Yesterday there was an editorial in the NYT calling for the abolishment of the USAF. In a similar vein, please explain to me what the Marines do (besides guarding Navy bases) that can't currently be accomplished by the Army. I'm genuinely interested and have long wondered why they were ever afforded a separate branch in the military.
The origination has already been touched on so I will not belabor the point.
As to why they currently are separated I can only tell you why the USMC thinks so.
The Marine Corps exists because the people of the US want it to. Plain and simple. The Marine Corps understands that as soon as the American People don't want a Marine Corps it will cease to be.
There are lots of arguments for keeping the Corps but I want to play Devil's Advocate here.
Who has made the largest most successful Amphibious Assault in history?
US Army at Normandy.
Who has better air to air combat Pilots?
US Air Force
Who has the ships and fights the best at sea?
So in short there is no NEED for a Marine Corps.
That being said, the Marine Corps is the most cost efficient Armed Service in the Country. The largest advances in logistics and materiel movement have occurred as a result of the Marine Corps.
The Marine Corps also understands its place in the world. We have never made any claims to giving people high tech educations or skills (except for the GI Bill), recruiters always tell new recruits lies but the one thing every recruit knows going into the Corps is that they WILL deploy, and most likely to an inhospitable place.
Marines know how to market themselves.
Go back over the years to recruiting slogans:
Army: Be all you can be. Army of One. etc
Navy: It's not just a job its an adventure. Accelerate your life.
Air Force: Aim High, Cross into the blue.
Marine Corps: We never promised you a rose garden. A few good men. The few, the proud.
Not to put too fine a point on it, interservice Rivalry plays a huge part in keeping the services on their toes.
None of the Services want to be told that the Marine Corps does it better. We are after all, a service of knuckle draggers and neanderthals. In a twisted way we wear that with pride.
How can Knuckle draggers and neanderthals be ready to deploy in regimental strength with all its support mechanisms for 30-45 days anywhere in the world, within 7 days?
That wasn't good enough for the Marines so they came up with the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEU) and MEU-SOC (Special Operations Capable). This was as a result of a commitment to a concept called the Maritime Pre-Positioned Force Concept.
When something goes on in the world there is a battalion of Marines that is withing 72 hours of a region. Their equipment is already in the Area on board ships that have been already stocked up with Tanks, AAV's, Artillery, Ammuniton, Food, medical supplies, etc for 30 days of Sustained combat operations.
The Army still doesn't know how to make it happen and we have given them all the information.
There was a survey done by USA Today about Americans views on the different services.
They were asked where they thought the different services fared better in different areas. I lost the survey but I remember most of it. The respondents had to rank each service 1-4.
The areas were:
High tech Skills
Lifestyle of the Service Member
Lifestyle of Servicemembers' Families
The Airforce was ranked number one in each of the first 3 categories.
The Army and Navy were a close second in each of the 3 categories.
The Marine corps came in dead last by a long shot in each of the first 3 categories.
The score was like a "2" out of a possible "100" for the Corps.
However, the view of the people polled on number 4 "Winning Battles" was not even close.
100% of the respondents marked off the Marine Corps First.
In a nut shell you have a Marine Corps because Historically every country has HAD to have a small fighting force that was its own beast that did nothing but live a warrior lifestyle. The Praetorian Guard of Rome, and even earlier. There needs to be a rivalry between the Armed forces of any country in order to keep them ready.
The very nature of an armed force is for it to be taught it is the best as compared to another country. So what happens when you become convinced you are the best? Institutionally speaking you rest on your laurels. How do you keep that from happening? Have another force you think is inferior be shown to be better. That motivates you to be vigilant.
Sorry for such a long post, but it is reality.