One of the Marine Corps’ most instantly recognizable symbols, the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor design serves as the basis for the Corps’ emblem, its branch-of-service insignia, and its seal. For the USMC emblem, the eagle holds a scroll in its beak that is emblazoned with the Corps’ motto “Semper Fidelis.” Branch-of-service insignia come in Officer and Enlisted personnel designs, with the most notable differences between the two being the mixture of silver and gold employed for Officer insignias (Enlisted insignia are all gold) and the inclusion of the island of Cuba on the enlisted insignia. The size of the Eagle and Anchor elements on Officers’ insignia depend on the size of the globe, which varies depending on the location where the insignia was designed to be worn (collar, dress cap, or service cover).

Two of the insignia’s components, the fouled anchor and the eagle, were first used on buttons of Marine uniforms as far back as 1804, where they were surrounded in the upper half of the button with 13 six-pointed stars. While the stars were later replaced with five-pointed versions, the button insignia including its unique stars is still employed by the Marine Corps History Division. The eagle and anchor were also used on cap insignia in the early 19th century, but were joined by numerous military implements—cannon and cannon balls, flags, drums, and mortars—and the word “Marines” at the bottom.

In the decades leading up to and during the Civil War, the insignia underwent changes that apparently were intended to make it conform to the appearance of other branches of the military’s insignia (i.e., the eagle and anchor were removed). In response to this somewhat bland design, Brigadier General Jacob Zeilin (who served as USMC Commandant from 1864 to 1876) brought back the eagle and anchor and added the globe, representing the worldwide reach of the Corps.

Between 1925 and 1955, several other changes were made—an American Bald replaced a crested eagle, the scroll with “Semper Fidelis” was added (its positioning changed over the years), the eagle’s head was faced to the viewer’s left, and so forth. In 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower signed an Executive Order strictly defining the appearance of the Seal of the United States Marine Corps and, by extension, the design of insignia utilizing the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor components of the seal.
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