Share and read boot camp stories from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. As we get your responses, we'll include them below.
Mgy. Sgt W. H. Simon (Ret), 1966
This time it was empty of recruits
It was dusty and dirty, and everything askew
Nothing like I remember it being---when I was there.
I can feel the ghosts of people past,
See their faces and feel them dashing around,
Doing the things we told them to do
Without question, griping or complaining.
There were many recruits at many different times
Some during peacetime and some during war,
Some during peacetime have gathered again as friends
And joke and laugh and remember the good and bad times.
Some during war will never gather again for even though
They would have gathered as friends have paid the price
And gone to war and will never return to meet us on this side
Of the thin veil we know as death.
They were young and we are left to remember,
I know them and I knew them as I see their pictures
It is all I have to cling to as I hope I did my best to train them,
For I hope and pray I did all I could to bring them home safely.
Their ghosts were there in those squads bays,
Running about, cleaning rifles and shining shoes
Qualifying on the range, scoring well on the PFT test,
They busted their butts that’s for sure and all for the platoon.
I took great pride in them as they passed in review at graduation,
They were so happy and full of joy in meeting their parents
I shook their hands the morning they left the Island and we said goodbye,
Some to see again and others to entrust to the care of a loving God.
By 1st.Lt. Larry Ward
D.I. Paris Island.
Bob Molski, 1964
Stoner Platoon, 1964
This story starts in April 1964 when as a young and eager 17 yr old. I departed Staten Island, NY, for Parris Island, SC. When we arrived at the receiving center we were greeted by the usual screams of, "Get off my f'n bus" and "Get on my yellow footprints" (receiving used to be up by the Iron Mike statue for those of you who came after we left), it is now down past 2nd btn. and the schools building. I digress...back to receiving, well we did all the forms and made our phone calls to whoever answered the phone at home. Then some of the group were picked up and went to their platoons. The rest of the group were sent back to the classroom in receiving where we waited 2 days for the rest of our platoon to be selected, as we later found out, to be members of the Stoner 63 Rifle/Weapon System Test Platoon.
We became platoon 236. That was when we met our loving caretakers and banes to our existence for the next 13 weeks. Our drill instructors S/Sgt. Edwards, Sgt Hall and Cpl. Later to become Sgt Wade. Well I don't need to elaborate on the thumps and other eccentricities these gentlemen performed on our young bodies. Locker box manual of arms was a favorite and moving house was another. Oh, and when we got to the rifle range "get neckid and waller" in the steam room was a real treat. We started with 95 "Laddie Bucks" and graduated 62. As you know, the most enjoyable sight in my entire time in the Corps was seeing that long causeway disappear out the back window of the bus leaving Recruit Depot Parris Island.
Being that we were a "special" Test platoon after PI we stayed together through ITR and then went out into the division to A Company 1st Btn. 8th Marines to continue the testing of the Stoner system. We stayed together for a few months after PI and I think it was Sept of 64 when we finally finished our phase of the testing, broke up and went to our respective fields of endeavor throughout the Corps. I went to 10th Marines with a few of the other guys. We did the Santo Domingo thing in 65. I did a stint in Gitmo. When I got back from Cuba, I found orders to WEST PAC, and wound up in Kilo 4/12 for my remaining time in the Corps.
Then about 18 years ago, I told my wife that I would like to find as many of the guys I went thru PI with as I could, so we started to do some research and came up with 42 of them. Since then the number has grown to 55 and we have had several reunions and great times since.
February 2009 we made plans to go to Titusville, Fla., for a reunion and tour at Knight Armament Co., who now holds the rights to the Stoner system, and were guided on our tour of Knights Museum by Reed Knight, designer of the Rail Systems for the M16 and Mrs. Barbara Stoner, wife of Eugene Stoner. About a month or 2 prior to the get together, the lovely Mrs. Bob tells me upon my arrival home from running some errands that I had a phone call from a Charlie Edwards. It seems that she had found our Sr DI and he was willing to talk to me. I said, "HOLY CRAP! What do I say to this guy," and Mrs. Bob, told me that I stood at attention through the whole conversation! Well it turned out he is a really nice guy and I thanked him for making me the man I am today. I invited him to our reunion and he said he and his wife didn't fly and since they were in California it didn't seem likely. I told him to expect many calls from the guys, to which he answered, "I doubt those guys will want to talk to me." Which proved to be wrong, as Charlie soon found out.
