Parris Island: Making Marines for 100 years

A special report on the past and present of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on its 100th anniversary.


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Brief History of MCRD San Diego, 1914-1962

By Elmore A. Champie

The Marine Corps Base at San Diego is surrounded by evidences of the Spanish heritage of southern California. Among the more conspicuous are the euphonious place names found everywhere , including the name San Diego itself, and the picturesque architecture that may be seen, not only in the city, but also in the permanent buildings of the Marine Corps post. This is a natural consequence of the fact that California was a Spanish possession for nearly three centuries. The region was claimed for Spain in 1542 by Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo, a Portuguese navigator in the services of Charles V and the first white man to see San Diego Bay. It remained under Spanish control until 1821, when Mexico won her independence from Spain. Thereafter, for about a quarter of a century, California was claimed by Mexico.

Cpl. Beddoe flying over MCRD San Diego in a restored USMC Sikorsky UH-34D Helicopter
Cpl. Beddoe flying over MCRD San Diego in a restored USMC Sikorsky UH-34D Helicopter

Geography and the westward expansion of the United States now brought the Marines into their first contact with San Diego. The town was seized by a landing party of seamen and Marines from the USS Cyane on 29 July 1846, shortly after war had broken out between the United States and Mexico. It was in this operation that the Stars and Stripes was first raised in southern California. Marines were also among the reinforcements sent early the following December to assist Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny, USA, and his dragoons in completing the final portion of their march from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to San Diego/ Despite the harassment of Andres Pico’s lancers, Kearny succeeded in reaching San Diego on 12 December 1846. Hostilities in the California theater of operations ceased about a month later; and when the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo formally ended the war in 1848, Mexico ceded to the United States a large block of territory that included California.

Geography – an important element, as we have noted, in the foregoing events – has been a constant factor in the working out of San Diego’s destiny with respect to the Marine Corps. Only 12 miles north of the Mexican border and possessed of an excellent harbor, the city readily recommended itself to the strategic eye as an expeditionary base on the west coast when the need for such a base became evident in the early twentieth century. San Diego was not only convenient to the Pacific approaches of Latin America, where it was apparent that trouble could be expected at intervals, but it could also serve advantageously as a port of embarkation for Hawaii and the Par East* Concrete action toward establishing a base there, however, awaited some precipitating event. Mexican political Instability was to provide the catalyst that returned the Marines to San Diego for the first time since the Mexican War and subsequently caused a permanent Marine Corps post to be established there.

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Making Marines – by Michael Kane

Neshaminy High School graduate Michael Kane reflects on his 13 weeks of basic training at Parris Island, SC, to become a United States Marine.

Semper Fi Kane, nicely done!

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Boot Camp Hindsight


What’s one thing you wish you would have known before arriving at MCRD boot camp or OCS?

Post your response as a comment below.

Semper Fidelis!

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Joining the Marines?

So, you’re thinking about joining the Marines, eh?

Hopefully, my post here will give you some meaningful information or requirements that might help you to make that tough decision. Everybody that joins the Marines does so for their own reasons or have their own stories. Some join because their father or uncle were Marines or their fathers before them were OLD CORPS Devildogs while others might join because they like to fight or simply for the challenge or love of country. Others may wonder if they should go to college or join the service and take classes while on active duty. There is no generic answer that is right for everybody.

The physical challenge:

Together, you work to build up your strength and endurance. You do things physically you never dreamed possible. I remember seeing other platoons on base that were within weeks of graduation and thinking how lucky they were and wondering if I would make it to where they were. After doing physical training most of the day, marching on the parade deck, and rushing here and there, from chow to classrooms, we would be completely exhausted by day’s end. I mean completely exhausted. For those who go through boot camp in San Diego, you will spend a couple of weeks humping in the mountains (we call it “Mount Motherfucker” for a good reason).

The mental challenge:
Nothing can prepare you for the mental challenge of Marine Corps boot camp. The first part of the movie “Full Metal Jacket” is very accurate. There is little deviation in the decades of drill instructor behavior and effectiveness. From the moment you arrive on the yellow footprints until the moment you graduate, everything you do is controlled by a drill instructor. You are yelled at constantly, belittled, embarrassed, confused, and subject to head games of every imaginable possibility, and some that only the Marines could conjure up. When unrelenting prolonged physical and mental thrashings are combined, the result is an incredible transformation of breaking down the individual shit-bird civilian and rebuilding the boy into the Marine.

The aptitude challenge:
Contrary to public perception, recruits spend countless hours learning about their history, their weapons, first aid, chemical warfare, chain-of-command, and other various subjects. Much pride is taken in teaching recruits about the famous Marines who served before them. From the birth of the Continental Marines in a bar in Tun Tavern, PA. in 1775, to the battlefields from the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, recruits gain a deep sense of debt owed to these Marines from the Old Corps. Aptitude tests are also taken which help determine, for some, their next school or duty station.

There are many many other challenges in Marine boot camp, some measurable, some are not. Qualifying with the M-16 rifle is a two-week process. The first week is spent “snapping in” or learning all about shooting. The next week is qualifying week. Not qualifying with the rifle can end your journey to be a Marine, as can failure to qualify in swimming or other required skills.

My advice:

Nowadays, there is so much information available on the Internet that many young boys and girls can get some facts to help them prepare for boot camp. Nevertheless, here’s my advice for anyone considering joining the Marines.

1. Get a guaranteed MOS. Whether it’s a basic rifleman (0311) or a huey helicopter crew chief (6174), think about your future. Try to gain skills you can use when your active duty ends. I was fortunate to get into the aviation field because I ended up working in computers. Since I got out I have been working in IT. I never would have received that opportunity had it not been for the Marine Corps. The IT experience from the Marines catapulted me into several excellent career opportunities.

2. RUN, RUN, RUN… Get into shape before you report to boot camp. It will help you like you won’t believe. Work on upper-body and leg strength as much as possible. You CAN get through the physical aspects of boot camp. The better shape you are in, the easier it will be for you. And remember, for you MCRD San Diego recruits, “Mount Motherfucker” awaits you.

3. Prepare yourself as much as possible for the mental head games you will be subject to. Keep a low profile, do your best, speak loudly, don’t take shortcuts, study hard, stay focused. Watch the Full Metal Jacket boot camp scenes over and over. I had NO CLUE about the mental challenges and I still made it. For those who will attend MCRD Parris Island, the “sand fleas” will test your discipline.

4. STUDY! Know your general orders, rank structure, chain-of-command, and general history of the Marine Corps. Know who Marines like Chesty Puller, John LeJuene, Maj. A.A. Cunningham, Dan Daly, “Manila John” Basilone, and Smedley Butler were. Memorize and gain a good understanding of Marine Corps leadership traits (JJDIDTIEBUCKLE).

Knowing your Marine Corps knowledge inside and out will place you far ahead of the others.

If you want more details about boot camp, check these out:

The change is forever! Once a Marine, Always a Marine!

Semper Fi,
Cpl. Beddoe
USMC 81-85

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