The U.S. Marine Corps Birthday celebrates the history, memory of those who served before and rekindles the bond that unites all generations of Marines. It is a celebration of the profound respect for the Marine Corps traditions and reverence of the heritage that distinguishes the Corps of Marines.
The Marine Corps birthday will take place on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. The Marine Corps turns 245 years old.
History of the Marine Corps Birthday
The birthday itself was formally recognized in 1921 at the behest of Major General John Lejeune, who ordered November 10, 1775 to be officially recognized service-wide as the Marine Corps birthday.
The origins go back to the Revolutionary War in October of 1775. At that time the Continental Congress developed an official plan to use Marines to oversee a mission to intercept ammunition shipments from Britain. This, and a November resolution to create an official standing Marine Corps force, were key in building what eventually became the modern U.S. Marine Corps. Thus 10 November, 1775, the day the Continental Marines were created serves as the official Marine Corps birthday. The motivation for that resolution-a plan to attack Nova Scotia in order to annex it-never happened. But the Marines remained. But for how long?
Out Of Existence, Temporarily
According to the U.S. Marine Corps official site, “Throughout the American Revolution, the Marines served with distinction aboard the Continental vessels, but with the ending of that conflict, the entire Naval Service was so neglected through lack of appropriations and necessary legislation that by 1785 it actually ceased to exist.”
That would be the case until 1794 when Congress issued the first legislation addressing the need for a Navy and Marine Corps since the Revolutionary War.
Establishment of the Marine Corps As A Separate Branch Of Military Service
In the late 1700s, piracy had forced another look at using naval warfare to project the military power of the United States. At this time, the Marines still operated under the U.S. Navy, which itself operated under the Secretary of War. Legislation to make the U.S. Navy its own department came in 1798, with more legislation to establish the U.S. Marines as its own branch of service enacted later that same year.
Celebrating The Marine Corps Birthday
The Marine Corps Birthday is not a federal-style “bank holiday” observed with post office and bank closures, days off at school, etc. Instead it is observed as an “internal” holiday by the various branches of the military, with local government and civic organizations holding events to celebrate the men and women who service as United States Marines. Formal dinners and “Birthday Ball Pageants” in Washington D.C. and on military installations worldwide are part of the recognition of Marine Corps Day.
Marine Corps Birthday Ball
The Marine Corps Birthday Ball is a celebration of Marine Corps history and traditions. The first known Birthday Ball took place in Philadelphia in 1925 and has since evolved from a simple observance to an elaborate and tradition-filled day celebrated at military installations at home and abroad.
Marine Corps Birthday Ball Traditions
During the Birthday Ball a highlight of the evening is a ceremony. A key piece of the Marine Corps birthday celebration includes a cake cutting in celebration of the corps. While there is no exact format the general script involves cutting the cake with a Mameluke sword which gets it name from the cross hilt and ivory grip design and its use in Marine Corps dates back to 1805. The first piece of cake is generally given to the guest of honor and the second piece of cake goes to the oldest Marine present. The oldest Marine will often pass the cake to the youngest Marine to symbolize the passing of knowledge and experience. The ceremony typically also includes speeches, the reading of Gen. John A Lejeune’s birthday message, and a birthday message from the current Commandant.
Regardless of location Marines will pause to observe the birthday by sharing a cake and often a holiday meal too.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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