While officially part of the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, as a ground force, has an organization and rank structure similar to that of the U.S. Army General officer ranks include: general—held only by the commandant and the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps; lieutenant general—held by those selected to hold particular “type” or specially designated commands; major general—in command of either a Marine Expiditionary Force or division; and brigadier general—held normally by commanders of installations, or brigades.
Colonels in the Marine Corps command regiments, function as chiefs of staff, or hold other key billets. Lieutenant colonels usually command battalions or squadrons. Majors normally serve as battalion executive officers. Captains generally lead companies, while lieutenants are often platoon commanders. Besides these commissioned officers there are warrant officers, promoted to officer rank due to their technical or administrative expertise.
The top enlisted rank is sergeant major of the Marine Corps, who advises and assists the commandant in all matters pertaining to enlisted Marines. Sergeant majors normally will be found at all levels in the Fleet Marine Force and other administrative and technical positions. Other staffed noncommissioned officer ranks range downward from first or master sergeant to gunnery sergeant and staff sergeant. Due to the low officer‐to‐enlisted ratio, staff noncommissioned officers (SNCOs) are considered to be the “backbone” of the Marine Corps.
Noncommissioned officers (NCOs) include sergeants and corporals, who act as squad leaders, section heads, and instructors. Junior enlisted grades include lance corporal, private first class, and private.
- A Brief History of U.S. Marine Corps Officer Procurement, 1958.
- Bernard C. Nalty, et al., United States Marine Corps Ranks and Grades, 1776–1969, 1970
World War II
Global military conflict that, in terms of lives lost and material destruction, was the most devastating war in human history. It began in 1939 as a European conflict between Germany and an Anglo-French coalition but eventually widened to include most of the nations of the world. It ended in 1945, leaving a new world order dominated by the United States and the USSR.
More than any previous war, World War II involved the commitment of nations' entire human and economic resources, the blurring of the distinction between combatant and noncombatant, and the expansion of the battlefield to include all of the enemy's territory. The most important determinants of its outcome were industrial capacity and personnel. In the last stages of the war, two radically new weapons were introduced: the long-range rocket and the atomic bomb. In the main, however, the war was fought with the same or improved weapons of the types used in World War I. The greatest advances were in aircraft and tanks.
The World After World War I :
Three major powers had been dissatisfied with the outcome of World War I. Germany, the principal defeated nation, bitterly resented the territorial losses and reparations payments imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles. Italy, one of the victors, found its territorial gains far from enough either to offset the cost of the war or to satisfy its ambitions. Japan, also a victor, was unhappy about its failure to gain control of China.
Causes of the War
France, Great Britain, and the U.S. had attained their wartime objectives. They had reduced Germany to a military cipher and had reorganized Europe and the world as they saw fit. The French and the British frequently disagreed on policy in the postwar period, however, and were unsure of their ability to defend the peace settlement. The U.S., disillusioned by the Europeans' failure to repay their war debts, retreated into isolationism.
The Failure of Peace Efforts
During the 1920s, attempts were made to achieve a stable peace. The first was the establishment (1920) of the League of Nations as a forum in which nations could settle their disputes. The league's powers were limited to persuasion and various levels of moral and economic sanctions that the members were free to carry out as they saw fit. At the Washington Conference of 1921-22, the principal naval powers agreed to limit their navies according to a fixed ratio. The Locarno Conference (1925) produced a treaty guarantee of the German-French boundary and an arbitration agreement between Germany and Poland. In the Paris Peace Pact (1928), 63 countries, including all the great powers except the USSR, renounced war as an instrument of national policy and pledged to resolve all disputes among them "by pacific means." The signatories had agreed beforehand to exempt wars of "self-defense."
The Rise of Fascism
One of the victors' stated aims in World War I had been "to make the world safe for democracy," and postwar Germany adopted a democratic constitution, as did most of the other states restored or created after the war. In the 1920s, however, the wave of the future appeared to be a form of nationalistic, militaristic totalitarianism known by its Italian name, fascism. It promised to minister to peoples' wants more effectively than democracy and presented itself as the one sure defense against communism. Benito Mussolini established the first Fascist dictatorship in Italy in 1922.
Formation of the Axis Coalition
Adolf Hitler, the Führer ("leader") of the German National Socialist (Nazi) Party, preached a racist brand of fascism. Hitler promised to overturn the Versailles Treaty and secure additional Lebensraum ("living space") for the German people, who he contended deserved more as members of a superior race. In the early 1930s, the depression hit Germany. The moderate parties could not agree on what to do about it, and large numbers of voters turned to the Nazis and Communists. In 1933 Hitler became the German chancellor, and in a series of subsequent moves established himself as dictator.
Japan did not formally adopt fascism, but the armed forces' powerful position in the government enabled them to impose a similar type of totalitarianism. As dismantlers of the world status quo, the Japanese military were well ahead of Hitler. They used a minor clash with Chinese troops near Mukden in 1931 as a pretext for taking over all of Manchuria, where they proclaimed the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932. In 1937-38 they occupied the main Chinese ports.
