246th United States Marine Corps Birthday

In Celebration

Here’s health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we’ve fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.”

Third stanza of the Marine Corps Hymn

A bit of Marine Corps history:

As my regular readers should know by now, the United States Marine Corps celebrates its birthday on 10 November.  The Marine Corps Birthday is a unique celebration honoring all Marines and their families, past, present, and future.  It rekindles the connection of Marines since 1775.  My readers should also know that the Marine Corps has defended the United States and the American people in every one of those years.  On this day, we Marines honor our traditions with reverence and respect; we pay homage to the distinguished service of the Corps and of those who have worn our uniform.

The Second Continental Congress created the Marine Corps on 10 November 1775, eight months before America’s Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.  Congress created the Marines to serve alongside the Continental Navy — and have done so ever since.  The first Marine Corps Commandant was Major Samuel Nicholas.  During the 7-years of the Revolutionary War, the Marine Corps increased from its original two battalions to just over 2,100 Marines.  It was then, and remains, the nation’s smallest armed force.  Despite its small size, however, the battle history of the United States Marine Corps is second to none.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, Congress disbanded the Navy and Marine Corps.  Our founding fathers, having experienced the tyranny of the British Army, had no interest in maintaining “standing armies.”  In 1794, however, circumstances changed.  Beginning around 1785, Islamist pirates operating off the North African coastline seized American ships and held them, their crews, passengers, and their cargoes for ransom.

Initially, Congress thought that it might be cheaper to pay these brigands their money, but each year ransom demands increased until the United States was paying out about twenty-percent of its annual budget to Barbary Pirates.  President George Washington asked Congress to bring back the Navy and Marine Corps to deal with the pirates and guarantee America’s sovereignty at sea.  In 1794, the Navy (and Marine Corps) were placed under the Secretary of War.  However, in 1798, legislation was enacted to establish the Navy as a separate department, and the Navy and Marine Corps as separate branches of the armed forces.

Pursuant to Marine Corps General Order No. 47 (1921), the Commandant of the Marine Corps directed that the following be read aloud to all Marines on 10 November of each year:

(1) 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.

(2) The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term “Marine” has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

(4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as “Soldiers of the Sea” since the founding of the Corps.

John A. Lejeune,
Major General Commandant

During the Marine Corps Birthday Ceremony, a traditional birthday cake is presented to those in attendance.  After the cake is cut, the first slice is first presented to the oldest Marine present, who then passes it to the youngest Marine.  It is a symbolic transfer of wisdom and understanding from the older brother to the younger.  This is a hallmark of Marine Corps training that begins at boot camp or officer’s candidate school and is repeated throughout a Marine’s entire service.  Understanding Marine Corps history and living up to the high standards of those who went before is an integral part of Marine Corps service.

Our Motto

The motto of the U. S. Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful).  It reflects a Marine’s unwavering patriotism, tenacity, and their commitment to God, Country, Corps, and their brothers in arms.  The official march of the U. S. Marine Corps is titled The Semper Fidelis March by John Phillip Sousa.  Enjoy the following presentation by the United States Marine Corps Band.

The Marines are known by several nicknames, but some of these aren’t suitable for print and are largely a result of vile lies, misrepresentations, and Army-Navy jealousy.  But two of these nicknames are Leatherneck, which comes from the thick leather collar worn by Marines during the age of sail to prevent decapitation, and Devil Dog [Teufelhunden] which is what the German soldiers named Marines during World War I.

Our Hymn

The Marine Corps Hymn, is one of the most readily recognized songs in the world today and is the oldest of our country’s service songs.  The history of our hymn has been clouded by the passage of time and sometimes confused by inaccurate oral traditions, but there is never any confusion on the part of listeners of the Marine’s hymn.  It is as easily identified with the Marine Corps as the Star Spangled Banner is with the United States of America.

The Marine Corps Hymn has become a sacred symbol of the pride and professionalism of a Marine; when played or sung, all Marines rise to their feet and stand at attention for its duration.  The music to the hymn originated with the opera Geneviève de Brabant composed by the French composer Jacques Offenbach.  One listening to Couplets des Deux Hommes d’Armes will immediately recognize the tune.

We do not know who penned the words to the Marine’s Hymn — but tradition claims that it was an unidentified Marine sometime after 1867.  The first two lines of the verse were taken from the words inscribed on the Battle Colors of the Marine Corps: “To the Shores of Tripoli.”

The Battle Colors were so inscribed after the Barbary War of 1805.  Later, after the Marines participated in the capture of Mexico City and the Castle of Chapultepec (also known as the Halls of Montezuma) in 1847, the inscription on the Colors was changed to read, “From the Shores of Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma.”  Whoever wrote the words to the Marine Corps Hymn reversed this order.

To all Marines and Friends of the Corps

Semper Fi

Published by

Mustang

US Marine (Retired), historian, writer.

12 thoughts on “246th United States Marine Corps Birthday”

  1. To my Brothers and Sisters from different Mothers and Fathers, Happy Birthday Marines. Semper Fidelis isn’t just a saying.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My family Marines are gone now, but this is such a magnificent post for the Corps, I would like to leave their names to be remembered.
    Pfc Michael T. Sadlo
    Master Gunnery Sgt. James J. O’Leary
    Sgt. Walter M. Bryant

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thanks for this. Semper Fi. Like most of what was important and enduring in those early years, the Federalists did the heavy-lifting with huge Democratic-Republican (i.e. Jefferson and Madison) resistence. This also goes for the creation of the Navy and Marine Corps in 1794. I’m in process of doing an essay on the beginnings of the Navy. I’m going to title it, “Alexander Hamilton: Midwife of the Navy.” Hamilton’s role in its creation and maintenance is substantial, and yes, there is something of a smoking gun to make the case.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. God Bless every current and future Marine. I think those that have passed are being taken care of.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Despite its small size, however, the battle history of the United States Marine Corps is second to none.”

    Amen, Sir… and with qualification since I have never served.

    The drum roll in the Semper Fidelis March is my favorite part. My buddy and VN combat vet was 1st Trumpet on said USMC band in the mid-sixties. At Chu Lai, he witnessed three of his fellow band members killed by a mortar round.

    At the same Chu Lai and after arrival, he was ordered to play Taps. After a few blows, he heard “something” and saw other Marines running for cover. He then realized the VC were shooting at HIM. We just finished puffing on cigars (in that same garage we puffed in) an hour ago for his “birthday”.

    Happy birthday and Semper Fi.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We do not realize how lucky we are. 1805. Eaton’s expedition with the Marines (all 8 of them). Tt was a successful if twisted show of force that brought the Bey to serious negotiations at Derna, on “the shores of Tripoli.” Eaton found Tunis was fetid and brutal, full of “swindling jews, perfidious Italians, and savage Arabs.” The Bey himself had assassinated his oldest brother and forced the next oldest into exile – that sort – and his head admiral (pirate) was a Scot wanted for crimes across Europe. Eaton learned paying tribute just earned disdain and made them want more. How cum we have to keep re-learning this?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In my opinion, we haven’t learned anything at all.

      We have to keep learning the painful lessons of history because we are a nation of stupid people. If we imagine that it was an atrocious state of affairs that the early U. S. Congress thought it was a good idea to pay tribute to Islamist thugs in North Africa, then what must we think of a modern day Congress (and administration) who keeps sending billions of dollars to Pakistan, and gives preferential treatment to the very people who planned, organized, and executed an attack against the United States on 11 September 2001? If we had to partner with anyone beyond our traditional western roots, why wouldn’t it be countries like India, rather than Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?

      Liked by 1 person

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