Ooh rah! It’s that time of the year again, and I’m not talking about Halloween costumes, pumpkin spice, turkeys, or any other fall traditions you can name. No, for hundreds of thousands of Marines, there’s a different hallowed event on the horizon. This event is celebrated both by those who are currently serving and those who have received their coveted DD-214 (don’t even think about calling them ex-Marines). What event is this you may ask? It’s THE MARINE CORPS’ BIRTHDAY!
Continue reading to learn more about the Marine Corps’ birthday, Marine Corps history, Marine Corps trivia, and if you’re currently serving, tips on relocating to your next installation.
When is the Marine Corps Birthday?
The Marine Corps has an illustrious history, to be sure, but certain parts of Marine Corps lore and customs are held in especially high esteem. Such customs are sacrosanct, and any Marine, whether they graduated from boot camp in the 1960s or last week, will be able to take part in these traditions.
For example, if you happen to find yourself in the company of a Marine and start to sing the first line of the Marines’ Hymn, “From the Halls of Montezuma,” you’re sure to hear the next line, belted out loud and clear: “TO THE SHORES OF TRIPOLI!”
Likewise, if you ask a Marine when the Marine Corps birthday is, they will be able to tell you, without a second’s hesitation, “Nov. 10, 1775.”
The Marine Corps’ birthday and its origins are held so dear by Marines because they take great pride in their history and birthplace.
And, some Marines may tell you with a grin, they are the only fighting force born in a bar.
Marine Corps History
Who wouldn’t want to brag about that? But, Marines will also tell you that it is the knowledge of their history that sets them apart from other services.
Marine Corps Birthday Message
In 1921, former commandant Gen. John A. Lejeune made it a requirement to read his now renowned birthday message on the Corps’ birthday each year.
His birthday message, which commemorates the Marines’ many contributions to our nation, begins, “On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental Congress.”
Reflecting on their history and origins is a matter of great pride and importance to members of the United States Marines.
Each year, the Marine Corps celebrates its history and traditions at Marine Corps birthday balls. At these celebrations, Marines and their guests dress in their finest (for Marines, this means wearing their dress blues uniform). After cocktail hour, there are special presentations and speeches, dinner, and dancing. Marines also pay homage to their tavern roots with plenty of drinks and toasts!
The Marine Corps’ illustrious history is full of harrowing campaigns and acts of bravery. Read on to learn more about some of the most famous battles and moments in Marine Corps history. For more information on the history of the Marine Corps, visit the Marine Corps’ website.
How Did the Marine Corps Start?
The Marine Corps was created on Nov. 10, 1775, by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Robert Mullan, the proprietor of Tun Tavern, was commissioned to raise the first two battalions of Marines. This is why Tun Tavern is known as the birthplace of the United States Marine Corps. In 1776, just weeks after they were formed, the Continental Marines made their first amphibious landing on a hostile shore at New Providence island in the Bahamas. The British had been storing gunpowder there to use in battles against the 13 original colonies. The British troops surrendered only minutes after the Marines arrived.
Shores of Tripoli – Halls of Montezuma
In 1805, the “shores of Tripoli” in the Marines’ Hymn made their appearance. President Thomas Jefferson sent troops to fight pirates who had been stealing from American merchant ships off the Barbary Coast. The Marines rescued the kidnapped crew of the USS Philadelphia and protected ships that were trading in the area.
What about the Halls of Montezuma in the Marines’ Hymn? Well, in 1847, during the Mexican-American War, Marines stormed the Chapultepec Castle outside Mexico City. Gaining control of the castle, known as “the Halls of Montezuma,” was not easy, but the Marines prevailed.
Battle of Belleau Wood
In 1918, Marines fought against German soldiers in Belleau Wood, just outside of Paris. The troops suffered heavy casualties and had few resources left. Thanks to their superior marksmanship and refusal to give up, the Marines were able to win the Battle of Belleau Wood. It was at this battle that Marines earned their nickname “Teufel Hunden,” or “Devil Dogs,” from surviving German soldiers.
