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.
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.
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