The First Recruits at Parris Island
Marines at Naval Station Parris Island
Parris Island has been continuously associated with recruit training since 1915 when the Marine Corps moved its recruit depot from Norfolk Naval Station to Parris Island. But some form of recruit training existed before that. One of the first of these instances occurred in 1903 when two companies of Marines under the command of 1st Lt. Benjamin Bernard Woog arrived at the nearly abandoned naval station on Parris Island.
The base, whose operations had recently been transferred to the newly established Charleston Naval Yard, resembled a ghost town along the Beaufort River, its massive brick buildings looming over a now empty dry dock. Woog, a Washington, D.C., native, was commissioned on July 1, 1899. He and his Marines were sent to the island to protect and maintain the station’s naval facilities. Since the Marine detachment’s barracks was being renovated, Woog had his men establish a tented encampment where they lived throughout the summer of 1903. The Marines also built a laundry, and Woog kept his men busy practicing amphibious landings using three old steam launches that had been left at the naval station.
In August 1903, Woog, according to an article in the Beaufort Gazette, in need of reinforcements, traveled to Savannah to seek volunteers. There, he enlisted 40 men who were brought back to Parris Island where Woog began drilling them in Marine Corps basic training.
Between 1903 and 1909, little activity occurred at Parris Island. Woog and his Marines and their successors continued to stand guard over the station while both the Navy and the Marine Corps tried to determine a new use for Parris Island.