On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia passed aresolution stating that "two Battalions of Marines be raised" for service as landing forces with the fleet. This resolution established the Continental Marines and marked the birth date of the United States Marine Corps. Serving on land and at sea, these first Marines distinguished themselves in a number of important operations, including their first amphibious raid into the Bahamas in March 1776, under the command of Captain (later Major) Samuel Nicholas. The first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines, Nicholas remained the senior Marine officer throughout the American Revolution and is considered to be the first Marine Commandant. The Treaty of Paris in April 1783 brought an end to the Revolutionary War and as the last of the Navy's ships were sold, the Continental Navy and Marines went out of existence.
Following the Revolutionary War and the formal re-establishment of the Marine Corps on 11 July 1798, Marines saw action in the quasi-war with France, landed in Santo Domingo, and took part in many operations against the Barbary pirates along the "Shores of Tripoli".
Marines took part in numerous naval operations during the War of 1812, as well as participating in the defense of Washington at Bladensburg, Maryland, and fought alongside Andrew Jackson in the defeat of the British at New Orleans.
The decades following the War of 1812 saw the Marines protecting American interests around the world, in the Caribbean, at the Falkland Islands, Sumatra and off the coast of West Africa, and also close to home in operations against the Seminole Indians in Florida.
During the Mexican War (1846-1848), Marines seized enemy seaports on both the Gulf and Pacific coasts. A battalion of Marines joined General Winfield Scott's army at Pueblo and fought all the way to the "Halls of Montezuma," Mexico City. Marines also served ashore and afloat in the Civil War (1861-1865). Although most service was with the Navy, a battalion fought at Bull Run and other units saw action with the blockading squadrons and at Cape Hatteras, New Orleans, Charleston, and Fort Fisher. The last third of the 19th century saw Marines making numerous landings throughout the world, especially in the Orient and in the Caribbean area.
Following the Spanish-American War (1898), in which Marines performed with valor in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, the Corps entered an era of expansion and professional development.
It saw active service in the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902), the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900). and in numerous other nations, including Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Mexico, and Haiti.
In World War I the Marine Corps distinguished itself on the battlefields of France as the 4th Marine Brigade earned the title of "Devil Dogs" for heroic action during 1918 at Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Michiel, Blanc Mont, and in the final Meuse-Argonne offensive.
Marine aviation, which dates from 1912, also played a part in the war effort, as Marine pilots flew day bomber missions over France and Belgium. More than 30,000 Marines served in France and more than a third were killed or wounded in six months of intense fighting.
During the two decades before World War II, the Marine Corps began to develop in earnest the doctrine, equipment, and organization needed for amphibious warfare. The success of this effort was proven first on Guadalcanal, then on Bougainville, Tarawa, New Britain, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. By the end of the war in 1945, the Marine Corps had grown to include six divisions, five air wings, and supporting troops. Its strength in World War II peaked at 485,113. The war cost the Marines nearly 87,000 dead and wounded, and 82 Marines had earned the Medal of Honor.
While Marine units took part in the post-war occupation of Japan and North China, studies were undertaken at Quantico, Virginia, which concentrated on attaining a "vertical envelopment" capability for the Corps through the use of helicopters.
Landing at Inchon, Korea in September 1950, Marines proved that the doctrine of amphibious assault was still viable and necessary. After the recapture of Seoul, the Marines advanced to the Chosin Reservoir only to see the Chinese Communists enter the war. After years of offensives, counter-offensives, seemingly endless trench warfare, and occupation duty, the last Marine ground troops were withdrawn in March 1955. More than 25,000 Marines were killed or wounded during the Korean War.
In July 1958, a brigade-size force landed in Lebanon to restore order. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, a large amphibious force was marshaled but not landed. In April 1965, a brigade of Marines landed in the Dominican Republic to protect Americans and evacuate those who wished to leave.
