Some of the lyrics were popular phrases before the song was written. The line "To the shores of Tripoli" refer to the First Barbary War, and specifically the Battle of Derne in 1805. After Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon and his Marines hoisted the American flag over the Old World for the first time, the phrase was added to the battle colors of the Corps. "The Halls of Montezuma" refers to the Battle of Chapultepec, during the Mexican-American War, where a force of Marines stormed Chapultepec Castle.
"Major Wallach is to be congratulated upon a wonderfully accurate musical memory, for the aria of the Marine Hymn is certainly to be found in the opera, 'Genevieve de Brabant'... The melody is not in the exact form of the Marine Hymn, but is undoubtedly the aria from which it was taken. I am informed, however, by one of the members of the band, who has a Spanish wife, that the aria was one familiar to her childhood and it may, therefore, be a Spanish folk song.”
“The melody of the 'Halls of Montezuma' is taken from Offenbach's comic opera, 'Genevieve de Brabant' and is sung by two gendarmes.”
Admiration of the nation,we're the finest ever seen;And we glory in the titleOf United States Marines.
Instrumental sample of a single verse of the Marines' hymn played by the President's Own Marine Band.
Various people over the years wrote unofficial or semi-unofficial extra verses to commemorate later battles and actions, for example, this verse commemorating the occuption of Iceland during World War II:
and found beneath the midnight sun, the Viking and the Norse.
The Iceland girls were slim and fair, and fair the Iceland scenes,
and the Army found in landing there, the United States Marines.