The U.S. Marine Corps landed in China exactly 116 years ago today.

On May 31, 1900, an expeditionary force of 56 Marines and sailors arrived in Beijing to protect the U.S. diplomatic mission in the face of mounting militia attacks in what would be known as the Boxer Rebellion.

Over a brutal 55-day siege, the Marines would fend off repeated assaults through dense urban terrain by militias and Chinese government forces determined to wipe them out.

“The Americans who have been besieged in Peking desire to express their hearty appreciation of the courage, fidelity and patriotism of the American Marines, to whom we so largely owe our salvation,” a group of American missionaries wrote in the aftermath of the battle, according to the National Archives. “By their bravery in holding an almost untenable position in the face of overwhelming numbers, and in cooperating in driving the Chinese from a position of great strength, they made all foreigners in Peking their debtors, and have gained for themselves an honorable name among the heroes of their country.”

Read More- Marine Corps Times

Image courtesy of National Archives