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The Difference Between the US Marines and the US Navy

Akshay Chavan
The main difference between the US Marines and Navy is their zone of operation. CareerStint compares these two forces for a better understanding.

Did You Know?

The US Navy has the most ships as compared to any country; its aircraft carriers are more than that of all other countries put together.
If one thinks of a country that has steadily risen to the pinnacle of success since the early 20th century, that would be the United States. This can be attributed to the decline of colonial powers like Great Britain and France during this period, together with the development of a powerful armed force.
Indeed, the US military has seen a lot of action since its formation way back in 1775. While most involvements have been successes, like the Civil War and the World Wars, there have been a couple of defeats like the Vietnam War, and even a few stalemates like the recent Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.
Since 1947, the US armed forces have been divided into the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and the Coast Guard. While the reasons why each service was formed vary, the way they have been deployed in recent conflicts has raised questions on their roles.
The following sections dispel all confusion between the US Marines vs. the Navy, by clearly explaining the differences between them.
Official Status: Both, the US Marine Corps (USMC) and the Navy are co-members of the Department of the Navy, but different wings of the US military. Therefore, they are different services, and it is incorrect to say that 'Marines are a part of the Navy', as is commonly believed.

Headed By

♦ The US Marine Corps is headed by a 4-star general called Commandant of the Marine Corps, who reports to Secretary of the Navy. The Secretary is a civilian, not a naval officer, so, the Marines are not subordinate to any navy personnel.
♦ The US Navy is headed by a four-star admiral called the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), who also reports to the Secretary of the Navy.

Historical Origin

♦ Historically, Marines worked as sharpshooters to attack enemy ships, and prevent enemies from boarding their own. They were also used to put down mutinies.
The USMC was officially established on November 10, 1775; 8 months after the United States became independent, and existed as a part of the Navy until 1798, when Congress voted to make it a separate force.
♦ Established on October 13, 1775, the Navy is slightly older than Marine Corps. It arose from the Continental Navy, which fought against the Royal Navy during the Great War of Independence. After the war, it was disbanded for a while, but reestablished after pirates began attacking US merchant vessels.

Their Roles

♦ The US Marines are an amphibious force, and mostly attack hostile land via sea.
They establish a 'beach head'; a foothold on a coastal area from where it is possible to make further advances in a number of directions. They are also fully capable of operating from land and air. The USMC also has other roles, like guarding embassies, military bases, and other sensitive installations.
♦ The US Navy is concerned with the security of the seas around the United States, and protecting the country's right to navigate these waters.
For these purposes, the Navy uses warships and stealth submarines, which also allows it to attack enemy targets on land. Moreover, the Navy has aircraft carriers, which allows the Air Force to operate in areas where runways are not available.


♦ The Marine Corps are the second-smallest wing of the US Military, after the Coast Guard. They have around 38,500 officers on reserve and 182,000 enlisted personnel on active duty.
♦ The US Navy is a much larger force, having 98,481 officers on ready reserve and 325,673 enlisted members on active duty.


♦ While the USMC is remarkably independent with its own air wing, it still depends on Naval vessels for transportation to enemy territory, corpsmen for medical services, and chaplains for religious services. Moreover, it cannot hold a beach head for long, and needs the Army or Navy to take over eventually.
♦ The Navy is truly an independent force, with its own air wing and medical personnel. While it supports other forces like the Marines and the Air Force, it is fully capable of carrying out long sea campaigns by itself. In fact, the Navy also has 'special operations forces' of its own, like the SEALS who perform combat missions from the sea, air, and land.

Provides Support To

♦ The US Marines help provide a base (beach head) from which the Army can continue a large-scale campaign. Therefore, it provides initial support to the Army where a rapid initial assault is needed.
♦ The US Navy provides logistic and transportation support to the Marines, and provides aircraft carriers to the Air Force. As such, it supports both, the Marines and the Air Force.

Training and Career Options

♦ Since the Marine Corps is a force specifically designed for combat, every member receives basic combat and rifle training.
The training is split up into 12 weeks of basic training (hardest of all the services), followed by infantry/combat training, and finally specialized training. The small size of the force means that comparatively, lesser career options are available to recruits.
♦ The US Navy provides a number of roles for recruits, thanks to its large size. The basic training is 8-week long, followed by intermediate, and then specialized training. However, not every sailor is trained to use a rifle or perform combat.
In hindsight, it can be said that the US Marines start an invasion for a larger armed force to continue later, while the Navy keeps the seas safe and supports the other forces. Thus, the Marines are a completely different force from the Navy.
However, this is not the only misunderstanding related to the roles of the USMC. In fact, many do not understand the differences between the Marines and the Army, despite the fact that the latter is involved in large-scale ground operations.