Happy Rebirth-Day to the United States Marine Corps, with Another Cake in November

Happy rebirth-day to the United States Marine Corps! Rebirth-day? Let us explain.

The Marine Corps traditionally celebrates its birthday on November 10 each year, recognizing the decision by the Second Continental Congress in 1775 to establish two battalions of Marines.

An illustration of a Continental Marine from 1776.
Continental Marine from 1776.

They were known then as the Continental Marines, because the United States was still in its formative stages. The Founding Fathers still had some “founding” to do, and wouldn’t do so formally until July 4, 1776, when they declared independence from England. At that moment, the American Revolution became official even though it had been brewing for several years.

When the Revolution ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the new government disbanded the Marines and scaled back on the Navy as well. But instability caused by the French Revolution (1789-1799), along with British raiders, created threats to the new nation and its ability to grow its economy. The Americans realized the need to protect their coastline.

Consequently, President John Adams signed legislation on July 11, 1798 that re-created the Marine Corps. Less than two months earlier, on April 30, he’d established the Department of the Navy, of which the Marines are a part.

Portrait of President John Adams.
President John Adams.

Adams restored the branches over the opposition of Thomas Jefferson. Yet, when Jefferson became president, he relied on the Navy and Marines in the Barbary War (1801-1805). Pirates for centuries had been seizing ships, enslaving their crews, and disrupting trade in the Mediterranean. When the Northern Barbary states of Algiers, Tunis, Morocco, and Tripoli began targeting American ships—demanding bribery payments to leave them alone—Jefferson refused. With a new appreciation for Naval forces, he expanded the Navy and sent the Marines into the fray. On April 27, 1805, 400 Marines stormed into Tripoli to burn the captured frigate “Philadelphia” rather than have it become a pirate ship that would be used against them.

The Battle of Derna, as it was called, marked the first time an American force invaded a foreign land and raised the American flag on foreign soil. The lasting effect? The operation became part of the Marine Hymn:

“From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and sea.”

The Marines, who still operate within the Department of the Navy, fought in many operations during the War of 1812, and helped Andrew Jackson crush the British in the decisive Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Though underfunded and undermanned during the Civil War, they were instrumental in defeating the Confederacy.

During the Spanish-American War, the Marines First Battalion became among the first Americans to see action and routinely crushed enemy forces bearing far greater numbers.

The Marines expanded dramatically in leadership and force strength during World War I and were a dominant force throughout World War II—and all the wars since.

Yes, the Marine Corps was born on November 10, 1775. Then, after 15 years off, it was reborn on July 11, 1798.

So happy rebirth-day, U.S. Marine Corps! Think of it as having your cake and eating it twice!

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