Five 80 year old Marines revisit the site of their "Boot Camp" training in 1956.
October 1, 2018 | View PDF
In 1956 a number of boys just graduating from Lanier and Lee boarded buses headed for Beufort, South Carolina, the nearest civilized community to the famous Parris Island. That is the location of the United States Marine Corp Recruit Training Depot, where every Marine recruit east of the Mississippi goes through basic training, referred to by most as “Boot Camp.”
The month was June when the temperatures vacillate between 95˚ and 100˚. It’s the month when the “sand fleas” are the hungriest. A recruit is not allowed to kill a sand flea no matter how intense the bite may be. In the event that a D.I. (Drill Instructer) sees a recruit slap at a sand flea, the whole platoon must find the bug and hold a ceremonious funeral for it. Other
punishments would follow the funeral.
In those days only approximately 60% of the original recruits graduated with the title of United States Marine. That was really important to us back then. Alabama boys were better suited to the intense and sometimes brutal physical and mental punishment required to “produce” a Marine who is capable of withstanding the experience of combat. The tradition of the Marine Corps is always the guide as to how the training is conducted. Only one of our 16 failed to meet those standards. He was unceremoniously sent home in his uniform wearing a pink tie. This could not be done today because this cruel and unusual punishment would be found unconstitutional and those responsible would be fired.
The training at Parris Island was tough on former civilians who chose to serve in the Marine Corps. But some of us had been on Coach Bill Moseley’s 1953 and 1954 Lanier football team. The practices were conducted twice a day in the August heat and humidity at 6:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. on McCants Field, which was behind the three story school building. The huge school building blocked off air from the east. A tall stand of cedar trees lined the entire field which blocked off air from the west. A series of buildings, large oak trees and a line of “trash trees” blocked air from coming from the south. The north end of McCants Field was covered with a line of bushes and other thick flora and probably some fauna. It was possible to get some movement of air from the north, but not much. McCants was a natural bowl where during the morning practices the dew and the humidity was trapped in the aforementioned configuration. It was during those practices under the direction of Coach Moseley and his staff where we learned to survive excruciating discomfort.
All of the coaches at Lanier at that time except for one had played for Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at Kentucky. They only knew his way.
The training we had at Lanier under Coach Bill Moseley prepared usmentally and physically to endure extreme hardship. Extreme hardship is what we found in abundance at Parris Island. We were glad to go there and we were glad to leave there. Sixty-two years later during the fourth week in August, 2018, we revisited “The Island” for the third time.
On the way home we decided that we would not be coming back. Let the memories be sufficient!