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Marine Corps Legends

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Why Marines were called "Devil Dogs"

In the Belleau Wood fighting in 1918, the Germans received a thorough indoctrination in the fighting ability of Marines which they could have used to forewarn their axis partner, Japan, in 1941. Fighting through supposedly impenetrable woods and capturing supposedly untakeable terrain, the men of the 4th Marine Brigade struck terror in the hearts of the Germans. The persistent attacks delivered with unbelievable courage soon had the Germans referring to Marines as the "Teufelhunden" meaning "fierce fighting dogs of legendary origin" or as popularly translated "Devil Dogs."

Why didn't the British burn the Commandant's Quarters?

Marine Barracks, Washington (commonly known to Marines as "8th and Eye") is located in Southeast Washington on a quadrangle of land situated between 8th and 9th Streets and "G" and "I" Streets. Within the confines of Marine Barracks stands the Commandant's House, the official residence of all but the first two Commandants who have headed the Marine Corps during its long history.

The Commandant's House is supposed to be the oldest public building in continuous use in the Nation's Capital. It owes its claim as the oldest building to the fact that the British failed to destroy it during their raid on Washington in August 1814. They burned the Capitol, the White House, and most of the other public buildings in retaliation for a similar American raid on Toronto the previous summer. This rather conspicuous omission gave rise to speculation which later attained the status of legend.

The favorite theory for this fact is that the magnificent stand of the Marines during the fighting at Bladensburg so impressed General Ross that he ordered the House and Barracks left untouched as a gesture of soldierly respect.

Buried Treasure at Eighth and Eye

In August 1814, as the British Army approached Washington, two sergeants of the detachment at Marine Headquarters (then located at the Marine Barracks) were, so the story goes, charged with the safety of a chest containing a considerable amount of Marine Corps funds. The Marines were supposed to have buried the chest on the grounds of the barracks or to have hidden it within the walls of the Commandant's House. They then rejoined their comrades on the battlefield of Bladensburg where they were killed in the fighting, taking the secret of the money's location with them to the grave.

In another version of this story, the two NCO's were killed in a rugged floor-to-floor defense of the Commandant's House when the British invaders reached Washington. Treasure seekers still eye the walled barracks and hoary house with longing, for the money has never been found and may still be, as legend has it, waiting for the persistent hunter.

Archibald Henderson Willed the Commandant's Quarters to His Heirs

When Archibald Henderson, the Fifth Commandant and the Third Commandant to live in the House, died in 1859 at the age of 75, the Commandant's House had been his home for 38 years. According to the legend he lived there so long that he forgot it was government quarters and attempted to will it to his heirs.

The imperious old man was perfectly capable of doing such a thing. He was the public servant of a Republic, but he spoke with the tongue of an emperor. During his 38 years as Commandant, he outlasted nine presidents, several of whom were known to quail before his flashing eye. Even Andrew Jackson, when he tried to abolish the Marine Corps, came off second-best in a legislative duel with Henderson. Old Hickory limped away, dripping sawdust from every wound, while the Congress doubled the Marine strength and appropriations.

Archibald Henderson takes the Marine Corps to War

During Archibald Henderson's long tenure as Commandant, the Marine Corps activities covered the globe. Many legends have originated about the colorful Henderson's activities in that era. One of these dealt with his expedition against the Indians.

In 1836, the Creek and Seminole Indian tribes in Georgia and Florida were waging war against the United States. The U. S. Army had its hands full. The Fifth Commandant of the Marine Corps offered the services of a regiment of Marines for duty with the Army. Henderson placed himself in command and, taking virtually the entire available strength of the Corps, left for the extended campaign after tacking a terse message on his office door which read:

    "Have gone to Florida to fight Indians.

    Will be back when war is over,

    A. Henderson
    Col. Commandant"

Why Marines wear Red Stripes on their Trousers

Above Information from the Marine Corps Historical Reference Series, 1963, Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps

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