The landing of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Da Nang in 1965 marked the beginning of large-scale Marine involvement inVietnam. By summer 1968, after the enemy's Tet Offensive, Marine Corps strength in Vietnam rose to a peak of approximately 85,000. The Marine withdrawal began in 1969 as the South Vietnamese began to assume a larger role in the fighting; the last Marine ground forces were out of Vietnam by June 1971.
The Vietnam War, longest in the history of the Marine Corps, exacted a high cost as well with over 13,000 Marines killed and more than 88,000 wounded. In the spring of 1975, Marines evacuated embassy staffs, American citizens, and refugees in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. In May, Marines played an integral role in the rescue of the crew of the SS Mayaguezcaptured off the coast of Cambodia.
The mid-1970s saw the Marine Corps assume an increasingly significant role in defending NATO's northern flank as amphibious units of the 2d Marine Division participated in exercises throughout northern Europe. The Marine Corps also played a key role in the development of the Rapid Deployment Force, a multi-service organization created to insure a flexible, timely military response around the world when needed. The Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS) concept was developed to enhance this capability by prestaging equipment needed for combat in the vicinity of the designated area of operations, and reduce response time as Marines travel by air to link up with MPS assets.
The 1980s brought an increasing number of terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies around the world. Marine Security Guards, under the direction of the State Department, continued to serve with distinction in the face of this challenge. In August 1982, Marine units landed at Beirut, Lebanon, as part of the multi-national peace-keeping force. For the next 19 months these units faced the hazards of their mission with courage and professionalism. In October 1983, Marines took part in the highly successful, short-notice intervention in Grenada. As the decade of the 1980s came to a close, Marines were summoned to respond to instability in Central America. Operation Just Cause was launched in Panama in December 1989 to protect American lives and restore the democratic process in that nation.
Less than a year later, in August 1990, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait set in motion events that would lead to the largest movement of Marine Corps forces since World War II. Between August 1990 and January 1991, some 24 infantry battalions, 40 squadrons, and more than 92,000 Marines deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield. Operation Desert Storm was launched 16 January 1991, the day the air campaign began.
The main attack came overland beginning 24 February when the 1st and 2d Marine Divisions breached the Iraqi defense lines and stormed into occupied Kuwait. By the morning of February 28, 100 hours after the ground war began, almost the entire Iraqi Army in the Kuwaiti theater of operations had been encircled, with 4,000 tanks destroyed and 42 divisions destroyed or rendered ineffective.
Overshadowed by the events in the Persian Gulf during 1990-91, were a number of other significant Marine deployments demonstrating the Corps' flexible and rapid response. Included among these were non-combatant evacuation operations in Liberia and Somalia and humanitarian lifesaving operations in Bangladesh, the Philippines, and northern Iraq.
In December 1992, Marines landed in Somalia marking the beginning of a two-year humanitarian relief operation in that famine-stricken and strife-torn nation. In another part of the world, Marine Corps aircraft supported Operation Deny Flight in the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina. During April 1994, Marines once again demonstrated their ability to protect American citizens in remote parts of the world when a Marine task force evacuated U.S. citizens from Rwanda in response to civil unrest in that country.
Closer to home, Marines went ashore in September 1994 in Haiti as part of the U.S. force participating in the restoration of democracy in that country. During this same period Marines were actively engaged in providing assistance to the Nation's counter-drug effort, assisting in battling wild fires in the western United States, and aiding in flood and hurricane relief operations.
The Marine Corps continued its tradition of innovation to meet the challenges of a new century. The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory was created in 1995 to evaluate change, assess the impact of new technologies on warfighting, and expedite the introduction of new capabilities into the operating forces of the Marine Corps. Exercises such as “Hunter Warrior,” and “Urban Warrior” were designed to explore future tactical concepts, and to examine facets of military operations in urban environments.
During the late 1990's, Marine Corps units deployed to several African nations, including Liberia, the Central African Republic, Zaire, and Eritrea, in order to provide security and assist in the evacuation of American citizens during periods of political and civil instability in those nations.
