“The few, the proud,” the elite fighting force known as the Marines celebrate their birthday every year to celebrate and honor what it means to be a Marine, to honor those who have served before, and to commemorate the founding of the Marine.
The Marine Corps birthday is November 10. This is the day, in 1921, Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune ordered to be the Marine Corps official birthday by issuing Marine Corps Order No 47, Series 1921. This order discussed the history, the traditions, and the mission of the Marine Corps, and was directed to be read to all commands every year on November 10 in honor and celebration of the Marine Corps birthday.
When Was the Marine Corps Founded?
Although the Marine Corps Birthday is on November 10, 1921, the Marine Corps was actually founded on November 10, 1775. The Marine Corps was established as a way to fortify naval forces during the Revolutionary War.
The Marine Corps was born the day the Second Continental Congress passed the Continental Marine Act of 1775 which ordered 2 battalions of Marines to be raised. Captain Samual Nicholas set up recruiting headquarters at what is known as the birthplace of the Marines, Tun Tavern in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Taverns and inns were popular places for political meetings during the time, and Tun Tavern was a popular location for many notable meetings and groups.
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Following many successful campaigns during the Revolutionary War, and after the end of the war following the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the Marine Corps was disbanded along with the Navy. But then on July 11, 1798, Congress ordered the creation of the United States Marine Corps to be available for service under the Secretary of the Navy. Thus, the official United States Marine Corps was born.
Marine Corps Order No. 47
Marine Corps Order No. 47 is read at every Marine Corps birthday commemoration. It is a birthday message from Commandant Lejeune. The message is worth reading because it takes you back to a different lifetime, a different experience for the people alive then, but still the same commitments, the same honor, the same bravery that is required to be a United States Marine today. In the birthday commemoration’s entirety, it reads as follows:
“On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental Congress. Since that date, many thousand men have borne the name “Marine”. In memory of them, it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.
The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.
In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term “Marine” has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.
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This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it, we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as “Soldiers of the Sea” since the founding of the Corps.”
This message has been read year after year, across all posts and stations when celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday since 1921 when the day was formalized.
Celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday
The Marine Corps celebrated its birthday on July 11 for 122 years, from 1799 to 1921, until Major General Commandant Lejeune ordered the new birthday to sync up with the original founding date of November 10.
As part of the Marine Corps’ birthday celebrations, there were always a variety of observances that popped up to commemorate the day. In 1951, a formal Birthday Ball Pageant was held. The event spoke of period uniforms and had a cake ceremony. Typically, with the cake ceremony, the first piece of cake went to the oldest Marine present at the event, while the second piece of cake went to the youngest Marine present.
On October 28, 1952, General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., the Commandant of the Marine Corps, directed that the Marine Corps’ birthday be formalized, which was approved and outlined in the Marine Corps Drill Manual on January 26, 1956. This outline provided a reference for the cake ceremony as well as other formal observances for the special celebration.
The Marine Corps Birthday is celebrated in different ways across the different posts and stations. Some host an annual Birthday Ball, while all of the commemorations include the reading of the Marine Corps Order No 47, and the current Commandant’s message to those in attendance.
What Is the Purpose of the Marines, Then and Now?
The purpose of the original founding of the Marines was to fortify naval forces during the Revolutionary War. During that time, the Marines weren’t technically the Marines we have now, as they were the Continental Marines. It wasn’t until they were created, or recreated, in 1798, that they were officially named the United States Marine Corps. They have a similar mission now, but more organized and refined, an aggressive and effective powerhouse of force that protects our water, land, and skies.
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According to the Marines’ purpose statement, “Marines are trained to improvise, adapt and overcome any obstacle in whatever situation they are needed. They have the willingness to engage and the determination to defeat the enemy until victory is seized.
The kinds of battles active-duty Marines fight range from traditional warfare to humanitarian and disaster relief missions (HADR). The fighting spirit that helps them win these battles extends beyond the scope of their military service, and many Marines continue to serve in the communities where they live.”
Marines are forward-deployed and often the first on the ground and first to respond swiftly and aggressively to crisis situations. The Marine Corps’ history is vibrant and prestigious, with many battles won, many lives lost, and a team of soldiers who are dedicated to their craft. Becoming a Marine is an honor. Becoming a Marine means joining this history that dates back to the 1700s, where you continue to fight for the safety and freedom of the United States citizens and their land, as well as protecting those interests globally.
November 11 has been the Marine Corps Birthday since 1921, and possibly since its inception in 1775 if we’re counting the Continental Marines. Formalizing this commemoration was a great choice to honor and celebrate the difficult work, the sacrifices, and the commitment required to be a United States Marine.