We went to Florida and on the first night as Marines are wont to do were all standing around at the bar waiting to be seated for dinner telling all of the "how Bad we were stories" when in the back door comes this campaign hat tilted down in the front and this guy strutting his stuff like it was 40 years ago and we screwed up on the drill field. MAN you want to see 15 60-year-old-plus guys' sphincters tighten? Our wives and children tell us, "It was a pleasure to watch". My wife, Flora, Barbara Chadwick (wife of MGYSGT Mike Chadwick USMC Ret. and Terry Edwards (wife of Capt. C. E. Edwards USMC Ret.) , co- conspirators, had it all planned to surprise us, and man did it work. We had a great reunion. Nice to find out after all these years he didn't hate us after all. Since that reunion Capt Edwards has not been able to join us, but this April 2016 in Las Vegas, Charlie and Terry Edwards will be attending, no flying involved. Over the years we have been in contact with Capt & Mrs. Edwards. Some of us have even been out to visit them.
Our Marine Corps makes not only men, women and warriors, but brothers and families that stand the test of time.
Parris Island Boot Camp 1964
Stoner Plt. 236
Bart Hansen, 1957
Platoon 114 formed in May, which was shortly after the (Ribbon Creek) drownings. The physical punishment must have been largely discouraged at that time, so mostly we had the heat and the endless squat thrusts to deal with. We were in old two-story wooden barracks.
Our senior DI was Gunny Sibbalds who was supported by Sgts. Rupar and Shellhammer. They were a tough trio. Gunny wore WWII Pacific ribbons, which made him a kind of god.
My close call was dropping a garbage can on my big toe at the end of mess duty. I spent one or two days in sick bay on the weekend, possibly due to a hair-line break. It only occurred to me much later that they probably thought I had done it on purpose to get sent home. But I managed to graduate on time.
One memory is of seeing a special platoon made up for those who came in overweight. They carried a guide flag decorated with a red elephant. Do they still do that?
And does the Corps language still include pougie bait, feather merchants, the four esses, Maggie's drawers, and others?
I went on to serve out my three years at 8th & I Barracks in Washington, D.C.
Robert Hess, 1956
My story is about the tragedy at Ribbon Creek. I was there at the time when this happened. I was in Platoon 173 under Sgt R. Deeney. Our platoon made Depot Honor that year. During my time in the Corps I was assigned to the Air wing for flight equipment school at Jacksonville Fla.
I often wondered what became of Sgt. McKeon. Well, to my surprise he ended up in our flight squadron VMS-114 at Cherry Point, N.C., as a corporal working in the flight office. During that year, 1958, our squadron was sent to the U.S.S. Intrepid carrier for practice landings. It rained almost every day, with little time for our pilots to fly. We spent a lot of time in our quarters playing cards or just talking.
There was one incident that I always remembered that happened involving Corp. McKeon. He was older them most of us, and one time we were clowning around with him (wrestling) in our quarters and he jokingly made the remark, "Leave me alone, or I'll kill
half dozen of you."
I always felt sorry for him, because that must have always haunted him until he recently passed away a few years ago.
Yes, that Ribbon Creek tragedy changed the Marine Corps boot camp policy. In my opinion, nothing should have changed because of that day. The drill instructors did a great job during those years to
instill all the history of the Corps into the recruits in spite of Ribbon Creek.
Harold Mendelson, 1963
I started boot camp on June 28th 1963, two days after graduating high school. My recruiter had spent some time with me as I had a delayed entry. He went over what I would be going through. A group of us came together at what is now called JFK Airport in New York City and flew down to South Carolina. Arriving there we boarded a bus and joined others for our trip to Parris Island. When we arrived, we were greeted by a screaming DI that had us leave the bus as quickly as possible. We stood at attention with our feet on the yellow painted feet on the ground. We were fed and given bunks. We were told not to speak unless spoken to and every answer would be "Sir, Yes Sir".
The next morning we were roused out of our bunks with a screening DI banging a trash can. Those that didn't get up quickly were toppled out of their bunks. After a quick shower and morning chow we were marched into a classroom, and our indoctrination into the Marine Corps began. After two days we were assigned to our platoons. There we got our first GI haircut and were issued our uniforms and gear.