Humanitarian and disaster relief operations were also conducted by Marines during 1998 in Kenya, and in the Central American nations of Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. In 1999, Marine units deployed to Kosovo in support of Operation Allied Force. Soon after the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., Marine units deployed to the Arabian Sea and in November set up a forward operating base in southern Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In 2002, the Marine Corps continued to play a key role in the Global War on Terrorism. Marines operated in diverse locations, from Afghanistan, to the Arabian Gulf, to the Horn of Africa and the Philippines. Early 2003 saw the largest deployment of Marine forces since the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 when 76,000 Marines deployed to the Central Command area for combat operations against Iraq.
The I Marine Expeditionary Force, including Task Force Tarawa and the United Kingdom’s 1st Armored Division, were the first conventional ground units to enter Iraq in late March as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft from the 3d Marine Air Wing provided continuous close air and assault support to Marine and coalition units as they drove deeper into Iraq. On the ground, Marines from I MEF moved nearly 400 miles from the Kuwait border to Baghdad and Tikrit, Iraq, and eliminated the last organized resistance by Iraqi military forces. Although I MEF would transition to stabilization and security operations and then redeploy to the U.S. by late September, I MEF began preparing for a return to Iraq in early 2004.
The adaptability and reliability of Marine forces continued to be highlighted around the world from the Horn of Africa to Haiti and to the Philippines.
Across the U.S., Marine units from both coasts fought and contained wildfires, and also supported hurricane relief efforts in various parts of the country. In December, 2004, a tsunami struck numerous nations in the Indian Ocean region killing more than 150,000 and causing enormous devastation. Marine units from III MEF were immediately deployed to Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka to assist in disaster relief operations.
In early 2005, the II Marine Expeditionary Force replaced I MEF in Iraq as the primary focus began to shift to partnership operations with the Iraqi Security Forces. Marine units continued to provide air and ground support to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Closer to home, the flexibility and responsiveness of the Navy/Marine team was exhibited during September and October when nearly 3000 Marines and sailors conducted search and rescue, humanitarian relief, and disaster recovery operations in Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Today's Marine Corps stands ready to continue in the proud tradition of those who so valiantly fought and died at Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir, and Khe Sanh. Combining a long and proud heritage of faithful service to the nation, with the resolve to face tomorrow's challenges will continue to keep the Marine Corps the "best of the best."
Marine Corps Emblem and Seal
The history of the Marine Corps emblem is a story related to the history of the Corps itself. The emblem of today traces its roots to the designs and ornaments of early Continental Marines as well as British Royal Marines. The emblem took its present form in 1868. Before that time many devices, ornaments, and distinguishing marks followed one another as official marks of the Corps.
In 1776, the device consisted of a "foul anchor" of silver or pewter. The foul anchor still forms a part of the emblem today. (A foul anchor is an anchor which has one or more turns of the chain around it). Changes were made in 1798, 1821, and 1824. In 1834 it was prescribed that a brass eagle be worn on the hat, the eagle to measure 3 ½ inches from wingtip to wingtip.
During the early years numerous distinguishing marks were prescribed, including "black cockades", "scarlet plumes," and "yellow bands and tassels." In 1859 the origin of the present color scheme for the officer's dress uniform ornaments appeared on an elaborate device of solid white metal and yellow metal. The design included a United States shield, half wreath, a bugle, and the letter "M."
In 1868, Brigadier General Commandant Jacob Zeilin appointed a board "to decide and report upon the various devices of cap ornaments of the Marine Corps." On 13 November 1868, the board turned in its report. It was approved by the Commandant four days later, and on 19 November 1868 was signed by the Secretary of the Navy.
The emblem recommended by this board consists of a globe (showing the Western Hemisphere) intersected by a foul anchor, and surmounted by a spread eagle. On the emblem itself, the device is topped by a ribbon inscribed with the Latin motto "Semper Fidelis" (Always Faithful). The uniform ornaments omit the motto ribbon.
