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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for November 10th, 2009
by Gerald Boerner


“Let the subject generate its own photograph. Become a camera.”
— Minor White

“For technical data – the camera was faithfully used.”
— Minor White

“When a photograph is a mirror of the man and the man is a mirror of the world, spirit might take over.”
— Minor White

“No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer It has chosen.”
— Minor White

“It follows that ‘self-expression’ as the aim of the photographer is not in itself sufficient.
— Minor White

“No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer It has chosen.”
— Minor White

“Be still with yourself Until the object of your attention Affirms your presence.”
— Minor White

“Often while traveling with a camera we arrive just as the sun slips over the horizon of a moment, too late to expose film, only time enough to expose our hearts.
— Minor White

“When you approach something to photograph it, first be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms your presence. Then don’t leave until you have captured its essence.
— Minor White

“The image may be compared to a detail of the Christmas story. The detail of the animals in adoration of the Birth. The tiny black and white stones in the left signify a birth of something in myself that adores the cosmic force.”
— Minor White


Minor White (1908 – 1976)

Minor White Minor Martin White was an American photographer born in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

White earned a degree in botany with a minor in English from the University of Minnesota in 1933. His first creative efforts were in poetry, as he took five years thereafter to complete a sequence of 100 sonnets while working as a waiter and bartender at the University Club. In 1938, White moved to Portland, Oregon.

Shortly after graduating from college, White purchased a 35 mm Argus camera and traveled to the West Coast. He worked at the Beverly Hotel in Portland, Oregon as a night clerk from 1937 to1938 and began his career in photography.

Becoming a Photographer

While in Portland, White lived at the YMCA. He was active in the Oregon Camera Club and spent his time photographing, exhibiting, and teaching photography to eager students.

In 1938 White was chosen as a creative photographer for the Works Progress Administration. His assignment was to photograph the Portland waterfront and the city’s nineteenth-century iron-façade buildings, which were beginning to be demolished.

White also arranged two exhibitions for the WPA during that time. One was on early Portland architecture; the other, on the Portland waterfront.

White.moonwall In 1940 the WPA sent White to teach photography in its Art Center located in La Grande, Oregon near the Idaho border. He later directed the Center and wrote art criticism for local exhibitions while he was there.

White returned to Portland in 1941 with the intention of establishing a photography business. In the same year, he participated in the Image of Freedom exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Recognizing the high quality of White’s work, the museum acquired some of his images for its permanent collection.

White’s first one-man exhibition of photographs taken in Eastern Oregon was held at the Portland Art Museum in 1942. His photographs were also published in Fair Is Our Land, edited by Samuel Chamberlain during that year. In addition, the Portland Art Museum commissioned White to photograph the Dolph and Lindley houses, two historical residences in the city.

The Army Years

After serving in military intelligence during World War II, White moved to New York City in 1945. He spent two years studying aesthetics and art history at Columbia University under Meyer Schapiro and developing his own distinctive style. He became involved with a circle of influential photographers including Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Ansel Adams; hearing Stieglitz’s idea of "equivalents" from the master himself was crucial to the direction of White’s mature post-war work.

White_The Black Sun_1955 The "equivalents" of White were often photographs of barns, doorways, water, the sky, or simple paint peeling on a wall: things usually considered mundane, but often made special by the quality of the light in which they were photographed. One of his more popular photographs is titled Frost on Window, a close-up of frost crystals on glass. However, in regard to an equivalent, the specific objects themselves are of secondary importance either to the photographer or the viewer. Instead, such a photograph captures a sentiment or emotionally symbolic idea using formal and structural elements that carry a feeling or sense of "recognition": a mirroring of something inside the viewer.

In an essay titled "Equivalence: The Perennial Trend", White described a photographer who took such pictures as one who

"…recognized an object or series of forms that, when photographed, would yield an image with specific suggestive powers that can direct the viewer into a specific and known feeling, state, or place within himself." — Gantz

Because of the way in which he wanted his photographs to be experienced, White was very particular with regard to the both technical aspects of his art and the quality of the images he produced (Lemangy, 192). To transmit his messages—to ‘direct the viewer’—White employs a variety of methods; he creates symbols to represent emotions, he accompanies his images with text or places them in sequence.