I was assigned to the third battalion, which had the nickname "Disneyland" because we were in brick barracks. The other two battalions were still housed in the original wooden barracks.
Our Drill Instructors pushed us hard and when we weren't doing anything else, we had our noses in our green covered Marine Corps Guide Books. We learned our General Orders and how to drill properly.
We each were given an M14 rifle and spent hours taking it apart and keeping it clean. We learned how to take it apart and assemble it blind folded.
For the next 12 weeks we drilled, took classes and drilled. We did a lot of PT and ran in formation just about everywhere we went.
I mostly remember the funny things that happened. The smallest recruit in our platoon became the "house mouse". He was responsible for cleaning the duty Drill Instructor's quarters and became the brunt of many pranks pulled by the Drill Instructors. The most memorable was the snake. One Drill Instructor brought in a rattle snake and left it in his quarters while we were getting ready to go to chow. The poor house mouse went in to clean up the duty quarters and let out a scream when he saw the snake. He ran out and grabbed his rifle and returned with the bayonet attached ready to do combat with the snake. The Drill Instructor grabbed him and said he wasn't authorized to kill the snake. He then went in and retrieved the snake and put him outside in the grass.
Another funny incident was one of the games we played. The Drill Instructor would yell out submarine attack and each of us would grab our foot lockers and throw them on the top bunk and we would jump on the lower bunk. Another variation was air raid. There we would either dive under our bunks or jump out of the window. That worked well when we were on the first floor. When we returned from the rifle range, we were assigned to a third floor barracks. The Drill Instructor yelled air raid, many of my platoon jumped out of the windows and, as luck would have it, our series commander, a first lieutenant, was walking by and was bombarded with bodies. No one was hurt, but that was the last time we played that game.
We didn't have the Crucible but we had the confidence course and the final field event. The confidence course involved a lot of high obstacles that we had to master. There were several recruits that had issues with it. One poor recruit got up on the slide for life and refused to slide down the rope. The Drill Instructor climbed the tower screaming the whole time but the recruit failed to move. He was physically pushed off their tower into the water below and dragged out by another Drill Instructor and ordered up the tower again. He eventually went down the rope.
Our final field event consisted of a forced March with our "782" gear and rifles. We went through a gas chamber and afterwards were tested on most of the subjects were had been to class on.
Perhaps the funniest memory was about the one recruit in our platoon who had a good singing voice. The Drill Instructor would yell out jukebox and he would start singing. The only way he would stop was if the word reject was yelled out. The Drill Instructor took him along to visit another platoon and yelled out jukebox and then left him there. After a short time, the other platoon's Drill Instructor tried to get him to shut up. He kept on singing in spite of all the threats of death and destruction. Finally after all methods to silence him failed, he had a few of his recruits pick him up, carry him down the ladderwell and put him in the Dumpster outside our barracks. The guy never missed a note and from inside the Dumpster he kept on singing. Our Drill Instructor was laughing so hard I thought he would wet himself.
The Night before graduation, our Senior Drill Instructor brought in a couple of irons and ironing boards and showed us how to iron our class "A" uniforms that we would be wearing. A small number from our platoon were promoted to PFC and he brought in a sewing machine and sewed on their stripes. Just before lights out, he told us never to address him as sir again, as we were now Marines and Staff Sergeants were never saluted or addressed as Sir.
The next morning after cleaning up our barracks for the last time, we put on our dress uniforms for the first time and we checked each other out, correcting any problems we spotted. Our Staff Sergeant inspected each of us and after making final adjustments as needed, we got in formation and proceeded to pass in review. For the first time, we were Marines and I for one was proud to be called a Marine and glad boot camp was over. After we were dismissed, we joined our family and friends and had base liberty until 1800 hours. With our gear packed in our seabags, we boarded buses and were off to Camp Geiger for four weeks of AIT (Advanced infantry Training) at Camp Lejeune.
