Location: Parris Island, South Carolina
Webpage: Military Base
General Description: Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot is basic training for the U.S. Marines since 1915. Prior to the exclusive use by the military, Parris Island has had a rich history dating back to the 1600s. The Parris Island Museum is a great start to discovering the history of the island from pre-history through the Colonial Period, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the Civil War. Extensive exhibits on the history Parris Island as a training facility and the history of the Marine Corps are also included. In addition to the museum, there is a 16 stop driving tour that highlights the current and historical locations on the base. Included are the Dry Dock, the Lyceum, Marina, Rifle Range, numerous statues and monuments, and the location of the French colonial fort Charlesfort and Spanish community of Santa Elena.
1) The Parris Island Museum had excellent exhibits of the history of the low country through colonization, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. Included are the corresponding changes in the culture and lift style of the early Americans. After seeing the forts around Savannah and the history of Hilton Head, these exhibits tied a lot of this information together. For instance, I finally understood the role this area played in the Civil War. The Union captured Hilton Head and Parris Island early in the Civil War and used these as an anchor for the naval blockades of Charleston and Savannah. The major focus of the Union army then turned to the railroad system and they spent the majority of the war in this area in trying to disrupt or capture the railroads in the interior of the state. Multiple times they were able to capture key locations along the railroad or destroy the tracks, etc, but were never able to establish any real control. The other exhibits about the history of the marine corps were also interesting, but of less importance to me. It was fun that we were there during graduation, which meant there were veterans greeting the new marines in the museum. Kal and I were asked more than once and congratulated for being the parents of a new marine. I don’t believe there were any other visitors at the museum that was not somehow related to a new marine.
2) As this was Graduation day for the new marines, we were treated to a performance of the marching band coming towards us down the street playing the marine corps anthem and a compilation of Christmas music.
3) The driving tour is well marked and takes you to all the interesting parts of the base. We saw the Iron Mike statue, which was erected in 1924 and commemorates those that served in “The World War”. Quarters One, which is the traditional home of the commanding officer and dates back to 1883. The Dry Dock facility, which for over 10 years was the only naval dry dock on the east coast south of Norfolk. It’s working dimensions were 26′ deep by 104′ wide and nearly 450′ long, made entirely out of wood. It remained in service until 1910 when the ships became too large. Page Field was home to a glider squadron and barrage balloon detachment during World War II and continued as an emergency landing strip for many years after the war. We even saw new recruits practicing on the Rifle Range, which is huge facility. I hope they were not using live ammunition, as the recruits we saw were sitting in a semi-circle around a plastic barrel. They must have been using laser lights to target the barrel since we would have been in the line of fire otherwise. The last stop on the tour is the Iwo Jima Monument erected in 1945. Even though it is not the famous bronze statue in Arlington Cemetery, this statue predates it. It is the coated plaster version used to sell the concept to the military.