Army/Marines integration

First of all, this question is not meant to disrespect either branch. I know that questions about branch differences, compare and contrast, etc. can make the good hearted ribbing between branches become down right nasty. So, please, military dopers lets try and keep this civil. Whoo… ok…

Please correct me if any of the below is incorrect.

It seems to me (someone not in the know) that the Marines are no longer (have not been for a long time) regulated to beach head landings, coastal and river warfare, etc. It appears they go as far in land as the Army. Now, the Army and Marines both have tanks. Army has attack helicopters, Marines have fighters. Both branches use boats of some kind. I’m sure there are lots of other similar equipment and hardware used. So, my question is why not integrate the two branches? Is there a reason that the Marines cannot be rolled into the Army?

You’re not the first and won’t be the last to suggest dissolving the marine corps into the army.

But there is a difference in their jobs.

The Marine Corps specialize in rapid deployment and tactical work. Marines are shock troops. Their mission is still to be the guys who carry guns on the Navy’s ships. They also have armor divisions and air divisions.

The army is all about the bigger picture and taking and holding ground.

The biggest difference is that everything in the Marines is capable of taking part in an amphibious assault.

But why are the marines used 200 miles from the ocean? Because they’re all highly trained combatants and we don’t need them by the ocean right now.

Nothing you say is exactly incorrect, but it is extremely limited.

Basically, the Marines do not fight like the Army, do not have the same culture as the Army, and do not use the same equipment. That’s pretty much everything of importance either side has.

The Army uses distinctly heavier equipment. While they are quite powerful, they are also designed around conquest and control. The Marines can indeed operate on land, but they have major sea bases and their fighting ability is based primarily around hard-hitting mobile formations. The Army is not. Marines are usually deployed from their carrier/transports, which act as mobile supply/airbases, whereas Army personnel must be moved by air or sea. The Army is based around large land bases with ample supplies: they can overrun an enemy with sheer force, pummel him with immense firepower and grind him down slowly, advance like an unstoppable steamroller. They simply don’t fight the same.

Furthermore, the way they act internally is very different. There are no “elite” Marines because all Marines are elite (according to them, at least) - even down to the last boot-scrubber. Marine Force Recon has little-or-no extra pride. It’s just their job, and supposedly any Marine could. The Army definitely does not have this.

Their equipment is similarly positioned. Marines favor lighter, faster vehicles so they can deploy more anf faster. The Army favors heavier and more heavily armored vehicles, with an emphasis on heavy tanks and artillery. (I think) Marines tend to carry more weight as infantry and are a little less reliant on dedicated troop transports as well.

This is not really an answer to your question, but I know from my experience that there is a different “culture” to both.

The Marines, due to their history, have closer ties (and still regularly train with) the Navy. The Army does not. The USN and USMC work more “closely” as a team than the USN and US Army does.

Could the culture of the Army (and Navy) change so that there is more mutual respect? Absolutely. But presently, the relationship (USN/USA) appears more distinctly more “distant” than the USN/USMC one. (I imagine that the annual budget fights in the Pentagon and Congress may foster the feelings of “competitors” amongst the services, as well.)

Usually, though, your going to have to prove why they should be integrated, as opposed to why they shouldn’t be, just to overcome a century+ of inertia.

Notwithstanding the above posts, there is one critical factor to prevent Army/Marines integration:

The Military Industrial Complex (MIC) would never allow it to happen. Too much money, too much political influence and too many egos will never allow it to happen.

Game, set, and match.

Fighting a little mis-information on weapon similiarity here. Tanks - M1A2 for both services. Artillery - 155mm howitizers for both, M198 and M777, Mortars - same, small arms (rifles, assault weapons, machine guns) and ammo - almost identical, air defense weapons - same, assault helicopters - Marines (AH-1 supercobra) Army (Apache). Demolition materials (similiar with some exceptions), Pyrotechnics (similiar with some exceptions).

The Marines will have different types of assault vehicles (amphibious) and a different makeup to the air wing. Most of their equipment has extra/different packaging due to saltwater environments. Electronics with be hardened or shielded better due to shipboard electromagnetic fields from radar/radio.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, we had Marine units replace Army and vice versa with no interuption in capablilty. This was a more static situation but the soldiers/Marines were capable of fighting with each others equipment and ammo. Now for specialized operations like amphibious or air assault; you start getting into different configurations and adding new epuipment.

As mentioned upthread, a lot of difference in culture. No actual reason all the branches couldn’t be combined with a unified command structure (whoaa - just like it’s supposed to be under doctrine). Not going to happen. Way too many jobs lost at the top of the food chain.

Do you even know what the “Military Industrial Complex” is? It’s not a bunch of old white guys in a backroom smoking cigars and running a secret cabal of decision making.

To the o.p.: the Marine Corps and the Army have very different missions. The Marines are, for lack of a better term, shock troops. Their job is to clear a beachhead, perform behind-lines reconnaissance, hamper enemy logistics, and generally be able to move fast and travel light. To that end, the Marines don’t have much in the way of heavy armor and artillery; they’re primarily a specialized expeditionary infantry force capable of light and fast combined arms operations. and fall under the aegis of the Department of the Navy, making them a separate ground force better suited to supporting (and being supported by) naval operations, particularly amphibious assault, as well as inland assault and counter-assault operations. For reasons that are largely legalistic in nature, they also provide security for US Embassies and perform certain operations in United States borders that the US Army is not legally permitted to perform.

