Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 5

We have reached the halfway point of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps and have also reached the midway point of American military history. In this 5th installment, we move forward in time to cover the United States’ intervention in other parts of the world as the country grew towards becoming a world superpower. With independence won and the country finally at peace, the United States turned their attention to global issues and began to expand their influence worldwide. Follow along below to see the military transition from primarily a homeland security focus to an international force worldwide.

Philippine Campaign

Following the Spanish-American War, the United States took control of the Philippines from Spain, and it quickly erupted into chaos with long standing tensions reaching a breaking point in 1899. Filipino revolutionary forces fought for their freedom beginning on February 4th, and this battle led to the Second Battle of Manila. By June, the “First Philippine Republic” had declared war against the United States. However, within 3 short years and lopsided causalities for the Filipinos mounting, the war was officially over on July 4th, 1902. In a cruel twist of fate, the Filipinos failed to gain their independence on the very same date that the United States had declared theirs. Despite the official end of the war, some Filipino groups continued to fight the United States’ soldiers, primarily in remote areas, until 1913 when all rebellions were halted by the overwhelming American victory at the Battle of Bud Bagsak. The Philippine Campaign streamer is awarded to units that served in the Philippine-American War between 1899 and 1913. 

China Relief Expedition

During the Boxer Rebellion, which lasted in China from 1898-1901, the Chinese government demanded that all foreigners leave the country immediately. When some refused, and violence escalated, the United States military intervened and, from 1900-1901, took part in the rescue effort to save the remaining United States citizens, as well as Europeans and other foreigners. Once the rescue was complete, the tail end of the mission saw the United States military working to suppress the rebellion. By the start of 1902, the rebellion had been controlled, and the United States withdrew their troops, ending the China Relief Expedition. In recognition for their service, the China Relief Expedition streamer was awarded to units of “both the United States Navy and the United States Marines for service in the China Relief Expedition between 1900 and 1901 during the Boxer Rebellion.”

 Cuban Pacification

The Cuban Pacification, also known as the Second Occupation of Cuba, began in September of 1906 when American troops invaded Cuba. After the collapse of Cuba’s Presidential regime, it was deemed necessary by President Theodore Roosevelt to invade Cuba in order to prevent further fighting amongst the Cubans. This helped to protect the United States’ economic interests and re-establish free elections. After many years of occupation and the democratic election of a new president, Cuba was determined to be once again stable, and American troops withdrew from Cuba in 1909. In order to receive the Cuban Pacification streamer, a unit “was required to serve in the United States occupation force, garrisoned on the island of Cuba between the dates of October 6, 1906 and April 1, 1909.” 

Nicaraguan Campaign

In the summer of 1912, a group of armed rebels in Nicaragua fortified an area with heavy railroad traffic and began to interrupt trains and pilfer the goods traveling on the railroad. After repeated requests by the President of Nicaragua to surrender and evacuate the area were defied, the United States Navy, supported by the United States Marine Corps launched an attack on October 4, 1912. The Marines participated in the Attack on Coyotype, the Skirmish at Chichigalpa, and the Capture of Leon. By November of 1912, the United States had completed a resounding victory and pulled out, believing the Nicaraguan government to be capable of maintaining the region previously occupied by rebel forces. The Nicaraguan Campaign streamer was awarded to “U.S. Navy personnel and U.S. Marines who had participated in amphibious actions in Nicaragua between 29 July and 14 November 1912.”

Mexican Service

In 1914, tensions between the United States and Mexico had once again reached a breaking point, and a series of engagements were soon to follow. From 1914-1919, a number of operations against Mexican forces took place, and each merited the award of the Mexican Service streamer. The engagements, in chronological order, are as follows: Veracruz Expedition, Punitive Expedition into Mexico, Buena Vista, San Bernadino Canyon, La Grulla Texas, Pilares, Nogales Arizona, El Paso Texas and Ciudad Juarez. The United States Marines worked in conjunction with the Navy to quell hostile Mexicans and establish peace in the region. The Mexican service streamer was awarded to units that participated in any of the aforementioned campaigns.

Haitian Campaign

From 1911-1915, Haiti began a downward spiral into lawlessness and chaos. In that 4 year period, several assassinations and exiles led to six presidential changes and numerous revolutionary coups causing disorder. Rivals to the political group in power would enlist poverty stricken individuals from regions near the border of the Dominican Republic to upstage the current party with the promise of riches if they succeeded. This happened many times and finally the United States decided to step in to protect American interests in the region and avoid foreign powers, specifically Germany, from attaining a stronghold in the region so close to the American border. Marines landed in Haiti on July 28, 1915 and began the process of stabilizing the crumbling political situation in which Haiti was experiencing. With German backing, the rebels initially resisted American control of Haiti. However, with Germany fully engulfed in World War I, the rebellions were quickly quelled, and the United States was able to complete a total overhaul of Haiti. The overhaul saw the United States recompose the Haitian Constitution, establish a National Guard, and revamp the infrastructure to include roads, bridges, irrigation canals, hospitals and schools. The Haitian Campaign streamer was awarded to units of “both the Navy and Marine Corps who had participated in Haitian peacekeeping actions between the years of 1915 and 1920.”

Stay tuned next week as we continue our journey towards present day by covering the: Dominican Campaign, World War I Victory, Army Occupation of Germany, Second Nicaraguan Campaign, Yangtze Service and China Service streamers. Also be sure to check out the previous editions of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps below!

