Marine Corps Reserve and World War I

The reserve faction of each military branch is essential. When war breaks out, reserve troops can be called upon to provide additional support, both on and off the battlefield. On August 29, 1916 the Naval Appropriations Act of 1916 formally created the Marine Corps Reserve. By April of 1916, the Reserve had just 36 members. That number would swell to 6,467 in 1918, including 300 women. As of 2020, the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve included over 35,000 personnel. 

1916 was not the first time that some iteration reserve forces for the Marines came into existence, but up until that point it was never national. There was a recognized need for a naval reserve dating back to the Civil War. In the time between the Civil War and World War I, states attempted to independently fulfill that need. While that helped, the absence of national force limited the ability of each faction’s readiness and effectiveness. 

World War I, or The Great War, broke out in 1914 in Europe. America was not involved, and President Woodrow Wilson wasn’t interested in changing that. Slowly but steadily, America was drawn in. One of the major turning points was the 1915 sinking of the RMS Lusitania, carrying American passengers. It caused a shift in opinion for many Americans, as did more American deaths with the sinking of the SS Arabic. As these events transpired, it became apparent that America was likely to get involved in the war, and it was time to get prepared. That led President Wilson to sign the Naval Appropriations Act into law. Thousands joined the Marine Corps Reserve, and continue to do so to this day.

During WWI, reservists were called to battle on sea and on land. The integration was crucial to assisting Allied forces in their fight. Some reservists even flew with the British Northern Bombing Group, helping to destroy enemy transportation networks. 

After the war, the force was trimmed to just 600 active members but by 1930, the Reserve forces grew, this time to over 10,000. That would be just a fraction of the Reserve’s size that would exist and participate in the next great war: World War II. 


Posted on August 29 2022 in Blog

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