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Honor, Tradition, and Espirit de Corps: Celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday

Honor, Tradition, and Espirit de Corps: Celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday

Matthew Mariani |

The Historical Genesis of the Marine Corps 

 Tun Tavern Photo

Every November 10th, we commemorate the establishment of the United States Marine Corps, an event which takes us back to the Revolutionary War. In the year of 1775, at the Tun Tavern, The Second Continental Congress created the Marines, thereby solidifying the Corps' revered place in the annals of American military history. Robert Mullan, the Tun Tavern's manager and the newly appointed "Chief Marine Recruiter", set about recruiting the inaugural force of two battalions of Marines in this Philadelphia pub. However, in the wake of the Treaty of Paris in April 1783, the Marines were dissolved. But the spirit of the Marines, born in a tavern, was indomitable.


On July 11, 1798, Congress ordered the creation of the Marine Corps once again. This time, the service was established under the Secretary of the Navy, marking a new chapter in the Corps' distinguished history. From then on, the Marines have played an instrumental role in preserving our nation's freedom and upholding its values.


 The Transition of the Marine Corps Birthday from July 11th to November 10th

 Tradition and history are at the core of the USMC, and this extends to the observance of the Corps' birthday. From the year 1799 to 1921, the Marine Corps Birthday was celebrated on July 11th, in honor of the Corps' reestablishment in 1798. However, this tradition underwent a significant shift when Major General Lejeune issued an order to establish the official day of honor as November 10th, the original creation date of the Marines during the Revolutionary War. This was more than a date change; it was a reaffirmation of the Marines' original values and roots, a testament to their resilience, and a tribute to their revolutionary origins.


The Marine Corps Birthday Ball

 The Marine Corps Ball is a formal affair steeped in tradition, embodying the esprit de corps of the Marines. The event comprises a ceremonial parade, guest speeches often filled with inspiring stories and reflections, a grand banquet, and an official cake-cutting ceremony. The elegance and formality of the Ball are juxtaposed against a backdrop of camaraderie and revelry, which forms the latter part of the event and allows Marines to unwind and enjoy an evening of merriment.

 The Birthday Ball is a key moment for all Marines, active and retired, to come together and celebrate their shared heritage, honor their commitment to the Corps, and pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country. It is a night of honor, remembrance, and Marine Corps pride.


The Missing Man Table - Honor the Fallen

Missing Man Table

Missing Man Table is a significant tradition at the Marine Corps Birthday celebration. It is an homage to those Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice and didn't return home.

The table is intentionally set for one, signifying the solitude of the fallen. It is usually small, symbolizing the frailty of a lone Marine against the enemy.
A single red rose in a vase is set on the table to signify the blood that the fallen Marines have shed and their loved ones who keep the faith awaiting their return. The vase is tied with a red ribbon, a symbol of our continued determination to account for them. A slice of lemon is placed on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate, while salt sprinkled on the bread plate symbolizes the tears shed by those waiting for the ones who never returned. An inverted glass is also placed to represent that the fallen cannot partake, and an empty chair symbolizes the missing Marine who is not present. Lastly, a candle is included, lit as a beacon of hope for their return, held in the hearts of those who await them. This solemn tribute serves as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by members of the U.S. Marine Corps and reinforces the strong bond and commitment to never forget their fellow Marines.


The Cake Cutting Ceremony - A Time-Honored Tradition

 Marine Cutting Birthday Cake

Central to the Marine Corps Birthday is the official cake cutting ceremony, a tradition steeped in symbolism and unity. This ceremony begins with a reading of Major General Lejeune’s original birthday message, followed by a message from the current Commandant, linking the past to the present.


"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". - General John A. Lejeune  


Another special moment during the ceremony is the recognition of the youngest and oldest Marines present. This tradition symbolizes the passing of the torch from the seasoned veterans to the young blood of the Corps, ensuring the preservation of the Marines' legacy and values.


The ceremony culminates with the cutting of the cake, a symbol of the shared camaraderie and common heritage that bonds all Marines, past, present, and future. The cake is cut by an officer's sword which is modeled after the Mameluke sword gifted to Marine First Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon by Prince Hamet of the Ottoman Empire in December of 1805.


The exact year of the first cake cutting remains unknown, but the first recorded ceremony took place at the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington D.C. in 1937. Since then, the cake cutting has become an integral part of the celebration, bringing together Marines of all ages and ranks to share in the Corps' proud heritage.


The Marine Corps Birthday - A Tribute to Unyielding Courage and Dedication

 As we mark the Marine Corps Birthday, we pay tribute to the Marines' longstanding legacy of honor, courage, and commitment. The journey from the establishment of the Marines in 1775, their brief dissolution, and their reestablishment, mirrors the resilience of the Marines. The transition of the celebration date reflects the Corps' commitment to its historical roots, while the cake cutting ceremony serves as a reminder of the Corps' enduring spirit and unity.







I was reviewing some comments and came across one written by Retired Marine, SgtMaj P.A. Longoria let me just say this is one hell of a man and Sgt Major. Would enjoy meeting up sometime.

Sgt Scott a Kerlee,

Greetings And Salutations
Wishing Everyone A Merry Christmas This Year And Cheers To Many More Years I Want To Thank Everyone Who Has Served Or Who Has Family Serving Out There I Know It Must Be Rough You Will Always Be In My Heart XoXo Jeannie

Jeanie Marie Lopez,

Semper Fi till I DIE boot camp 1969 SECURITY FORCES 3 years ALBERT ACEVES

Albert Aceves ,

Johnny Willis, I agree. The pride we have of being a Marine can NEVER be taken away. MCRD SD 08, 1960.

L/CpL T. Everts,

I became a marine in 1960. There’s nothing I hold dear to my heart as the brotherhood being a MARINE. SEMPER FIDELIS

Johnny Willis ,

Each year we celebrate the Marine Birthday at the “Semper Fi bar and grill “ located in the Twin Fountains RV Resort at 2727 NE 63rd Street in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma! We welcome all Marines and and Service personnel to come and join us in honoring all veterans and fallen comrades! Thank you for your service to our great Country!!
CPL/Dow McCarty Wps co 1/1/1 USMC

Dow McCarty ,

Totally agree I honor the corps each year. And my friends from Vietnam who I hope made it home Cpl. Kenny ‘J” Johnson 5th Anti Tank battalion

Kenny Johnson,

you said it all nothing left to say… one time L/Cpl. Simon or just Simon Simon

william simon,

I take pride in celebrating the Birth of our Corp, I been retired since 1990 but i look forward to our Birthday every year so I take honor in wishing all our brother and sister Marines a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY. SEMPER FIDELIS

Bob Crawford,

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