OCS Quantico History

OCS Quantico History

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Quince Bisard

6 min read
Table Of Content

    This information was obtained from the OCS NROTC Field Training Manual.
    NAVEDTRA 37302K

    Quantico, the heart of development and military education for the United States Marine Corps, is located on a 62,000 acre tract of land along the Potomac River in northern Virginia. Its name means "by the large stream," a term used by Indians who once lived there in the wooded Virginia hills.

    Its military history dates back to 1775, with the Commonwealth of Virginia establishing a Navy of 72 vessels and utilizing Quantico as a base of operations for the fleet.

    During the Civil War, Confederate gun batteries located at Quantico blocked the shipping lane of the Potomac River, blockading the Federal capital for a long period of time.

    Marine Corps interests in Quantico began in 1917 as U.S. participation in World War I became imminent. At that time Major General George Barnett, 12th Commandant of the Marine Corps, ordered a new training camp established that could house 7,500 Marines. The main criteria for the site was that it had to be on land lying next to a body of water and suitable for troop maneuvers and target practice.

    A 5,300 acre tract, meeting all the specifications, was found at Quantico, approximately 35 miles south of Washington, DC.

    The first Marines arrived at Quantico on May 14, 1917, after transfer from the Annapolis, Maryland, Marine Barracks. They were joined later by a light artillery battalion and the 6th and 8th Marine Regiments. The units were known as the Advanced Base Force.

    Throughout World War I, thousands of Marines trained at Quantico, including the famed 4th Marine Brigade which later served in France.

    In December 1918, the Quantico site was purchased, and the Secretary of the Navy authorized the Marine Corps to develop Quantico as a permanent base.

    The Marine Corps Schools, forerunner of the present Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC), were established at Quantico in 1921, when Major General John A. Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, decided that existing educational facilities for Marines were inadequate.

    The 1920's saw the transition of Quantico from a tent city to a permanent Marine Corps Base. It also saw the early realization of the idea that a war with Japan was a distinct future possibility.

    To meet this prospect, it was clear that a successful offensive against the Japanese would require seizure-by amphibious assauIt-of a chain of naval bases and islands across the Pacific.

    New concepts, new skills, and new equipment were essential requirements in order to accomplish this. Quantico, well equipped to undertake and develop the necessary plans for such a task, became the focal point of amphibious warfare development.

    By 1935, Marine Corps Schools completed a "Tentative Landing Operations Manual," which was adopted intact by the U.S. Navy in 1938. In 1941, the U.S. Army borrowed the text verbatim when it issued its first amphibious manual.

    Equipment for the implementation of the amphibious manual was developed at Quantico by the Marine Corps Equipment Board. The forerunner of the Marine Corps Systems Command, this agency assumed leadership in the development of new devices needed to conduct and support military operations across the natural barrier presented by a shoreline.

    Among the new developments and ideas formulated at the time was the concept of close air support for troops on the ground. Under this concept, the commander of a ground unit could call for air support to deliver aerial ordnance on enemy targets, including those near his own position. This doctrine is very much alive and in use today.

    Meanwhile, the Advanced Base Force had become the East Coast Expeditionary Force in 1921, and the Fleet Marine Force in 1935. It played its part in amphibious development by putting to practical test the doctrines and equipment evolved and invented respectively at Marine Corps Schools and the Equip¬ment Board.

    As a result of the pioneering work of the Marine Corps in the 1920's and 1930's, the United States was ready for amphibious warfare which later made possible the invasion of North Africa, Europe, and the sweep across the Pacific during World War II.

    With the move of the Fleet Marine Force in 1941 from Quantico to Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point, North Carolina, the principal mission of Quantico became the individual education of Marines as distinguished from unit training.

    The advent of World War II greatly accelerated the growth and pace of Quantico. In 1942, some 50,000 acres west of U.S. Highway 1 were added to the base to provide much needed maneuver, firing, and bombing ranges.

    During the war, 15,000 second lieutenants were commissioned at the schools and another 20,000 Marine officers received specialized and advanced training at Quantico. In addition, officers from the Army, Navy, and allied countries also studied at Quantico.

    With the end of World War II and the advent of the nuclear age, Marine Corps Schools introduced a new amphibious concept-one that would improve conventional landings as well as operations involving the possible use of atomic weapons.

    This new concept was based on the helicopter. This experimental aircraft offered a rapid means of moving troops from scattered ships to shore, while allowing the fighting men to bypass heavily defended beaches and attack them from the rear.

    To help test this concept, Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) was established at Quantico in 1947.

    In 1950, Korea became the proving ground for the techniques developed. During the bitter fighting there, entire Marine battalions were transported to the front and regiments were frequently supplied by helicopters. Ten thousand Marines were evacuated the same way-by Marine helicopters.

    The doctrines and equipment perfected at Quantico proved themselves in Vietnam.
    On 1 January 1968, Quantico dropped the title Marine Corps Schools and became the Marine Corps Development and Education Command (MCDEC). The focus of Quantico was further refined when MCDEC became the Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC) on 10 November 1987.

    In addition to developing contemporary military doctrine and tactics, Quantico offers progressive education at the basic, intermediate and career levels for Marine officers as well as military professional education for Marine Corps staff noncommissioned officers. Further, the Combat Development Command was proactive in the evolution of doctrine, techniques, and training which contributed substantially to the success of Operation Desert Storm in Southwest Asia in 1991.

    From its inception, the Marine Corps has recognized that professionally trained and highly motivated individuals are needed to guide the organization. Leadership has been and will always remain the watchword of the Marine Corps. All activities at Quantico are geared toward developing and strengthening that quality, particularly in Marine officers.

    Today, the Marine Corps has reduced its ranks to a hard core of dedicated men and women. People of conviction who seek a challenging career are being chosen to fill the ranks. At Quantico the education and development of new officers begins. From this touchstone, they step off as "Officers of Marines" to meet the challenges of command which await them in today's Marine Corps.