Harold Mendelson, Platoon 346
David B. Wright, 1960
We were one of the early platoons to move into the new brick barracks in 3rd Bn while 1st & 2nd Bn were still in the old WWII wooden barracks. At one point, for a hurricane, the WMs were moved into our Bks while we moved into old "Neilson Huts" at the east end of the 3rd Bn Grinder. Church was held in an old wooden single story building on the east end of the 3rd Bn Grinder. It was hot as hades and we sat on benches with no backs. I once dozed off to be woken by a strong "rap" on my front forehead. It was delivered by a DI using a bamboo fishing pool that had a brass door knob on its end that had four brass Eagle, Globe & Anchor collar emblems on its sides. For several days after that you could easily see that EGA on my forehead when I had my cover off!
We arrived on the Island near midnight and were processed into Recruit Receiving. We copied down our to-be mailing address with our Plt 354, 3rd Rec TrnBn address copied from a blackboard along with a short note to our parents we had arrived. We were then put to bed on the 2nd deck. About 45 minutes later all hell broke loose and we were formed up on the 2nd deck screened in porch at attention in our skivvies. A Sgt read a card that stated something to the effect "I have arrived at PI, met my DI and have already been hit by him losing a tooth! But I'm OK and enjoying it!" The Sgt then ordered the writer to step forward. Now I was not the brightest guy there, but I quickly figured out they had his name and address on the post card. We stood there at attention for about 20 to 30 minutes before they tired of it and took him out of ranks. I never saw him again. Hell we hadn't met our DIs at that time!
The old metal "Purple Towel Hotel" was an experience I'll never forget. We were "picked up" by our 3 DIs, a SSgt E5 (Vet of WWII & Korea), a Cpl E4 and a Cpl E3 and "herded" over to the Purple Towel Hotel. It was several long metal buildings connected with a center area that had a table running a considerable distance. The table was semi chest high with a bin in front of each recruit and a walkway down its center, on which the DIs paced back and forth. We first stripped down naked and wrapped a purple towel around our waist from the bin. We then packed all our clothing into a box, sealed it and addressed it home. The DIs checked our billfolds deciding what we could keep and what we couldn't. Each recruit had to declare if he was as smoker or non-smoker at that time and you remained in the class from then on. A smoker could become a non smoker at any time but not the other way ever! We then were herded into the Barber Shop just off the central room and were each handed a chit to give to the barber in payment against our future pay. I had had my head shaven during a layover in Atlanta so the barber merely ran through the motions with me and still got my chit! We were herded into an adjacent shower room where we showered and washed our heads and were de-loused. Then we were herded into a room with a long counter. We were "fitted" by eyeball by supply personnel and issued our uniforms accordingly along with foot wear, 1 pair high top boots, 1 pair "Broogans" (high topped work shoes) and 1 pair tennis shoes. We stepped up stairs and were measured for our future dress uniforms, if we made it that far! Back we lugged all this clothing in the issued Sea Bag and dumped it into the bin in front of us. Then a piece of uniform was called out and how many we should have. We had to pick them up and hold them high in the air while the DI walked down their center walk checking and then telling each recruit to put it in our Sea Bag. Finally we were ordered to put on our newly issued skivvies, Utility Uniform and cover. There were white "inspector" stickers all over those utilities and covers making us out as new recruits. We were herded into a tightly packed group in the, by-now hot and very humid sun, and "herded" quite a distance over to our new barracks. Along the way several collapsed from heat, or simply will power. We were ordered to leave them lie, to either get up or die! Much later I learned, by accident, that following out of our sight were ambulances who picked up those recruits, who were recycled into another Bn. After being assigned our racks and hanging our Sea Bags on the end we formed up in a LPM Platoon formation and were taught how to march, slowly at first, and marched back across the base where we were issued sheets, blankets, pillow cases and a laundry bag with toilet items, razor, blades, shaving cream in a tube, name stamps pre-made on a wooden block (I still have mine) and numerous other personal items, for which we signed another "chit" to pay for it out of our first paycheck! At that point in time I recall it was $64 a month before taxes! We were also issued foot lockers. We marched back with all this in our arms deposited it in the barracks and made up our racks. We then fell out again and marched back mainside to a supply shed and were issued out "782" gear in a bucket. We sat on the deck and dumped the bucket. A Cpl standing on a platform in front us would hold up an item, name it and tell us how many we should have and then we had to hold them up in the air while our DIs checked to insure we had them and in the correct amount. We then put them into our bucket. We did this for every item of our "782" gear (packs, buckles, belts, straps, canteens, first aid kit, canteen cup and all web gear items). We then marched back carrying our buckets by their handles chest high in front of us. This was placed in out foot locker and locked up using newly issued combination locks, two each in the laundry bag issue.