The general design of the emblem was probably derived from the British Royal Marines' "Globe and Laurel." The globe on the U.S. Marine emblem signifies service in any part of the world. The eagle also indirectly signifies service worldwide, although this may not have been the intention of the designers in 1868. The eagle which they selected for the Marine emblem is a crested eagle, a type found all over the world. On the other hand, the eagle pictured on the great seal and the currency of the United States is the bald eagle, strictly a North American variety. The anchor, whose origin dates back to the founding of the Marine Corps in 1775, indicates the amphibious nature of Marines' duties.
On 22 June 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an Executive Order, which approved the design of an official seal for the United States Marine Corps. The new seal had been designed at the request of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.
The new seal consisted of the traditional Marine Corps emblem in bronze; however, an American bald eagle replaced the crested eagle depicted on the 1868 emblem, and is depicted with wings displayed, standing upon the western hemisphere of the terrestrial globe, and holding in his beak a scroll inscribed with the Marine Corps motto "Semper Fidelis" (Always Faithful) with the hemisphere superimposed on a foul anchor. The seal is displayed on a scarlet background encircled with a Navy blue band edged in a gold rope rim and inscribed "Department of the Navy, United States Marine Corps" in gold letters. Coincident with the approval of this seal by the President, the emblem centered on the seal was adopted in 1955 as the official Marine Corps Emblem.
Reference Section History and Museums Division
Following the war with the Barbary Pirates in 1805, when Lieutenant Presely N. O'Bannon and his small force of Marines participated in the capture of Derne and hoisted the American flag for the first time over a fortress of the Old World, the Colors of the Corps was inscribed with the words: "To the Shores of Tripoli." After the Marines participated in the capture and occupation of Mexico City and the Castle of Chapultepec, otherwise known as the "Halls of Montezuma," the words on the Colors were changed to read: "From the Shores of Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma." Following the close of the Mexican War came the first verse of the Marines' Hymn, written, according to tradition, by a Marine on duty in Mexico. For the sake of euphony, the unknown author transposed the phrases in the motto on the Colors so that the first two lines of the Hymn would read: "From the Halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli."
A serious attempt to trace the tune of the Marines' Hymn to its source is revealed in correspondence between Colonel A.S. McLemore, USMC, and Walter F. Smith, second leader of the Marine Band. Colonel McLemore wrote: "Major Richard Wallach, USMC, says that in 1878, when he was in Paris, France, the aria to which the Marines' Hymn is now sung was a very popular one." The name of the opera and a part of the chorus was secured from Major Wallach and forwarded to Mr. Smith, who replied: "Major Wallach is to be congratulated upon a wonderfully accurate musical memory, for the aria of the Marine Hymn is certainly to be found in the opera, 'Genevieve de Brabant'. . .The melody is not in the exact form of the Marine Hymn, but is undoubtedly the aria from which it was taken. I am informed, however, by one of the members of the band, who has a Spanish wife, that the aria was one familiar to her childhood and it may, therefore, be a Spanish folk song."
In a letter to Major Harold F. Wirgman, USMC, John Philip Sousa says: "The melody of the 'Halls of Montezuma' is taken from Offenbach's comic opera, 'Genevieve de Brabant' and is sung by two gendarmes." Most people believe that the aria of the Marines' Hymn was, in fact, taken from "Genevieve de Brabant," an opera-bouffe (a farcical form of opera, generally termed musical comedy) composed by Jacques Offenbach, and presented at the Theatre de Bouffes Parisians, Paris, on 19 November 1859.
