History Newsletter

Happy Birthday Leathernecks

  • November 10, 2014

On November 10th, 1775 in an obscure watering hole in Philadelphia called Tun Tavern, the legacy of the U.S. Marine Corps was born. At that time Captain Samuel Nicholas was recruiting sea-going soldiers for General George Washington’s revolutionary forces. These sea-going soldiers were assumed to be temporary Continental Marines. However in 1898 congress passed the legislation making the U.S. Marine Corps a permanent part of the new United States of America’s military forces.

Marines near and far, young and old, have celebrated the birth of our Corps for hundreds of years. What does the celebration mean to Marines across the globe? To Gen. John A. Lejeune it meant a great deal. On Nov. 1, 1921, he issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, which provided a summary of the history, mission and traditions of the Corps. The illustrious Lejeune directed that the order be read to every command each subsequent year on November 10th in honor of the founding of the Marine Corps.

Either way it was formalized in 1952, by Commandant Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., who directed the celebration of the Marine Corps Birthday be formalized throughout the Corps. The details were included in the Marine Corps Drill Manual approved in 1956 and helped bring together the inclusion of a cake ceremony and other traditions still held every year at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

One key piece is the passing of the first piece of cake from senior to junior Marines; it is a symbolic gesture of the passing of experience and knowledge. That tradition begins in recruit training and at Officer Candidates School, where knowing where one comes from, knowing our past, and living up to that example set, is emblazoned in the minds of those in training.

Our traditions surrounding November 10th are many. Even long after active duty you’ll find many of us celebrating our origin on this date. We remember our legacy. We revere our Marine legends. All other branches of the military have their own song that identifies who they are. The U.S. Marine Corps is the only branch of U.S. military that has a hymn that honors and reveres our legacy. Being a Marine is spiritual – not religious – because we all do our duty for God, country, and family.