Back mainside we marched to the armory and drew our M1 Garand Rifles, weighing 9.5 pounds! We were shown how to properly put on the canvas rifle sling and signed for them. At port arms we marched back to the Barracks. Somewhere in all this we went for lunch at our chow hall for the first time, learning how to properly uncover and march in, through the chow line, be seated at our designated table and eat in the proper Marine Corps way. Then scrap our plate of residue, as we had to eat all we took, and fall out in formation studying our class notes! The rest of that day was spent with the DIs teaching us how to properly make our racks, stow our gear in the prescribed manner in our foot locker, tie our laundry bag for dirty clothes to the end of our racks, along with our towel and washcloth. Our rifles, when not being used by us, were locked into rifle racks in the center of the squad bay.
I recall throughout training when we did something good and the DIs wanted to reward us the smoker got an extra smoke in addition to their regulation 3 cigarettes a day. The non smokers were allowed to have a drink from the scuttlebutt, and boy was that ever a treat. Normally we only drank from our canteens and we could only fill them from the wash racks beside our barracks, three decks down!
Smokers I felt sorry for. They were only permitted to smoke when allowed by the DIs. They would be ordered to Fall Out with 1 cigarette, butt kit (their bucket) and one match! One formed up outside three decks down running as fast as possible the DI would stand in front of them while they were at attention and order; "With One Cigarette, insert into the smoking orifice! DO IT NOW! Then came the command; "With One Match, Ignite the Cigarette!. Discard Spent Match in Butt Kit!" At this point it depended on how happy the DI was with the Platoon. If dishappy, the orders were, "Inhale!" A long pause could follow during which the DI delivered a lecture on his displeasure. Then came, "Exhale! Inhale!" oftentimes delivered as nearly one single command, even repeated over and over. At other times the interval between "Inhale" and "Exhale" could be quit a long period of time. If the DIs were happy with the Platoon they were allowed to smoke on their own after the formal lighting up commands. Cigarettes were extinguished on command. On rare occasions when the Platoon had really messed up, the smokers were only fell out once at the end of the afternoon and they would be ordered to "Fall our with 3 Cigarettes". Outside they would be ordered, "With 3 Cigarettes, insert into the smoking orifice! DO IT NOW! Then came the command; "With One Match, Ignite Cigarettes!." The Inhale, Exhale tempo could be rapid, or long and drawn out depending on the displeasure of the DIs. During this, non-smokers would sit on our buckets, never on our racks or foot lockers, and study our Guidebooks or recent classes. At times of DIs displeasure, we did a lot of push ups or sit-ups while the smokers smoked!
I had been in the Reserves for nearly a year when I went to Parris Island and had been in charge of all the recruits who joined my group along the way. I was the second-oldest recruit in our Platoon at 19 and my serial number began with 1810 while all the rest of the platoon's was in the very low 19s. On Sundays we were permitted to purchase a newspaper outside our mess hall. That was our only contact with the outside world throughout boot camp. Sundays every recruit in our Platoon attended one of the religious services. When the Catholics were at church, the non-Catholics commenced a barracks-wide Field Day which the Catholics took over upon their return while we went to our services. We quickly established our paper purchases so that every possible newspaper was purchased by one of our platoon and then we passed them around the rest of the week and read them when possible.
Out of all of boot camp experiences I most remember the ride aboard the bus after the main gate entrance, the incident at Recruit Receiving and that first day of our Pick Up, the Purple Towel Hotel and so many marches back mainside to draw our gear that first day. We were really worn out that night more than any other I recall while in recruit training.
On graduation, the thing I wanted most to do was sit in a chair. My mom had driven down from Chicago for graduation so talked her into taking me over to where she was staying on base and found a club chair in the lobby and boy did I ever enjoy that! Because of my high test scores I was tested for Marine Aviation Cadet Program to become an Officer and Pilot. I passed it all with flying colors until the dentist, where I was washed out because of too many fillings! At the end of boot camp I enlisted into the regular Corps and was "strongly encouraged" to go into aviation. I served with HMM-261 making the Cuban Crisis, James Meredith's Miss University Enrollment problems and Viet-Nam. I was promoted to Cpl with 25 months active duty.