Offenbach was born in Cologne, Germany, 21 June 1819 and died 5 October 1880. He studied music from an early age and in 1838 entered the Paris Conservatoire as a student. In 1834, he was admitted as a violoncellist to the "Opera Comique" and soon attained much popularity with Parisian audiences. He became conductor of the Theatre Francais in 1847 and subsequently leased the Theatre Comte, which he reopened as the Bouffes-Parisians. Most of his operas are classified as comic (light and fanciful) and include numerous popular productions, many of which still hold a high place in European and American countries.
Every campaign the Marines have taken part in gives birth to an unofficial verse. For example, the following from Iceland:
"Again in We sailed a north'ard course And found beneath the midnight sun, The Viking and the Norse. The Iceland girls were slim and fair, And fair the Iceland scenes, And the Army found in landing there, The United States Marines."
Copyright ownership of the Marines' Hymn was vested in the United States Marine Corps per certificate of registration dated 19 August 1891, but it is now in the public domain. In 1929, the Commandant of the Marine Corps authorized the following verses of the Marines' Hymn as the official version:
"From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, We fight our country's battles On the land as on the sea. First to fight for right and freedom, And to keep our honor clean, We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine.
"Our flag's unfurl'd to every breeze From dawn to setting sun; We have fought in every clime and place Where we could take a gun. In the snow of far-off northern lands And in sunny tropic scenes, You will find us always on the job The United States Marines.
"Here's health to you and to our Corps Which we are proud to serve; In many a strife we've fought for life And never lost our nerve. If the Army and the Navy Ever look on Heaven's scenes, They will find the streets are guarded By United States Marines."
On 21 November 1942, the Commandant of the Marine Corps approved a change in the words of the fourth line, first verse, to read, "In air, on land, and sea." Ex-Gunnery Sergeant H.L. Tallman, veteran observer in Marine Corps Aviation who participated in many combat missions with Marine Corps Aviation over the Western Front in World War I, first proposed the change at a meeting of the First Marine Aviation Force Veterans Association in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Many interesting stories have been associated with the Marines' Hymn. One of the best was published in the Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the American Expeditionary Force, under date of 16 August 1918.
"A wounded officer from among the gallant French lancers had just been carried into a Yankee field hospital to have his dressing changed. He was full of compliments and curiosity about the dashing contingent that fought at his regiment's left.
"A lot of them are mounted troops by this time, he explained, for when our men would be shot from their horses, these youngsters would give one running jump and gallop ahead as cavalry. I believe they are soldiers from Montezuma. At least, when they advanced this morning, they were all singing "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli."
The Marines' Hymn has been sung and played wherever U.S. Marines have landed, and today is recognized as one of the foremost military service songs.
Reference Section History and Museums Division
History of the Marine Corps Flag
Very little information is available regarding the flags carried by early American Marines, although indications are that the Grand Union flag was carried ashore by the battalion led by Captain Samuel Nicholas on New ProvidenceIsland, 3 March 1776. It is quite possible that the Rattlesnake flag was also carried on this expedition.
The standard carried by the Marines during the 1830s and 1840s consisted of a white field with gold fringe, and bore an elaborate design of an anchor and eagle in the center. Prior to the Mexican War, this flag bore the legend "To the Shores of Tripoli" across the top. Shortly after the war, the legend was revised to read: "From Tripoli to the Halls of the Montezumas."
During the Mexican and Civil Wars, Marines in the field apparently carried a flag similar to the national flag, comprised of red and white stripes and a union. The union, however, contained an eagle perched on a shield of the United States and a half-wreath beneath the shield, with 29 stars encircling the entire design. Beginning in 1876, Marines carried the national colors (the Stars and Stripes) with "U.S. Marine Corps" embroidered in yellow on the middle red stripe.
At the time of the Vera Cruz landing in 1914, a more distinctive standard was carried by Marines. The design consisted of a blue field with a laurel wreath encircling the Marine Corps emblem in the center. A scarlet ribbon above the emblem carried the words "U.S. Marine Corps," while another scarlet ribbon below the emblem carried the motto "Semper Fidelis."
