The United States Marine Corps’ birthday is commemorated on USMC Day every year on November 10 with a cake-cutting ceremony and a traditional ball. The Continental Marines were formed on the same day in 1775. Today, there are over 200,000 Marines (active-duty and reserve) organized into four divisions and stationed at Camp Pendleton, California; Okinawa, Japan; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
History of USMC Day
The Continental Congress adopted a resolution during the American Revolution directing that “two Battalions of Marines be recruited” to serve as landing forces for the newly established Continental Navy. The Continental Marines were established by a resolution authored by eventual U.S. president John Adams and passed in Philadelphia, and the date is now commemorated as the United States Marine Corps’ birth date.
The original U.S. Marines proved themselves in several pivotal operations during the Revolutionary War, both on land and at sea. When a force of Marines led by Captain Samuel Nicholas took New Providence Island from the British in March 1776, it was the first time they landed on a hostile coast.
Nicholas was the Continental Marines’ first commissioned officer and is known as the first Marine commander. The Continental Navy was disbanded and the Marine Corps was abolished after the United States gained independence in 1783.
However, escalating combat at sea against Revolutionary France over the next decade prompted the United States Congress to formally establish the United States Navy in May 1798. On July 11, two months later, President John Adams signed a bill creating the United States Marine Corps as a permanent military power under the Department of Navy’s command.
During the early 1800s, U.S. Marines battled against the Barbary pirates of North Africa in the Quasi-War with France. Since then, Marines have fought in all of the United States’ wars, and in many cases, they were the first to battle. Marines have since carried out more than 300 landings on foreign soils.
USMC Day timeline
The Second Continental Congress creates the Continental Marines on November 10.
A force of Marines led by Captain Samuel Nicholas take over New Providence Island in the Bahamas, marking the very first Marine landing on hostile ground.
The Continental Navy and the Marine Corps are disbanded after the U.S. gains its independence.
President John Adams approves a law establishing the United States Marine Corps as a permanent military corps under the Department of Navy on July 11, just two months after it was reestablished.
USMC Day FAQs
What makes a Marine a Jarhead?
The Marines have traditionally worn a high-collar uniform, which was initially made of leather and earned them the nickname ‘leathernecks.’ The high collar was considered to resemble a human head sticking out of a jar, hence the nickname ‘jarhead.’
What was the name of the first Marine?
When a Marine force led by Captain Samuel Nicholas took New Providence Island in March 1776, it was the first time they landed on a hostile coast. Nicholas was the Continental Marines’ inaugural commissioned officer and is known as the first Marine commander.
Why are Marines called ‘Devil Dogs?’
Official German accounts referred to the Marines in Belleau Wood as Teufel Hunden, earning them the nickname ‘Devil Dogs.’ Marines were reportedly instructed to capture a hill held by German soldiers while donning gas masks as a safeguard from German mustard gas.
How to Observe USMC Day
Browse through the Marine Corps Memorial
The Marine Corps Memorial symbolizes the history of the group and demonstrates the iconic status of the U.S. Marines. The statue is of six Marines hoisting the American flag on a mountaintop in the heat of the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Celebrate a Marine
If you have a family member or friend who is serving or has previously served in the Marine Corps, celebrate them and express your gratitude for the sacrifices they've made for their country. If you are a business owner, you can offer a discount to current and retired Marines on USMC Day.
You can do your part in celebrating the U.S. Marines by sharing information about the Marine Corps on social media. Join the online movement and invite friends and family to share as well.
5 Facts About Marines Corps That Will Blow Your Mind
A proper birthday party
On USMC Day, the first three slices of cake are offered to the guest of honor, the oldest surviving Marine, and the youngest Marine in attendance during the cake-cutting ceremony.
Keeping famous company
Service members are known to ask their favorite celebrities to accompany them to the yearly birthday event via social media.
Friends in low places
The Marines were founded in a bar: the Tun Tavern, Philadelphia.
The average Marine carries equipment and gear worth about $14,000.
An unassuming bunch
The Marines remain the smallest branch of the DoD’s (Department of Defense) armed forces.
Why USMC Day is Important
Marine dress blues are arguably the best-looking dress uniforms, as any member of the other services will attest. Notwithstanding the countless crayon and glue taunts, every other group understands that if Marines show up in their dress blues at the bar, it's game over for them.
The only occasion the U.S. Marine Corps surrendered in its entire history was during WWII, when a few hundred Marines faced vastly overwhelming numbers of Japanese forces with naval backup.
The Marines are self-sufficient
They have their very own aerial support, armor, and troops, among other things. The Marine Corps can do a great deal without much help.
USMC Day dates