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What is the Difference Between the US Navy and the US Marine Corps?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The United States (US) Navy and the US Marine Corps have historically enjoyed a very close relationship because the Marine Corps was originally, and continues to be, a part of the Navy. The two, however, operate autonomously, with their own chains of command, uniforms, history, objectives, and missions. Though both the US Navy and US Marine Corps are both seaborne, Marines are often thought of as the foot soldiers of the Navy.

During the Revolutionary War, there was some debate as to whether equipping and supplying a navy was even sensible, given the formidable naval power of the English. Ultimately, the need for some sort of naval force became obvious, leading to the founding of the Continental Navy, which was later disbanded. When pirates started encroaching on the shipping of the nascent nation, the decision was made to establish a formal navy, and the long history of the service began.

Today, the US Navy focuses on keeping a fleet of ships, aircraft, and personnel trained and ready for combat operations, protection of free passage through American shipping lanes, and humanitarian missions. It is headed by the Department of the Navy, a division within the Department of Defense (DOD), and it has installations and active duty personnel all over the world.

The Marine Corps originally started as an infantry branch within the Navy, designed to protect ships from mutinies and to establish beach heads during invasions. Ultimately, the Marine Corps developed into its own service. Although it is technically classified within the Department of the Navy, the head of the US Marine Corps reports to the civilian Secretary of the Navy, not to Navy officials, and the missions of the two forces are different.

Members of the Corps specialize in amphibious warfare, priding themselves on being cross-trained to serve in a variety of positions so that they are versatile and extremely powerful. The US Marine Corps has a strong warrior ethos, and it has historically developed innovative and unique approaches to warfare. Marines are also responsible for the security of the US president in many locations, and they supply guards to US embassies, military bases, and sensitive installations all over the world.

The US Navy and US Marine Corps often work together. It is common for Marines to travel on Naval ships, deploying once they reach their end destination, and members may train with representatives from either force, especially in the case of officers. The Navy supplies corpsmen and chaplains to the US Marine Corps, while the US Marine Corps offers skills and expert support to a variety of Navy operations.

Historically, there has also been some rivalry between the Army and the Marine Corps. The Army feels that the Marine Corps often performs duties that should be performed by the Army, since the Army is supposed to be the premier ground-based military service. Marines argue that their tactical skills in force projection on both land and sea distinguish them from the Army, and Marines have famously paved the way for several Army invasions.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a America Explained researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon978845 — On Nov 21, 2014

The Navy relentlessly pursues the perfect and consistent process; the Marines relentlessly pursue the accomplishment of mission, even if the process must be adapted.

By anon309767 — On Dec 18, 2012

Does anybody know the difference between recruit training for the Navy and recruit training for the Marines?

By anon108794 — On Sep 04, 2010

I am a US Marine. A good way to tell a Marine from a soldier, sailor. or airman is the way a Marine carries him or herself. Marines where desert, and woodland cammies on base with an eagle globe and anchor on their cover (hat). For dress is obviously the dress blues everyone knows what they look like. We also have other uniforms such as service alphas, charlies etc.

By anon101681 — On Aug 04, 2010

Marines wear a number of various uniforms. They are typically not allowed to wear fatigues off base, unless traveling to and from work. Anytime they are outdoor, they must always wear a cover (hat).

The service uniform includes an olive drab blouse and trousers. The cover with that uniform is a barracks cover or garrison cover. The versions of this uniform are: alpha, bravo, charlie and delta. There are four versions of the dress uniform, as well, which are similar to the variations of the service uniform.

All of these are very distinguishable from any other branch of service, and vice versa.

The first recruiting for the Marine Corps started out of Tun Tavern (Samuel Nichols being the first liar, rather recruiter). There is no other more appropriate birth place for the Corps than a bar. Semper Fi

By comfyshoes — On Jul 12, 2010

Sunny27- I did not know that. I do know that Marines must always wear their uniforms whether on base or not and are not permitted to eat while walking in uniform.

They usually have the most rigid standards among the entire members of armed forces.

By Sunny27 — On Jul 12, 2010

Anon83168- I know that telling the various branches of military apart can be confusing. One way to determine their differences is in the uniform.

For example, the Navy general wears it white uniform in the summer and a blue uniform the in the winter. Their jumper uniforms are called “crackerjacks” and they usually have a sailor tie.

The marines wear a dress uniform which is the traditional navy jacket with gold buttons along the front with blue pants and a white hat.

They also wear a service uniform that is a brown tone with a buckled enclosure and a matching hat of the same color. That is how I tell them apart.

By anon83168 — On May 09, 2010

Thanks a lot. This article helped me figure out they are different. And now i have to write my story all over again.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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