Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Parris Island- The Core of the Corps

The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island, S.C. can be concisely summed up in three words seen prominently on this sign over a main road and a water tower in a central part of the base.

This important place where each year thousands of recruits receive intense basic training and indoctrination into the ways of the storied fighting force dates to the early 1900s.

America's only other Marine Corps facility like this is located in San Diego.
I have wanted to see Parris Island for a while now. An opportune time was this past Sunday (May 21) as Alesia and I were returning from a mini-vacation on nearby Hilton Head Island.

Parris Island is about 30 minutes north of Hilton Head near Beaufort, so it was not too out of the way to stop for a few hours on our drive back to the Charleston area.

Being Sunday, the base was pretty quiet, not much traffic or activity.  But we did some see some units out marching and doing drills.

This was on the parade grounds where recruit graduation ceremonies are held.

There were units of women recruits and instructors on the grounds. This was an impressive sight seeing the orderly and precise way they went about their military exercise.

Seeing these troops in action was a bonus! I wasn't sure what we might be able to see on Parris Island, other than the museum, which my online research indicated it to be open on Sundays.

More on that fine museum to come.
As expected, Parris Island has security gates. The Marine at the entrance asked to see my driver's license, which he photographed with a camera device.

I asked him if it is OK to stop and take photographs on the base and he answered in the affirmative. So that was good news!

We received directions to the museum and were on our way.

There is visitor parking by the parade grounds so before going to the museum we stopped to walk around some and observe the activities.

We did see some men drilling, in front of their barracks, I believe.

I am comfortable on military facilities, having grown up an "Army brat."

The posts I lived on or near included Fort Carson, Colorado, Fort Stewart, Georgia, Fort Belvoir, Virginia and Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana (which I believe was closed a number of years ago).

I was born in what was then West Germany when my father was stationed there.

We came upon these men who were doing sit ups in a physical training section.
Their instructor kept everyone motivated, shall we say.

Back at the parade grounds is this statue of the famous U.S. Marine flag raising on the Pacific Island of Iwo Jima in 1945 during World War II.
The statue is just like the one in Washington, D.C.

Iwo Jima was a fierce and bloody five week battle in which the Marines suffered more than 25,000 casualties, including 6,800 killed.

An estimated 18,000 Japanese were killed.

Following are a few other statues and monuments around Parris Island.

I was glad to visit on this quiet Sunday afternoon. There was no traffic to worry about and I felt comfortable stopping and taking photographs, as the guard at the entrance said it was OK to do.  But still, on a military facility, there can still be some unease for us civilians.
This statue offers such detail and heroism!
> This monument is dedicated to drill instructors and their creed.  The creed is inscribed on the tall marker.  Click here to see the brief creed.
We spent the majority of our time exploring the first rate Parris Island Museum.

There is much more inside than one might think looking at the building from the outside.  Admittance is free.  There is a donation box, to which I gladly contributed.
The two story museum is very well organized, starting with Parris Island's origins and then offering meticulous and highly detailed displays.
There are weapons galore, dating to
the Revolutionary War.
Civil War weapons are displayed.  There is also lots of information about the Beaufort, Port Royal and Hilton Head areas role in that war. The region's activities and significance during the Revolutionary War are also well-documented.
World War I weapons and uniforms are seen here.
A World War II artillery piece used by Marines.
More imposing firepower.
This Japanese World War II artillery gun has a gaping hole in its right side, perhaps delivered by one of the Marine guns shown above.
This is a really neat F-4 Phantom display.  The fighter plane was used by the Marines and other U.S. military during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
A visitor can just about climb into the tight cockpit with the pilot.
An impressive number of uniforms in high quality condition are presented here too.

Uniforms range from conventional to....
...the gritty camouflage of a Marine sniper.
This photograph of World War II Marines fighting the Japanese on Guadalcanal stuck with me for how young and fresh-faced the men look.

This display of drill instructors includes audio to give a visitor the sense of being "addressed" by a tough DI.

President Franklin Roosevelt visited Parris Island in 1943, which was at the height of training men for service in the Pacific especially.
It was interesting to review this wall that showed famous Americans who were U.S. Marines, many of whom went through basic training here on Parris Island.

Dozens of photos and descriptions are included, from Lee Marvin and Captain Kangaroo himself, to astronaut/U.S. Senator John Glenn and "Maude" TV actor Bea Arthur.
Hollywood tough guy and legend Steve McQueen enlisted in the Marines at the age of 17.
The Marine Corps is known for its iconic eagle, globe and anchor insignia.

This displays tell how the design was the work of a construction worker who was part of a crew building a bridge in the area during World War II.

His name was Wheeler Humbert and his contribution is told briefly in this display.

Wheeler worked on the drawing in his spare time, seeing it as a tribute to the thousands who had been trained for war on Parris Island.

This was a neat bit of "trivia" that I found very interesting.

His work would grace the Parris Island entrance for years, and the eagle, globe and anchor would become synonymous with the mighty U.S. Marine Corps.

When in the Beaufort, Hilton Head or South Carolina Lowcountry, the Parris Island Museum is worth a visit.
Driving around the base is also time well spent.
Here are some driving directions provided by Parris Island.
THANK YOU to all U.S. Marines- past, present and future- for your service and sacrifice!
I definitely hope to re-visit Parris Island in the future.

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