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The term Leatherneck

Posted by Sgt Grit Staff
Photos (click on a photo to enlarge)
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Rumsey Broom, United States Marine Corps

“Leatherneck” to describe Marines

Where does the term Leatherneck come from?

From 1798 until 1872 Marines wore a uniform that contained a neck piece made of leather. This stiff leather collar, called “The Stock”, was about 3 1/2 inches high and served two purposes.

1) It served as protection to the neck and critical veins during battle (though in most battle situations this uniform accessory was not practical for wear because it prevented free movement of the neck).

2)It held a Marine’s neck erect while on parade, giving him a great military bearing by forcing the wearer to hold his chin high. Major General George F. Elliot, a Marine of the Spanish American War era, is quoted as saying the wearers looked “like
geese looking for rain”.

Most likely origin of the term Leathernecks stems from the Marines participation in the Barbary Wars. When boarding the ships of hostile pirates, Marines were given added protection against cutlass slashes from the heavy collar. These actions also coincide with when the leather collar started to be worn “to the shores of Tripoli!”

Regardless of its origin, the name has stuck, and it is an accepted term for Marines today. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it simply as a noun meaning “a member of the United States Marine Corps”

There is some debate that Leatherneck is derogatory when used by civilians. There is also some debate on the exact origin of the term. What do you think?
 

Comments

  1. Edmond Fallon, Jr. January 12 2012, 10:35 am

    In 1965, while learning USMC history at PI, SC, we were informed that the term “Leatherneck” did come from the thick leather collars that were worn to protect the neck from cutlass attacks when boarding pirate ships during the Barbary Wars.

    Ed Fallon (Sgt. ‘65-‘71)

  2. Fred Romero January 12 2012, 5:26 pm

    The term Leatherneck means US Marine pure and simple.  It is not derogatory in any manner, shape or form, and I pity the fool who tries to use the word as a pejorative in my presence.  I’m old (enlisted 50 years ago this coming September) but I’ve still got some Devil Dog bite left in me.

    Semper fi to any of my old buds who are still kicking!

    Corporal Fred Romero
    2027884
    62-66
    MATCU-65 Yuma, AZ

  3. Bradford Haupt November 29 2014, 12:38 pm

    Gentlemen,
    First and foremost, thank you all for your service to America!! Second, forgive my ignorance—and being late to this party—but I’ve read that the leatherneck protector was at least partly invented from Thomas Jefferson’s reading in the Koran about the Islamic penchant for beheading resistant infidels and apostate converts. So, please help me if you can. Is there any truth this or is this post-9/11 revisionist history? Your inside knowledge on this is sincerely appreciated!
    One confused crippled civilian

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