Orders were issued on 2 April 1921 which directed all national colors be manufactured without the yellow fringe and without the words "U.S. Marine Corps" embroidered on the red stripe. This was followed by an order dated 14 March 1922, retiring from use all national colors still in use with yellow fringe or wording on the flag. Following World War I, the Army practice of attaching silver bands carrying inscriptions enumerating specific decorations and battles was adopted. This practice was discontinued on 23 January 1961.
Marine Corps Order No. 4 of 18 April 1925 designated gold and scarlet as the official colors of the U.S. Marine Corps. These colors, however, were not reflected in the official Marine Corps standard until 18 January 1939, when a new design incorporating the new colors was approved. The design was essentially that of today's Marine Corps standard.
For a brief time following World War I, the inscribing of battle honors directly on the colors of a unit was in practice, but realization that a multiplicity of honors and the limited space on the colors made the system impractical, and the procedure was discontinued. On 29 July 1936, a Marine Corps Board recommended that the Army system of attaching streamers to the staff of the organizational colors be adopted. Such a system was finally authorized by Marine Corps Order No. 157, dated 3 November 1939, and is currently in practice.
The MCO P10520.3B - Marine Corps Flag Manual may be obtained online at the following: Please note that the official source for authentic and current digital publications issued by Headquarters Marine Corps staff agencies, major commands, and other DOD and Federal agencies that issue publications used by the Marine Corps is "Publications" on the Marine Corps homepage (MarineLINK) at http://www.usmc.mil.
Reference Section History and Museums Division
Marine Corps Birthday Celebration
The U.S. Marine Corps begins preparations for its "birthday party" every summer. Activities become more feverish as the fall hues arrive. By early November, every Marine is either rehearsing his role in the "party" or pressing, polishing, and spit-shining in order to appear at his or her best for the Birthday Ball. This has not always been the case, however. In fact, Marines have not always celebrated their founding on November the 10th.
Formal commemoration of the birthday of the Marine Corps began on 10 November 1921. That particular date was chosen because on that day the Second Continental Congress resolved in 1775 to raise two battalions of Continental Marines.
Until 1921 the birthday of the Corps had been celebrated on another date. An unidentified newspaper clipping from 1918 refers to the celebration of the 120th birthday of the Marine Corps on 11 July "as usual with no fuss." It is doubtful that there was any real celebration at all. Further inspection of documents and publications prior to 1921 shows no evidence of ceremonies, pageants, or parties. The July date was commemorated between 1798 and 1921 as the birthday of the Corps. During the Revolution, Marines had fought on land and sea, but at the close of the Revolution the Marine Corps and the Navy were all but disbanded. On 11 July 1798, President John Adams approved a bill that recreated the Corps, thereby providing the rationale for this day being commemorated as the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.
On 21 October 1921, Major Edwin McClellan, Officer-in-Charge, Historical Section, Headquarters Marine Corps, sent a memorandum to Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune, suggesting that the original birthday on 10 November 1775 be declared a Marine Corps holiday to be celebrated throughout the Corps. McClellan further suggested that a dinner be held in Washington to commemorate the event. Guests would include prominent men from the Marine Corps, Army, and Navy, and descendants of the Revolution.
Accordingly, on 1 November 1921, General Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921. The order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps, and directed that it be read to every command on 10 November each subsequent year in honor of the birthday of the Marine Corps. This order has been duly carried out.
Some commands expanded the celebration during the next few years. In 1923 at Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania, the celebration of the Marine Corps' 148th birthday took the form of a dance in the barracks that evening. Marines at the Navy Yard, Norfolk, Virginia, staged a sham battle on the parade ground in commemoration of the birthday. The battle lasted about twenty minutes, and was witnessed by Portsmouth and Norfolk citizens. At Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the birthday was celebrated on the 12th, since a special liberty to Santiago had been arranged on the 10th. The morning activities included field and water sports, and a shooting match. In the afternoon the Marines won a baseball game, 9-8, over a Cuban team. In the evening, members of the command put on a variety show followed by four boxing bouts.
