With America’s impending involvement in World War I, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Naval Appropriations Act on August 29, 1916. In doing so, he created the Marine Corps Reserve to join in the fighting on land, sea and in the air.

Photo of famed fighter pilot and Native American Greg “Pappy” Boyington.
Famed fighter pilot Greg “Pappy” Boyington.

Reserves flew with the British to attack enemy supply lines. They fought in major land battles including Belleau Wood and Soissons, both in France. And in October 1918, Marine Reserves joined Army troops in the Meusse-Argonne campaign, which became one of the single most important operations in U.S. military history with 1.2 million Americans fighting. It became the final major offense of the Great War. (In that same campaign, Army Captain Nelson Holderman – who later became commandant at the Veterans Homes of California-Yountville – earned his Medal of Honor.)

What began in April 1916 with 35 Marine Reserves, ranks expanded to 6,467– 300 of them women – by the time war ended in November 1918.

Reserves were among the 590,000 Marines who fought during World War II – among them was famed fighter pilot Greg “Pappy” Boyington who led the Black Sheep Squadron and personally shot down 28 enemy planes throughout the war.

Marine Reserves have fought in Korea and the Gulf Wars. They weren’t activated for the Vietnam War, but hundreds volunteered and served there.

Today, there are roughly 36,800 Marine Reserves, along with 178,000 active duty Marines.

CalVet wishes the United States Marine Corps Reserves a happy 106th birthday! We’re honored by your commitment to defend our freedoms.

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