The California Years

At Ansel Adams’ invitation, White moved back to the West Coast to join Adams, Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham in the first American fine art photography department which was forming at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. White served from 1946 to 1953. This period of his life was covered in the 2006 book: The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts. White’s first major exhibition was in 1948 at the San Francisco Museum of Art.

White-pacific-devils-slide-california-1947 White co-founded the influential magazine Aperture in 1952 with fellow photographers Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Barbara Morgan; writer/curator Nancy Newhall; and Newhall’s husband, historian Beaumont Newhall. White edited the magazine until 1975.

In 1953 he moved to Rochester, New York and for four years worked as a curator at George Eastman House, and also edited their magazine Image. He taught at the Rochester Institute of Technology from 1956 to 1964. Prominent students from this period include Paul Caponigro and Jerry Uelsmann.

White spent the last ten years of his life teaching at MIT where, among others, he taught Raymond Moore. His class on Zone System photography was very popular. It was restricted to seniors and often oversubscribed. In 1970 he was given a Guggenheim Fellowship.

White’s Style

image White had been interested in the theater throughout his life, beginning in high school, and it was natural that he sometimes worked as a photographer for theater groups. The influence of theatrical work can be seen in much of his photography in his dramatic compositions, expressionistic lighting, and the manner in which he revealed the character of his models.

More than any other photographer of his time, White attempted to explore the depths he perceived beneath the surfaces of things and within his models. He avoided the pictorialism of photographers such as F. Holland Day or the surrealism of artists such as George Platt Lynes, but he attempted to infuse into his photographs a spirituality that might transform the worldly and the carnal.

White’s Nudes

An early sequence that White entitled The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors serves as an example. Consisting of nudes and portraits of a model named Tom Murphy, the sequence is one of White’s most evocative. It was also the first time he allowed himself to portray the nude male body.

White_Nude 1 A famous image from the sequence simply entitled Tom Murphy (1947) illustrates White’s theatrical lighting, as well as his need to closet his homosexuality and to transform the carnal into the spiritual. The model is depicted seated on the beach, feet and hands pushed flat on a piece of textured wood. A beautifully formed piece of driftwood is artistically placed to rise up through the bend in the model’s left leg to rest on his right shoulder. The wood covers the model’s genitals, but it also makes a telling statement about what is unrevealed and forbidden.

The subject of the photographer’s gaze is concealed but the subject of the photograph is definitely declared. Murphy’s head is buried in such deep shadow as to appear decapitated. He was the "hidden" subject of four other male nudes in a group that White created during 1948.

By 1950 the photographer was working with another young man. In the Fifth Sequence / Portrait of a Young Man As Actor, White worked in collaboration with the sitter, Mark Adams, who was also an artist and amateur actor.

Although his male nudes are an important achievement, they were not shown in public until the important 1989 exhibition entitled Minor White: The Eye That Shapes.

White’s Last Years

Although he was diagnosed with angina as early as 1966, White lived an extremely active life. While he curated exhibitions and taught at MIT, he also created his own work, conducted workshops, and gave seminars across the country. The pace was grueling and it began to affect his health.

White retired from the faculty of MIT during 1974 in an effort to reduce stress, but was also appointed Senior Lecturer and became a Fellow of the MIT Council of the Arts in 1975. He resigned as editor of Aperture the same year but also saw the first substantial exhibition of his photographs tour Europe.

White loved his work and accepted offers to lecture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, teach some classes in England, and participate in a symposium at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Finally, however, he suffered a heart attack that hospitalized him for several weeks.

But even the heart attack failed to stop his work. When he recovered, he became consulting editor of Parabola Magazine and received an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute.

On his death White was hailed as one of America’s greatest photographers. He is remembered largely for his ideas about the spiritual in photography. His influence can be seen in the work of students of his such as John Daido Loori, a photographer and Zen master. At the current time, 2007, there are several signs of a renewed wider interest in his work and life.