The US Army has traditionally been a heavy infantry, armor, and artillery force. With the rise of mechanized infantry, air cavalry, and special operations, the Army has become somewhat more diversified, but their primary goal is occupation and submission of the enemy forces. In conflicts in the last sixty years, the combined operations approach of the US armed forces has resulted in a lot of crossover between the branches; for instance, the Marines acting as part of an occupying force (in expeditionary fashion, i.e. for quick deployment with limited logistics), and the Army fielding light infantry and fast mechanized brigades capable of quick, deep penetration deployment, but these lack the tightly integrated deployment and logistics capability that the Marines have built into their structure.

The other thing about the Marine Corps is the culture. In the Army, you have a lot of specialized, non-combatant roles; the same is even more true for the Navy and the Air Force. On the other hand, Marines are all fighters, and (for NCOs and commissioned officers) leaders, and the training and requirements reflect this. Every Marine is a qualified rifleman, and every NCO and general officer has leadership training requirements.

The Marines have a role that just isn’t really fulfilled by the Army or the other forces, insofar as being a relatively self-sufficient assault service. It really doesn’t make sense to fold them into the Army. On the other hand, there is increasing question (especially in the post-Cold War, post-strategic war era) whether the Air Force as a separate service really fulfills a unique role. The majority of programs that once fell to the Air Force–strategic bombing, ground-based ICBM nuclear deterrence, space warfare, anti-ballistic missile programs, logistical support–are either much reduced in scope and demand, or would arguably better supported by the individual services.


Perhaps semantics, but this is The Straight Dope.

Marines don’t have Armor Divisions, they only have 3 Marine Divisions (active duty) with one Tank Battalion each. They have one Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion each, and one Artillery Battalion each.

Likewise they have 3 Air Wings, with the jets, planes and helos, plus missiles, air control assets.

The Army probably has more tanks getting refueled right now than the Marine Corps has in its whole inventory.

I did some research on this when making a game on the Marines over 20 years ago. I found a quote from IIRC Harry S Truman, which went something like “the Marines have a better propaganda unit than Stalin does!”, referring to their (successful) efforts to resist one of these regular moves to merge them with the army or the navy.

To sum up:
Marines: Rapid deployment, little airlift required, slightly smaller modular units, amphibious specialty, self-sustaining for a month, give or take. Marines aim toward recruiting the young, balls-out enlisted guy who will happily charge the hill. It’s a relatively younger force. Also, fwiw, the Marines are fanatical about retaining exclusive use and control of the air assets they bring with them, which are both practically and doctrinally dedicated to close air support of the Marine infantry.

Army: Takes a while to move anywhere, needs a ton of airlift, ships, and logistics (both to get to theater and once in theater), will take over the mission from the Marines once they get to the fight, and provide re-supply for the Marines if required. But they are, usually, the decisive force and main effort of the battle. Army tends to have a more balanced enlisted and officer structure, with plenty of seniority throughout the ranks.

Bottom line:
There’s nothing really preventing a combining of the two, but you’d most likely wind up with an Army with specific brigades dedicated to the same rapid-reaction and amphib specialty the Marines have now, so why go through all the trouble?

The Marines have a unique warrior-cult culture that needs to be preserved. People join the Army to get jobs, to get college money, to get training, etc. People join the Marines to prove themselves. This is not pure conjecture, this is something that an actual Marine said to me. Of course it’s not true in all cases but generally, the Marines seem to attract a very motivated, tough, hardcore kind of individual, because they have the reputation that they do. People seek out the Marines because the warrior image they have cultivated is impressive.

The psychological power of such entities can never be overstated.

Q: Why do they still have Marines on Navy ships?

A: Because sheep would be too obvious.

A quote from my brother, a Navy veteran.

Marines use recruiting posters like this one, and modern USMC recruiters set up pull up bars at festivals and air shows, daring folks to do them almost. Kind of takes a certain type to join the military, and a subset of that type to earn the title Marine.

“A ship without Marines is like a coat without buttons.”
Lord Nelson

I dunno why the Marines would be absorbed by the army. They’re a department of the Navy.
The Men’s department.

This may seem like a minor distinction, but it’s actually just the opposite…

All Marines are riflemen before they are anything else.

BTW, Marines have traditionally been assigned to Navy ships to handle security. No more, the Navy now handles security “in house.”

Semper Fi

Should the Marines ever be integrated into the Army, sometime later some short-sighted high ranking idiot would decide that their prime function (that of taking beaches from the sea) is no longer needed or that shock troop infantry is currently more urgently needed. They would become soldiers and the US Military would lose the capability of taking beaches from the sea.

Before it became necessary, the Marine Corps saw the need and invented and practiced and perfected the techniques for taking beaches from the sea.

Before WWII many believed the concept of amphibious assaults was outmoded and had been discredited at Gallipoli in WWI.

The Marines believed it was still a viable concept, and that the skills and eqiuipment needed should be kept up.

The Japanese also felt it had a future.

Are there any examples of nations whose “amphibious assault/shock units” - by whatever name - are integrated within that nation’s army?

I have no opinion pro or con on this - I’m honestly curious.