PART 1  PART 2  PART 3  PART 4

Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 4

We continue in our journey through American history towards present day America in the fourth installation of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps. In this edition, you’ll learn that the early Marines not only fought against foreign military aggression, but also against pirates and rebels within our own borders. As you’ll see, it is very clear why the Marine Corps is recognized as a Department of the Navy. An overwhelming number of early Marine campaigns were under the direction of the Navy and fought at sea. 

Operations Against West Indian Pirates

In the early 1820’s, the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico was infested with pirates accountable for almost 3,000 attacks on merchant ships. Having caused significant financial loss while also frequently murdering and torturing their victims, the pirates were ruthless in their attacks on commerce. Fed up with the incessant pillaging of merchant ships, the Navy created the West India Squadron in 1822. Led by Commodores James Biddle, David Porter and Lewis Warrington, the squadron was tasked with eliminating piracy in the area. The mission was a dangerous one for a number of reasons aside from the inherent danger of fighting pirates, often in close quarters. The sailors were frequently exposed to brutal storms, blistering heat, yellow fever and malaria. Despite the dangers, the Navy squadron, assisted by the Marines, relentlessly defeated the pirates over a period of 10 years. By the early 1830’s piracy in the Caribbean was nearly non-existent and the sailors returned home having completed a rigorous mission that made essential shipping lanes once again safe for all nations. 

Indian Wars

It is no secret that the United States military fought several wars against Native American Indians. Many, however, many do not know that the United States Marine Corps also fought in some of the campaigns. Beginning in 1811 in Florida, the Marines assisted with operations against Indians. The Marines took part in the Battle of Twelve Mile Swamp, where a group of Indians ambushed a convoy of wagons being escorted by the Marines. One Marine lost his life and was the first killed in the line of duty since 1806.  By 1836, the Marines had been involved in a number of battles against the Indians, including the Creek Indian War, the War against the Seminoles and the Battle of Hatchee-Lustee. The Marines also patrolled the coasts of southern and eastern Florida as well as the Everglades. These patrol groups were known as the “Mosquito Fleet” because of the dense mosquito population in the areas in which they worked. 

Mexican War

In 1845, the United States annexed Texas, making it a state and infuriating Mexico, as they believed Texas was part of their territory and did not rightfully belong to the United States despite the Texas Revolution in 1836. In 1846 tension between the United States and Mexico boiled over and the Mexican War was underway. The Navy’s Pacific Squadron, assisted by the Marines, successfully blockaded Mexico’s eastern and western coasts and also captured many of Mexico’s vital ports. After completing the blockade, Navy troops entered from the Gulf of Mexico and fought their way up the rivers to capture other Mexican forts and supply lines. Attacks then shifted from the east to the west where the Navy successfully captured California. They then began to work from both the east and the west to squeeze Mexico into surrender when Mexico City was captured. As part of the treaty, the Rio Grande was established as the border between Mexico and Texas and the agreement still holds true today.

Civil War

During the civil war, a key to the northern victory was the Union Navy’s blockade of the southern coast. Spanning more than 3,000 miles from Virginia to Texas, the blockade cut off the supply lines, effectively crippling the confederate economy, and also prevented foreign countries from intervening. Most Marines in the Civil War served as “seagoing detachments” on the ships of the blockade squadrons. When the Marines did participate in attacks on land, they were primarily amphibious based attacks that led to landfall under the direction of the Navy. For example, the Marines were instrumental in the sinking of CSS Alabama and the seizing of Mobile Bay in 1864. Other Marines were tasked with searching the seas for Confederate ships that were raiding commerce. Many Marines also served on the Mississippi river in gunboats, patrolling the waters and maintaining the Union blockade on Confederate commerce.  The defining characteristic of the early Marines was their penchant for battle on the water as a department of the Navy.

 

Marine Corps Expeditionary

Established in 1919 and first awarded in 1929, the Marine Corps Expeditionary Streamer is issued to a unit that “engaged in a landing on foreign territory, participated in combat operations against an opposing force, or must have participated in a designated operation for which no other service medal is authorized.” When representing the Marine Corps as a whole, the streamer is adorned with twelve silver stars, four bronze stars and one silver “W.” The stars represent the roughly 76 expeditions in which the Marine Corps participated and the silver W is in recognition of the defense of Wake Island during the dawn of WWII.

 

Spanish Campaign

In 1898, long-standing tensions between the United States and Spain reached a breaking point when the American ship USS Maine was sunk by a Spanish explosion on February 15th. The vast majority of the crew on board the ship perished in the strike. Emotions from the tragedy led to a quick and resounding victory for the United States Navy, assisted by the Marine Corps. On May 1st, the Pacific Squadron of the Navy destroyed the entire Spanish fleet in Manila Bay of the Philippine Islands. Less than two months later, the Navy completed a resounding victory over the Spanish outside of Santiago, Cuba; which was at the time a Spanish colony. The Marines also executed beach landings in Cuba and Puerto Rico, another Spanish colony, during this time, in collaboration with the Army. The streamer was originally issued to any unit of the Navy or Marine Corps who “had served in the Philippine Islands between the dates of May 1st and August 16th, 1898.” Those serving in the West Indies (Cuba and Puerto Rico) were awarded the West Indies Campaign streamer. In 1913 it was discontinued, and the Spanish Campaign streamer was awarded to “any member of the Navy or Marine Corps who had served on active duty during the Spanish American War.”

Stay tuned for next week’s edition of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps. We will move forward in history to cover the: Philippine Campaign, China Relief Expedition, Cuban Pacification, Nicaraguan Campaign, Mexican Service and Haitian Campaign streamers. Also be sure to check out our previous editions of the series below!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3