US Marines with I Marine Expeditionary Force, I MEF Support Battalion, celebrate the 246th Marine Corps birthday with a cake-cutting ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jennifer Andrade.
For many Marines, Marine Corps birthday season — the roughly four-week period beginning in October and covering much of November — is the highlight of the year. It’s the time where Marines forget how much they hate life in the military and suddenly want to reenlist for six more years.
Ask any Marine, and he’ll tell you the Marine Corps is 246 years old this year because Wednesday, Nov. 10, marks the anniversary of the day the Second Continental Congress issued a resolution to stand up two battalions of Continental Marines in 1775. As the Corps’ beloved origin story goes, the first Marine Corps recruiting station was the legendary Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia, features a replica of Tun Tavern.
What most Marines don’t talk about is that the Continental Marines were disbanded after the Revolutionary War in 1783. The United States Marine Corps simply did not exist for 15 years, which seemingly complicates the math that most Marines celebrate every November, but good luck explaining to the average Marine that the Corps’ history is rife with “creative liberties.”
It is a historical fact, however, that President John Adams approved the re-creation of the Marine Corps under the new Constitution of the United States on July 11, 1798. So why don’t Marines commemorate their birthday in July?
Until 1921, Marines didn’t make much of their service’s birthday, much as the other services today don’t take much notice of theirs as they pass.
According to Military.com, “Inspection of documents and publications prior to 1921 shows no evidence of ceremonies, pageants, or parties.”
The Marines’ modern tradition of completely losing our minds with boastful pride about the Nov. 10 birthday and origin story began in 1921, when one of the first official Marine Corps historians, Maj. Edwin McClellan, put forward a proposition to Gen. John A. Lejeune, then commandant of the Marine Corps.
McClellan proposed to establish a uniquely Marine holiday — a grand celebration of the service’s original founding during the American Revolution. Lejeune loved the idea and issued the order that is now read at every Marine Corps birthday celebration, forever codifying the Corps’ official birthday as Nov. 10, 1775.
Rather than bicker over petty “alternative facts,” I propose the Marine Corps officially squash this debate once and for all by simply declaring that both birthdays are equally important and mandating another monthlong period of debauchery and grandiose celebration of the Corps’ already massive ego and prowess as the world’s finest fighting force.
Celebrating a summer birthday a week after Independence Day? That could mean consecutive 96-hour weekends for Marines. Yes, please.
No need to argue over the Corps’ “correct” birthdate. Marines can have their birthday cake, cut it with a sword, and eat it too. Twice a year.
This proposal also creates an opportunity to develop new but equally awesome rituals for the summer celebration. No need for a guest of honor or a lot of pomp and circumstance; maybe the July birthday celebration includes feats of strength akin to those of the Highland games. Maybe everyone takes a bunch of MDMA, turns off all the lights, and plays “Who’s in my mouth?” The possibilities are endless!
So let’s all stop bickering about “historical accuracy” and start planning for next July now.
Happy 246th birthday, Marines. And a late happy 100th birthday celebration, too. Cheers, you beautiful bastards.
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