March 3, 1776: First Amphibious Landing By US Marine Corps

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A Brief History

On March 3, 1776, the Continental Navy and Continental Marines, the forces that would become the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps, conducted the first amphibious operation in US military history when a raid on Nassau in the Bahamas was conducted, known as The Raid on Nassau or sometimes called The Battle of Nassau.

Digging Deeper

Marines in general and the United States Marine Corps in particular are a military force of fighting men (and today, women as well) that are considered a ‘naval’ military service and work closely with the Navy.  Marines are used by the US as embassy security, amphibious troops for expeditionary service (landings on hostile shores, ground fighting troops delivered by ships and helicopters), service aboard ships as part of the ship’s compliment, operating the President’s helicopter, and other such missions as assigned by the President or Secretary of the Navy. (see http://www.theusmarines.com/Mission/ for the official USMC statement.)  The US Marine Corps traces its origin to November 10, 1775 at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.

Back in the age of sail, Marines would man the rigging and provide small arms fire on enemy ships, similar to the snipers of today.  Marines also served as boarding parties and as a landing force for amphibious raids, as in the Raid on Nassau.

The Raid on Nassau was executed by 210 Marines with 50 sailors under the command of Samuel Nicholas, transported to Nassau by 6 ships (2 firgates, 2 brigs, 1 schooner and 1 sloop).  The action is considered one of the first combat actions of the US Navy and US Marine Corps.  The objective of the raid was to seize gunpowder, arms, and munitions from the British stockpiles in the Bahamas, of which Nassau was the chief city and capital.  When the initial landing at the port failed to achieve surprise, a new landing spot was chosen and the landing force was landed unopposed. 

The failure to achieve surprise resulted in the British evacuating much of the stores of gunpowder to a fast ship that escaped since the US Navy commander failed to post warships to block the port.  The landing force took over the local fort, and the next day marched into the town of Nassau and occupied the place, removing all the munitions and gunpowder (38 casks) they could find.  British militia men (110 of them) were not all that enthused about resisting, and many had deserted.  The Marines stayed 2 weeks in Nassau gathering such military booty, and the fleet sailed home safely.

The Battle of Nassau is memorialized by the US Navy and US Marine Corps by the naming of an amphibious assault ship, the USS Nassau LHA-4, in honor of the action.  (The previous USS Nassau CVE-16 was actually named after the waters outside of Nassau, Nassau Sound.)

The US Navy-US Marine Corps team went on to perform heroically in battles and landings throughout US History, and continues to do so today.  No other Navy or Marine Corps in the world comes anywhere near the capabilities of the US Navy or US Marine Corps.

Question for students (and subscribers): Has anyone in your family served in the U.S. Marines Corps?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Bartlett, Merrill L., Jack Sweetman, et al.  Leathernecks: An Illustrated History of the United States Marine Corps.  Naval Institute Press, 2018.

Hearn, Chester G.  Marines: An Illustrated History.  Zenith Press, 2015.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.