The Maneuver Grounds are some four or five miles south of the Quarantine Station. Five hundred tents are pitched here, on a broad plateau, aligned with military precision, and laid-out to form com-pany streets. This is the only tented encampment on the island~the others are built on the cantonment plan. Recruits who passed through during the summer took particular pains to improve the camp. At the end of each street, there are clever imitations of landscape gardening, wrought with colored shells on a banked-up terrace. Captions, such as Boys from Chicago, The Fighting 29th, and others help identify former units now serving elsewhere, while Semper Fidelis, the motto of the Corps, US Marines, Soldiers of the Sea, and Welcome, are more permanent, and are tended daily by the boys who are proud of their handiwork. Shells, by the way, are spread round about and over the grounds. They glisten in the sunlight, and add to the im-maculate appearance of the camp. At this camp recruits are furnished with rifles and additional equipment. There are hours devoted to the handling of the rifle and its various movements, known as the "manual of arms". The recruit speedily learns the difference between a "floorplate" and a "stacking swivel" and that it is important to keep the bore of the rifle clean. To accomplish this, Marines use a "pull-through"~a stout cord & piece of cloth that is drawn through the barrel from breech to muzzle. Some recruits, in their enthusiasm to brighten the rifle-bore, attempt to pull through too much rag. The results are a "jam," the requi-sitioning of a ramrod & other dif-ficulties. Another unpleasant feature of this predicament is the sarcastic advice of the sergeant: "Next time you try to pull your overcoat through, take off the buttons." At this camp the recruit learns, through practice marches into the surrounding country, how to pitch & strike sheltertents, roll & unroll equipment, build fires, cook, & the graceful stunt of balancing a baked potato, onion, slice of meat, & several slices of bread on the cover of his messkit without dropping a thing... a necessary part of the sea-soldier's training.

Recruiters' Bulletin, October 1917


On the second day...[each recruit] was ready to start for my camp. His clothes marked with name and company, and packed in his canvas sea bag, went ahead by motor truck, and about seven o'clock every evening, six miles over the road, they marched to the lower end of the island... At the entrance to the Manoeuvre Grounds, the officer commanding the battalion received his billeting schedule, his assignment to mess hall, and drill schedule for the following day, and the evening gave them an opportunity to get settled in tents and dispose their new-found possessions, in general, according to rule, but in particular according to the definite requirements of each battalion commander. Two days later an inspection of two hundred tents in the battalion streets would fail to disclose any lack of uniformity or precision. Of course, this depended on the officer in charge of the battalion... That evening, for five minutes, their battalion commander or camp commander addressed them for a few moments, generally on the necessity of writing a letter home... On the morning of the fourth day started the daily routine of instruction. At seven-thirty in the morning, breakfast and camp police being over, they began the facings, marchings, and school of the soldier. Physical exercise, swimming, and personal combat, scrubbing clothes, and kitchen police. We had them at this camp for three weeks. From "Parris Island in the War", a speech delivered in April 1919 by Congressman WR Coyle, reprinted in the Marine Corps Gazette, Dec. 1925.


Levi Hemrick recorded that, when he arrived on the island in June 1917, one of the "latrines" in use by all the recruits at that time was nothing more than plank walk-way with "flimsy handrailings" extending from shore some hundred feet or so out over the Atlantic Ocean. The recruits simply strolled out to the end of the walkway, turned round and squatted, or stood facing seaward (hoping it was not also windward). At low tide this arrangement positioned the bare buttocks of the recruit in mid-air some twenty feet above the water, while, at high tide, though the drop was less perilous, the nearer proximity of the waves, if there was much wind and chop, practically guaranteed a cold drenching to his most vulnerable parts.

Ben Finney, who arrived at Paris Island later in the year, found a series of "heads" built directly over the creek that ran alongside the Maneuver Grounds. Officially known, then and now, as Ribbon Creek, Finney reports that, among the recruits of 1917, it was commonly called by a different name.

According to Levi Hemrick, the only source of drinking water, for a period of time, was a hand-pump from a coastal well, the water from which was so muddy and foul-smelling that most recruits got by on the three cups of coffee a day served with meals, and this during the hot,dusty days of June and July. Hemrick finally came to believe that this arrangement was deliberate on the part of their sergeants, as it taught many of the recruits the art of self-imposed abstinence which would hold some of them in good stead a year later during the parched opening days of the battle for Belleau Wood.
The extremely hot, dry conditions on Paris Island in the summer of 1917, together with wide-spread clothing shortages, including especially, according to Hem-rick, a shortage of underwear, (one pair only per man), necessitated daily bathing with nothing more than a bucket of cold salt water. An occasional sight, when fire drills occurred at inconvenient times, was the sudden appearance of recruits dashing down company streets, garbed only in shoes, campaign hat & bucket.

References: Levi Hemrick, Once a Marine and Ben Finney, Once a Marine, Always a Marine.


The Training Camp