Marine Corps Customs and Traditions

Famous Quotes, Customs and Traditions

In the Marine Corps, practically every custom has grown out of the manner in which Marines of the past conducted themselves as well as present Marines honoring Marine heroes of yesterday. Many Marine customs have been incorporated into regulations in order to standardize conduct throughout the Corps, but some of them cannot be found in written directives. Knowing and observing these customs, both written and unwritten, is important to each Marine because it keeps him mindful of the heritage and traditions of his Corps, and of his duty to uphold them.

In addition, it makes him feel that he is a part of the team and helps to create the strong bond of loyalty between him and all other Marines that has become a distinguishing mark of the Corps.

When you think Marine Corps, you may think of the night in Tun Tavern in 1775 where the first recruitment drive for Marines began in Philadelphia prior to the Revolutionary War. You may think of the terms "Jarhead," "Leatherneck,", or "Devil Dogs", but The Few, The Proud are best known for "Semper Fi" (always faithful) and being the "First to Fight" in more than 300 beach landings throughout the 250 year history. Ooh-Rah!

Marine Corps Birthday

One of the most famous Marine customs is the observance of the Marine Corps Birthday. Since 1921 the birthday of the Marine Corps has been officially celebrated each year on 10 November, since it was on this date in 1775 that Continental Congress resolved, "That two Battalions of Marines be raised...." Over the years the Marine Corps Birthday has been celebrated in a wide variety of ways, depending on the location and circumstances of the Marine units. The celebration involves the reading of an excerpt from the Marine Corps Manual and a birthday message from the Commandant; the cutting of a birthday cake by the commanding officer; and the presentation of the first and second pieces of cake to the oldest and youngest Marines present.


Some of the most important customs of all are those of military courtesy. In the Marine Corps, courtesy is an expression of respect for the authority possessed by an individual, as well as a demonstration of respect for the Corps as a whole. Through the use of the various forms of military courtesy a Marine says, in effect, "As brothers in arms and fellow Marines, I consider you worthy of my respect." When used in this manner, military courtesy assumes one of its most important roles; it is an expression of the respect a Marine has for other Marines and for himself.

Of all the forms of military courtesy, the various salutes are probably the most important. They are certainly the most obvious and frequently used. Saluting is the traditional form of greeting between men of the profession of arms and it is an honored tradition of military organizations throughout the world.

Marines in uniform salute officers (or senior officers), even if that officer is in civilian clothes (assuming the Marine recognizes the individual as an officer). Conversely, it's not considered appropriate for a Marine in civilian clothes to initiate a salute to an officer (or senior officer), even if that officer is in uniform.

During the playing of the National Anthem, at morning and evening colors, and at funerals, if in civilian dress, Marines uncover and hold the hat over the left breast at such times as those in uniform salute. Many stand at attention when in civilian clothes as well when hearing the National Anthem or the Marines' Hymn.


There are many other customs which have significance in the life of a Marine. A few of the notable ones are listed here.

  • Boarding a small boat or entering a car. When boarding a small boat or entering a car, Juniors enter first and take up the seats or the space beginning forward, leaving the most desirable seat for the senior. Seniors enter last and leave first.
  • Serenading the Commandant. Commencing with the last New Year's Day of the Civil War, on the morning of 1 January of each year the Marine Band serenades the Commandant of the Marine Corps at his quarters and received hot buttered rum and breakfast in return.
  • Wetting Down Parties. Whenever an officer is promoted, he customarily holds a "wetting down party." At this time the new commission is said to be "wet down." When several officers are promoted at the same time, they frequently have a single wetting down party.
  • Wishes of Commanding Officer. When the commanding officer of a Marines says, "I wish" or "I desire," these expressions have the force of a direct order and should be acted upon as if he had given a direct order.
  • Looking Out for Your Men. One feature which has made the Marine Corps such a respected organization is the custom of Marine leaders looking out for their men. A Marine leader makes sure his men are comfortably clothed, housed, and justly treated. For example, in the field, a Marine officer takes position in the mess line after all the enlisted men in order to ensure all men get their food. A Marine leader never leaves a wounded or dead Marine on the battlefield to fall into the hands of the enemy.
  • Being a Marine. But the most outstanding custom in the Marine Corps is simply "being a Marine" and all that it implies. Call it morale, call it esprit de corps, call it what you will--it is that pride which sets a United States Marine apart from the men of other armed services. It is not taught in manuals, yet it is the most impressive lesson a recruit learns in boot camp. It is not tangible, yet it has won fights against material odds.

Some Classic Quotes About Marines

Senator Paul H. Douglas stated: "Those of us who have had the privilege of serving in the Marine Corps value our experience as among the most precious of our lives. The fellowship of shared hardships and dangers in a worthy cause creates a close bond of comradeship. It is the basic reason for the cohesiveness of Marines and for the pride we have in our corps and our loyalty to each other."

A Marine is proud of his Corps and believes it to be second to none. He is loyal to his comrades and to the Marine Corps, adhering always to the motto Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful).

Marine have garnered respect from other members in our military and special operations communities as well as the foreign fighters:

Navy SEAL Chris Kyle stated, "In my experience, Marines are gung ho no matter what. They will all fight to the death. Every one of them just wants to get out there and kill. They are bad-ass, hard-charging mothers."

RAdm. J. R.Stark stated: "Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweiler’s or Doberman’s, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean. They're aggressive on the attack and tenacious on defense. They've got really short hair and they always go for the throat."

Gen. William Thornson, U.S. Army stated: "There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion."
General James F. Amos stated: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” The title is permanent. Do not use 'former' Marine, as it implies 'no longer a Marine. You're a Marine, just in a different uniform and you're in a different phase of your life. But you'll always be a Marine because you went to Parris Island, San Diego or the hills of Quantico.

There's no such thing as a former Marine."

In closing, as the day ends for the Marine recruit attending USMC boot camp, the final words out of the recruits mouth are, "Good Night Chesty Puller - wherever you are"

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