By Buddy Blouin

The year is 1775. War with Great Britain continued, and the colonists needed a force to help boost naval military operations. In Philadelphia on Water Street inside Tun Tavern, Capt. Samuel Nicholas recruited and organized these brave men who would go on to be known as Continental Marines. Although disbanded after the American Revolution, the Marine Corps was brought back as an American Armed Force as it remains today. This was the beginning of one of the most feared military forces in the world and why every November we celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday.

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When Is the Marine Corps Birthday?

November 10th is the Marine Corps birthday because that was the day that Capt. Nicholas went to Tun Tavern. Though the Continental Marines were disbanded in 1783, the Marines’ birthday remains on this date to honor all of those who have served.

If you were to look for a secondary Marine birthday, July 11, 1798, would do the trick. In fact, from 1799 until 1921, this date was the original birthday celebrated. This is because the date represents the reestablishment of the Marines who were brought back, along with the Navy, to fight in the Barbary War.

However, the 248th Marine Corps birthday is being celebrated in the fall as it has been since Major Edwin McClellan saw a need for change. On November 1, 1921, Major McClellan set into motion a plan to properly celebrate the creation of the USMC.

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Moving the Celebration to November

Before 1921, the celebration in July was known as “Marine Corps Day,” and there were no documented celebrations for the Marine Corps birthday. Though recognized, the Devil Dogs didn’t have quite the celebration as they do today.

Major Edwin McClellan proposed a change and on October 21, 1921, sent Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune an idea to move the birthday to honor every Marine while also adding traditions and fanfare into the mix.

On November 1, 1921, Major General Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47 (Series 1921), officially saying “Happy Birthday Marines” by establishing the date we know today. Since then, November 10th has been marked with global festivities, including parades, drill team performances, exhibits, speeches, and more.

Over the years, various commands have added unique touches to the celebrations. In 1925, the first Marine Corps Birthday Ball occurred at the place it all began, Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. Cutting a cake with the Mameluke sword also became a tradition, symbolizing the Marines' commitment to fighting for peace.

Other traditions include giving the first piece of cake to the guest of honor, and passing the second piece from the oldest to the youngest Marine. This signifies the transfer of experience and knowledge. Major General Lejeune's Order Number 47 is still read during these celebrations.

How to Celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday

The Marine Corps birthday in 2023 is here, and that means it’s time to honor those who have and are serving with a variety of celebrations. This includes the annual Marine Corps birthday message:


If you’re invited to a ball, they are not to be missed. Private celebrations should be done with respect and admiration for those who have and continue to sacrifice for our nation. The Marine Corps birthday celebration is a time-honored tradition that continues to be a source of pride and a time of remembrance for the USMC.

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