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TECOM Training & Education Command

United States Marine Corps

The meaning of 'Oorah' traced back to its roots

By Lance Cpl. Paul W. Hirseman III | | October 29, 2004

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"Oorah!"

Marines hear it each and every day. Ingrained into Marine minds since boot camp, this distinctly Marine call is barked back and forth in an almost endless stream of motivation. However, take a step back and ask that Marine, "where did 'Oorah' come from exactly?"  

The answer is rarely the same. Countless stories abound regarding the mysterious origins of our beloved phrase.

However, unlike many Marine traditions, "Oorah" is rather new. As any veteran of the past 50 years would say, no Marine before 1950 could be found saying it. The true popularization of the word came in the '80s and '90s, when it fully emerged from the murky secrecy of Marine reconnaissance through drill instructors and by other means into use by Marines around the world.

"As far as I had been told, 'Oorah simply means 'let's kill,'" said Staff Sgt. Hugo Monroy, drill instructor for Platoon 1094, Delta Co., 1st RTBn. "As far as its origin, I really don't know. I always assumed it was simply a Marine tradition that was passed down from Marine to Marine."

The stories of "Oorah's" origins range from the logical to the absurd, including stories such as it being Turkish for kill, which is in fact öldürmek, or even simply a direct counter against the Army's "Hooah."

But where did the word really come from?

Marines and historians have determined the true origins of "Oorah" lie with recon Marines stationed in Korea in 1953. During this time, reconnaissance Marines in the 1st Amphibious Reconnaissance Co., found themselves traveling via submarine to where they were needed. The memorable call of "dive, dive!" would be called on the intercom and a klaxon alarm, which made a very distinct "Aarugha" sound, would announce the descent of the sub below water.

The recon Marines, who heard this sound often, started using it as a motivational tool during runs and physical training. Over time, the word "Aarugha" came to be too much of a mouthful, and eventually molded itself into the familiar "Oorah," according to Maj. Gary Marte, a retired Marine.

Confirmation for this version of the story rests with the official Marine Corps Training Reference Manual on the history of Marine recon, titled "Aarugha," the manual gives credence on the origination of the phrase with reconnaissance Marines.
"Oorah" is just one of the things that separates Marines from any other branch of service, and has become a part of our lasting history.

"It is the traditions, the history, that makes Marines stand out," said Aulton Kohn, Parris Island Museum information receptionist. "The stories passed from drill instructor to recruit, and from Marine to Marine, they add the color to the Corps."

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