Marines were first stationed on Parris Island in 1891, in the form of a small security detachment headed by First Sergeant Richard Donovan. His unit was attached to the Naval Station, Port Royal, the forerunner of Parris Island. Donovan’s unit was highly commended for preserving life and property during hurricanes and tidal waves that swept over the island in 1891 and 1893.
Military buildings and homes that were constructed between 1891 and World War I form the nucleus of the Parris Island Historic District. At the district center are the commanding general’s home, a 19th century wooden dry dock and a turn of the century gazebo- all of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.
On Nov. 1, 1915, Parris Island was officially designated a Marine Corps Recruit Depot and training was continued from then on.
Prior to 1929, all transportation to and from the island was by ferry from Port Royal docks to the Recruit Depot docks. In that year the causeway and a bridge over Archer’s Creek were completed, thus ending the water transportation era. The causeway was dedicated as the General E. A. Pollock Memorial Causeway in April 1984.
During the fateful December of 1941, 5,272 recruits arrived here with 9,206 arriving the following month, making it necessary to add the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Recruit Training Battalions. As the war influx continued, five battalions, were sent to New River, N.C., to train and the Depot expanded to 13 battalions.
From 1941 through 1945, 204,509 recruits were trained here. At the time of the Japanese surrender, more than 20,000 recruits were aboard the Depot.
On February 15, 1949, a separate “command” was activated for the sole purpose of training female Marine recruits. This command has since been designated the 4th Recruit Training Battalion and is the only battalion in the Corps to train female recruits.
The Korean conflict began in 1950 when 2,350 recruits were in training. From then until the 1st Marine Division was withdrawn from Korea, Parris Island drill instructors trained more than 138,000 recruits. During March 1952, the peak training load of 24,424 recruits was reached.
The recruit tide again flooded during the years of the Vietnam War. A peak training load of 10,979 was reached during March 1966.
Today, about 18,000 recruits are trained at Parris Island