Battle of Iwo Jima
In 1945, Marines were sent to capture Japanese airfields at Iwo Jima. Even with heavy casualties, the Marines were able to innovate new fighting strategies and secure the island. When Marines reached the summit of Mt. Suribachi, they raised the American flag to encourage their fellow troops. Later on, the Marines returned with a larger flag, and the raising of this flag was photographed by Joe Rosenthal in the now iconic photo known to many around the world.
In 1950, during the Korean War, Marines at Chosin Reservoir found themselves outnumbered 8 to 1 by the Chinese army, facing treacherous terrain and severe weather conditions. The Marines overcame the odds and were able to battle their way back to the sea to rejoin the American forces.
Battle of Hue
In 1968, during the Vietnam War, Marines were once again outnumbered during an urban battle against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. Communist forces launched the Tet Offensive against military and civilian targets, including the ancient city of Hue. After a month of street fighting, Marines retook the city.
Operation Desert Storm
In 1991, Marines combined their air, amphibious, and land tactics to liberate Kuwait from Iraq.
Operation Enduring Freedom
After the 9/11 attacks, Marines deployed to Afghanistan to defeat al-Qaida, remove Taliban strongholds, fight alongside Afghan soldiers, and return power to the Afghan people.
During the Iraq War, Marines searched for insurgents in urban areas. They learned new infantry fighting tactics in these metropolitan areas, particularly during the battles of Fallujah.
Marine Corps Facts
Want to learn more about one of the most famous fighting forces in our nation? Here are some more facts and fun trivia about the Marine Corps and those who have served as United States Marines.
– The motto of the Corps is “Semper Fidelis,” which means “always faithful.” This motto illustrates the lifelong commitment of every Marine for the Corps and our nation, a promise reciprocated by the Corps to all Marines.
– The unofficial motto of the Marine Corps is “Semper Gumby,” which means “always flexible.” Marines, and their families, have to be flexible and ready to serve anywhere, at any time.
– Found on uniforms, flags, and other Marine Corps memorabilia, the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is one of the Marines’ most famous emblems. The eagle represents the United States and carries a streamer in its beak with the “Semper Fidelis” motto of the Corps. The globe represents worldwide service. Its members serve in “any clime or place.” The anchor signifies the amphibious nature of the Marine Corps’ duties and its close ties to the U.S. Navy.
– Who is the most famous Marine of all? Most Marines would answer Lt. Gen. Lewis B. Puller, affectionately known as Chesty Puller. He earned five Navy Crosses and a Silver Star during his service from 1918 to 1955.
– Another well-known and loved Marine is Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who served from 1969 to 2013. Loved for his quiet ferocity, and sometimes macabre sense of humor, one of his most famous quotes is, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
– What about Marines who are famous outside of their military career? You may be surprised to learn that many famous faces in Hollywood once served in the Marine Corps. Famous Marines include Adam Driver (Star Wars, Marriage Story, Girls), Drew Carey (The Drew Carey Show, The Price is Right), Montel Williams (The Montel Williams Show), Rob Riggle (The Daily Show, The Hangover, 21 Jump Street), and even Steve McQueen (The Great Escape, Bullitt, The Magnificent Seven).
– Last but not least, there’s a Marine who is famous for being a famous Marine! R. Lee Ermey served in the Marine Corps for 11 years. He used his military knowledge and training to portray realistic and sometimes fearsome military characters. His most famous role is arguably the foul-mouthed and hot-tempered Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket. Ermey was originally hired to be a technical adviser on the film, but the former drill instructor proved to be such a perfect fit for the part, director Stanley Kubrick recast him in the role. Ermey also appeared in Apocalypse Now, Mississippi Burning, Se7en, and, with much less profanity, voiced the miniature plastic soldier “Sarge” in the Toy Story films.
The Marine Corps’ members are proud of their illustrious history and celebrate their birthday with enthusiasm. If you’re reading this and you’re a Marine or a service member from another branch of the military, thank you for your service!
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.