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Happy 240th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps

A huge thank you and Happy Birthday to the United States Marine Corps. Here are 10 facts you may not have known about the mightiest fighting men and women in history.

By Leada Gore | lgore@al.com
November 09, 2015


The Marine Corps is celebrating its 240th birthday Nov. 10. Here are things to know about one of America's most elite fighting forces:

Marine Corps birthday

Nov. 10 is the official birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marine Corps traces its roots back to the Second Continental Congress in 1775, which established a resolution stating that "two Battalions of Marines be raised" as forces to land with the fleet. The Marines were on hand for the first amphibious raid into the Bahamas in 1776 under the command of Capt. Samuel Nichols.

The Marine Corps marks the occasion with an annual Birthday Ball, the reading of a birthday message from the Commandant and the cutting of a birthday cake.

Semper Fidelis

Latin for "Always Faithful," Semper Fidelis became the Marine Corps motto in 1883. According to the Marine Corps, Semper Fidelis is a permanent reminder that "a Marine will forever live by the ethics and values of the Corps."

Eagle, Globe and Anchor

The Marines have three main symbols: the Eagle, the Globe and the Anchor. The Eagle represents the country they defend, with its eyes on the coastline and wings spread out to encompass the world. The Globe represents the Marine's worldwide presence. The anchor represents the ties the Marine Corps has with the Navy and its ability to access any coastline in the world.

The Marine Corps flag

The Marine Corps flag we recognize today has been flown since January 1939. It contains images of the Eagle, Globe and Anchor in gray and gold on a scarlet background. The ribbon flowing from the eagle's beak bears the motto ""Semper Fidelis," and the words "United States Marine Corps" are found on the scroll below. Scarlet and gold were established as the official colors of the Corps as early as 1925, and the Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem has appeared as part of Marine Corps iconography since 1868.

Sword

The Marine sword is the oldest weapon still in service to the U.S. armed forces. Officers carry the Mameluke Sword, which was originally given to Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon in 1805 by a Mameluke chieftain in North Africa. Lt O'Bannon and his Marines marched across 600 miles of North African desert to rid the "shores of Tripoli" of pirates and rescue the kidnapped crew of the USS Philadelphia. By 1825, all Marine Officers carried the Mameluke sword in recognition of this historic battle—the Marine Corps' first on foreign soil.

Adopted in 1859, the NCO Sword is carried by Marine Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) and Staff Noncommissioned Officers (SNCOs). Used for ceremonial purposes, the M1859 NCO Sword was bestowed to NCOs and SNCOs by the 6th Commandant, Colonel John Harris, in recognition of their leadership in combat.

Rifleman's Creed

One of the best-known Marine traditions is the Rifleman's Creed. It says:

This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will...

My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit...

My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...

Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.

So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but peace!

Honorary Marines

Fewer than 100 people have been given the title "Honorary Marine." They include: Chuck Norris, Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Gary Sinise and Bugs Bunny.

Marine's Hymn

The Marine's hymn is highly recognizable and recounts their service through the years.

From the Halls of Montezuma,
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and 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 unfurled 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 The United States Marines.

The President's Own

The U.S. Marine Band has performed at almost every presidential inauguration, save only that of George Washington and John Adams. Formed on July 11, 1798, the U.S. Marine Band, known as "The President's Own" is the oldest continuously active professional music organization in the county. It made its first appearance at the 1801 inauguration of President Thomas Jefferson. Today, the band makes about 500 appearances a year.

First battle on foreign soil

The Marines' first land battle on foreign soil was in Libya in 1805, where 600 Marines stormed the city of Derna to rescue the crew of the USS Philadelphia from pirates.

If you know a Marine...

According to the Marine Corps, if you know a Marine, the proper way to greet them on Nov. 10 is "Happy Birthday, Marine."

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