Origin and Evolution of OohRah


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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."
-Author Unknown
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!

When 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).
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,
Sgt. Wolf"
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!
Semper Fi
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....
And, Again, Please See Also!!!!!
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I had always thought that "OOAHH!" a sort of adaptation of the British "HUZZAH!" or somesuch. Not to far of a stretch for that to be the case since it is only in more modern times that the Marines became something other than the "Infantry of the Navy", and the US Navy copied a lot from other nations early on.

It is also likely that both are directly resultant from the same thing: Its a powerful possitive energy buiding thing to shout out, just like you said.
Much ado about ‘hooah,’ ‘ooh-rah’ and ‘airpower’

[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]By Vince Crawley[/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Times staff writer[/FONT]

It may sound like so much “hooah” to some, but a lot of folks in uniform take their guttural war cries quite seriously.
So ground-pounders all over the planet are up in arms about an Air Force suggestion that airmen should be shouting “airpower!” in place of the more earthy “hooah!”
The phonetically spelled battle cry “hooah” — or its Marine Corps equivalent, “ooh-rah” — often is barked when troops want to voice approval or a sense of esprit de corps. Its full meaning is primal and difficult to define, for it also echoes the hardships faced by those in uniform.
Soldiers tend to prefer “hooah.” Marines say there is a separate and distinct “ooh-rah.” Not only that, they claim theirs was first. While the Army can trace “hooah” back only to the Second Seminole War of 1835-42, Marines cite Revolutionary War battle cries and even Russian and Turkish precedents for “ooh-rah,” which holds tremendous meaning and significance for most leathernecks.
Just listen to Gunnery Sgt. Glenn Holloway, a combat correspondent based at the Navy Annex in Arlington, Va.:
“Ooh-rah comes from the places in our hearts that only Marines understand. It is conceived in sweat, nurtured with drill. It is raw determination and gut-wrenching courage in the face of adversity. It is a concern for fellow Marines embodied by selfless acts of heroism. It cannot be administrated. It is not planned and put into action. It cannot be manufactured. Ooh-rah must be purchased. Ooh-rah is Marine.”
The Navy, generally satisfied with its own time-proven “aye, aye, sir!” — which reaches back to Elizabethan times — remains on the sidelines of this debate.
Air Force Col. Jay DeFrank, director of Pentagon press operations, said he’s unaware of a top-level push to promote “airpower” over “hooah” in the Air Force. But he said he has heard a lot of “airpowers!” bandied about lately, usually in conjunction with Air Force gun-camera footage taken over Afghanistan and northern Iraq.
In November, the idea of adopting “airpower” as the service’s battle cry was presented to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper by a group of security forces airmen, according to Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Tyrone “Woody” Woodyard.
Jumper “clearly is an advocate of air power,” but he has no preference when it comes to his airmen shouting “airpower” or “hooah,” Woodyard said. “General Jumper supports anything that unifies, inspires and motivates a unit to complete its mission.”
E-mails bouncing between the Air Force and Army special-operations communities shed light on the unfolding debate.
A message out of an Air Force special-operations command in the Persian Gulf region in September lays it out: “By now, most of you have heard that the term ‘hooah!’ is not encouraged in our Air Force. If you are looking for something to say in those times of great excitement and agreement when ‘hooah!’ seemed to fit right in, try a good solid ‘airpower!’ Airpower will always be uniquely Air Force.”
This led to predictable Bronx cheers from the rank and file. “Why would a simple word that means so much to so many take up the time of people who have so much more to worry about?” asked one seasoned Air Force member who signed his message: “HOOAH!!”
Army Pvt. Ramon Gomez said he approves of the Air Force’s “airpower” slogan, saying it sets the service apart.
But Army Sgt. Todd Wilson has a different opinion.
“That’s weak,” said Wilson, a senior instructor at the basic noncommissioned officers course at Fort Benning, Ga., who likened the phrase “airpower” to something that might come from the Powerpuff Girls, heroines of a popular TV cartoon.
These days at Fort Benning, spiritual home of the Army’s infantry, enlisted soldiers, officers and even civilians “hooah” one another at meetings, in the hallway or during training.
“I even heard a Marine say hooah,” Wilson said.
Marines, however, would beg to differ. Their “ooh-rah,” they claim, is uniquely their own and exists as a separate and distinct word.
Its origin is uncertain. Some like to say the term originates from a Turkish or Russian battle cry that was adopted by Marines. Others claim it was adapted from the “hip, hip, hooray” cry favored by the British during the American Revolution.
But the most commonly held — and most likely — theory is that the term originated in the Corps’ elite Force Reconnaissance community in the 1960s.
Retired Col. John W. Ripley, director of the Marine Corps History and Museums Division, was among the Marines of 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company in the days when the modern “ooh-rah” was born.
Force Recon Marines often trained aboard submarines in those days, and they “became very, very good friends with submariners,” Ripley said. “They were very good to us.”
Soon enough, Ripley said, the Marines were imitating the noise the sub’s klaxon made while diving: “AAARRRRUUUGGAH!”
“The ‘arrugah’ sound became a chant for recon Marines when they were running,” Ripley explained. “Eventually, it was a response in addition to a chant.”
“Arrugah” became a shout of greeting, acknowledgment or otherwise positive response among Force Recon Marines and expanded to the rest of the Corps in the Vietnam War — but by that time it had become “ooh-rah.”
While the word still is sacred to Marines by and large, some more cynical leathernecks say it doesn’t hold the same allure it once did.
“Some people say it very sincerely, but some people, like me, say it with a bit of sarcasm,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, with II Marine Liaison Element at Camp Lejeune, N.C. “When people say it to me like, ‘Ooh-rah, devil dog,’ I kind of look at them and say, ‘What’s wrong with this guy?’”
Navy people generally are uninvolved in all this hooah-upsmanship.
“Nah, we don’t say hooah,” one Navy officer explained, barely uttering the word above a thin whisper.

