Parris Island History

A History of Parris Island Recruit Depot

Marines first landed on Parris Island in 1891 when First Sergeant Richard Donovan led a security detachment in the area. The town that Parris Island is now a part of, called Port Royal, was a Naval Station that his unit was attached to.

There are still some military structures and homes from that era standing. They formed the center of the Parris Island Historic District and include the commanding general’s home. All of these building in the Historic District are on the National Register of Historic Places.

It didn’t become an official Marine recruit depot for a good 20+ years. It wasn’t officially designated until 1915, but Marine training has continued ever since. Back then (prior to 1929), there were no roads leading into the island. Recruits had to take a ferry from the Port Royal docks to the Parris Island docks. In 1929, a bridge and a causeway were built over Archer Creek and provided Parris Island with a road connection.

11 thoughts on “Parris Island History”

  1. MCRD-Parris Island, as it was known when I trained there in the summer of 1991, is the greatest experience a young man can have. Graduating and earning the title “Marine” and being able to wear the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, was an honor that has yet to be matched. The United States Marine Corps is truly the worlds greatest fighting force. The training I received by the drill instructors molded me from a boy and into a man. I am greatful to have trained there and served my country as a Marine. Godspeed to all Marines serving at home, on the seas, and over seas.

    1. Jeffrey Odom,

      There are Odem’s within my family tree.

      Regarding your above post, spoken both like a civilian and true 0Marine. Platoon 207 of January 21, 1965, was when I too was made from a boy into a man. We didn’t graduate like the boys we were when we first got to Parris Island! Semper Fi!

  2. It will be a long road ending!!!!!! Will retire from Federal govt. in October 2014 with about 31 years 6 months… It all started with the USMC (3 years) ,,,,the door that opened and never closed!!!!! Then BLM,, forest service,,National parks,, F&S service. Sember fi,, Thank you USMC…..

  3. As a Marine recruit of the Vietnam Era, I remember one evening when one of the drill instructors hastened into our squad bay, gathering all the recruits into a sit down circle, and informing us, that the United States was now at war in the Republic of South Vietnam. He further informed platoon 207, K Company, of the 2d Recruit Battalion at MCRD, Parris Island, January, 1965, that many of us would be sent to Vietnam immediately upon completion of ITR at Camp Geiger, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

    He was so right, concerning me, as on September 1, 1965, eight months after joining the Marine Corps at 17 years of age, I found myself in a helicopter assault of Ky Ha, Republic of South Vietnam. I remembered those words of our drill instructor so profoundly, and attempted to receive all the instruction in a positive way while at MCRD Parris Island and Camp Geiger, North Carolina in order to survive the war, should I find myself in Vietnam.

    Certain phrases still are within my memory regarding Parris Island, to include the last words of our Senior Drill Instructor, Staff Sergeant L. B. Holms. Those words were, “You have had the best training in the world for combat, here at Parris Island.”……… “Even if you are freighted out of your wits, you will respond appropriately in combat”.

    Volunteering as an M-60 door machine gunner with Marine Observation Squadron Six, VMO-6), I found his words to be so accurate, that I even thought about them when I experienced being shot at by an enemy heavy machine gun, over 500 rounds.
    VMO-6 had the only Marine Corps helicopter pilot of the Vietnam War, to receive the Medal of Honor. The name was Captain Stephen Pless, and his crew of three additional Marines also received the Navy Cross, each. Major William G. Goodsell, as commanding officer of only five days, also received a Navy Cross, posthomusly, for his heroic actions at Hill 488 (Nu Vue) on June 18, 1966. GySgt Jimmie Howard received the Medal of Honor for the 18 Marine actions at the 1 1/2 day battle. Eighteen Marines received over 30 medals for there actions in combat.

    My advice to all those young Marines now training at Parris Island and San Diego, to pay attention to all those instructors, learn well, and when in combat, do exactly as all non-com’s and officers order you. You will never know, if you do, how many lives you may save, while being freighted out of your wits. You Marine Corps training will prevail. Guaranteed.

    I can attest to this very fact!

    Semper Fi, all Marines, as well as to all recruits being trained now, as well as to those that will show up at the Marine Corps Training Depots within the future.

    Raymond L. Britt
    former sergeant of the USMC
    Vietnam Veteran
    Cold War Veteran

    1. Well said, every time I hear a Marine Corp story, it brings tears to my heart and makes me want to do it all over again Orahhh Marines! L/cpl Myron Simmons of Parris Island Platoon 2092 D company. For the record Sarge. I was told the very same thing in a circle, that we would be rushed through ITS at camp Geiger and rushed over to the Indian Ocean where they were acting up in Lebanon.

  4. I’d like to trace the dates my grandfather, dad and uncle trained at Parris Island. Timeframe for dad (Howard Gerard Loftis) was May 1942 and uncle (Thomas Patrick Loftis) was August 1966. I believe my grandfather also trained there prior to WWI (late 1800). His name was also Howard Gerard Loftis. Thanks for honoring my request. Semper Fi.

    1. Jim Loftis,

      I would believe the records of your family members should still be at the government archives. If they are, you can request copies of those records as family members, if those relatives are deceased.

      Go online and type government archives, contact, and you should get appropriate ways to contact the government archives.

      Hope this helps, and you see or hear about this post.

  5. Oops! In my previous post I meant to say sources of photographs of the naval station and Marines..

    William Cutts
    Newberry, Florida

  6. In conducting family history research I obtained the service records of my grandfather, Charles L. Clark. I found that he was statioined at the US Marines Headquarters in Washington DC in 1891 and then stationed at Port Royal, SC from Dec 1891 through 1906 when his enlistment was up.

    That would make him among the first Marines to be stationed at the Port Rooyal Naval Station soon to become Parris Island I believe.

    I am looking for sources of the naval station and particularly any Marines during that perion in Port Royal. Can anyone assist or offer advice?


    William Cutts
    Newberry, Florida

    1. William Cutts,

      The Internet is one of the very best ways to find sources for anything you are researching. I found an entry about Port Royal in “Parris Island, SC, History of”. Do the same thing for Port Royal Naval Facility, SC, and you should be able to find many sources through google.

      Good luck!

      1. Ray…… After all these years I finally found you. Served with you at 4th Marine Corps District, Philly. We worked for Capt Vic Salankiewicz in 1968-1969 when I left the USMC for private life. Would love to hear from you.

        Ron Weaver
        SSgt. USMC

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