The Continental Marine Corps, landing for the Battle of Nassau.
Although I personally served in the US Army many, many years ago, the 10th of November has taken on a new significance to me, of late, because of my brother’s son. As most frequent visitors to this blog already know, my youngest nephew is a US Marine who is presently serving halfway around the globe. This is his first overseas deployment and, as might be expected, it has been a long, dangerous, and often arduous tour; however, difficult as this period has been for all of us here in the “States” who know and worry about him, it now looks like my nephew’s current deployment will soon be ending. Moreover, it appears that, barring unforeseen circumstances, he should finally be coming back not just for a short visit, but to begin a comparatively long tour of duty in the US. This is, needless-to-say, very welcome news. So, in recognition of the service of my nephew and also of that of the thousands of other men and women who wear the “Globe and Anchor,” I have decided to join the small chorus of those who celebrate the birth of the Marine Corps two-hundred and thirty-five years ago, today.

General John A Lejeune with
French Legion of Honor medal.
Just like the new nation that it was intended to serve, the Marine Corps came into existence during the Revolutionary War; and its accomplishments, from that day to the present, are too numerous to list. However, to honor its long and indispensible service to these United States, the date of the Corps’ establishment was formally commemorated by its 13th Commandant, the legendary Major General John A. Lejeune, on November 1st, 1921. On that date, the Commandant issued the following proclamation and ordered that it be disseminated on 10 November to every Marine unit under his command, wherever it was serving around the world. This tradition, first begun eighty-nine years ago by the “Greatest Leatherneck of All Time,” continues to be followed to this day. Major General Lejeune’s special Birthday Proclamation reads as follows:

No. 47 (Series 1921)
Washington, November 1, 1921

759. The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10 November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it will be read upon receipt.

(1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date many thousands of 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 era of tranquility at home generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in both hemispheres, and in every corner of the seven seas so that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of the 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 also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has long 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.

Major General Commandant

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial,
(aka "The Iwo Jima Memorial")
Washington, D.C., Sunset Parade.
Major General Lejeune could not know, when he penned his Birthday Proclamation in 1921, what the coming years would hold for his beloved Corps. He could not know, for instance, that future generations of Marines would see bitter action in the Pacific, in Korea, in Vietnam, in the Middle East, and in Afghanistan; but, if the Commandant could not be sure where the coming generations of Marines would fight, he was nonetheless confident that those future Marines would meet whatever challenges they encountered head-on with all the skill, courage, fidelity, and determination demanded by the deeply-ingrained traditions of the Corps. And the general’s faith in the spirit and battle-worthiness of the Marines to come after him, future events would show, was well-placed.

Happy 235th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps; may it have many returns to come.



  • I would also like to wish the Marine Corps happy birthday as well. America owes so much to our men & women in uniform, both past & present. God bless them all.

  • Greetings Anon:

    Amen to that!

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe,
    As a just retired 29-year Marine Corps veteran, best wishes to you and especially to your Marine Corps nephew, gone off to war. Thanks for posting this.

    Few Marines even understand the rationale of General Lejeune when he wrote his birthday proclamation. It was meant to be both a celebration of past triumphs and a gentle warning/admonition regarding the future. At the time he wrote this, he was trying mightily to implement changes into the Marine Corps many at the time felt to be unnecessary. After World War I--particularly the experience of the Battle of Belleau Wood which really is the foundation of the modern Marine Corps--a lot of Marines were basking in the glory received in the press at the time, grateful that they were no longer the Navy's "police force." But Lejeune instinctively knew the Marines could not be a "second land army" and sought a new role for the service, that of taking and defending advanced naval bases, most likely in the Pacific. So, without denigrating the accomplishments of past--and current--heroes (himself among them as he was the only Marine general to command an Army Division, 2ID, in that war), Lejeune wanted to prod the Marine Corps towards the future.

    "So long as that spirit continues to flourish..."

    It's easy to think of "that spirit" being courage under fire, and indeed that's true. But it's also a spirit of innovation, of incredible improvisation when starved of resources (Marines were--and still are--known to "liberate excess Army equipment" if not heavily guarded), and general determination/perseverance off the battlefield as well as on it.

    "Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future..."

    And that's really where Lejeune is headed. He nods his head to the accomplishments of the past--which is why he directed the Marine Corps birthday to be celebrated every year--but it's meant to inspire those Marines currently in uniform to "live up" to their predecessors in preparing for the future.

    I consider the Marine Corps birthday ceremony to be something of a secular sacrament, with the reading of Lejeune's proclaimation akin to reading The Gospel, or at the very least a Commission from the secular equivalent of the Pope!

    Semper Fidelis,
    Eric Walters
    Colonel, USMC (Ret.)

  • Greetings Eric:

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Although my nephew's current service as a Marine gives a certain amount of immediacy to my respect and affection for the Marine Corps, I actually served alongside Marines from "Floozy Duce" during part of my tour in Vietnam. And as you so accurately note: the Marines that we operated with near Phu Bai/Hue were always short of everything from web-gear to jungle boots to jungle "utilities." In fact, the only equipment that they always seemed to be able to get, no matter what, were "K-Bars."

    In so far as my nephew is concerned, he has gotten a tremedous amount out of his service: besides a lot of training, a regular paycheck, and a new wife (from Brazil, of all places); he has also seen and done things that his civilian friends will never even be able to imagine.

    Now, it is starting to look like he wants to make the Corps a career: certainly, this would be a worrisome decision from the standpoint of my brother and sister-in-law, I know; nonetheless, I can think of few choices that he could make, so long as this is really the path he wants to follow, that would be more worthwhile.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • I hate to tell you this but the painting near the top of this article is not the Continental Marines. It is the British army attacking Bunker hill our enemy in the Revolution. i had a copy of this print along time ago.

  • Greetings Chris:

    Your are, of course, quite correct. Somehow, the plate that I had intended to use "The Continental Marines Landing At New Providence" disappeared into the (Picasso) ether to be replaced by this one. And, for one reason or another, I have not gotten around to replacing it. But, now that I have a little more spare time since the rush of the Christmas holiday is behind us, I can finally track down the original image and replace the "Red Coats" with some "Blue Coats."

    Thanks for your interest and
    Best Regards, Joe

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