Marine Recruit Depot:
Port Royal Sound, SC:
"We arrived at Parris Island with all the palm trees and brick barracks. There were thousands of Marines there, and the remarks they passed! 'Join the Marines and see the world. Join the world and see the marines.' ... They knocked my hat off and pulled my shirt out...A form of initiation."
-- J.E. Re...(?), Marine Recruit, 1917, describing his first glimpse of Parris Island.
In 1915, Parris Island, formerly a small navy yard, became the permanent training depot for new Marines. Previously, training had been at various Navy facilities. When the United States declared war in 1917, a huge influx of new men required a massive new building expansion. The main center at the north end of the island saw a large addition of 160 acres costing $4 million that included new barracks, mess halls, and a post exchange. Two other important sub-camps, or stations, were built at the southern end, the Maneuver Grounds and the Rifle Range. By the war's end, 46,000 new Marines had been trained for combat.
Each station trained 4,000 to 6,000 recruits at a time for several weeks; sometimes men called this rotation "Around the world in eighty days." During their first days on the island, recruits had their physicals and equipment issued at the quarantine station when they were marched to the Maneuver Grounds for training in drill and weapons. Then came the Training Camp for weeks of instruction in hand-to-hand combat and gas attack drills. Following this, more weapons drill and marksmanship training took place.
Most Marines found recruit training something they never forgot or ever wanted to repeat. The language used by their drill sergeants horrified some recruits. One North Carolina man wrote home peevishly to his mother after his first day that, "I thought and still think that this is the worse place for bad language I ever saw... The first day I was here, I thought the cursing was awful... everyone seems bent on excelling the order."
In June 1917, recruit Gus Gulbert wrote that, "drilling was very strenuous and the days were baking hot. I think I melted from 160 pounds to about 140. For minor offenses, the punishment was severe. One fellow dropped his rifle during drill and had to gather 1,000 burnt matches. It had to be an even 1,000. If he had over or less, he was required to get 1,000 more."