Even before the Jamestown Settlement and Capt. John Smith explored the Potomac banks in 1608, the Spaniards had visited Quantico nearly 40 years earlier. Tobacco was the main product of early Scottish settlers in the Quantico area, which was the home of many Revolutionary War heroes. American, British and French armies used nearby roads to move from one battlefield to another. During the Civil War, Confederates used the Potomac’s banks as gun positions to halt Union traffic on the river. By the 1880s, the land had been acquired by speculators who sold it to the Corps in 1917.
The commandant of the Marine Corps established Marine Barracks Quantico on May 14, 1917. Thousands were trained here during World War I, including units of the 4th Marine Brigade. In 1920, Marine Corps Schools was founded (in the words of then-chief of staff for Quantico, Col. Smedley D. Butler) to “make this post and the whole Marine Corps a great university.”
Prospects of a Pacific War in the 1920s showed a need for revolutionary new tactics and hardware. The techniques of amphibious warfare were conceived and perfected here. Marines at the predecessor of today’s Marine Corps Systems Command designed equipment to ensure successful amphibious operations. Quantico aviators developed close-air support tactics to aid troops on the ground.
The Caribbean “Banana Wars” tested new tactics and equipment developed at Quantico. The tactical units carrying out the new amphibious operations became the Fleet Marine Force in 1935. The FMF, headquartered at Quantico, perfected equipment and techniques in anticipation of its Pacific role. When the headquarters of the FMF left in 1941, Quantico’s main task became the education of individual Marines rather than unit training.
Amphibious warfare techniques, developed here in the years before World War II, made victory possible in that conflict’s Pacific theater. Quantico trained 15,000 lieutenants and numerous officers from other services, who were leaders in that victory.
In 1947, Quantico Marines conceived of carrying troops from ship to shore by helicopter and formed a special squadron to test the idea: Marine Helicopter Squadron 1, commonly referred to as HMX-1. The helicopter techniques they used here later proved invaluable during the Korean and Vietnam wars. More recently, Quantico played a large part in the development of V/STOL aircraft and amphibious assault ships.
Quantico’s small but vital air facility and HMX-1 continue to aid in development, training and education, as well as their most visible duty, support of the president of the United States.
On Jan. 1, 1968, the base was redesignated the Marine Corps Development and Education Command in the spirit of the command motto, “Semper Progredi” — always forward.
During the summer of 1987, Quantico planners studied more efficient and streamlined ways in which MCDEC could ensure the Marine Corps’ Marines of the future would be the best trained, best led, best disciplined and best equipped. On Nov. 10, 1987, the Marine Corps Combat Development Command was created, cementing Quantico’s central role in developing concepts, plans, doctrine, training and equipment for the 21st-century Marine Corps.
From the combat development process emerged other organizations that either stood alone or fell under the MCCDC umbrella. Marine Corps University was established in 1989 to provide the structure and policy for professional military education Corpswide. Marine Corps Systems Command, which is a part of the Materiel Command in Albany, Georgia, was also born from MCCDC.
The 1990s were a great time of growth for Quantico. In 1995, the base became home to one of the Corps’ most forward-thinking organizations, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. The lab’s mission is to conduct experimentation in 21st-century warfare. War games and experiments produce new tactics and technologies to make the Marine war-fighter more capable.
Additionally, the United States military, particularly the Marine Corps, began to play a greater role in peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance operations. The Department of Defense established the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate in 1997 to provide the military with greater flexibility in dealing with the challenges of Military Operations Other Than War.
Quantico is also home to the lifeline and pipeline of the Corps. In 1998, Headquarters Marine Corps moved Manpower and Reserve Affairs and Marine Corps Recruiting Command to Quantico from the Navy Annex in Arlington. M&RA has administrative responsibility for all issues related to Marines, their families and quality of life. Recruiting Command ensures young men and women are enlisted to secure the health of the Marine Corps of the future.
With so many diverse yet intricately woven units, it is appropriate that Quantico is called the Crossroads of the Marine Corps. This is perhaps the only command whose mission touches the farthest reaches of the Corps. Decisions made here impact Marines aboard ship, fighting in the global war on terrorism, on guard duty at embassies across the globe and on reserve duty throughout the United States.
Quantico Marines continue to answer the call to threats against the United States and provide security and logistical assistance to the National Capital Region.
Commands aboard Quantico put their training and technologies, developed during peacetime, to work to provide the best support for the war on terrorism.