Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 7

As we continue on our journey forward in time, the seventh part of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps takes us up to and through World War II and the awards handed out for service during World War II and immediately following World War II. Because the war took place in a number of different locations, many awards were created to recognize service in differing regions of the world. While World War I was fought nearly exclusively in Europe, World War II had a number of different theaters to include the American Theater, European Theater, and Pacific Theater. Follow along as we cover each theater and the awards associated with service in each.

American Defense Service

Established in 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American Defense Service streamer was awarded to units that “performed military duty between September 8, 1939 and December 7, 1941.” These dates signify the period of World War II in which the United States had not formally participated. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States in the famous Attack on Pearl Harbor. After the attack, the United States became heavily involved in the war and subsequent service streamers were created to commemorate those campaigns.

American Campaign

Established in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American Campaign streamer was awarded to units who served in the American Theater during World War II. The American Theater consists of North and South America as well as the neighboring islands in the region. The vast majority of the action during World War II took place in Europe and Asia; however many well known battles did take place in the American Theater, including the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the Aleutian Islands Campaign and the attacks on Newfoundland. To receive the award, a unit must have served with the American theater between December 7, 1941 and March 2, 1946 and met one of the following criteria:

-On permanent assignment outside the continental limits of the United States

-Permanently assigned as a member of a crew of a vessel sailing ocean waters for a period of 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days

-Outside the continental limits of the United States in a passenger status or on temporary duty for 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days

-In active combat against the enemy and was awarded a combat decoration or furnished a certificate by the commanding general of a corps, higher unit, or independent force that the Soldier actually participated in combat

-Within the continental limits of the United States for an aggregate period of 1 year

European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign

Established in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign streamer was awarded to units that “had performed military duty in the European Theater (to include North Africa and the Middle East) during the years of the Second World War.” The majority of the conflicts during World War II occurred in the European Theater and US Marines were instrumental in securing victory on the European front. Known as the EAME streamer for short, the award is given to units who served between December 7, 1941 and March 2, 1946 assuming the service took place between the following locations:

-West boundary – From the North Pole, south along the 75th meridian west longitude to the 77th parallel north latitude, thence southeast through Davis Strait to the intersection of the 40th parallel north latitude and the 35th meridian west longitude, thence south along that meridian to the 10th parallel north latitude, thence southeast to the intersection of the equator and the 20th meridian west longitude, thence along the 20th meridian west longitude to the South Pole

-East boundary – From the North Pole, south along the 60th meridian east longitude to its intersection with the eastern border of Iran, thence south along that border to the Gulf of Oman and the intersection of the 60th meridian east longitude, thence south along the 60th meridian east longitude to the South Pole.

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign

Established in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign streamer was awarded to units that “served in the Pacific Theater from 1941 to 1945.” The United States Marine Corps participated in 50 campaigns in the Pacific Theater. Therefore, the streamer is adorned with eight silver stars and one bronze star. Each Silver Star signifies six awards of the streamer and each bronze star signifies an additional award. Some notable campaigns that occurred in the Pacific Theater include the Battle of Midway, Wake Island and Guadalcanal.

World War II Victory

Established in 1945 by an Act of Congress, the World War II Victory streamer was awarded to units “for service between 7 December 1941 and 31 December 1946.” Originally called the “Victory streamer,” the award was issued to units, both active duty and reserve, who served between the dates listed above. In an interesting twist, despite the namesake, some units received the award without actually participating in World War II. This is because President Harry Truman did not declare an official end to war until the end of 1946, even though the war ended on September 2, 1945. Therefore, receipt of the award does not necessarily signify that a unit fought in World War II, but instead was a part of the military at some point prior to December 31, 1946.

Navy Occupation Service

After the close of World War II, much like after World War I, United States troops occupied regions of Europe and Asia to enforce post-war sanctions and ensure stability in the region. While the streamer is a Navy award, it can be “issued to Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard personnel who participated in the European and Asian occupation forces during World War II, and following the close of the World War II.” Because forces occupied regions of Europe and Asia, two service clasps bearing the name of the region are authorized for attachment if a unit served in that region. If a unit served in both regions, both clasps are authorized.

Follow along next week as we move forward in time to cover the National Defense Service, Korean Service, Armed Forces Expeditionary, Vietnam Service, Southwest Asia Service, and Kosovo Campaign streamers. Be sure to check out the previous editions of our series below as well!


Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 6

In the sixth installation of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps, we move forward in time to cover more modern history. In this installation, we see the rise of Germany as the primary enemy of the United States. In our previous edition, you learned that Germany supported the rebel forces during the Haitian Campaign, leading to tense relations between the two nations. In this edition, you will see the tension develop and finally reach a breaking point during World War I. This period of United States military history also signifies the rise of the United States as a true world power and dominant presence in international relations.

Dominican Campaign

By 1916, the Dominican Republic had endured a number of military coups and changes in power. This was causing tension and unrest in the area and the United States felt it necessary to intervene and stabilize the region, especially since they were simultaneously reconstructing Haiti, which shares a border with the Dominican Republic. On May 13, 1916, under the threat of military action from the United States, the Dominican Republic’s Secretary of War Desiderio Arias left the Dominican Republic for good. Within two months, the United States Marines had seized control of the country and began to restore order. Only the eastern region, the area that borders Haiti, was still in utter chaos. However by 1921 the eastern rebels were defeated and the United States had restored complete order to the Dominican Republic. Crippling debt was eliminated, the government had a balanced budget, and the economy was once again growing. Massive infrastructure was also built and new roads were paved while a new and legitimate military was formed. By 1924, a democratic President had been elected, and control was once again handed over to the Dominican Republic, making them a sovereign nation.  For a unit to receive the Dominican Campaign streamer, they “must have performed active military duty in the Dominican Republic between the dates of May 5 and December 4, 1916.”

World War I Victory

World War I is a war with which most Americans are familiar. The war was one of the deadliest in world history, with over 9 million soldiers killed in battle. Initially, the United States stayed neutral, attempting to reach peace without intervention. However when a German U-boat sank the British ship RMS Lusitania, 128 Americans were killed and the wheels were set in motion for American involvement in World War I. The breaking point was the Zimmerman Telegram, sent by the German Foreign Minister, which urged Mexico to join the war as a German ally against the United States. The Mexicans would receive German financing to win back Texas, New Mexico and Arizona in return. The telegraph was intercepted and published for the American public. They believed this was a reason to enter the war. The United States entered the war and helped to secure victory for the Allies on November 11, 1918. Originally known as the Victory Streamer, the World War I Victory streamer was awarded to units who had served in the United States armed forces between April 6, 1917 and November 11, 1918. It was also awarded between November 12, 1918 and August 5, 1919 in European Russia or November 23, 1918 and April 1, 1920 with the American Expeditionary Force Siberia.

Army Occupation of Germany

After World War I, Germany faced a number of sanctions as part of the terms of the armistice that ended the war. From 1918 until 1923, members of the United States armed forces, including a number of Marines, served in Germany or areas formerly occupied by Germany and Austria-Hungary to enforce the terms and occupy the countries to ensure civility. The Army Occupation of Germany streamer was awarded retroactively to units “of the U.S. military who served in the European occupation force following the close of the First World War.”

Second Nicaraguan Campaign

Following the initial campaign in Nicaragua in 1912, the United States turned oversight of rebel forces over to the Nicaraguan government. By 1926, the rebels were once again wreaking havoc and causing civil unrest. On August 27, 1926, Marines entered Nicaragua to protect the lives, as well as property of American citizens. Bandits had been pillaging goods and harming US citizens to get it. Once the Americans were protected, the Marines turned their attention to supporting the Nicaraguan government in suppressing thievery and insurrection. The Marines were also instrumental in training the national police force and supervising national elections in order to avoid corruption and unrest. By 1933, the job was done, and Nicaragua was once again a civil nation capable of governing itself. The Second Nicaraguan Campaign streamer is awarded to units that “served on a United States ship or as an embarked Marine, in the waters or land territory of Nicaragua between the dates of August 27, 1926 and January 2, 1933.”

Yangtze Service

From 1926-27, the US Navy, supported by Marines on the ground, served in China on the Yangtze River and in Shanghai to protect American civilians during the Chinese Civil War. Acts of violence against foreigners were rampant, and the United States decided to step in to protect lives. Once peace was reached, the US military presence retreated; however they were called back into action on March 1, 1930 when the Yangtze River valley experienced severe flooding. This time, the military was working in a humanitarian capacity to aid millions of Chinese who were left homeless by the flooding until 1932. The Yangtze Service streamer was awarded to units “for service in the Yangtze River Valley between the dates of September 3, 1926 and December 31, 1932.”