Upon return to States I had less than 120 days remaining on my first hitch and declared I would re-enlist for 6 years if I was sent to Field Music School. I had been A-School trained as an Aviation Structural Mechanic and an Aviation Engineering Clerk. Aboard the USS Iwo Jima in WesPac I served as a Ship's Master At Arms. I wanted to return to the infantry which I had been in while in the reserves in heavy machine guns (.30 cal water-cooled). So my plan was get to be a bugler, then assigned to a Division D&B and then transfer into the Infantry.
I remained at MCAS El Toro as Troop Handler for all those Marines of all ranks having less than 10 days left in the Corps. It was one of the toughest jobs I ever had in the Corps as I really had to be a hard a** dealing with all ranks. After graduating from MCRD San Diego Field Music School as a bugler and 1st in class I was ordered to 8th & I in DC. I tried hard not go but was told "Corporals go to DC". I served from 65 through 70 in the US Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, the "Commandant's Own", as Bugler, Section Leader and volunteer Unit Clerk. In 1970, I was transferred to the US Marine Band, "The President's Own," as their Public Information NCOIC. I resigned from the Corps in 1974 to become a Law Enforcement Officer, from which I retired as a lieutenant after 25 years of service. I joined the Maryland Army National Guard, retiring with a total of 24 years combined service as 1stSgt. But I still bleed Marine Corps!
James Herring, 1987
When we first met our DIs they picked us up at receiving and marched us to the armory to check out our rifles.
I didn't have my BCDs and wasn't allowed to keep civi glasses I came with. Suddenly my DI appeared and I couldn't remember his name so tried to glance at his name tag. I made out a K--b and addressed him as Drill Instructor Sgt. Knob, which wasn't his name.
He never forgot mine and his was Korb 3rd Bn. Hotel series 3068 platoon 3070.
Sid Gaulden, 1964
One of our DIs had suffered a broken ankle at some point before we arrived for a 12-week stay on one of South Carolina's beautiful barrier islands. As a result he couldn't keep up with the company when we were drilling.
His solution was to let us get about a half block ahead of him and then order "To the rear, March!" Once he was almost a half block ahead of us, again we would hear, "To the rear, March!"
By the time we reached our destination, we had covered twice the distance that he had!
Eric Peart, 1983
Eric Peart, who started boot camp aboard the depot in 1983, also credits Parris Island with giving him the best worst-time of his life.
Peart entered Parris Island about 25 pounds overweight. And at 5-foot-8, he was the shortest guy in his platoon. With the chow line ordered by the tallest upfront, Peart was always one of the last to get served a meal.The problem was, when the drill instructor stood up to leave the table, all the recruits had to stop eating, too.
“When the drill instructor gets up, you don’t want to be the one stuffing food in your mouth, or you’ll pay for it later,” Peart said.
Peart had little time to eat. His buddies felt sorry for him and would sneak him rolls and other food he could stuff in his pockets. He’d wait until night to eat, or when he was in the restroom and could cram some food in his mouth to choke down.
He went in at 185 pounds and came out weighing 160. And he never got caught eating his hidden food.
His boot camp experience shaped him into who he is today, said Peart, who served as a police officer in Florida and retired two years ago to Maryland.
“It was a hell I’m really glad I went through,” he said.
Cpl. Robert F. Smithey, USMC
"Senior Drill Instructor Stanley S. Patten, Sgt. Dillsaver and Sgt. Moser with the environment of Parris Island created our Marine experience and lives.
"Like all recruits, our first experience began with fear. Each following day brought advancing confidence and conditioning. With the guidance and leadership of our Drill Instructors, Platoon 144 became the top graduating Parris Island Platoon in October of 1961. The only thing giving more pride than that honor was owning an emblem comprised of an eagle, globe and anchor pinned to Marine Corps uniforms.
"I am now age 72 and still live a life with the values taught me when I transformed from a civilian into a United States Marine.
"God Bless the Marine Corps."
-- Cpl. Robert F. Smithey USMC