Marine Corps celebrates birthday Nov. 10

Published 7:55 am Wednesday, November 1, 2023

By Gene Hays
USMC Msgt. (Ret.)

Gene Hays, in Oxford, Miss. on Monday, August 14, 2017. (Photo/Bruce Newman)

On Friday, Nov. 10, the U.S. Marine Corps will celebrate its 248th birthday, marking the 1775 decision by the Second Continental Congress to establish two battalions of Marines. Captain Samuel Nicholas, was appointed the first Commandant, and this group was known as the Continental Marines, not the United States Marine Corps.

When first raised during the Revolutionary War, it was part of the Continental Army. The Continental Congress ordered “that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required.”

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The newly formed Continental Marines soon launched a successful mission on the British Fort Nassau in the Bahamas, and according to a 1921 Marine Corps Gazette article, they participated in the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. When the Revolution ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the Marines, like the Navy, were disbanded.

It wasn’t until 15 years later, on July 11, 1798, that President John Adams signed into law a congressional act which created—or re-created, depending how you’re counting—the United States Marine Corps. The re-established force served in addition to the Army and Navy and would organize those marines who were already enlisted in other military branches.

In 1921, Major Edwin McClellan, the officer in charge of the Historical Section at the Headquarters of the Marine Corps, suggested to Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune that the Marine Corps celebrate the date of the initial founding of the American Marines.

On Nov. 1, 1921 Commandant Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, which declared that in memory of the thousands of men who served as Marines after the group was created on Nov. 10, 1775, “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.”

Over all those years, there has been those who sought to disband the Marine Corps or absorb them into the other three branches, but the American public would not allow it to happen. As Navy Cross recipient and WW II veteran, Lieutenant General Victor “Brute” Krulak wrote in his book titled “First to Fight,” there are three things (paraphrasing) that the American people believe about the Marine Corps: that Marines will always be ready to meet any crisis immediately; that Marines will not just perform well, but that they will always win decisively; and Marines, both men and women, set the example for our youth.

Happy Birthday Marines!

Gene Hays is a retired Marine,  Vietnam Veteran, and author/historian. You can contact him at