The Birthday Ball is a celebration of Marine Corps’ history and traditions. It gives us a look at the Corps’ past, present and future. On 10 November Marines throughout the world celebrate the birth of their Corps — whether in the fanciest hotel in town, a base gym, a ship at sea, or in a smoldering pile of rubble in some far off place with lit matches stuck in an MRE pound cake serving as candles.
In 1921, the 13th Commandant, Major General John A. Lejeune, issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921 (read the order here). Major General Lejeune's order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps. It further directed that the order be read to all Marines each year on 10 November to honor the founding of the Marine Corps. Soon after, Marine commands began to not only honor the birthday, but celebrate it.
The first "formal" Birthday Ball took place in Philadelphia in 1925. Attendees included the 13th Commandant, the Secretary of War, and a host of statesmen and elected officials. Prior to the Ball, Major General Lejeune unveiled a memorial plaque at Tun Tavern, where, according to legend, was where the Marines held their first recruitment drive. Then all headed for the Benjamin Franklin Hotel for an evening of celebrating.
Over the years the annual Birthday Ball has changed and formalized into the ceremony we know today. One of the most important traditions of the Birthday Ball is the reading of the Commandant's birthday message to the Corps.
Part of the Commandant’s 241st birthday message in 2016 read, “…we are part of something bigger than any of us could imagine. Whether you fought in the battles…in the Pacific during World War II, in Korea or Vietnam…Desert Storm, or in the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan — or you are just starting out on your Marine Corps journey…For the rest of your life, the first term people use to describe you will be ‘Marine.’”
On 10 November, regardless of where Marines are stationed, or deployed, whether they are still on Active Duty, Reserve, or a former Marine, you will always hear “Happy Birthday, Marine.”
To learn more about the Marine Corps and its traditions, we encourage you to attend a L.I.N.K.S. class. There is always something new to learn! Contact your local Marine Corps Family Team Building office for more information.