Origin of "Oorah"

One thing is for certain there is no known origin of the term "oorah". I have read all the postings here and have read hundreds of them in all kinds of publications. The most recent was in the December 2009 issue of Leatherneck where the editors have officially proclaimed the answer is with the submarine and recon Marines. Unfortunately, this topic will never be answered because no one knows for sure. It is easy to say "I remember when we used it" and "I remember someone on the sub said it sounds like oorah", but there is no documented proof of any of that. That is the way it is when you are discussing the origin of any word. It evolved from something through time and that is the way it is. There are other arguments about the origin being from a Russian word or a Turkish word. Marines did serve and fight in Russia as well as with the Turks in Korea. Winston Churchill has written about the Turks using the term "Oorah" when attacking. His book and the battle he was describing was well before the term came into being in the Marine Corps. Is that the answer? I don't know. Could be. Is the sound of a submarine horn sounding? I don't know. Could be. What's my point? It's simple....no one knows the answer, including me, and I don't think we should be telling everyone that the definitive answer is the submarine horn because one person remembered something he heard someone else say one time and then that person went to San Diego and started using it and WHOOSH across the Corps it went and there it is...Marine Corps history.
Interesting indeed, but I somehow doubt the explanation.

I had always assumed that the "ooh-rah" was nothing more than an adaption of the European Battle Shouts like "Huu-rah!" e.g. for the Germans (it sounds identical, and I would not be surprised to see Americans with their European roots using it, or after having heard it in WWII), they have been standard for the last 500 yrs.

Now, where *those* come from has been a bit lost in the depth of the past, but there are some indicators as to the stem:

The "Hurra!" is a German and English mariner interjection that later made it into the military, etymologists are not really certain if it comes from the midevial old-german "hurrren" (to move rapidly) or from the - also old-german - "urmak" (to beat/fight), both versions would sound "hoorah" in imperative (command) form.

There is another theory assuming that it dervies from the Norman Battle Cry "Thur aïe" (Thor, help!), but this has been discarded lately.

What is sure is that "Hurra!" (sounding "oo-rah!") has been in use more than 300 years in the continental European armies of Austria/Hungary and later in WWI in Germany as Battle Cry for bayonet attacks.


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have read all the postings here and have read hundreds of them in all kinds of publications. The most recent was in the December 2009 issue of Leatherneck where the editors have officially proclaimed the answer is with the submarine and recon Marines. Unfortunately, this topic will never be answered because no one knows for sure.????