The origin story of the Marines' battle cry, 'oo-rah'

Walk onto any Marine Corps base and you’ll hear all sorts of celebratory grunts, like “ERRR,” and “Yut,” echoing throughout the well-trimmed grounds. However, one grunt stands out the most amongst Marines from the day they enter boot camp until the day they die — “oo-rah.”

Although the military has many slang words and uses countless acronyms that could mean virtually anything to a civilian ear, the battle cry, “oo-rah,” has only one meaning.

Used as a motivational tool to push recruits and Marines beyond their limit, the classic grunt actually stems from another traditional sound.

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Although they are a few theories how the legendary shout started, several sources point to a single origin — aboard a Naval submarine.

oo-rah, Marines

Many historians believe that “oo-rah” came from, of course, Marines, assigned to 1st Amphibious Reconnaissance while traveling aboard a submarine in 1953.

When a sub is about to submerge, “dive, dive” is called out over the intercom system followed by a klaxon alarm, which makes a very distinct “aarugha.”

Click play below to hear the klaxon alarm.

(Lord Sandwich | YouTube)

Also Read: Here’s how ‘Taps’ got its name

Reportedly, aboard one of the submarines used during the Korean War was Gunnery Sergeant John R. Massaro, who shortened the sound into “oo-rah,” shouted as Marines dove out of the vessel.

As the grunt become more popular, it spread quickly throughout the Marine Corps. Soon, it became one of the ways Marines responded to various questions.

John R. Massaro

John R. Massaro at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, 1948.

The symbolic grunt has since become one of the most recognized sounds used in the military today.

As for its accredited originator, Gunnery Sergeant John R. Massaro, he served in the Marine Corps for 31 years and retired as the 8th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps in 1979.