Also known as
United States Marine Corps Birthday
annually on November 10th (since 1921)
John A. Lejeune on November 1st, 1921
USMC Day—or the United States Marine Corps Birthday—celebrates the creation of the Marine Corps. On November 10, 1775, the Continental Marines were created when the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution drafted by John Adams. The first Marines were enlisted under Commandant Samuel Nicholas—viewed as the first Marine Commandant—likely at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. The Continental Marines were in service for the duration of the American Revolutionary War but were disbanded in 1783 following it. At a time of increasing tensions with France on the seas, the Marines were re-established on July 11, 1798, with a bill signed by then-President John Adams. The United States Marine Corps became a permanent military force under the Department of the Navy.
In October 1921, Major Edwin North McClellan sent a memorandum to Commandant John A. Lejuene, suggesting that November 10th be made a Marine Corps holiday. Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order 47 on November 1st. It said, in part:
"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."
USMC Day is marked by Marines, no matter where they are in the world, with celebrations consisting of a variety of activities. A formal ball has been held since 1925. A cake-cutting ceremony was detailed by Commandant Lemuel C. Shepherd in 1952, and by 1956 was included in the Marine Drill Manual. The first slice of cake is given to the oldest Marine, who hands it to the youngest Marine, symbolizing the passage of knowledge from the old Marines to the young. Other activities have included dances, banquets, musical performances, mock battles, sporting events, unit runs, and pageants, where current and historical Marine uniforms are worn. Marine Corps Order 47 is read and republished, the current Commandant gives a message, and a wreath is laid at the grave of Samuel Nicholas, the first Commandant.
The Marines have participated in every war and many other operations since their creation. In March 1776, they landed on foreign shores for the first time. Led by Nicholas, they captured New Providence Island in the Bahamas from the British. Following their re-establishment in 1798, they participated in the Quasi-War against France and took on Barbary pirates off the coast of North Africa. They fought in the War of 1812, including with Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. In the decades that followed, they protected America's interests around the world.
During the Mexican-American War, Marines seized seaports in the Pacific and Gulf Coasts and fought to Mexico City along with General Winfield Scott's army. They took part in the Civil War and were in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. At the turn of the nineteenth century, they participated in the Philippine-American War and intervened during the Boxer Rebellion in China. Soon after they took part in interventions in Panama, Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Haiti.
During World War I, over 30,000 Marines served in France, and Marine pilots flew bomber missions over France and Belgium. For their heroics during the war, the Marines were given the name "Devil Dogs." Throughout World War II, Marines engaged in amphibious warfare in places like Guadalcanal, Saipan, Tinian, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. At the height of their involvement in the war, the Marines had a presence of 485,113. Almost 87,000 Marines were killed or wounded, and 82 received the Medal of Honor.
Sustained Marine involvement in Vietnam began when the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade landed in Da Nang in 1965. By the summer of 1968, Marine numbers reached their height, with 85,000 involved in the war. Drawdowns began the following year, and the last Marines left the country in 1971, not before 13,000 lost their lives and 88,000 were wounded. They returned to assist with evacuations of Cambodia and Vietnam in 1975 and helped rescue the crew of the Mayaguez off the Cambodian coast.
In the 1980s, Marines took part in operations in Lebanon, Grenada, and Panama. Between August 1990 and January 1991, more than 92,000 Marines were in the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Shield. Operation Desert Storm began in January, and when the 100-hour ground war took place in late February, the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions were at the forefront of the battle, breaking through the Iraqi defense lines and into Kuwait. Throughout the 1990s, Marines took part in operations across the globe, including in Somalia, Liberia, Bangladesh, Northern Iraq, the Philippines, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Haiti, Zaire, Eritrea, Kenya, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Kosovo.
Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, Marines took part in Operation Enduring Freedom, and then in Operation Iraqi Freedom. As of 2021, the combined number of active-duty and reserve Marines is more than 200,000. There are four divisions: the 1st Marine Division is stationed at Camp Pendleton in California; the 2nd Marine Division is at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina; the 3rd Marine Division is at Camp Courtney in Okinawa, Japan; and the 4th Marine Division is a reserve unit, stationed at New Orleans and across the United States. Semper Fidelis, often shortened to Semper Fi, is the motto of the Marines and is Latin for "Always Faithful." Today, on USMC Day, the founding of the Marines is celebrated by those who serve and by those who wish to honor these distinguished citizens who have always been faithful to their corps and country.
How to Observe USMC Day
Both Marines and the public can celebrate USMC Day, but they might do so in different ways. The following are some celebration ideas:
- As a marine, attend a Marine Corps birthday ball, take part in a cake-cutting ceremony, or participate in another official activity.
- As a citizen, thank a Marine for their service.
- Read Marine Corps Order 47.
- Learn more about the Marines by reading a book about them and visiting their official website.
- Visit the spot where the Tun Tavern once stood, where the first Marines enlisted.
- Visit the grave of Commandant Samuel Nicholas.
- Visit the Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum, the Carolina Museum of the Marine, or the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
- Become a Marine.