1805 — The Battle of Derne commences

The first extra-territorial land battle fought by the armed forces of young United States of America. It is the source of the Marine Corps Hymn (“To the Shores of Tripoli”), because the American forces – which consisted mostly of a few hundred mercenaries, backed by three ships – were led by 54 marines. It was the decisive engagement of the First Barbary War (fought between the United States and Sweden on one side and the so-called Barbary States – the Eyalet of Tripolitania and Morocco – on the other).

The battle itself took place after the mercenary forces, led by 8 US marines, attacked the fort at the city of Derne, taking it after heavy fighting against a greatly numerically superior enemy. The surrender of the Barbary forces came a month later, and the US set an early precedent for its poor treatment of its veterans by stiffing the mercenaries on part of their pay.

Referenced in:
Send The Marines — Tom Lehrer

1942 – “To The Shores Of Tripoli” premieres

Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone (best known for his four Charlie Chan films made from 1936 to 1938), “To The Shores of Tripoli” takes its named from a line of the Marine Corps Hymn. Like “Casablanca”, it was in production when that attack on Pearl Harbour took place, and the entry of America into the war led to changes in its plotline. From being simply a romance about Maureen O’Hara’s character, it changed to focus more on John Payne’s character enlisting.

The film was a hit in 1942, grossing 2 million dollars. It was credited by the US Marine Corps (who assisted in the film’s making by allowing the use of the actual Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego) as a major recruitment tool for them during the war.

Referenced in:
Send The Marines — Tom Lehrer