China Service

From 1937-1939, Marines worked in conjunction with the Navy to protect Americans residing in the international settlement in Shanghai. Tensions between China and Japan had boiled over, and Japan was becoming increasingly hostile towards neutral parties such as Americans in China. Aerial bombings were becoming increasingly more frequent as the US Military worked to evacuate United States citizens. By 1939, Americans had been safely evacuated just prior to the start of World War II. After World War II, US troops once again entered China to enforce the Japanese terms of their surrender. The troops were stationed in China and assisted the Chinese government both militarily and in humanitarian efforts to provide food and supplies to famished civilians along the Yangtze River and in Chinese mainland. The effort was complete in 1957 and troops withdrew from the region. The China Service streamer was awarded to units that “served ashore in China or who were attached to any of the vessels that operated in support of the operations in China between 7 July 1937, and 7 September 1939 or between September 2, 1945 and April 1, 1957.”

Stay tuned next week as we cover the American Defense Service, American Campaign, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, World War II Victory and Navy Occupation Service streamers. Also, be sure to check out the previous editions of our 10 part series below!


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

Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 3

In the third installation of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps, we begin to look at the early periods of American history and the Marine Corps’ involvement in each campaign. You may wonder how a modern unit may be awarded a streamer for a campaign that happened hundreds of years ago, so it is important to note that each unit is awarded a streamer based on historical involvement and not just modern campaigns. Once again it is also important to note that some of the streamers are Navy or Army specific, however, if a Marine Corps unit operated as part of the Navy or Army unit that is awarded the streamer, they too receive the streamer in recognition of their efforts. 

Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army)

Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army)

Holding the same value as the Legion of Merit individual award, the Meritorious Unit Commendation is awarded to units for “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services for at least six continuous months during the period of military operations against an armed enemy occurring on or after 1 January 1944.” While the service does not necessarily have to be in a combat zone, the unit’s service must be directly related to the combat effort to receive the award. Furthermore, the unit must “display such outstanding devotion and superior performance of exceptionally difficult tasks as to set it apart and above other units with similar missions.” In 1961, the Army authorized the Meritorious Unit Commendation to be awarded to detachments serving under the Army to receive the award, opening it up to the US Marine Corps and other branches of the service. 

Revolutionary War Streamer

Revolutionary War

Formed at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and authorized by a resolution of the Continental Congress on November 10, 1775, the United States Marine Corps traces its roots to the Continental Marines of the Revolutionary War. These Marines were the first to carry out overseas campaigns. The first campaign was the raid on New Providence in the Bahamas in 1776. The Trenton and Princeton Campaigns under George Washington’s direction came next in December of 1776 and January of 1777 respectively. The Marines also took part in many sea battles throughout the war including John Paul Jones’ descent on Whitehaven, England in 1778. The Marines, being a department of the Navy, operated in marine settings early on, including serving on the Mississippi river during the Revolution.

 Quasi-War with France Streamer

Quasi-War with France

In 1794, Congress established a Navy to protect American commerce as its expanding shipping lanes came under fire by privateers of Revolutionary France. Once an ally, France became an enemy of the United States during their own Revolution. This led to an undeclared war that was fought entirely at sea, mainly in the Mediterranean and West Indian Waters from 1798-1801. The warship Constellation won two victories over the French during this period, and early Marines assisted in the operations under the command of Captain Thomas Truxtun, who was known for his high standards and crew demands. The battles came to an end when France agreed to a peace treaty, having been thoroughly defeated by the US and British ships who worked together.  

Barbary Wars Streamer

Barbary Wars

In 1801 the United States deployed Navy ships to the Mediterranean to patrol the African coast, form blockades, attack pirate fortresses on the shore and work to prevent the overall success of Barbary piracy. The United States had become fed up with the Barbary States of North Africa (what are now Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya) plundering commerce ships for centuries via piracy. By 1805, the United States gradually pulled out their naval presence and would soon be immersed in the War of 1812. During this period, Barbary Coast piracy began to increase so in 1815 the United States once again sent Navy ships to patrol the waters. After periods of unwavering force, the rulers in Barbary succumbed to US power and came to a diplomatic agreement to stop the piracy. Marines were a constant presence on the Navy ships and were vital in battles such as the destruction of the pirate captured ship Philadelphia and the ship Intrepid’s quest to destroy enemy ships in the Tripoli Harbor. 

