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That “America’s Marines” Commercial Shows Five NPS Units, Not Six


Guano Point on the west rim of the Grand Canyon. Photo by echo26 via Flickr.

So far, more than six hundred Traveler readers have accepted our invitation to view the extended version of the Marine Corps commercial “America’s Marines” and try to identify the NPS units visible in the scenes showing the Silent Drill Platoon as they toured and performed in some of America’s cities, towns, and special places – including national parks. Nobody has been able to put it all together, despite the fact that vital clues are provided at the Marine Corps website where the “extended” commercial can be viewed. We’re not surprised. This was a very tricky one. Read on.

Almost everybody correctly identified four NPS units that can be seen in the commercial. They are, in order:

• Independence National Historical Park. That’s Independence Hall.

• Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. That’s the 630-foot high Gateway Arch.

• Lake Mead National Recreation Area. That's the Hoover Dam.

• Golden Gate National Recreation Area. That’s the Golden Gate view from the Marin Headlands.

Another NPS unit visible in that last scene is Fort Point National Historic Site. The old brick masonry fort situated under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge is counted as a separate NPS unit, even though it is also a component of Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

But wait!! How about Rocky Mountain National Park? And Grand Canyon National Park, for crying out loud?! Well, I told you this was a tricky one.

The Rocky Mountain scene was shot near Leadville, Colorado, which is quite a ways southwest of Rocky Mountain National Park. Larry Repanshek thinks that the mountain at the left rear is the fourteener named Mount Elbert (Colorado’s highest mountain). I’m inclined to agree, though I’ve not confirmed that.

The Grand Canyon scene was filmed at Guano Point on the Haulapai Indian Reservation, which is situated on the West Rim of the Grand Canyon in Mohave County, Arizona. This reservation has the controversial glass-bottomed Grand Canyon Skywalk.

Postscript: How the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial’s Gateway Arch came to be used as a backdrop for this commercial is a bit of a puzzler. St. Louis is not among the 14 scheduled stops on the SDP tour indicated with stars on the tour map. Accompanying narratives don’t mention the city or the park, but we can assume that St. Louis was one of the referenced "15 locations" used to create the commercial.


Bob, thanks for coming back and posting the solutions to this puzzle. Now I don't feel so bad, considering we were "oh for 600" on this one!

Edit: Quite tricky. Never mind the structure under the bridge to be counted as a separate NPS unit; "almost visible" indeed! There is also the small matter of downtown Leadville CO, according to Google Earth, being 74 miles as the crow flies and 122 as the human drives from the nearest Visitor Center at Rocky Mountain National Park. Oh well, I guess the mountains in the background of that prairie scene should have been the clue.

Fun nonetheless.

That Rocky Mtn scene could have been Camp Hale. Home of the 10th Mountain Division.

I'm not familiar with the area, so I really can't say exactly where the filming took place. It looks like the general description of the Camp Hale site (large, flat bottomed valley) may fit. Camp Hale was deactivated in 1965 and turned over to the Forest Service. Not too long ago the site was the focus of a major project to remove unexploded munitions left over from Army and CIA combat training exercises.

Hearty thanks to Jon, who pointed to an error (since corrected) in the initial version of this article. The last two scenes were filmed in Golden Gate National Recreation Area alright, but not from Crissy Field looking north. The filming was actually done in the Marin Headlands area of GOGA looking south toward the San Francisco end of the Golden Gate Bridge. In other words, in the original version of the article I had it exactly ass-backwards. Anyway, the penultimate filming site in this commercial is Battery Spencer, and the very last filming site is Kirby Cove Beach. This brings me to an additional point (no pun intended). Fort Point National Historic Site is visible at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge in the very last scene, which means that it cannot possibly be a "nearly visible NPS unit." It also means that a total of five NPS units provided backdrops for the commercial, and that the title of the article was misleading. I fixed it, but only after more than 800 Traveler readers saw the incorrect version. This is all very embarrassing. Perhaps, as some readers have suggested, I should find another line of work. Maybe one that pays? :-)

LOL. No worries.

anyone happen to know what song was used in the commercial?

I believe that the music was written to go with the commercial. BTW, if you'd like to see a very thorough discussion of the commercial, visit this site. The comments-in-reply are absolutely outstanding. As for the article that drew the comments, well, that's another story.

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