US Navy carrier sailing through the open ocean.

What’s the Difference Between the Navy and Marines?

The United States is one of the most powerful countries on the planet. Part of the US’s power is its well-trained military forces that are respected all over the world for protecting democracy and freedom

Here, we will identify two of the key branches of the armed forces: the Navy and the Marine Corps.

History of the United States Navy


Congress voted to form the original Continental Navy on Friday, October 13, 1775. It was decided that they would fill two armed sailing vessels to intercept British munitions transports. The American colonies knew who was coming to bring them back in line. The Founding Fathers knew that in order to stand a chance, they’d have to form an army.

The British troops used their powerful naval forces to control the seas; they were able to threaten the American colonies’ trade routes and easily attack the coastal settlements. 

At first, individual states along the coast created their own smaller fleets for defensive purposes. While the US formed a powerful military quickly, they would later privatize colonists’ ships to help wage war.

Disagreements Among the Colonists

This did not bode well with the American people, as they continuously urged Congress to establish a Continental Navy. Navy leader John Adams proposed that an American fleet could better defend the seacoast towns and protect trade from the British forces. A new Navy also opened the possibility for potential travel to seek out allies in an inevitable revolution against the Crown.

Despite all these strong points, Congress still wasn’t convinced this was the best idea at the time. Southern Congressmen feared a new fleet would only protect New England while simultaneously neglecting the rest of the colonies. Others still kept the possibility open to reuniting with England and thought their own Navy would be the last straw to separation.

Even settlers who did view themselves as patriots thought the declaration of sovereignty at that time was foolish considering who they’d be up against. The British Royal Navy was the most powerful fleet in the world at this point in history.

On October 3, 1775, the state of Rhode Island proposed an American fleet as soon as possible. Congress once again shot the idea down due to unknown costs and too vague of an idea plan.

Creation of a Continental Navy

Finally, on October 5, Congress found out that two English ships were headed to Quebec with supplies and ammunition for British troops. Once Congress put out an immediate call to action, navy supporters signed up across the board. General George Washington commanded three ships off the coast of Massachusetts to intercept the British vessels.

The Continental Navy had been established at last. Congress created a Naval Committee responsible for equipping a fleet of its own. Over the course of the American Revolution, the newly established Navy sent out over 50 vessels.

Not only did they take nearly 200 British ships, but they were also able to provoke France into fighting against their common enemy. Today, the Navy is still in existence and is celebrated by Americans annually in October.

History of the United States Marines

Later in the same year of the Navy foundation, Congress passed a resolution that established the Continental Marines. The first Marines were then seen as distinguishable troops that participated in an amphibious raid to the Bahamas during March 1776. Samuel Nicholas became the first commissioned officer in the Marines and is celebrated as the first commandant.

On July 11, 1798, President John Adams officially signed a bill that established the United States Marines Corps as a permanent branch of the military. The Marines were formed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Navy.

Today, they’re still viewed as very similar to the Navy due to this distinction. The Marines celebrate their personal birthday on November 10th annually.

Specific Differences

Although the Marine Corps technically serves under the Navy, you might think they’re identical in every way. Actually, they’re not exactly the same; these two branches have noticeable differences as well.

Structure and Organization

Even though the Marine Corps is listed under the Department of the Navy, their structure better replicates that of the Army. They organize their units by teams, squadrons, platoons, and battalions.

These groups then differentiate themselves internally by basic units, expeditionary forces, and aircraft units. This system is largely regarded as easier to follow. The Navy’s structure is generally more structurally intricate and complex.

The Navy holds separate combatant commands and administrative commands. These have subsequent commands underneath them specified by mission. Below these commands, they do follow a similar organizational logic, including squadrons, fleets, etc.

Independent Duties of Each Branch

The Marine Corps is known for being the first military branch to dive into conflict. They are known as the amphibious branch, meaning they can specialize in land, water, and air attacks. Their duties are to be the quick reaction branch; Marines are expected to rapidly prepare for any mission that may pop up momentarily.

On the other hand, the Navy is responsible for protecting America at sea, defending its allies, economy, and travel across the Ocean. Due to a vast area of operations, the Navy has a volume of fleets that are constantly on duty across the globe.

These fleets contain an array of ship variations which range from aircraft carriers to landing ships. The Navy also contains aircraft that are used in their operations.


The training programs for the Marines and Navy vary, respectively. Aside from the Navy SEALs, Navy servicemen and women do not focus on hand-to-hand combat for the most part. Contrary to this, Marines make this a keystone of their training programs. Marines are especially familiar with combat; they’re the only military branch that requires a martial arts program.

The Marine Corps Boot Camp lasts about a month longer than the Navy’s training program. The Navy trains at the Great Lakes in Illinois, while the Marine Corps will travel to San Diego or Parris Island, SC.

Both branches teach firearms training and have separate physical fitness regimens, but the Navy training members focus on shipborne activities when it comes to combat.

Those in the Marine Corps Boot Camps generally focus on all aspects of combat. This includes firearms, battlefield tactics, first aid, and hand-to-hand combat.

The well-known final step in the Marine Corps Boot Camp is called “The Crucible.” It’s a 54-hour test that incorporates hiking with an excess amount of gear with little to no sleep while showcasing combat skills and cardio.


Looking back at the history of the Navy and Marines, the Naval branch technically is a bit older than the latter. The United States Navy was first established in 1775 after a series of pleas from colonists.

They wanted to create a Continental Navy that could help the American colonists defend themselves from the Royal Navy. At the time, the British Naval fleet was the most powerful in the world.

The Royal Navy had a significant advantage at sea against any other nation of its day (and commonly fought against Spain and France throughout history). 

The United States Congress eventually voted to incorporate a Continental Navy into its military in October of 1775. Originally they possessed only two Naval ships, but this number multiplied by 25 by the end of the American Revolution.

The Marines were first inaugurated roughly a month after the Navy. Congress voted for two battalions to serve alongside the Navy. These military members were to fight both on land and sea. This was put in place for the duration of the American Revolution, but both branches were shortly disbanded following the war.

At the time, the United States decided there wasn’t an essential need for these military branches when no war was ongoing. In 1794 and 1798, both the Navy and Marine Corps were re-established. Each branch was reborn in the same order as they had been the first time, the Navy coming first.


Together as One

While there are notable differences between the Marine Corps and the Navy, however, their main similarity is considerable. Both of these branches are best known for their patriotic allegiance and bravery in face of danger. The most important function of all United States military personnel is to protect and maintain individual freedoms that have been sacrificed to distinguish America from the rest of the world.

Although it might be more established now, the United States was not always a sovereign nation that contributed to the world economy and protected human rights issues. Freedom was earned by the military during the revolution, and Americans maintain this same ideology today. 

When people at home or those abroad see the American flag, they know they are protected by the largest democracy on Earth.  

Without the Marine Corps and the Navy, the United States would not be the same country it is today. Both of these branches have helped fight for freedom, and now they do their utter best to keep it that way forever.




What is the Difference Between Navy vs. Marines | USO

The Origins of the Marine Corps | Military

Birth of the U.S. Marine Corps | History

The Birth of the Navy of the United States | Naval History and Heritage Command

What Marine Recruits Go Through in the Crucible at Boot Camp | Insider

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