History of the Marine Corps Birthday

On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress resolved to raise two battalions of "American Marines." Congress commissioned 31-year-old Samuel Nicholas, a well-known Philadelphian, as captain of the fledgling force of Continental Marines. Nicholas raised two battalions of Marines and began the long, illustrious history of the United States Marine Corps.

On November 1, 1921, General John A. Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921. The order provided a summary of the history, mission, and traditions of the Corps. General Lejeune directed that the order be read to every command each subsequent year on November 10th in honor of the founding of the Marine Corps. This tradition has continued every year since 1921 throughout the Corps.

The first official "Birthday Ball" was probably held in 1925 in Philadelphia. No official records of the event were held prior to that date. Guests at the ball in 1925 included the Secretary of the Navy, General Lejeune, well-known national leaders, and representatives from all the military services.

On October 28, 1952, Commandant General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. directed the celebration of the Marine Corps Birthday be formalized throughout the Corps. The details were included in the Marine Corps Drill Manual approved in 1956. General Shepherd's order helped bring together the inclusion of a cake ceremony and other traditions still held every year at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball.