History of the Eagle, Globe and Anchor

Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island
Story by Cpl. Isaac Lamberth

Date: 06.30.2011
Posted: 06.30.2011 09:50
News ID: 73003

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT, PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. - It’s stamped on almost every piece of Marine Corps paraphernalia. It’s proudly worn by the new graduates you came to visit today, and it’s engraved into the hearts of every Marine who has walked across Peatross Parade Deck, but what the legendary Eagle, Globe and Anchor really is and stands for is a mystery to many.

For more than a century, the Eagle, Globe and Anchor has been the symbol of the United States Marines. As today’s new Marines were all taught when they were recruits, the eagle stands for nation, the United States, the globe stands for worldwide service and the anchor for naval traditions. On the emblem itself, a banner reading Semper Fidelis is held in the beak of the eagle.

“The Eagle, Globe and Anchor is the symbol that identifies us,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Dave Robles, a member of Parris Island’s Living History Detachment. “There’s a reason people specifically join the Marine Corps, and the Eagle, Globe and Anchor distinguishes them and shows who they are.”

Early correspondence shows that emblems and ornaments ascribed to the Marine Corps were used as early as 1804. Although back then, the emblem resembled a brass eagle on a square plate.

Before 1868, many devices, ornaments and distinguishing marks followed one another as official badges of the Marine Corps. The design of 1859 of a yellow bugle with a silver “M” in the center too closely resembled that of the Army infantry and steps were taken to change and standardize an emblem for the Corps.

During November 1868, then Commandant, Brig. Gen. Jacob Zeilin created a committee with the sole purpose of reporting on the various emblems the Marine Corps used and which one was best suited for adoption as the official Marine Corps emblem.

Later that month, the Eagle, Globe and Anchor concept was approved by Zeilin and then Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.

At first, the new design would only be used as a utility cap ornament for Marines and the design of 1859 would still remain on dress covers and officer epaulettes.

It wasn’t until May 1875 that the Eagle, Globe and Anchor became the standard emblem of the Corps.

In spite of changes in design, size and color, the concept has remained the same to this day.

The current Eagle, Globe and Anchor, adopted in 1956, differs from the one of 1868 only by a change in the eagle’s design.

“Anyone who sees an Eagle, Globe and Anchor around the world can instantly identify what it is and what it means,” said Steve Price, a member of Parris Island’s Living History Detachment. “I couldn’t think of anything better that encapsulates our identity.”

Today, the very first time a Parris Island trained recruit is bestowed with an Eagle, Globe and Anchor is after completing the 54-hour event known as the Crucible. The final exercise of the event is a 15-kilometer hike with full gear to the Iwo Jima monument near the Peatross Parade Deck where recruits finally have the Eagle, Globe and Anchor placed in their hands by their drill instructors. This symbolizes the completion of their journey from civilian to Marine.

To some the Eagle, Globe and Anchor may seem like only a piece of metal, but to Marines, it stands for much more. Go ahead, just ask your new graduate.