Key Events in the History of Port Royal/Parris Island



2 November 1861-The first Marines in the area of Parris Island sailed into Port Royal Harbor, South Carolina, as members of detachments aboard various ships with the Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Commanding officer Captain Samuel F. Du Pont, USN seized the area and it was used as an important base for the Union Navy throughout the Civil War

7 August 1882-An act of Congress authorized the establishment and construction of a coaling dock and naval storehouse at Port Royal Harbor. A select group of naval officers chose Parris Island as the site.

26 June 1891- To help protect the interests of the Government during construction, a Marine guard consisting of one sergeant, two corporals, and ten privates were assigned to Port Royal, thus establishing the first Marine post on the island. Proper housing for the guard was slow in coming, with the Marines moving into barracks nearly two years after the post was created.

1 May 1895- First Lieutenant Clarence L.A. Ingate, USMC was the first officer assigned to command the Marine detachment at Port Royal. On 15 September 1896, with the succession of command to 1stLt Henry C. Haines, USMC, the detachment became Marine Barracks, U.S. Naval Station, Port Royal, South Carolina.

1 January 1909- The designation Marine Barracks became Marine Officers’ School, U.S. Naval Station, Port Royal, South Carolina, with the purpose of indoctrinating newly commissioned officers.

1 June 1911- A recruit depot began operation at Port Royal on a three-company basis as a secondary function of the Marine Officers’ School, after it had been postponed from its’ original start up date of November 1910.

30 August 1911- October 1915- The Marine Officers’ School and two recruit companies transferred to Norfolk, Virginia, after the Department of the Navy decided to use Port Royal for a disciplinary installation.

25 October 1915- The recruit depot separated from the Officers’ School and returned to Port Royal. It was established as Marine Barracks, Port Royal, South Carolina, with the principle mission of training Marine recruits. Three days later, the Navy transferred the land and buildings to the Marine Corps.

6 April 1917- 11 November 1918 (World War I)- The recruit depot underwent a massive expansion of installations, number of Marines trained, and the type of instruction recruits received in order to meet the demands of the ongoing war. It was also during this time that Marine Barracks, Port Royal, South Carolina, was redesignated as Marine Barracks, Paris Island, South Carolina, and the government took possession of the remaining private land on Parris Island. Marine Corps Order No. 32 officially changed the name “Paris” to “Parris” on 3 May 1919.

November 1918- December 1941 (Between the Wars)- Parris Island continued to thrive as a recruit depot in the early years between the World Wars, as well as having an advanced training seagoing depot, field music school, and aviation elements. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the number of recruits trained drastically fell and other operations on the island also plummeted. Increasing global hostilities in 1939 brought a revival to the recruit depot and in the two years prior to the United States’ entrance into World War II, Parris Island underwent a massive construction phase that resulted in new barracks and training facilities.

7 December 1941- 14 August 1945 (World War II)- In the first months of World War II, Parris Island staggered under the massive number of incoming recruits until shortened training periods were the only answer. Later, as the influx of recruits slowed slightly and deficiencies in the shortened program were noticeable, training was once again increased to help prepare Marines for combat. Approximately 200,000 recruits were trained at Parris Island during the war, including Women Marine Reservists.

28 February 1949- Female recruits began arriving at Parris Island to form the first platoon of Women Marine regulars after the Marine Corps began accepting women into the service following the passage of Public Law 625 (The Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948). Parris Island remains the only recruit depot to train female Marines even today. Segregated African-American recruits who had previously trained at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, also began training at Parris Island in 1949.

25 June 1950- 27 July 1953 (Korean War)- Parris Island once again witnessed an increase in the number of recruits to meet the demand for combat troops in Korea. The number of recruits overwhelmed the number of available experienced drill instructors (DIs), leading to the re-establishment of the Drill Instructors’ School during this time. Approximately, 138,000 Marines graduated from Parris Island during the war.

8 April 1956- Tragedy struck the recruit depot when six recruits drowned during a late night march after a junior DI led the men into one of the tidal streams (Ribbon Creek) on Parris Island. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Randolph McC. Pate, ordered better supervision of the DIs and training in general to assure that there would never be a repeat of the Ribbon Creek incident.

1962-1973 (Vietnam War)- Over 200,000 recruits trained at Parris Island during the Vietnam War, the longest war fought by the United States to date. Training was cut from 12 to 10 weeks to accommodate the number of recruits, instead of adding new platoons.

1 April 1976- Parris Island Recruit Depot was redesignated as Marine Corps Recruit Depot/Eastern Recruiting Region, Parris Island, South Carolina.

19 April 1984-The causeway that links Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot to the Beaufort community was dedicated in memory of General Edwin A. Pollock, USMC (Deceased).

9 September 1994- The 4th Recruit Training Battalion Reading Room at Parris Island was dedicated in honor of Cpl Germaine C. Laville, USMCWR (Dec), one of only three WWII Women Marines killed while in performance of their duties. Cpl Laville died in a fire 3 June 1944 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.

16 December 2002- The MCRD Parris Island Headquarters was dedicated in honor of General Robert H. Barrow, USMC (Ret). Gen Barrow, 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps, served as Commanding General, MCRD Parris Island from 1972-1975, and was the driving force behind reforms to ensure effective but wholesome recruit training. The event was all the more unique for the fact that the commemorative naming, an honor usually reserved for deceased Marines, occurred during Gen Barrow’s lifetime.

Present- Parris Island graduates approximately 20,000 recruits a year and is one of the most famous military training facilities in the United States.

Reference Branch
USMC History Division

Marine Corps University