The first so-called "Birthday Ball," such as suggested by Major McClellan, was probably held in 1925 in Philadelphia. No records have been located of one prior to 1925. Guests included the Secretaries of War and Navy, Major General Commandant Lejeune, famous statesmen, soldiers, and sailors. The principle event was the unveiling of a tablet on the site of Tun Tavern. The tablet was a gift from the Thomas Roberts Reath Post, American Legion, whose membership was composed exclusively of Marines. The celebration was held in conjunction with the annual convention of the Marine Corps League. A parade included Marines, Regular Army, and Navy detachments, National Guard, and other military organizations. The evening banquet was held at the BenjaminFranklinHotel and a ball followed at the Bellevue-Stratford.
It is not possible to determine precisely when the first cake ceremony was held, but the first on record was held at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., in 1937. Major General Commandant Thomas Holcomb presided at an open house for Marine Corps officers. Ceremonies included the cutting of a huge cake designed after the famous Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.
From 1937, observances of the Marine Corps Birthday appeared to develop spontaneously throughout the Corps as if they had a life of their own. The celebrations were publicized through every media. Newsreels, motion pictures, and displays were prepared to summarize the history of the Corps. In 1943, standard blank Marine Corps scrap books were forwarded to all districts to be filled with 168th anniversary clippings, scripts, pictures, programs, and other memorabilia, and returned to Headquarters. Unfortunately none of these scrapbooks remain in official files.
In 1951, a formal Birthday Ball Pageant was held at Headquarters Marine Corps. Similar to the pageant today, the script described the Marines' period uniforms and the cake ceremony. Although this is the first substantive record of a pageant, Leatherneck of 10 November 1925 pictures Marines at a pageant in Salt Lake City, Utah, which had taken place "several years ago."
On 28 October 1952, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., directed that the celebration of the Marine Corps Birthday be formalized throughout the Corps, and provided an outline for the cake ceremony, as well as other formal observances. This outline was included in the Marine Corps Drill Manual, approved 26 January 1956.
Traditionally, the first piece of Birthday cake is presented to the oldest Marine present and the second piece to the youngest Marine present. When and where this tradition began remains unknown. Some records indicate this practice, and others vary it depending on the dignitaries present at the ball. First pieces of cake have been presented to newlyweds, the Secretary of the Navy, governors, and others, but generally speaking, the first pieces of cake go to the oldest and youngest Marines at the ball.
At present, celebrations of the Marine Corps Birthday on 10 November differ at posts and stations throughout the Corps. All commemorations include the reading of Marine Corps Order No. 47, and the Commandant's message to those assembled. Most commands sponsor a Birthday Ball of some sort, complete with pageant and cake ceremony as prescribed in the Marine Corps Manual.
Like the Corps itself, the Birthday Ball developed from simple origins to become the polished, professional function that all Marines commemorate on 10 November around the world.
The National Defense Act of 1916 provided for reserve forces in the US – It also created a training program known as the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). This was a civilian college-based program. It was a supplement to formal education at the two US service academies, West Point (USMA) and Annapolis (USNA). Following World War II, Congress changed the ROTC program to include a Junior Division (Class HS) for high schools.
The purpose of this program, commonly referred to as “Junior ROTC,” is to teach leadership. It does not seek any particular commitment to the military. The current legal basis for JROTC is Section 2031 of Title 10, United States Code. The section is implemented by the Department of Defense. The governing directive, 1205.13 “ROTC- Program for Secondary Educational Institutions,” is dated 26 December 1995.
The Department of Defense (DoD) funds and sponsors JROTC through the Secretaries of the Military Departments. MCJROTC is funded and sponsored through the Office of the Secretary of the Navy. Legally, the JROTC program offered in a high school must be no less than three-years and no less than 96 hours of instruction each year. Usually, each year contains 180 hours of leadership instruction and application. The program may extend over four years. This program meets these requirements. Similar programs are conducted nationwide by the other three military services.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is JROTC?
