Ever wonder where some of the most common items of our Marine Corps history came from? Things like the term "Jarhead," etc.? Most of these things are pretty well known by all Marines. But, then, there are also numerous cases where our accepted history is just plain inaccurate. For instance, Major Devereaux's last message from the besieged Wake Island in early World War Two--"Send Us More Japs"--or that the red stripe on the blue uniform trousers of officers and NCOs (sometimes referred to as bloodstripes) commemorates the Marine blood spilled at the battle of Chapultapec in 1847. These two items are not true, and there are many more things like this that I have addressed elsewhere on my websites.
And then there are some cases where the origin of certain traditions are altogether unknown. Take for example, the case of the well known OohRah! What is its origin? What is its meaning? When and where did it start? Is it related to similar cries now in use by other military services? Nobody knows for sure. Yeah, most everybody has an opinion, but what is the straight scoop? Some of the more popular "opinions" on this include that OohRah comes from either (take your pick) a Turkish or a Russian battle cry, and was somehow adopted by U.S. Marines. For many years, I, myself, leaned in the direction that it may have originated with the 1956 film, The DI, starring Jack Webb as T/Sgt Jim Moore, who, in that movie, commands his recruit platoon (paraphrased), "Let me hear you GROWL, tigers!"
In any case, opinions on this abound--some ridiculous, some even humorous, but like I already said, nobody seems to know for sure. OohRah is now well-entrenched in Marine Corps tradition, and although I have found that it is generally disliked and its use disapproved of by many old time Marines, one thing is for sure--it is here to stay! Personally, I think that provided we could determine valid and meaningful historical origin, much of this disapproval by old timers would soon be forgotten. And it seems like OohRah's origin is not so far distant in our past that there should still be some old salts around even now who can clue us in on the straight scoop.
Somewhere I read....
"The Sea Story is the traditional, preferred means by which wisdom
is passed on from one generation of Marines to the next."
That makes sense to me, and I have thought that if we're ever going to get an answer on this it will be from Marines who were there and know. For at least a couple years now I have been using the resources of my e-mail and websites to seek information from Marines on this question, but the results have been disappointing. Up to now, that is.
On 12 May 2002, I received the following information from Marine
Bob Rader (Sgt Wolf); the info had first been posted to the Sgt Grit's Bulletin
Board and then e-mailed to me. *****************
From Whence It Came?
Received this among some other stuff from an old college classmate and former Force Troops Recon Marine, Dr. Frank Osanka:
The Recon Marines (and maybe all Marines), have their "OORAH" and the Army its "HOOAH"! But what is the origin of these exclamations by troops (can't call them words-- they are better described as sounds)? When used they are unmistakenly expressions of verve, spirit, morale, espirit, eliteness and sometimes derision! They are responses, greetngs, etc.
You won't find anything in Navy BuPers files. Marine Corps directives or Army regulations prescribing that they be used. Yet, they permeate the ranks and their origins ought to be recorded for they are as much military lexicon as "SNAFU," "GI", "Kilroy was here", "P38", etc. And, woe betide the commander who thinks he can put an end to their use! They are exclusive property of those who use them and rightfully so--for what it means to them transcends anything a leader can do to give them unity and a sense of belonging!
Whey did they start? Who started them? Why are they so popular with the troops? I can't answer the question..."OORAH"is answered below, courtesy of Gary "Buddha" Marte, (former Marine).
OK, HERE IT IS! THE DEFINITION AND HISTORY OF 'OORAH'
Right after Korea in 1953 the 1st Amphibious Reconnaissance Company, FMFPAC can be credited with the birth of "OORAH" in the Corps.
Specifically, where it came from was when Recon Marines were aboard the Submarine USS PERCH, ASSP-313. The Perch was an old WWII diesel boat retrofitted to carry UDT and Amphib Recon Marines. If you remember the old war movies, whenever the boat was to dive, you heard on the PA system, "DIVE,DIVE", and you heard the horn sound "AARUGHA", like an old Model "A" horn.
Sometime in 1953 or 1954, 1st Amphib Recon Marines, while on a conditioning run on land singing chants, someone imitated the "Dive" horn sound "AARUGHA", and it naturally became a Recon Warrior chant or mantra while on runs. It is sort of like the martial arts yell and adds a positive inference to the action. And this became part of Recon lexicon.
Former SgtMaj of the Marine Corps, John Massaro, was the company gunny of 1st Force in the late 50s and when he tansferred to MCRDSD as an instructor at DI school he took "AARUGHA" with him and passed it on to the DI students and they , in turn, passed it on to recruits.
Just as "Gung Ho" became symbolic of the WWII Raiders, so did "AARUGHA" become part of the new "running Marine Corps."
Over time, "AARUGHA" EVENTUALLY CHANGED TO "OORAH". The official Marine Corps Training Reference Manual on the history of Marine Recon is titled "AARUGHA", giving credence on the orgination of the 'POSITIVE RESPONSE' accenting anything that is meant to be good and uniquely Marine Corps.
It is part of Marine Corps language, like "Pogey Bait", "SOS", etc.
Semper Fi & Gung Ho,
Since May I have been attempting to contact Major Marte for his verification of this story. On 12 August 2002, I received the following e-mail from the major.
When I was in ist Amphib Recon Company (54-57) when we went on our conditioning runs we would chant and one of the sayings was "AARUGHA" which was imitating the sound of the klaxon horn on board the submarine whenever the announcement was made "DIVE, DIVE". This was started by SgtMaj Dave Kendricks (Then a Gunny in 1952 in Amphib Recon) Today, it is part of the Marine Corps language as is Semper Fi, Gung Ho, etc. Loosely translated it means acknowledgement to a question and anything positive. Hope this helps!
Gary "Buddha" Marte
Major, USMC, Ret
In my opinion, we have most likely finally hit paydirt here! It has long been thought, as expressed by many responses to my queries, that OohRah was grounded in Marine Recon. The fact that Maj Marte is an old-time Recon Marine, and was there in the early 50s, lends credence to an altogether plausible explanation as to the beginning and evolution of OohRah. I expect to publish this information on Gunny G's websites; hopefully, other Marines with knowledge of this will also come forward to comment on this
My most sincere thanks to Major Marte, Dr. Osanka, Bob Rader and others mentioned above..See Also....
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)