OORAH! Where’d that come from?

By Faye Higbee

The  United States Marine Corps is legendary for a lot of reasons. But their battle cry, or cry of enthusiasm, “Oorah” is generally credited to the 1st Amphibious Reconnaissance Company, FMFPAC . Depending on who you talk to, of course.

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What’s in a word?

The Army says ‘Hooah.’ The Navy and Coast Guard say ‘Hooyah.’ Of course that’s what Wikipedia sort-of -right-once-in-a-while online encyclopedia says. But Marines, they say “Oorah.”

Then there’s the “maybe” section of Wikipedia that says it might have come from the Huns or the Mongols. Or maybe some weird pronunciation of something from the Russian military or even some Turkish word gave rise to it. Who knows, but the most plausible answer is that it may have been coined by Retired Sgt Maj John Massaro while he was stationed aboard the USS Perch in 1953-1954.

The Marine Corps Times wrote,

According to Marine Corps’ historical references, Massaro carried into his drill field tours the popular phrase “oorah,” used during his days with 1st Marine Division Reconnaissance Company in the mid-1950s. Massaro, then a company gunnery sergeant, and the men who boarded the submarine Perch for recon and raid training in the decade after World War II got in the habit of saying “oorah” while imitating the sub’s klaxon horn that sounds off as “arrugah.”

“It became some kind of greeting, when you saw one of your shipmates or one of your Marines, instead of saying, ‘How are you?’” Massaro said. “It kind of got passed around. It was used as a chant, when people were running.”

“Oorah” has become a battle cry for the generations since, a phrase symbolic of the Marine Corps as much as “leatherneck” and “devil dogs.” Some historic references cite Massaro’s tour at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego as the place “oorah” really caught hold when he began using the phrase with new recruits.

Massaro, for one, is baffled why he’s credited with the word. “I don’t take credit for it,” he said, chuckling. “It was a phrase or a term originally coming from boarding a ship.”

Tradition

For his part, retired Sgt Major Massaro says it probably started before him, and maybe even by the Infantry. Regardless of the origin – it is now a tradition in the Corps. And we aren’t ones to mess with tradition.

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Retired Sgt Major Massaro, USMC and his wife Sherrie- photo from the John Massaro via The Marine Corps Times