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Minor White that can be found at…

by Gerald Boerner


“This was not an act of terrorism, but it was an act of war.”
— George W. Bush

“Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.”
— Noam Chomsky

“If Clinton had only attacked terrorism as much as he attacks George Bush we wouldn’t be in this problem.”
— Dennis Miller

“This is not a battle between the United States of America and terrorism, but between the free and democratic world and terrorism.”
— Tony Blair

“This thing called Patriot Act, through which we abdicated a lot of our civil rights to defend the country against terrorism, it’s a four-year story.”
— Neil Young

“Terrorism has once again shown it is prepared deliberately to stop at nothing in creating human victims. An end must be put to this. As never before, it is vital to unite forces of the entire world community against terror.”
— Vladimir Putin

“I think what’s going on in Guantanamo Bay and other places is a disgrace to the U.S.A. I wouldn’t say it’s the cause of terrorism, but it has given impetus and excuses to potential terrorists to lash out at our country and justify their despicable acts.”
— Jimmy Carter

“I’m as frustrated with the French, I think, as anyone, but look, there’s going to be other challenges and there are going to be other issues. As long as there’s a war on terrorism going on, we’re all going to have to work together.”
— John McCain

“Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terrorism have reduced the pace of military transformation and have revealed our lack of preparation for defensive and stability operations. This Administration has overextended our military.”
— Barack Obama


Veterans Day: War against Terror — Iraq and Afghanistan

The War on Terrorism (also referred to as the Global War on Terror, World War III, World War IV, or Overseas Contingency Operation) is the common term for the military, political, legal and ideological conflict against Islamic terrorism and Islamic militants, and was specifically used in reference to operations by the United States, the United Kingdom and its allies since the September 11, 2001 attacks’ and later the 7 July 2005 London bombings.

war-on-terror-poster The stated objectives of the war in the US are to protect the citizens of the US and allies, to protect the business interests of the US and allies at home and abroad, break up terrorist cells in the US, and disrupt the activities of the international network of terrorist organizations made up of a number of groups under the umbrella of al-Qaeda.

Both the term and the policies it denotes have been a source of ongoing controversy, as critics argue it has been used to justify unilateral preemptive war, human rights abuses and other violations of international law. In March 2009, the Obama administration requested that Pentagon staff members avoid use of the term, instead using "Overseas Contingency Operation". The administration has re-focused US involvement in the conflict on the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq, the closing of Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan.

September 11, 2001 attacks

Thirty days after the events of September 11, 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush identified Osama Bin Laden as the ‘prime suspect’ in the attacks. Osama bin Laden was understood to be in Afghanistan at the time.

On September 20, 2001, in an address to a joint session of Congress, President Bush issued an ultimatum demanding that the Taliban government of Afghanistan:

  • deliver al-Qaeda leaders located in Afghanistan to the United States authorities
  • release all imprisoned foreign nationals, including American citizens
  • protect foreign journalists, diplomats, and aid workers in Afghanistan
  • close terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and "hand over every terrorist and every person and their support structure to appropriate authorities"
  • give the United States full access to terrorist training camps to verify their closure

"They will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate" said Bush. No specifics were attached to the threat, though there followed a statement suggesting military action: "Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there."

War in Afghanistan (2001–present)

US_Army_Afghanistan_2006_800pxThe War in Afghanistan is an ongoing coalition conflict which began on October 7, 2001, as the US military’s Operation Enduring Freedom that was launched, with help from the British military, in response to the September 11 attacks. The UK has, since 2002, led its own military operation, Operation Herrick, as part of the same war in Afghanistan.

The stated aim of the invasion was to find Osama bin Laden and other high-ranking Al-Qaeda members and put them on trial, to destroy the whole organization of Al-Qaeda, and to remove the Taliban regime which supported and gave safe harbor to Al-Qaeda. The United States’ Bush Doctrine stated that, as policy, it would not distinguish between terrorist organizations and nations or governments that harbor them.

