Parris Island is an 8,095 acre (32.9 km²) military installation near Beaufort, South Carolina (32°19'44"N, 80°41'41"W) tasked with the training of enlisted Marines. Male recruits living east of the Mississippi River and female recruits from all over the USA report here to receive their initial training. (Male recruits living west of the Mississippi River receive their training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California).
A French Huguenot expedition, led by Jean Ribault in 1562, was the first European group to discover Parris Island. They built an outpost named Charlesfort but abandoned it less than a year later after the crew mutineed and sailed back to France. In 1567 the Spanish, led by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded a settlement named Santa Elena. The island was eventually controlled by the English as their influence in North America grew. In 1715, the island was purchased by Colonel Charles Parris, given its current name, and used as a plantation until the Civil War. The Marines first landed on the island in 1861 as part of the Union occupation of Port Royal, South Carolina.
Marines were first stationed on Parris Island in 1891, in the form of a small security detachment headed by First Sergeant Richard Donovan. His unit was attached to the Naval Station, Port Royal, the forerunner of Parris Island. Donovan's unit was highly commended for preserving life and property during hurricanes and tidal waves that swept over the island in 1891 and 1893.
Military buildings and homes that were constructed between 1891 and World War I form the nucleus of the Parris Island Historic District. At the district center are the commanding general's home, a 19th century wooden dry dock and a turn of the century gazebo—all of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.
On November 1, 1915, Parris Island was officially designated a Marine Corps Recruit Depot and training was continued from then on.
Prior to 1929, all transportation to and from the island was by ferry from Port Royal docks to the Recruit Depot docks. In that year the causeway and a bridge over Archer's Creek were completed, thus ending the water transportation era. The causeway was dedicated as the General E. A. Pollock Memorial Causeway in April 1984. During the fateful December of 1941, 5,272 recruits arrived there with 9,206 arriving the following month, making it necessary to add the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Recruit Training Battalions. As the war influx continued, five battalions were sent to New River, North Carolina to train, and the Depot expanded to 13 battalions.
From 1941 through 1945, 204,509 recruits were trained here. At the time of the Japanese surrender, more than 20,000 recruits were aboard the Depot.
On February 15, 1949, a separate "command" was activated for the sole purpose of training female Marine recruits. This command has since been designated the 4th Recruit Training Battalion and is the only battalion in the Corps to train female recruits.
The Korean conflict began in 1950 when 2,350 recruits were in training. From then until the 1st Marine Division was withdrawn from Korea, Parris Island drill instructors trained more than 138,000 recruits. During March 1952, the peak training load of 24,424 recruits was reached.
The recruit tide again flooded during the years of the Vietnam War. A peak training load of 10,979 was reached during March 1966.
Today, about 18,000 recruits are trained at Parris Island each year
Initial training for those enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, also referred to as boot camp, is a thirteen week process during which the recruit is cut off from the civilian world and has to adapt to a Marine Corps lifestyle. During training, recruits learn everything from personal hygiene and cleanliness, Marine Corps Martial Arts Training, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, to Marine Corps history. Physical fitness is emphasized during training, and recruits must meet a minimum standard of fitness to graduate. A three-mile run, pull-ups, and crunches are tested. Recruits must also learn to meet minimum swimming qualifications, qualify with the M16A2 service rifle, and pass a 54-hour simulated combat exercise known as "The Crucible."
Stress is constantly applied by drill instructors to teach recruits how to work under pressure. This may be pivotal later on in surviving combat situations. Recruits are yelled at constantly, and forced to do simple tasks over and over again, which is supposed to instill teamwork and leadership traits. Only by passing the rigors of boot camp can one earn the title "United States Marine."
On April 8, 1956, at 20:00 hours, a drunk Staff Sergeant Matthew McKeon, a decorated veteran of World War II and the Korean War, led Platoon 71, his assigned platoon of 74 recruits, on an extra exercise to Ribbon Creek as a disciplinary measure. McKeon led the platoon toward a swampy tidal creek on Parris Island, South Carolina, near the eponymous Marine Corps recruit depot, and, upon arrival 45 minutes later, McKeon entered the creek and ordered the platoon to follow. From that point forward, the platoon marched along the creek bed, moving into deeper water when ordered. Hearing sounds of panic from the recruits upon encountering the viscous creek mud in water at shoulder level, he ordered the platoon to exit the creek. On exiting, McKeon noticed that six of his men were missing and began searching for them. Although McKeon was the last man from the march to leave the creek alive, his attempt to find and rescue the recruits was for naught: all 6 had drowned, trapped in the suction-like grip of the mud. The entire march, from beginning to end, took about fifteen minutes.
Enlisted male training began here in November 1915. Female enlisted training began here in February 1949. The following statistics show the number of Marines trained on the Depot during each major conflict of the 20th century:
* WWI – 42,000 recruits
* WWII – 205,000 recruits
* Korean War – 138,000 recruits
* Vietnam War – 250,000 recruits
The following are training statistics from fiscal year 2006 Recruit Training
* Annual graduates: 16,831
* Average daily male population: 3,883
* Average daily female population: 537
* Average age of male recruits: 19.6
* Average age of female recruits: 19.7
* High school graduates: 99.9%
* Attrition rate: 6.82% males, 16.83% females
* Average cost to train a recruit: $14,320
Drill Instructor School
* Drill Instructor School length: 11.2 weeks, 4 classes/year
* Average size of DI School classes: 65
* DI School attrition rate: 18.05% males, 37.73% females
* Average age of students: 26.5 years
* Average years of service: 7
* Percent of married students: 81.63%
* Average number of DIs on Parris Island: 575–600
* Parris Island is mentioned in Billy Joel's song "Goodnight Saigon" from The Nylon Curtain.
* Parris Island is mentioned in Street Dogs song "Final Transmission" from the album Fading American Dream
* Parris Island is depicted most famously in Stanley Kubrick's movie Full Metal Jacket; and Stateside starring Jonathan Tucker and Rachael Leigh Cook; among many others.
* The Marine Corps and Navy are the only branches of the military whose basic training is officially called "boot camp"
* The Marine Corps basic training (boot camp) is the longest of all military branches at 12 weeks of actual training, and 1 week of "Receiving" for a total of 13 weeks spent on the island.
* Only in the Marine Corps is each recruit required to qualify at 500 yards on the rifle range.