Official United States Marine Corps Photo 141028-M-ST621-370.JPG
Photo By: Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos
By Patricia L Johnson
The United States Marine Corps was born on November 10, 1775 when the Second Continental Congress provided legislation for “two Battalions of Marines”. The full resolution reads as follows and the original hand written copy may be viewed at the following link: View Original Resolution (PDF)
JOURNAL OF THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS
(Philadelphia) Friday, November 10, 1775
Resolved, That two Battalions of marines be raised, consisting of one Colonel, two Lieutenant Colonels, two Majors, and other officers as usual in other regiments; and that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present war between Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress: that they be distinguished by the names of the first and second battalions of American Marines, and that they be considered as part of the number which the continental Army before Boston is ordered to consist of.
Ordered, That a copy of the above be transmitted to the General.
The official Motto of the United States Marine Corps is “Semper Fidelis”  (“Always Faithful”) and was adopted around 1883. Prior to 1883 there were three different mottoes used by the Marine Corps, but all three were considered traditional rather than official.
· “Fortitudine”  (“With Fortitude”)
· “By Sea and by Land” – a translation of the Royal Marine’s “Per Mare, Per Terram”
· “To the Shores of Tripoli”, subsequently revised to: “From the Halls of the Montezumas to the Shores of Tripolli”
The birthday of the Marine Corps was not always celebrated on November 10. It was only after Major. Edwin McClellan, Officer-In-Charge, Historical Section, Headquarters Marine Corps, suggested to John A. Lejeune, Major General Commandant of the Marine Corps, in a memo dated October 21, 1921 that November 10 be declared a Marine Corps holiday that could be celebrated by everyone in the Corps. Major McClellan further suggested in his memorandum that a dinner be held in Washington D.C. to celebrate with guests including prominent men in the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and descendants of the Revolution.
On November 1, 1921, Maj. Gen Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921 which reads as follows:
759. The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10th of 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 Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand 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 is the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.
(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our 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 have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has 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.
John A. Lejeune,
Major General Commandant
History records indicate the first ‘Birthday Ball, as suggested in McClellan’s memorandum to Major Lejeune, was not held until 1925, when it was held in Philadelphia, PA. The first cake apparently was not introduced into the festivities until 1935 in Quantico, Virginia. Although the origin of this particular tradition remains unknown, it is customary to serve the first piece of birthday cake to the oldest Marine present and the second piece to the youngest Marine present.
Although Marine Corps Birthday celebrations are different through the Corps, they are all held on November 10, and they all include reading of Marine Corps Order No. 47 and the Commandant’s message. The birthday party is such a major event in the U.S. Marine Corps that plans for the party begin in the summer months and continue for the next several months.
The highest honor the military can bestow upon the brave individuals that sacrifice life and limb for us, while protecting our country is the Medal of Honor. Technically there are three major branches of service, the Army, Navy and Air Force. The United States Navy/Marine Corps is a combined force so there is only one Medal of Honor, the Navy Medal of Honor for service members in either the Navy or the Marine Corps.
The Navy Medal of Honor is made of bronze and suspended by an anchor from a blue ribbon, which is worn around the neck. There are 13 white stars on the ribbon representing the original 13 states. The medal itself consists of a five pointed star. Standing in the middle is Minerva, representing the Union. She is circled by 34 stars representing the 34 states in 1861. In her left hand she holds an ax, the ancient Roman symbol of authority. In her right hand she holds a shield, which wards off the serpents held by the figure of Discord.
The back of the medal is blank to allow for the recipient’s name, date and place of deed to be engraved
Since 1862 there have been 297 Marines receiving the Medal of Honor as follows:
On Veteran’s Day 2013 the United States Postal Service issued two new stamps, a current Navy version of the Medal of Honor and the second, the current Army version of the Medal of Honor. The Air Force Medal of Honor was not created until after World War II, so the postal service did not, as yet, issue a stamp for that version.
 It is interesting to note the motto of England’s Devonshire Regiment is also Semper Fidelis.
 Fortitudine is also the name of the Bulletin of the marine Corps Historical Program and you may read the current edition at the following Fortitudine Vol 38 No 2
Data Source: United States Marine Corps History Division.
© 2014 Patricia L Johnson