Operation_Enduring_Freedom Two international military operations in Afghanistan are fighting for control over the country. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is a United States combat operation involving many coalition partners and currently operating primarily in the eastern and southern parts of the country along the Pakistan border. Approximately 28,300 U.S. troops were in OEF as of July 2008.

The second operation is the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which was established by the UN Security Council at the end of December 2001 to secure Kabul and the surrounding areas. NATO assumed control of ISAF in 2003. By July 23, 2009, ISAF had around 64,500 troops from 42 countries, with NATO members providing the core of the force. The United States has approximately 29,950 troops in ISAF.

The US and UK led the aerial bombing, in support of ground forces supplied primarily by the Afghan Northern Alliance. In 2002, American, British and Canadian infantry were committed, along with special forces from several allied nations, including Australia. Later, NATO troops were added.

The initial attack removed the Taliban from power, but Taliban forces have since regained some strength. The war has been less successful in achieving the goal of restricting al-Qaeda’s movement than anticipated. Since 2006, Afghanistan has seen threats to its stability from increased Taliban-led insurgent activity, record-high levels of illegal drug production, and a fragile government with limited control outside of Kabul.

Korean_War_MontageIraq War

The Iraq War, also known as the Occupation of Iraq or Operation Iraqi Freedom, is an ongoing military campaign which began on March 19, 2003, with the invasion of Iraq by a multinational force led by troops from the United States and the United Kingdom beginning on March 20, 2003.

Prior to the war, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom claimed that Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) posed a threat to their security and that of their coalition/regional allies. In 2002, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1441 which called for Iraq to completely cooperate with U.N. weapon inspectors to verify that Iraq was not in possession of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. Weapons inspectors found no evidence of WMD, but could not verify the accuracy of Iraq’s weapon declarations. At the time Hans Blix, the lead weapons inspector, advised the UN Security Council that while Iraq was cooperating in terms of access, Iraq’s declarations with regards to WMD still could not be verified.

After investigation following the invasion, the US-led Iraq Survey Group concluded that Iraq had ended its nuclear, chemical, and biological programs in 1991 and had no active programs at the time of the invasion, but that they intended to resume production if the Iraq sanctions were lifted. Although some degraded remnants of misplaced or abandoned chemical weapons from before 1991 were found, they were not the weapons which had been the pretext for the invasion. Some US officials also accused Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of harboring and supporting al-Qaeda, but no evidence of an operation connection was ever found.

saddam_On Throne Other reasons for the invasion included Iraq’s financial support for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, Iraqi government human rights abuses, and an effort to spread democracy to the country.

The invasion of Iraq led to an occupation and the eventual capture of President Hussein, who was later executed by the new Iraqi government. Violence against coalition forces and among various sectarian groups soon led to the Iraqi insurgency, strife between many Sunni and Shia Iraqi groups, and al-Qaeda operations in Iraq.

In June 2008, US Department of Defense officials claimed security and economic indicators began to show signs of improvement in what they hailed as significant and fragile gains. Iraq was fifth on the 2008 Failed States Index, and sixth on the 2009 list.

Member nations of the Coalition withdrew their forces as public opinion favoring troop withdrawals increased and as Iraqi forces began to take responsibility for security. In late 2008, the US and Iraqi governments approved a Status of Forces Agreement effective through January 1, 2012. The Iraqi Parliament also ratified a Strategic Framework Agreement with the U.S., aimed at ensuring cooperation in constitutional rights, threat deterrence, education, energy development, and other areas.

In late February 2009, US President Barack Obama announced a new 18-month withdrawal window for "combat forces", with approximately 50,000 troops remaining in the country "to advise and train Iraqi security forces and to provide intelligence and surveillance". General Ray Odierno, the top US military commander in Iraq, said he believes all US troops will be out of the country by the end of 2011, while British forces ended combat operations on April 30, 2009. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said he supports the accelerated pullout of US forces.

