Parris Island in Beaufort County is the Marine Corps Recruit Depot for male recruits east of the Mississippi River and all female recruits across the United States. The training base was established in 1891 and expanded after a causeway to the base was built in 1929. During World War II, the number of recruits reached more than 200,000. Today, around 18,000 Marine recruits receive their training here each year.
The island was originally settled by French explorers on Huguenot Jean Ribault’s scouting trip in 1562. These men called their settlement Charlesfort. Though the French pioneers did not last long at Charlesfort, Spanish and English explorers laid claim to the island in subsequent years. In 1715 Colonel Alexander Parris, treasurer of the South Carolina colony, purchased the island from the English and subdivided it into plantations. After the Civil War it became home to freed slaves from local plantations and those of neighboring Port Royal, where the Emancipation Proclamation was read in 1863.
The monuments in the above photos are a testament to the island’s current function. The sculpture by Felix De Weldon, created in 1952, depicts the flag raising on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima and honors all United States Marines who have given their lives for their country. The monument to Parris Island drill instructors honors those whose responsibility it is to make Marines out of young recruits. Parris Island is a National Historic Site.
Reflections on Parris Island
Contributor Mike Stroud sent the two photos at the top of the page in honor of the November 10th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. He tells us: “Sunday, November 10, 2013, marks the 238th birthday of the US Marine Corps. Parris Island, Beaufort County, being the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (boot camp) serves the training of the eastern states’ recruits. Also here is the Marine Corps Air Station, home to the Marine Corps’ Atlantic Coast fixed-wing, fighter-attack aircraft assets. All work in keeping us safe and secure. ‘The noise you hear is the sound of Freedom’…Happy Birthday!”
Mrs. John F. Maag contributed the historic photos of Marine recruits. She shares her story of being married to a former Parris Island photographer: “This photo was taken in 1966 of my late husband while readying to shoot a picture of the platoon graduates. John Maag was base photographer from August 27th, 1947, until December 31, 1966. He photographed every platoon graduate picture during that time. He also photographed Platoon 206, which graduated on 26 December, 1950. The Platoon had a private, named Alfred M. Gray, Jr., who became Commandant of the United States Marine Corps. In December of 1966, he moved to Texas and was employed at Vought Corporation in Grand Prairie, Texas, in the Photographic Department until retirement the 30th day of June, 1984. John was in Platoon 155, January, 1941. He became a member of the band and was leader of the Band on the Island of Tinian where the atomic bomb was housed for the mission over Japan.”