Marine Corps Birthday

Marine Corps Birthday - Sunday, November 10, 2024

Federal Historical Military

What is the Marine Corps Birthday?

The Marine Corps Birthday is observed on November 10. It was created on November 10, 1921 by the U.S. Government to show appreciation for the United States Marines. Having taken part in nearly every U.S. conflict, the Marine Corps has defended our country since America’s inception. The Corps, with over 186,000 active duty members and 38,500 reserves as of 2017, continues its proud tradition as protectors of the U.S. and its people.

Marine Corps Birthday History

On November 10, 1775, just eight months shy of the Declaration of Independence, a new corps was formed following the introduction of the Continental Marine Act. As suggested by the title, the group was known as the Continental Marines. While this group held several different duties, their core purpose was to provide additional security and support for the recently formed Continental Navy. First led by Commandant Samuel Nicholas, this branch of the burgeoning U.S. armed forces would culminate at just over 2,100 servicemen. In contrast, the number of active troops in the Continental Army at one time would reach a peak of approximately 80,000. 

After participating in a host of actions and battles throughout the Revolutionary War, the Continental Marines would be disbanded upon the end of the conflict. The Marine Corps would be established on July 11, 1798, and throughout the 19th century (and a portion of the next), this would be the date upon which marines would celebrate the founding of the Corps as an official entity. 

However, this would change in 1921. Major Edwin North McClellan of the Marine Corps History Division submitted a proposition to the ranking commandant which advocated for the anniversary to instead be designated on November 10. A series of standardizations as to how celebrations of the Marine Corps Birthday would be executed would follow in the 1950s. Since then, Marines have been encouraged to treat the anniversary with greater importance. 


Marine Corps Birthday timeline


The Continental Marines​

​It's the precursor to the U.S. Marine Corps. Though short-lived, this division played a distinct role in the Revolutionary War.


A split from the Navy

​The Marines are officially established as a landing force for the Navy. Congress would soon make the Marine Corps a separate service.


​Marines fought at sea

During the War of 1812, Marine detachments on Navy ships take part in some of the great frigate duels that characterized the war, which were the first and last engagements of the conflict. ​


The Marine Hymn

French composer Jacques Offenbach revises his opera Geneviève de Brabant to include a new piece of music that would become the basis for the official USMC hymn. The hymn is considered to be the oldest official song in the U.S. Armed Forces.


The first female marine

Opha May Johnson becomes the first woman to officially enlist as a Marine in the history of the military branch.



The now-famous exclamation is first introduced into the vernacular of recruits and established members of the Corps alike.

Marine Corps Birthday Traditions

At first assumption, the traditions surrounding the United States Marine Corps’ birthday may seem stuffy and full of military pageantry, pomp and circumstance. But, this is when the marines let their proverbial hair down in the most uniformed version of fun – a ball and a cake cutting ceremony. 
In addition to a fancy ball and cake cutting ceremony many birthdays have included a variety of battle reenactments, pageants, musical performances, and even sporting events. But the main event – so thoroughly baked into the system of the Marine Corps that it’s written into the official manual – is the cake cutting ceremony. Done with the same respect for tradition and order as a 21 gun salute, the cake cutting was formalized in the Drill Manual in 1956 where, by tradition, the first slice of cake is given to the oldest marine present who then hands it to the youngest marine present, symbolizing a passing of knowledge and tradition from wisest to newest. 
After that, a traditional reading of Marine Corps Order 47, which created the official holiday as a mandatory celebration, followed by any format of pageantry and celebration that time allows. 

Marine Corps Birthday FAQs

How was the Marine Corps born?

The Marine Corps was formed on November 10, 1775, to aid naval forces in the Revolutionary War. The initial recruiting headquarters was managed by Commandant Samuel Nicholas in the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.

Can Marines be Navy SEALs?

No. In order to become a Navy SEAL, a member of the U.S. Armed Forces must attain this position upon progressing through the ranks of the Navy. 


Do the Marines have reserves?

The Marines do maintain a reserve. This allows for the Corps to preserve a number of servicemen and servicewomen in the event that an increase in active troops is required. Many Marines enter the reserve after a term of active duty; this allows them the opportunity to continue their service while pursuing a civilian career or furthering their education.

What do you say to a Marine on Marine Corps Birthday?

Voicing some form of thanks or appreciation is the most appropriate way to proceed on this day.

​5 Proud Marine Corps Facts

  1. ​Marines have their own unique culture

    Marines are distinguished by their mission, training, history, uniform, and esprit de corps. (Don't call them "soldiers.")

  2. ​The Marine Hymn is the oldest

    It's a sacred symbol of the pride and professionalism of a Marine as they stand straight and tall at attention when it's performed.

  3. ​“Leatherneck” is more than a nickname

    The standing collar on the dress coat of the Marine Corps uniform is now a vestige of the leatherneck tradition.

  4. ​The Corps was born in a bar

    ​The first Marines enlisted at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, which is considered the birthplace of the Marine Corps.

Fun Stats About the Marine Corps Birthday

  • There are currently 21 Marine Corps bases in the United States, which means there are – at the very least – 21 three-tier cakes being cut on November 10. 
  • There are roughly 180,000 active Marines worldwide, which means on November 10, that 180,000 slices of cake will feed the hungry soldiers. 
  • No apricots allowed. Ever since Vietnam, the Marine Corps has held apricots in a state of bad luck, meaning however fancy the cake cutting may get, their better not be anything apricot in it. 

How to Observe Marine Corps Birthday

  1. Visit the Marine Corps War Memorial

    The iconic statue, located between Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., depicts six Marines raising a U.S.flag on a mountaintop during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

  2. Reach out to a Marine

    If you have a friend or family member that is currently or has been a Marine, reach out to them and remind them how you appreciate the hard work they’ve done for their country.

  3. Get together with your old Corps buddies

    If you’ve spent time in the Marine Corps, try to organize a gathering with your fellow Marines to catch up and collectively appreciate your time served.

Why Marine Corps Birthday is Important

  1. Marines always have your back

    The Marine motto, Semper fidelis (“always faithful”), is the code by which they live. Marines are known for their enduring loyalty, fierce tenacity, and lasting faithfulness towards both their country and their brothers in arms.

  2. Marines are respected, even by enemies

    The Marines have several nicknames, but one was actually coined by those they fought. During World War I, German soldiers' greatest fear was running up against the Marines, and they began calling them “Teufelhunden," or Devil Dog. The nickname has stuck ever since.

  3. The cake Is cut with a sword

    Every year, during the official Marine Corps Birthday Ball, a celebratory cake is first sliced using a sword that dates back to 1805. The first three slices will be doled out to the annual guest of honor, followed by the oldest and youngest present marines, respectively.

Also on Sun Nov 10, 2024...

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