2003: Invasion of Iraq

U.S._Army_soldier_securing_site_-_Parun,_Nuristan The first Central Intelligence Agency invasion team entered Iraq on July 10, 2002. This team was composed of members of the CIA’s Special Activities Division and was later joined by members of the US military’s elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Together, they prepared for the invasion of conventional forces. These efforts consisted of persuading the commanders of several Iraqi military divisions to surrender rather than oppose the invasion, and to identify all of the initial leadership targets during very high risk reconnaissance missions.

Most importantly, their efforts organized the Kurdish Peshmerga to become the northern front of the invasion. Together this force defeated Ansar al-Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan prior to the invasion and then defeated the Iraqi army in the north. The battle against Ansar al-Islam led to the death of a substantial number of militants and the uncovering of a chemical weapons facility at Sargat.

At 5:34 AM Baghdad time on March 20, 2003 (9:34 p.m., March 19 EST) the military invasion of Iraq began. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by US army General Tommy Franks, began under the codename "Operation Iraqi Liberation", later renamed "Operation Iraqi Freedom", the UK codename Operation Telic, and the Australian codename Operation Falconer. Coalition forces also cooperated with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the north. Approximately forty other governments, the "coalition of the willing," participated by providing troops, equipment, services, security, and special forces.

US_Army_Afghanistan_2006_800pxThe stated objectives of the invasion were; end the Hussein regime; eliminate whatever weapons of mass destruction could be found; eliminate whatever Islamist militants could be found; obtain intelligence on militant networks; distribute humanitarian aid; secure Iraq’s petroleum infrastructure; and assist in creating a representative but compliant government as a model for other Middle East nations.

The invasion was a quick and decisive operation encountering major resistance, though not what the US, British and other forces expected. The Iraqi regime had prepared to fight both a conventional and irregular war at the same time, conceding territory when faced with superior conventional forces, largely armored, but launching smaller scale attacks in the rear using fighters dressed in civilian and paramilitary clothes. This achieved some temporary successes and created unexpected challenges for the invading forces, especially the US military.

In the north, OIF-1 used the largest special operations force since the successful attack on the Taliban government of Afghanistan just over a year earlier. The Iraqi army was quickly overwhelmed in each engagement it faced with US forces, with the elite Fedayeen Saddam putting up strong, sometimes suicidal, resistance before melting away into the civilian population.

Post-invasion phase

On May 1, 2003, President Bush staged a dramatic visit to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln operating a few miles west of San Diego, California. The visit climaxed at sunset with Bush’s now well-known "Mission Accomplished" speech. In this nationally televised speech, delivered before the sailors and airmen on the flight deck, Bush effectively declared victory due to the defeat of Iraq’s conventional forces. However, former President Hussein remained at large and significant pockets of resistance remained.

George-W-Bush_453px After President Bush’s speech, coalition forces noticed a gradually increasing flurry of attacks on its troops in various regions, especially in the "Sunni Triangle". The initial Iraqi insurgents were supplied by hundreds of weapons caches created prior to the invasion by the Iraqi army and Republican Guard.

Initially, Iraqi resistance (described by the coalition as "Anti-Iraqi Forces") largely stemmed from fedayeen and Hussein/Ba’ath Party loyalists, but soon religious radicals and Iraqis angered by the occupation contributed to the insurgency. The three provinces with the highest number of attacks were Baghdad, Al Anbar, and Salah Ad Din. Those three provinces account for 35% of the population, but are responsible for 73% of U.S. military deaths (as of December 5, 2006), and an even higher percentage of recent U.S. military deaths (about 80%.)

Hunting down the Hussein regime

[In the summer of 2003, the multinational forces focused on hunting down the remaining leaders of the former regime. On July 22, a raid by the US 101st Airborne Division and soldiers from Task Force 20 killed Hussein’s sons (Uday and Qusay) along with one of his grandsons. In all, over 300 top leaders of the former regime were killed or captured, as well as numerous lesser functionaries and military personnel.

Most significantly, Saddam Hussein himself was captured on December 13, 2003 on a farm near Tikrit in Operation Red Dawn. The operation was conducted by the United States Army’s 4th Infantry Division and members of Task Force 121. Intelligence on Saddam’s whereabouts came from his family members and former bodyguards.

