To the Revolutionary War & Back

Posted by Bryan on 3/14/2013
Swords, specifically the Mameluke sword, have a long history with the Marine Corps. In fact, the history of its use dates back to the Revolutionary War. It is a symbol of honor and the oldest weapon still in use by the Armed Forces.

The sword’s first appearance was on December 8, 1805. First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon was given a Mameluke sword as a sign of respect and acclaim by the Viceroy of the Ottoman Empire, Prince Hamet. Upon O'Bannon's return to the United States, he was presented with a sword similar to the one he had received from Prince Hamet. It was given to him to commemorate the battle of Tripoli Harbor.

In 1825, the Mameluke sword was worn by Marine Corps officers at the request of Marine Corps Commandant Archibauld Henderson in recognition of the actions Marines took at the battle of Derne. Between 1859 and 1875, the U.S. Model 1850 Army foot officers' sword was worn in place of the Mameluke model, and during World War II, use of the sword was suspended.

At the turn of the 20th century, the sword became obsolete due to the invention and use of modern weapons such as machine guns. However, the sword has remained an integral part of the Marine uniform. It is currently awarded to those Marines who achieve the rank of Corporal, and it is patterned after the model used by the Army. The blade is thin, slightly curved and approximately three feet in length. The hilt, crossbar and guard covers are made of cast-brass.

There is a slight difference between the swords carried by commissioned and non-commissioned officers, and this variance is in the scabbard mounts. The mounts of a non-commissioned officer are made of brass, while those of a commissioned officer are made of gilt.