Most of you know, this as the first line to the US Marine Hymn. And if you're like my father (who was not a Marine... he actually "failed" his physical, but that's a different story), you may even know the tune and most of the words. But what the heck does it mean?
The words were inspired by an unanticipated battle in 1805, where nearly 1000 soldiers, most of whom were not American, fought in the U.S. Marines' first battle on foreign land.
In the late 18th century it was common place for Muslim terrorists to carry out unprovoked attacks on American ships sailing in the seas of northern Africa. The terrorists were fulfilling their faithful duty. They were carrying out jihad against all Western powers. Because it is written in the Koran that all nations who do not acknowledge the Prophet Muhammad are sinners. Therefore it is the right and duty to those faithful to Muhammad to plunder and enslave those who do not believe. And that mussulman who dies serving his God would go to paradise? Does this sound familiar?
As early as 1786, Thomas Jefferson then the Ambassador to France - was trying to negotiate peace with the Tripoli's Ambassador to Britain and curb these unprovoked attacks. Eventually tribute payments were made to some of these countries, but the attacks by these "Barbary Pirates" continued.
In 1804 off the coast of Tripoli, a US Navy ship, the Philadelphia, ran aground and was quickly engulfed by the pirates. It resulted in 307 Americans being taken hostage. While Jefferson was trying to negotiate peace to rescue the prisoners, an American diplomat decided to take matters into his own hands.
Eaton appointed himself General of a make-shift army. Devastated by the idea of Americans being held hostage, Eaton, accompanied by 8 US Marines set out for Tripoli. Along the way he gathered nearly 1000 Greek, Arab and European mercenary soldiers.
Eaton's basic plan was to end the custom of paying bribe money, to protect American merchant ships from the pillage of Barbary pirates and overthrow Tripoli's leader.
With the support of another army at sea Eaton was successful in capturing the town of Derna. His victory would eventually lead to peace negotiations between the US and the Barbary states.
Many believe his triumph resulted in the American flag being flown over foreign soil for the first time.
Here's more about William Eaton: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_EatonIf you'd like to know more about the Barbary Pirates, the Battle of Tripoli or early terrorist attacks, here are a few books which might interest you:
Victory in Tripoli: How America's War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation
The End of Barbary Terror: America's 1815 War against the Pirates of North Africa
Jefferson's War: America's First War on Terror 1801-1805
Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present