With the capture of Hussein and a drop in the number of insurgent attacks, some concluded the multinational forces were prevailing in the fight against the insurgency. The provisional government began training the new Iraqi security forces intended to police the country, and the United States promised over $20 billion in reconstruction money in the form of credit against Iraq’s future oil revenues. Oil revenue was also used for rebuilding schools and for work on the electrical and refining infrastructure.

Shortly after the capture of Hussein, elements left out of the Coalition Provisional Authority began to agitate for elections and the formation of an Iraqi Interim Government. Most prominent among these was the Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The Coalition Provisional Authority opposed allowing democratic elections at this time. The insurgents stepped up their activities. The two most turbulent centers were the area around Fallujah and the poor Shia sections of cities from Baghdad (Sadr City) to Basra in the south.

Casualty estimates

For coalition death totals see the infobox at the top right. See also Casualties of the Iraq War, which has casualty numbers for coalition nations, contractors, non-Iraqi civilians, journalists, media helpers, aid workers, wounded, etc.. The main article also gives explanations for the wide variation in estimates and counts, and shows many ways in which undercounting occurs. Casualty figures, especially Iraqi ones, are highly disputed. This section gives a brief overview.

U.S. General Tommy Franks reportedly estimated soon after the invasion that there had been 30,000 Iraqi casualties as of April 9, 2003. After this initial estimate he made no further public estimates.

In December 2005 President Bush said there were 30,000 Iraqi dead. White House spokesman Scott McClellan later said it was "not an official government estimate", and was based on media reports.

The Battle Continues…

The battles in both Iraq and Afghanistan continues. Major differences in opinion continue to plague the battleplan. The political battle continues and the direction of both wars are mired in conflicts of leadership both her in the U.S. and in Iraq and Afghanistan alike. Time will tell the outcome, but it would seem that we have not really learned the lesson of Vietnam.

To be continued…


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

The War on Terrorism that can be found at…

The Iraqi War that can be found at…

The Afghanistan War that can be found at…

by Gerald Boerner


“There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.”
— Gen. William Thornson, U.S. Army

“I come in peace, I didn’t bring artillery.  But I am pleading with you with tears in my eyes:  If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.”
— Marine General James Mattis

“Hell, these are Marines.  Men like them held Guadalcanal and took Iwo Jima.  Bagdad ain’t shit.”
— Marine Major General John F. Kelly

“We signed up knowing the risk. Those innocent people in New York didn’t go to work thinking there was any kind of risk.”
— Pvt. Mike Armendariz-Clark, USMC; Afghanastan

“The safest place in Korea was right behind a platoon of Marines. Lord, how they could fight!”
— Major Gen. Frank E. Lowe, USA; Korea

“Marines know how to use their bayonets. Army bayonets may as well be paper-weights.”
— Navy Times; November 1994

“Why in hell can’t the Army do it if the Marines can. They are the same kind of men; why can’t they be like Marines.”
— Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, USA

“The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.”
— James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy

“I have just returned from visiting the Marines at the front, and there is not a finer fighting organization in the world!”
— General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur

“The United States Marine Corps, with its fiercely proud tradition of excellence in combat, its hallowed rituals, and its unbending code of honor, is part of the fabric of American myth.”
— Thomas E. Ricks; Making the Corps


Birth of the Marine Corps

USMC_logo_433px The United States Marine Corps (USMC) is a branch of the United States armed forces responsible for providing force projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to rapidly deliver combined-arms task forces. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States. In the civilian leadership structure of the United States military, the Marine Corps is a component of the Department of the Navy, often working closely with U.S. naval forces for training, transportation and logistic purposes; however, in the military leadership structure the Marine Corps is a separate branch.

Captain Samuel Nicholas formed two battalions of Continental Marines on 10 November 1775 in Philadelphia as naval infantry. Since then, the mission of Marine Corps has evolved with changing military doctrine and American foreign policy. The Marine Corps served in every American armed conflict and attained prominence in the 20th century when its theories and practices of amphibious warfare proved prescient and ultimately formed the cornerstone of the Pacific campaign of World War II. By the mid-20th century, the Marine Corps had become the dominant theorist and practitioner of amphibious warfare. Its ability to respond rapidly to regional crises gives it a strong role in the implementation and execution of American foreign policy.

