On July 11, 1798, President John Adams approved legislation that created the U.S. Marine Corps. It was against this backdrop that a Marine historian, Major Edwin McClellan and Major General John A. Lejeune, one of the Corps' greatest Commandants, set in motion the annual birthday observances that Marines have grown to cherish over the past 84 years. On October 21, 1921, Major McClellan, then the Corps' chief historian, sent a memorandum to General Lejeune that would forever change the way Marines celebrate their proud heritage. McClellan suggested that the original birthday of the Corps, the date the Continental Congress authorized raising two battalions of Marines in 1775, be celebrated throughout the Corps. The suggestion made sense to General Lejeune and, on November 1, 1921, he issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 21.
The order summarized the history, mission, and traditions of the Corps. The Commandant directed that it be read to every command each subsequent year on November 10 in memory of that resolution of the Continental Congress. On October 28, 1952, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Lemuel C. Shephard, Jr., directed the celebration of the Marine Corps birthday be formalized throughout the Corps, and provided an outline for a cake-cutting ceremony.
This outline was incorporated in the Marine Corps Drill Manual approved January 26, 1956. Thus, on November 10 each year around the world where U.S. Marines are serving, there will be a commemoration including the reading of Marine Corps Order No. 47 and an annual message from the current Commandant.