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United States Marine Corps birthday ball

The United States Marine Corps Birthday is celebrated every year on 10 November with a traditional ball and cake-cutting ceremony. On that day in 1775, the Continental Marines were established.

Historical birthday

File:Sketch of Tun Tavern in the Revolutionary War.jpg
Tun Tavern, "birth place" of the Marine Corps.

The official birthday of the United States Marine Corps is on 10 November 1775. That was the day when the Second Continental Congress established the Continental Marines with the following decree:[1]

Tun Tavern, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is regarded as the birthplace of the Corps as the location of the first Marines to enlist under Commandant Samuel Nicholas,[2][3][4] though it is disputed if a recruiting drive may have occurred earlier at Nicholas's family tavern, the Conestoga Waggon [sic].[5] When the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, the Continental Navy was disestablished, and with it, the Continental Marines. The Corps was re-established on 11 July 1798, when the "act for establishing and organizing a Marine Corps" was signed by President John Adams.[6]


File:John A. Lejeune.jpg
John A. Lejeune, author of Marine Corps Order 47.

Prior to 1921, Marines celebrated the recreation of the Corps on 11 July with little pomp or pagentry.[7] On 21 October 1921, Major Edwin North McClellan, in charge of the Corps's fledgling historical section, sent a memorandum to Commandant John A. Lejeune, suggesting the Marines’ original birthday of 10 November be declared a Marine Corps holiday to be celebrated throughout the Corps. Lejeune so ordered in Marine Corps Order 47:[8][9]

Col Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller cuts the Marine Corps birthday cake in 1950, during a brief reprieve in battle during the Korean War.

The first formal ball was celebrated in 1925, though no records exist that indicate the proceedings of that event.[10][11] Birthday celebrations would take varied forms, most included dances, though some accounts include mock battles, musical performances, pageants, and sporting events.[12]

The celebrations were formalized and standardized by Commandant Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. in 1952, outlining the cake cutting ceremony, which would enter the Marine Drill Manual in 1956. By tradition, the first slice of cake is given to the oldest Marine present, who in turn hands it off to the youngest Marine present, symbolizing the old and experienced Marines passing their knowledge to the new generation of Marines. The celebration also includes a reading of Marine Corps Order 47, republished every year, as well as a message from the current Commandant, and often includes a banquet and dancing if possible. In many cases, the birthday celebration will also include a pageant of current and historical Marine Corps uniforms, as a reminder of the history of the Corps.[13] Another modern tradition includes a unit run on the 10th.[14] Marines are reputed to celebrate the birthday, regardless of where they may be in the world, even in austere environments or combat.[15]

In a more somber tradition, Samuel Nicholas's grave in the Arch Street Friends Meeting graveyard in Philadelphia is marked with a wreath at dawn by a group of Marines annually on 10 November to celebrate his role in the founding of the Corps. [16]


See also

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  1. ^ Continental Congress (10 November 1775). "Resolution Establishing the Continental Marines". Journal of the Continental Congress. United States Marine Corps History Division. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  2. ^ "Tun Tavern History". Retrieved 14 April 2007. 
  3. ^ Simmons, Edwin Howard (2003). The United States Marines: A History, 4th Edition. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-790-5. 
  4. ^ Chenoweth, Col H. Avery; Nihart, Col Brooke (2005). Semper Fi: The Definitive Illustrated History of the U.S. Marines. New York: Main Street. ISBN 1-4027-3099-3. 
  5. ^ Hoffman, Jon T. (2002). USMC: A Complete History. New York City, New York: Universe Publishing. 
  6. ^ United States Congress (11 July 1798). "An Act for Establishing and Organizing a Marine Corps". Marine Corps Historical Division. Retrieved 7 October 2010. 
  7. ^ "History, Traditions behind the Marine Corps Ball" (PDF). The Windsock (MCAS Cherry Point, United States Marine Corps) 66 (45): A3. 6 November 2008. Retrieved 8 November 2008. 
  8. ^ a b Lejeune, Major General John Archer (1 November 1921). "Marine Corps Order No. 47 (Series 1921)". Mainr Corps History Division. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  9. ^ "Marine Corps Birthday Celebration". Customs and Traditions. Reference Branch, History Division, United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 11 October 2008. 
  10. ^ "Commandant's Marine Corps Birthday Ball, 2008". Retrieved 8 November 2008. [dead link]
  11. ^ Sturkey, Marion F. (2001). "Marine Corps Birthday". Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines. Heritage Press International. 
  12. ^ "Marine Corps Birthday Celebration". United States Marine Corps History Division. Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  13. ^ LaVine, Cpl Nicole A. (5 November 2008). "Combat Center honors past warriors, battles in pageant". The Observation Post (United States Marine Corps). Retrieved 9 November 2008. [dead link]
  14. ^ Harris, Lance Cpl. Benjamin (12 November 2009). "Marines double-time for birthday bash, celebrate 234 years". Headquarters Marine Corps. Arlington, Virginia: United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 14 November 2009. [dead link]
  15. ^ Mucha, Peter (11 November 2008). "Ceremony honors Marine Corps founder". Philadelphia Inquirer. 

External links