War of 1812 Streamer

War of 1812

The Marines played a vital role in all of the Navy’s engagements during the War of 1812. Marines fought in the Battle of Lake Erie and were instrumental in the ship Constitution’s victory over the British ship Guerriere. Aside from assisting the Navy, the Marines also fought extensively on land, engaging in the attack on Fort George, the Defense of Sackett’s Harbor and the capture of Toronto, among other battles.  

African Slave Trade Streamer

African Slave Trade

In 1819, Congress declared that the African Slave Trade was piracy and, therefore, punishable by death. With the new piracy classification, it fell upon the US Navy to patrol the waters of West Africa where the slaves were captured.  Additionally, US Marines operated in South America and Cuba, the primary disembarkation point of slaves. The primary goal was to locate, capture and prosecute people dealing in human trade. The initiative lasted for over 40 years, and the Marines were instrumental in assisting the Navy in their capture of over 100 slave traders.

Stay tuned as we continue our series next week, moving forward in American history to cover the Operations Against West Indian Pirates, Indian Wars, Mexican War, Civil War, Marine Corps Expeditionary, and Spanish Campaign streamers.

View our previous editions in the series:

Part 1

Part 2

Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 2

In the next nine editions of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps, we will cover six streamers per week to outline all 54 streamers of the United States Marine Corps. Before outlining each, it is important to note that some of the streamers are for the Navy or Army; however they can be awarded to a Marine Corps unit if they operated as part of the Army or Navy unit receiving the streamer.

Presidential Unit Citation (Navy)

Presidential Unit Citation (Navy)

The Presidential Unit Citation is the highest honor a unit can receive and is awarded to units that “display such gallantry, determination, and espirit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign”. Originally called the Distinguished Unit Citation, the Presidential Unit Citation has been awarded to units for extraordinary heroism dating back to December 7th 1941, which marks the start of the United States’ involvement in WWII.

Presidential Unit Citation (Army)

Presidential Unit Citation (Army)

Much like the Navy’s version of the award, the Army’s Presidential Unit Citation is the highest honor a unit can receive. The criteria for award is exactly the same in that it is awarded to units that “display such gallantry, determination, and espirit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign”. The Army has also been awarding the streamer dating back to the dawn of the US involvement in WWII, beginning with the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Joint Meritorious Unit Award

Joint Meritorious Unit Award

The Joint Meritorious Unit Award is the only streamer awarded by the Department of Defense. Established in 1981 by the Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award is given to “joint units or activities where the joint activity must either report through Unified, Combined, or Specified Command channels or pursue a joint mission under the cognizance of the Secretary of Defense; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the commander of a Unified, Specified or Combined Command that is also a joint command; or the Secretary of a military department that has been designated the Executive Agent for the Secretary of Defense”. The award has been granted retroactively dating back to 1979 and is considered to be a high honor, representing the equivalent of the Defense Superior Service Medal.

Navy Unit Commendation

Navy Unit Commendation

The Navy Unit Commendation, established by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal in 1944, is the unit equivalent of the Silver Star Medal for individuals. The streamer is awarded by the Navy Secretary to “any ship; aircraft wing, group, squadron, detachment or crew; or other unit of the United States Navy or Marine Corps which has since 6 December 1941 distinguished itself in action against the enemy with outstanding heroism but not sufficient to justify award of the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation”. Furthermore, the streamer can be awarded for combat service that went above and beyond other units performing a similar duty.

Valorous Unit Award (Army)

Valorous Unit Award (Army)

The Valorous Unit Award is an Army streamer that can be presented to a Marine Corps unit if they served alongside an Army unit and demonstrated equal courage in battle. Representing the second highest award a unit can receive, the Valorous Unit Award is equivalent to the individual achievement, the Silver Star. The award is presented to a unit for “extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent part for actions occurring on or after 3 August 1963”. Despite the high honor, the streamer is awarded for lesser degrees of “gallantry, determination, and espirit de corps” than the recipients of the Presidential Unit Citation.

Meritorious Unit Commendation (Navy/Marine Corps)

Meritorious Unit Commendation (Navy/Marine Corps)

A mid-level award issued in the name of the Secretary of the Navy, the Meritorious Unit Commendation is given to “any military command which displays exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service, heroic deeds, or valorous actions”. Units in the Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard are eligible to receive the award when operating with the United States Navy.