Marines_in_Saddams_palace_DM-SD-04-12222 The United States Marine Corps includes just over 203,000 (as of October 2009) active duty Marines and just under 40,000 reserve Marines. It is the smallest of the United States’ armed forces in the Department of Defense (the United States Coast Guard is smaller, about one-fifth the size of the Marine Corps, but is under the Department of Homeland Security). The Marine Corps is nonetheless larger than the entire armed forces of many significant military powers; for example, it is larger than the active duty Israel Defense Forces or the whole of the British Army.

The Marine Corps is highly cost-effective. The cost per Marine is $20,000 less than the cost of a serviceman from the other services, and the entire force can be used for both hybrid and major combat operations, that is, the Marines cover the entire Three Block War.


The United States Marine Corps serves as an amphibious force-in-readiness. As outlined in 10 U.S.C. § 5063 and as originally introduced under the National Security Act of 1947, it has three primary areas of responsibility:

  • "The seizure or defense of advanced naval bases and other land operations to support naval campaigns;
  • The development of tactics, technique, and equipment used by amphibious landing forces; and
  • Such other duties as the President may direct."

Marine_One_(1970) This last clause, while seemingly redundant given the president’s position as Commander-in-chief, is a codification of the expeditionary duties of the Marine Corps. It derives from similar language in the Congressional acts "For the Better Organization of the Marine Corps" of 1834, and "Establishing and Organizing a Marine Corps" of 1798. In 1951, the House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee called the clause "one of the most important statutory — and traditional — functions of the Marine Corps." It noted that the corps has more often than not performed actions of a non-naval nature, including its famous actions in the War of 1812, at Tripoli, Chapultepec, numerous counter-insurgency and occupational duties (such as those in Central America), World War I, and the Korean War. While these actions are not accurately described as support of naval campaigns nor as amphibious warfare, their common thread is that they are of an expeditionary nature, using the mobility of the Navy to provide timely intervention in foreign affairs on behalf of American interests.

Historical mission

040707-N-7586B-095 The Marine Corps was founded to serve as an infantry unit aboard naval vessels and was responsible for the security of the ship and her crew by conducting offensive and defensive combat during boarding actions and defending the ship’s officers from mutiny; to the latter end, their quarters on ship were often strategically positioned between the officers’ quarters and the rest of the vessel. Continental Marines also manned raiding parties, both at sea and ashore. America’s first amphibious assault landing occurred early in the Revolutionary War as the Marines gained control of a British ammunition depot and naval port in New Providence, Bahamas. The role of the Marine Corps has since expanded significantly; as the importance of its original naval mission declined with changing naval warfare doctrine and the professionalization of the Naval service, the corps adapted by focusing on what were formerly secondary missions ashore. The Advanced Base Doctrine of the early 20th century codified their combat duties ashore, outlining the use of Marines in the seizure of bases and other duties on land to support naval campaigns.


Two small manuals published during the 1930s would establish USMC doctrine in two areas. The Small Wars Manual laid the framework for Marine counter-insurgency operations from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan while the Tentative Landing Operations Manual established the doctrine for the amphibious operations of World War II.



Other Events on this Day
  • In 1775…
    The Continental Congress founds the U.S. Marine Corps

  • In 1871…
    New York Herald journalist Henry M. Stanley finds Scottish missionary David Livingstone at Lake Tanganyika, Africa, and greets him with the famous words: "Dr. Livingstone, I presume.”

  • In 1928…
    Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne tells his team, “Win one for the Gipper,” and they do, beating Army 12-6.

  • In 1938…
    Kate Smith introduces Americans to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” singing it for the first time on her network radio show.

  • In 1954…
    President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicates the Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial) in Arlington, Virginia.

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

United States Marine Corps that can be found at…