Having denounced the disarmament clauses of the Versailles Treaty, created a new air force, and reintroduced conscription, Hitler tried out his new weapons on the side of right-wing military rebels in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). The venture brought him into collaboration with Mussolini, who was also supporting the Spanish revolt after having seized (1935-36) Ethiopia in a small war. Treaties between Germany, Italy, and Japan in 1936-37 brought into being the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. The Axis thereafter became the collective term for those countries and their allies.
German Aggression in Europe
Hitler launched his own expansionist drive with the annexation of Austria in March 1938. The way was clear: Mussolini supported him; and the British and French, overawed by German rearmament, accepted Hitler's claim that the status of Austria was an internal German affair. The U.S. had severely impaired its ability to act against aggression by passing a neutrality law that prohibited material assistance to all parties in foreign conflicts.
In September 1938 Hitler threatened war to annex the western border area of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland and its 3.5 million ethnic Germans. The British prime minister Neville Chamberlain initiated talks that culminated at the end of the month in the Munich Pact, by which the Czechs, on British and French urging, relinquished the Sudetenland in return for Hitler's promise not to take any more Czech territory. Chamberlain believed he had achieved "peace for our time," but the word Munich soon implied abject and futile appeasement.
Less than six months later, in March 1939, Hitler seized the remainder of Czechoslovakia. Alarmed by this new aggression and by Hitler's threats against Poland, the British government pledged to aid that country if Germany threatened its independence. France already had a mutual defense treaty with Poland.
The turn away from appeasement brought the Soviet Union to the fore. Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator, had offered military help to Czechoslovakia during the 1938 crisis, but had been ignored by all the parties to the Munich Pact. Now that war threatened, he was courted by both sides, but Hitler made the more attractive offer. Allied with Britain and France, the Soviet Union might well have had to fight, but all Germany asked for was its neutrality. In Moscow, on the night of August 23, 1939, the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed. In the part published the next day, Germany and the Soviet Union agreed not to go to war against each other. A secret protocol gave Stalin a free hand in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, eastern Poland, and eastern Romania.
In the early morning hours of September 1, 1939, the German armies marched into Poland. On September 3 the British and French surprised Hitler by declaring war on Germany, but they had no plans for rendering active assistance to the Poles.
The First Phase: Dominance of the Axis
The Second Phase: Expansion of the War
Cost of the War
World War II's basic statistics qualify it as by far the greatest war in history in terms of human and material resources expended. In all, 61 countries with 1.7 billion people, three-fourths of the world's population, took part. A total of 110 million persons were mobilized for military service, more than half of those by three countries: the USSR (22-30 million), Germany (17 million), and the United States (16 million). For the major participants the largest numbers on duty at any one time were as follows: USSR (12,500,000); U.S. (12,245,000); Germany (10,938,000); British Empire and Commonwealth (8,720,000); Japan (7,193,000); and China (5,000,000).
Most statistics on the war are only estimates. The war's vast and chaotic sweep made uniform record keeping impossible. Some governments lost control of the data, and some resorted to manipulating it for political reasons.
A rough consensus has been reached on the total cost of the war. In terms of money spent, it has been put at more than $1 trillion, which makes it more expensive than all other wars combined. The human cost, not including more than 5 million Jews killed in the Holocaust (see Holocaust: Results of the Holocaust) who were indirect victims of the war, is estimated to have been 55 million dead—25 million of those military and 30 million civilian.
The U.S. spent the most money on the war, an estimated $341 billion, including $50 billion for lend-lease supplies, of which $31 billion went to Britain, $11 billion to the Soviet Union, $5 billion to China, and $3 billion to 35 other countries. Germany was next, with $272 billion; followed by the Soviet Union, $192 billion; and then Britain, $120 billion; Italy, $94 billion; and Japan, $56 billion. Except for the U.S., however, and some of the less militarily active Allies, the money spent does not come close to being the war's true cost. The Soviet government has calculated that the USSR lost 30 percent of its national wealth, while Nazi exactions and looting were of incalculable amounts in the occupied countries. The full cost to Japan has been estimated at $562 billion. In Germany, bombing and shelling had produced 4 billion cu m (5 billion cu yd) of rubble.
The human cost of the war fell heaviest on the USSR, for which the official total, military and civilian, is given as more than 20 million killed. The Allied military and civilian losses were 44 million; those of the Axis, 11 million. The military deaths on both sides in Europe numbered 19 million and in the war against Japan, 6 million. The U.S., which had no significant civilian losses, sustained 292,131 battle deaths and 115,187 deaths from other causes. The highest numbers of deaths, military and civilian, were as follows: USSR more than 13,000,000 military and 7,000,000 civilian; China 3,500,000 and 10,000,000; Germany 3,500,000 and 3,800,000; Poland 120,000 and 5,300,000; Japan 1,700,000 and 380,000; Yugoslavia 300,000 and 1,300,000; Romania 200,000 and 465,000; France 250,000 and 360,000; British Empire and Commonwealth 452,000 and 60,000; Italy 330,000 and 80,000; Hungary 120,000 and 280,000; and Czechoslovakia 10,000 and 330,000.
Perhaps the most significant casualty over the long term was the world balance of power. Britain, France, Germany, and Japan ceased to be great powers in the traditional military sense, leaving only two, the United States and the Soviet Union.