayed indoors or carried in a parade, the staff is topped with battle streamers and is ringed with silver bands. These bands are engraved with the names of conflicts in which the Corps has fought.
The emblem of the Marine Corps featured on the flag is rich with tradition and meaningful symbols. As in all American symbolism, the eagle features the nation itself, a proud and fierce force to be reckoned with. The eagle surveys all of North America on the globe, and the entire world is within reach of the outstretched wings.
The globe itself represents the international presence and prestige of the Marine Corps. Lastly, the anchor is a nod to the Corps beginnings with the United States Navy. The anchor represents the Navy and the Corps’ ability to sail to any coastline in the world.
When joined together, the emblem is a symbol of the commitment of each Marine who wears it, to defend our nation domestically and abroad, on land, at sea and in the air. This emblem has been a part of the uniform of a U.S. Marine continuously since as early as 1868.
In 1868, Brigadier General Jacob Zellin appointed a board to decide the official devices for the caps of a Marine Corps soldier. The board modified earlier versions of the emblem, featuring only the spread eagle and fouled anchor, and the iconic symbol was born. It became an official emblem of the Marine Corps in 1955 and is commonly referred to as the Eagle, Globe and Anchor or EGA.
In addition to the official flag, the Marines fly many different company guidons and personal flags that indicate regiment, rank and other relevant information. These flags also feature the official colors of the Marines – red and gold. Many parade flags are also topped with battle streamers – a different one to represent each conflict in which the Marine Corps has been involved.
These honored traditions are followed with reverence and pride by Marine Corps families, veterans and active soldiers. Show your support for these brave soldiers by flying the bright banner of the Marine Corps at your home.