Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island Community

MCRD Parris Island


For thousands of years Parris Island was home to American Indians. In the 1520s the island was explored by Spanish seafarers. From 1562 to 1563, the French colony known as Charlesfort was located on Parris Island. The French were followed in 1566 by the Spanish who built the fortified village of Santa Elena, which served as the capital of Spanish Florida. Santa Elena was abandoned in 1587 and English colonists came to the region in the late 1660s. In 1735, descendants of Alexander Parris, owner and namesake of the Island, settled on Parris Island.


During the antebellum period, Parris Island was home to numerous Cotton Plantations worked by hundreds of African slaves. After the Civil War, a small farming community for former slaves lived on the island. In the 1880s a naval station was located on Parris Island, and in 1891 a Marine detachment arrived under the command of 1st Sergeant Richard Donovan. By the early 20th century the majority of the naval activity had been shifted to Charleston, S.C., and on Nov. 1, 1915, the Marine Corps established a recruit depot on Parris Island.


Military buildings and homes constructed between 1891 and World War I form the nucleus of the Parris Island Historic District. At the district’s center are the Commanding General’s home, a 19th century wooden dry dock and a turn-of-the-century gazebo, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


On Nov. 1, 1915, male recruit training commenced and has continued since.


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 the General
E. Pollock Memorial Causeway in April 1984.


During the fateful December 1941, 5,272 recruits arrived here with 9,206 arriving the following month, making it necessary to add the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Training Battalions. As the war influx continued, five battalions were sent to New River, N.C., 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 Feb. 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 such battalion in existence.


When the Korean War began in 1950, 2,350 recruits were in training. March 1952 marked the peak load with a recruit presence totaling 24,494. When the 1st Marine Division was withdrawn from Korea, Parris Island drill instructors had trained more than 138,000 recruits.


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, nearly 19,000 recruits are trained at Parris Island each year. Technological advances balanced with environmental concerns have enabled the island to grow into one of the most efficient and picturesque military reservations in the world.


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