Why is USMC ahead of USN in the DOD order of precedence?

It is clear that this is the order of precedence set by the DOD, and also these are the recognized birthdays of the services:

1775-06-14 USA, US Army
1775-11-10 USMC
1775-10-13 USN
1947-09-18 USAF
1790-08-04 USCG

This is set by Department of Defense Directive 1005.8 and confirmed by the following:

-DOD Directive 1005.8 at jbsa.mil (Joint Base San Antonio);
-DOD Memorandum, Revised DOD Order of Precedence at execsec.defense.gov;
-Military Exchanges and Displaying Military Flags at ams.usda.gov;
-wiki, Anthem Veterans Memorial; and
-wiki, Flags of the United States Armed Forces.

So then if the Navy’s birthday is 13 Oct 1775 and the Marine Corps’ is 10 Nov 1775, why is the Marine Corps ahead of the Navy in DOD Order of Precedence?

I use shortened URLs at is.gd. I created them and they are safe.

Here’s my stream of consciousness as I ran down your story. None of this is meant to be critical of your work.

Your first cite is obsolete. Ref the official source DODD 1005.8 is not current. The pdf you cite from wherever you got it is certified current 17 years ago. A search for directives containing the word “precedence” also comes up empty.

Your second cite looks pretty good. Although the DOD Order is not about precedence of the services. It’s about seating & social precedence of people in various jobs in the services. Though yes, as a general matter it says a USMC official comes before his/her equivalent at USN. Though the Order gives no rationale for this sequence.

Your third cite from the Department of Agriculture talking about flag display at Exchanges is really odd. Why is DOA opining on this in the first place? They cite 1005.8 which we know (at least as of 2003) does not say anything about flags and as of 2020 does not exist at all.

Given that’s all wrong, I would not put much weight on DOA’s unsupported assertion that age of the service is the determinant of precedence. As well, the Coast Guard predates the USAF by a good 150 years but is precedentially after it. So clearly age is not the discriminant. It might be a tie breaker, but we don’t have ties. IMO somebody out there in DOA land is confused.

The fourth cite to wiki on the Anthem memorial asserts the precedence but has no cite for where that came form. All of the wiki article’s cites simply say “DOD precedence” in the same wording; presumably all copied from one another.

The fifth cite on wiki simply makes the same tired assertion again in the opening paragraph. But now we’re finally getting somewhere. …

Cite #2 of that wiki article is to a Wayback Machine page. The original page that WayBack captured is now gone to the great webpage graveyard in CyberSpace, but it appears the page was written some time around 2008. The article cites our old friend 1005.8 which apparently existed in some form then. And proceeds to give us a decent explanation, while admitting there are some loose ends and conflicting theories out there.

The short version is that per this historian’s favorite theory the process of spinning up each service was not instantaneous and USMC managed to be legally formed later, but functionally operational earlier. In fact operationally it was the earliest of the services, despite coming second in precedence to the Army.


That was fun.

Also from this I learned something else cool and totally unexpected. Back in 2017 DoD extended online Exchange privileges to honorably discharged veterans. WHich is me. Not having, retired, not being disabled, and not being broke or homeless, I’ve come to accept that my service has zero benefits after my separation back in the 1980s. Not so. I too can use the Bx online. Cool! Now to see if they have anything interesting that Target doesn’t.

The Exchange online has tax-free purchases and free shipping. Another nifty benefit of using the shopmyexchange site is you can connect to other sellers, such as Dell for computers, and get a military discounted price also.

Cool. I’ve since posted about this in the Vet’s day freebie thread. If you know more, feel free to piggy back there too. May as well share the knowledge with.

Thanks, @LSLGuy. My cites may be problematic but I think it is clearly established that the order of precedence is Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, then Coast Guard. However the question is why. The archived article you provide points to the commissioning dates of the first officers in each service as part of the answer, and also the long-standing custom and tradition as well as the DOD Directive 1005.8 as (most of) the rest of it. Some great info there, but an archived veteransinfo.net page, though entertaining, on its own may not be fully authoritative.

Agree that we’ve established the personnel and almost certainly service precedence is USA, USMC, USN, etc.

I have no idea on my own part as to why. I suppose we could try to hunt down the various public laws cited in the now-obsolete versions of 1005.8 to see what they refer back to. Heck, we don’t even know what DoD documents / regs / etc. establish the precedence today.

Let the Navy explain it:

From the Official Blog of The United States Navy:
"Every[sic] wonder why the Marine Corps flag has precedence over the Navy’s during ceremonies or when colors are paraded? We all know the Navy’s birthday is Oct. 13, 1775 – and the Marine Corps was born just about a month later on Nov. 10, right? Shouldn’t the Navy come first?

The reason the Marine Corps has precedence over the Navy is because since 1921 the Marine Corps has been very consistent in citing that its birthdate came as the Continental Congress established the Continental Marines on Nov. 10, 1775.

Although the Continental Navy was established a month earlier, the U.S. Navy, until 1972, gave various responses to the same question of when it was founded, often citing legislation dating from its reestablishment in the 1790s."


Thank you for that, Bear. I was hoping you’d chime in. Good info there. The Army saves the day!

My good friend and former CO is currently the Commander General of the NOUS, Naval Order of the US. I owe him a call. If we discuss this I’ll share that here.

Bear_Nenno, I noticed the Embry-Riddle sign in the background of your profile photo. Are you a pilot too? It sometimes seems we’re overrun with fly-boys (and fly-girls) here!

No, I only have about 20 hours in a Cessna. I started working on getting my license while I was in Alaska, but then I deployed, and then I moved to Germany. So, I never finished. When I get back to the states and settle, I intend to get back to it and get my license. For now, I spend my free time jumping out of planes rather than flying them.
I am an Eagle, though. Class of 2019! That picture is from graduation weekend. I completed my Master’s with them remotely, so that was my first time on the campus. I flew in from Europe, and it was just great to be back home in Florida and to be walking the stage to receive my diploma. I even lucked out and got to watch a SpaceX Falcon 9 night launch on the evening before my hooding ceremony. Great times.

You know, I heard that, and completely forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder.

Just thought I’d throw it out that in Commonwealth realms the Navy is the senior service, based on their inherited traditions from the Royal Navy. The RN dates back to Henry VIII as a standing force.

I check it from time to time, so far the Exchange still doesn’t beat Amazon or Lowes with my 10% Vet discount.

Thanks for that. Yeah, I should check out the exchange too. I haven’t yet…