When I taught my first classes at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, I was occasionally interrupted by aviators at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. At the time, they were flying F-4 Phantoms, a particularly loud aircraft. Before expressing my annoyance, I asked my students who among them was a Marine, a former Marine or a Marine Corps dependent. About 80 percent raised their hands. In 30 years of teaching, I was never again annoyed by the "sound of freedom."
The Marine Corps has been the economic engine of Beaufort County since the first recruits arrived on Parris Island in October 1915. Seventy percent of the Marines who fought in World War I were trained there. When the build-up for World War II began, nearly everyone in the region went to work on Parris Island or at the U.S. Naval Air Station commissioned in 1943. During World War II, 241,000 Marines were trained at Parris Island. The numbers were even higher during the Korean War, and during the Cold War, the old naval air station became Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
Most local businesses are dependent on the Marine Corps, and it has been that way for nearly a century. In 1909, The Beaufort Gazette had some advice for the community that seems appropriate for welcoming the new F-35 squadrons: "Success of the proposed ... base for Marines ... depends in some measure on the cooperation of the citizens of Beaufort ... . This battalion is to be welcomed ... their stay should be made as agreeable as possible."
Lawrence S. Rowland St. Helena Island