A: JROTC is an authorized program of instruction/education enacted by Congress in
response to the needs expressed by the citizens of the United States. It is designed
to teach leadership principles and techniques through practical application.
Q: What are the objectives of the JROTC program?
A: To develop in each cadet:
a. Good citizenship and patriotism.
b. Self-reliance, self-confidence, self-discipline, leadership, and responsiveness
to constituted authority.
c. Ability to communicate well.
d. Appreciation for the importance of physical fitness.
e. Appreciation for the roles of the Armed Services in support of National
f. Knowledge of basic military organization subjects.
Q: Is there any Military commitment by taking JROTC?
Neither the purpose or the objectives mentioned above pose any commitment to the armed forces. (If however, a student does choose to join any branch of the armed forces later, the time he/she spent in JROTC will be of great benefit both practically, and financially.)
Q: What will a cadet encounter and do in his/her first year?
A: The curriculum for the first year in JROTC includes:
a. Leadership, drill and development which makes up 25% of the grade.
b. Academic subjects will make up 25% of the grade (grades on quizzes and
exams). Subjects include:
1. Introduction to US Military Services (Customs, Courtesies, and Traditions)
and the study of Department of Defense and National Security Organization.
2. Instruction and participation in Basic Drill, the Manual of Arms and how to
conduct parades and inspections.
3. Weapons safety and marksmanship. All students will be taught how to Safely handle and fire a .177mm match air rifle.
4. Proper wear of the Marine Corps uniform. Uniform is worn 1 day a week and 25% of the grade is relevant to wear and maintenance of uniform.
5. Military history and citizenship (U.S.) classes.
6. Map-reading, public speaking, class presentations, problem solving, and
Q: Can a cadet play sports and still be in JROTC?
In fact, special recognition is given to JROTC cadets who participate in Varsity
and Junior Varsity sports.
Q: How often do cadets wear the Marine Corps Uniform?
A: Once every week. The purpose of wearing the uniform is to teach the cadet how
to properly care for it as well as focus on the details of putting all of the parts of the uniform in the proper place... neatly and shined. Attention to details!
Q: If a cadet takes JROTC in 9th grade, are they required to take it every year they attend school?
There is no requirement to take more than one semester at a time, however, 2-4
years of JROTC will mean extra pay and higher rank should the cadet decide to enter the service at a later date. It is also a factor in competition for ROTC scholarships and Service Academy appointments at the college level.
Q: Are there any financial obligations when a cadet joins?
Except for the dry cleaning of certain uniforms-- all uniform issue and accessories are free of charge and will be on temporary loan to the cadet for as long as they are enrolled in the JROTC program. Orientation trips to military installations are paid for by the Marine Corps (includes transportation, food, and lodging).
Q: Are there any physical requirements in JROTC?
Physical training is conducted one to two days per week. A physical fitness test is conducted every six weeks for score. The events include: maximum pull-ups (male)/maximum hang-time (chin over bar) (female); maximum sit-ups in 2 minutes (male and female); standing broad jump and 300 yard run (male and female).
Q: What are the benefits of taking JROTC?
A: A cadet will learn self-esteem, self-respect, and the relevance of constituted
authority (chain of command, employers, parents, teachers, etc.). Cadets will also
receive classes on note taking and how to prepare for exams. The JROTC program
gives classes in Leadership, Ethical Standards, Goal Setting, Public Speaking,
Substance Abuse, Stress Management, Close Order Drill, Marksmanship, Military
History, Rank Structure, just to name a few. If a cadet chooses to enroll in the
Armed Forces or Senior ROTC they will receive advanced placement and/or
additional pay while in the service.
Above all, is the sure knowledge that everything taught in JROTC will stay with a
student for a long while-- providing them greater ability to deal with everyday