Marines Hymn – From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli

By Faye Higbee
Photo by Cpl Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)(RELEASED)

The history of the Marine’s Hymn is almost as storied as the Military Branch itself. Almost.

The melody was reportedly found in an aria called “Geneieve de Brabant” a comic opera, at least according to John Philip Sousa:

“The melody of the ‘Halls of Montezuma’ is taken from Offenbach’s comic opera, ‘Genevieve de Brabant’ and is sung by two gendarmes.”

Official and unofficial verses:

Nearly every campaign has an unofficial verse, but here is the ‘after 1929’ official version:

From the Halls of Montezuma
To the Shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
of United States Marine.
Our flag’s unfurled to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in ev’ry clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off Northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job–
The United States Marines.

Here’s health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve
In many a strife we’ve fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.

Before 1929 the words had these phrases:

Admiration of the nation,
we’re the finest ever seen;
And we glory in the title
Of United States Marines.

Here’s an unofficial one from an Iceland campaign:
Again in nineteen forty-one
We sailed a north’ard course
And found beneath the midnight sun,
The Viking and the Norse.
The Iceland girls were slim and fair,
And fair the Iceland scenes,
And the Army found in landing there,
The United States Marines
Uniquely The Marine Corps

The copyright to this hymn of all military hymns belongs to the United States Marine Corps, and was registered in 1991. Considered in the public domain, it has been sung around the world.

The words  “in air, on land, and sea” were approved by the Commandant of the Marine Corps on November 21, 1942, a slight change from the original.

From Tripoli to Mexico

The chronological order of the references to Tripoli and the “halls of Montezuma” were switched just for the sound of the rhyme.

The US Marine Corps participated in capture of Derna in 1805. When the flag was raised over the city, the USMC colors were inscribed with the words “to the shores of Tripoli.” After they were instrumental in the taking of Chapultepec Castle (known as the Halls of Montezuma) on Sept 13, 1847, the fight before the battle for Mexico City, the words “From the Shores of Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma.” were inscribed.

There are stories of Marines singing their hymn, stories almost legendary. In Stars and Stripes on August 16, 1918, was this  piece:

“A wounded officer from among the gallant French lancers had just been carried into a Yankee field hospital to have his dressing changed. He was full of compliments and curiosity about the dashing contingent that fought at his regiment’s left.

‘A lot of them are mounted troops by this time,’ he explained, ‘for when our men would be shot from their horses, these youngsters would give one running jump and gallop ahead as cavalry. I believe they are soldiers from Montezuma. At least, when they advanced this morning, they were all singing “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli.”

Legendary. Happy birthday, Marines!


Featured Photo by Cpl Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)(RELEASED)