The first Marines in the area of Parris Island sailed into Port Royal Harbor, S.C., as members of detachments aboard various ships with the Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Commanding officer, Navy Capt. Samuel F. Du Pont, seized the area and it was used as an important base for the Union Navy throughout the Civil War.
An act of Congress authorized the establishment and construction of a coaling dock and naval storehouse at Port Royal Harbor. A select group of naval officers chose Parris Island as the site.
To help protect the interests of the government during construction, a Marine guard consisting of one sergeant, two corporals and 10 privates were assigned to Port Royal, thus establishing the first Marine post on the island. Proper housing for the guard was slow in coming, with the Marines moving into barracks nearly two years after the post was created.
1st Lt. Clarence L.A. Ingate was the first officer assigned to command the Marine detachment at Port Royal. On Sept. 15, 1896, with the succession of command to 1st Lt. Henry C. Haines, the detachment became Marine Barracks, U.S. Naval Station, Port Royal, S.C.
The designation Marine Barracks became Marine Officers’ School, U.S. Naval Station, Port Royal, S.C., with the purpose of indoctrinating newly commissioned officers.
A recruit depot began operation at Port Royal on a three-company basis as a secondary function of the Marine Officers’ School, after it had been postponed from its original startup date of November 1910.
The Marine Officers’ School and two recruit companies transferred to Norfolk, Va., after the Department of the Navy decided to use Port Royal for a disciplinary installation.
The recruit depot separated from the officers’ school and returned to Port Royal. It was established as Marine Barracks, Port Royal, S.C., with the principle mission of training enlisted Marine recruits. Three days later, the Navy transferred the land and buildings to the Marine Corps.
The recruit depot underwent a massive expansion of installations, number of Marines trained and the type of instruction recruits received in order to meet the demands of the ongoing World War I. It was also during this time that Marine Barracks, Port Royal, was re-designated as Marine Barracks, Paris Island, and the government took possession of the remaining private land on Parris Island. Marine Corps Order No. 32 officially changed the name "Paris" to "Parris" on May 3, 1919.
Parris Island continued to thrive as a recruit depot in the early years between World War I and World War II, as well as having an advanced training seagoing depot, field music school and aviation elements. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the number of recruits trained drastically fell and other operations on the island also plummeted. Increasing global hostilities in 1939 brought a revival to the recruit depot and in the two years prior to the United States’ entrance into World War II, Parris Island underwent a massive construction phase that resulted in new barracks and training facilities.
In the first months of World War II, Parris Island staggered under the massive number of incoming recruits until shortened training periods were the only answer. Later, as the influx of recruits slowed slightly and deficiencies in the shortened program were noticeable, training was once again increased to help prepare Marines for combat. Approximately 200,000 recruits were trained at Parris Island during the war, including Women Marine Reservists.
Female recruits began arriving at Parris Island to form the first platoon of “Women Marine” regulars after the Marine Corps began accepting women into the service following the passage of The Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948. Parris Island remains the only recruit depot to train enlisted female Marines even today. Segregated African-American recruits who had previously trained at Montford Point near Camp Lejeune, N.C., also began training at Parris Island in 1949.
Parris Island once again witnessed an increase in the number of recruits to meet the demand for combat troops for the Korean War. The number of recruits overwhelmed the number of available experienced drill instructors, leading to the re-establishment of the Drill Instructors’ School during this time. Approximately, 138,000 Marines graduated from Parris Island during the war.
Tragedy struck the Depot when six recruits drowned during a late night march after a junior drill instructor led the men into Ribbon Creek, one of the tidal streams on Parris Island. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Randolph McCall Pate, ordered better supervision of the drill instructors and training in general to assure that there would never be a repeat of the Ribbon Creek incident.
More than 200,000 recruits trained at Parris Island during the Vietnam War. Training was cut from 12 to 10 weeks to accommodate the number of recruits, instead of adding new platoons.
Parris Island Recruit Depot was re-designated as Marine Corps Recruit Depot/Eastern Recruiting Region, Parris Island, S.C.
Recruit training revamped for inclusion of more values-based training and the Crucible, a 54-hour culminating event. Training schedules for both male and female recruits mirrored to a 12-week training schedule.
4th Recruit Training Battalion graduates their last all female company.
4 Recruit Training Battalion deactivated, marking successful gender integration across both Training Depots.