Stay tuned for our next installation, which covers the Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army), Revolutionary War, Quasi-War with France, Barbary Wars, War of 1812 and African Slave Trade streamers. We will be posting a set of six streamers each week and you won’t want to miss it!

The Marines Have Landed: A 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps

The Marines Have Landed: A 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps

Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps

Dating back to the American Revolution, the United States Marine Corps has used the practice of awarding battle streamers to units that participated in certain campaigns. There are a total of 54 authorized battle streamers for the United States Marine Corps and each unit may have a different set depending on their historical campaign deployments. In this 10 part series, we will cover each and every battle streamer and include a synopsis of what took place during each campaign.

Before delving into each individual streamer, it is important to cover the history of battle streamers and the flag to which they are attached, as well as how to they got to the present practice of attaching them to the flag staff. The trend follows a general progression from standardization to differentiation among units.


Due to conflicting information and unreliable documentation during the early periods of the Marine Corps, very little is certain about the early flags; however it is generally agreed upon among historians that the first flag was the Grand Union Flag, carried by the battalion commanded by Captain Samuel Nicholas in 1776. Although most believe that the first flag was the Grand Union Flag, some admit that it is possible that the Rattlesnake (Gadsen) flag was also carried during this time.

Grand Union Flag & The Rattlesnake Flag

Pictured to the left is the Grand Union Flag, and to the right, the Rattlesnake Flag. One or both were the first flags carried by the United States Marine Corps in 1776.

As time passed and the quest for uniformity was developing, the United States Marine Corps adopted a white flag with gold fringe and an anchor and eagle design in the middle during the 1830’s-40’s. Before the Mexican War, “To the Shores of Tripoli” was emblazoned across the top, however after the war; the phrase was changed to “From Tripoli to the Halls of the Montezumas”. Although the Marine Corps developed an official flag, the troops in the field still carried a flag similar to the United States flag. Historians agree that the flag used in the field was red and white striped with a union in the upper left, however the union had an eagle perched on a shield with half a wreath below. 29 stars encircled the entire design to complete the field use flag.

In an effort to combine the two designs and have one official flag for the Marine Corps, in 1876 the Marines began to use the United States flag, however “U.S. Marine Corps” was written in yellow on the center red stripe. This design lasted less than 40 years and in 1914 the Marine Corps adopted a new flag, this time blue with a laurel wreath encircling the Marine Corps emblem. Two scarlet ribbons, one above and one below read “U.S. Marine Corps” and “Semper Fidelis” respectively. A yellow fringe surrounded the entire flag. Due to a lack of modern technology or photography during this time, very few pictures exist; however modern estimations of what they looked like do exist as you can see below.

USMC 1914 Flag

Pictured above are estimations of what the Marine Corps flag looked like circa 1914.

Between 1921 and 1922, all flags were ordered to remove the yellow exterior fringes as well as any “U.S. Marine Corps” wording on the flag. In April of 1925, gold and scarlet were designated as the official colors of the United States Marine Corps; however it was not until 1939 that the official flag was changed to represent these color choices. The new flag design for 1939 is still in use today has remained essentially unchanged since. The current design is shown below.

Official United States Marine Corps Flag

Pictured above is the official United States Marine Corps flag. It has remained unchanged since 1939.


After World War I, the Marine Corps began to differentiate among units and adopted the Army’s practice of attaching band decorations recognizing certain battles that each unit served in to the official flag. These band decorations would later be known as the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps. Realizing that there were numerous streamers for each unit and limited space to attach them, in 1939 the Marine Corps made the decision to attach the streamers to the top of the flag staff where they still reside today.

United State Marine Corps Battle Streamers On Staff

Pictured above are the battle streamers attached in their current position at the top of the staff.

With standardization fully established, the battle streamers represented a way to differentiate between the units within the Marine Corps. There are a total of 54 battle streamers and 50 of them are authorized for the Marine Corps as a whole. Depending on the campaigns that each unit participated in, each unit has a unique set of battle streamers. Battle streamers have been issued since the American Revolution so it is important to note that the streamers do not represent solely current campaigns, but instead historical campaigns as well. In our next nine installations, we will look at each streamer and discuss in depth each campaign. Stay tuned Patriots!