October 21, 2019 Ian Wilcox (CMC, US Navy, Ret.)



The US Marine Corps birthday is celebrated to commemorate the origin of the US Continental Marines. It was established in the year 1775 and has come a long way since. 


The celebration of this day on 10th November is happening only from the year 1921. The Second Continental Congress established the Continental Marines on 10th November. 


Before 1921, it was celebrated on 11th July. On 21st October 1921, Major Edwin McClellan wrote a memo to Commander John Lejeune, recommending 10th November to be declared a holiday for the Corps for celebration. This date made more sense as it commemorates the initial formation of the Marine Corps wing. Cr. Lejeune, on his order dated 1st November 1921, declared the official celebration of Marine Corps birthday on 10th November that year and every year following that. 


It is said that the very first formal celebration of this day took place in the year 1925. But, there are no records to match this detail. 



The birthday of the Marine Corps was celebrated in the following ways – 


  1. Dancing 
  2. Cake cutting 
  3. Mock battles 
  4. Musical performances 
  5. Pageants 
  6. Sports events 


The formalization of this celebration was laid out by Commandant Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. in 1952. He carefully formulated the outline of the cake cutting ceremony. He brought up a tradition where the first slice of the cake is offered to the oldest Marine present. He, in turn, hands it over to the youngest soldier. This symbolizes the fact that the experiences of the oldest soldier are passed to the upcoming generation of soldiers. Every year, a ceremony is held where the original order issued by Commandant John Lejeune is read. More to that, a beautiful parade of Marine Corps uniforms from history to present is held. This reminds everyone of the elegant legacy that the US Marine Corps symbolizes. 


Samuel Nicholas was the first Commandant of the US Marine Corps. On this day, his grave in Philadelphia is marked with a wreath at dawn. His role as a Marine was many. So, as a tribute, Nicholas’s grave is honoured by a group of Marines on Nov 10 every year. 


A modern way of celebration includes a unit run. A unit run is when an entire unit of soldiers runs in specific formations along a defined route, much like a marathon. 



Let’s celebrate one day by remembering our comrades in the Marine Corps. Reach out to them personally. There is no barrier to communication today. Conventional methods of visiting them in person to modern methods of doing a video chat with them have all proven to be successful ways to let your Marine friend know that you care about them. The day is all about acknowledging the sacrifices that they (and their families) make. Marines are entitled to celebrate this day, regardless of whatever situation they may be in. The celebration signifies two important things – respect for the Marine Corps traditions and the heritage that it has carried all the way till now.