Be inspired, thrilled and for ever humbled at the amazing Parris Island Museum near Beaufort, an 8,000 square feet ode to “The Few.The Proud. The Marines”.
Admission is free and the museum is open daily 10AM – 4:30PM except New Year’s, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. More info (843) 228-2951 or the website.
You’ll get a pass at the gate by presenting a driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance (pre-registration is available online)
The pass also gives you access to the free Parris Island driving tour, a 15 mile loop, where you can explore memorable monuments like Iron Mike and Iwo Jima, the Bulldog Mascot Cemetery, the Leatherneck Square, where in the summer you can see recruits undergoing hand-to-hand combat training, the Douglas Visitor Center and the St. Helena History Trail.
Just for kids activities: Little ones can earn the “Junior Recruit” title by successfully completing the museum exploration challenge.
Interesting artifacts and enemy captures
• Terrible homemade IEDs, simple yet deadly. The Iraqi “Pressure Plate” was used all over Iraq as a speed bump triggered bomb.
The “Viet Cong Booby Trap” made of a metal spike, a Coke can, wiring and grenade it was usually placed under rice paddies and wetlands. When you stepped on it the spike will penetrate the boot and foot; jerking the foot to get loose will detonate the bomb.
• Soviet designed Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) Sight equipped with night vision.
• A model of a T-72 Iraqi tank, dubbed “Dolly Paton” for the noticeable bulge on its turret from the extra armor added to better protect against direct hits.
• Japanese Occupation Flag – unlike other captured enemy flags inscribed with patriotic slogans, this one looks into the future with a Good Luck message to United States and Japan.
• 17th century sword was among the many weapons given up by Japanese troops in Seoul. The sword was designed by Yoshimichi of Yamato and despite having 18th century fittings it was used through 1945 battles.
• Lucky helmet that saved Paul Hatfield’s life during the Cape Gloucester assault in 1945.
• The humble all purpose towel, became an essential item during Vietnam War. Soldiers used it to dry themselves and their equipment, as pillow, bandage, shoulder cover and scarf.
Just for laughs…
• The Boot Camp cartoons tell a compelling, brutally honest, yet very funny story about the tough life on Parris Island: the food, hair styles, drill instructors, combat training even the mighty sand flea…nothing is spared!
• Joyful and exciting 1920 Recruiting Poster
• Airmen Blood Chit, a cloth caring a message in English and Korean: “This is a crash-landed U.N. soldier. If you can lead him to the nearest U.N. troops we shall greatly appreciate it”.
• Dreaded MRE package, it came in 24 different meal varieties of about 1,250 calories. The MRE was heated by a flameless ration heater activated by water and meant to last for 3 years.
• Uniform for Pregnant Marines – For a long time being pregnant resulted in immediate involuntary discharge. After 1976 expecting women were allowed to remain in active duty and finally maternity uniforms were issued in 1980.
US Marines Traditions
The Uniform – Although the uniform changed shape, colors and material over the years there are some elements preserved to date:
- The Blood Stripe, first used in 1798 now it commemorates the service of men at the Chapultepec battle.
- The Quatrefoil, it originated in the 18th century when Marines used a cross-shaped rope on top of their covers to differentiate between friends and foes at rigging.
- The Mameluke Sword, were first given as gifts by Turkish viceroy of Egypt during Barbary Wars. Long time ago, Mameluks, slave warriors who fought for Moslem overlords used this style of curbed swords. They eventually overthrew their masters and established their own Kingdoms.
- The Leatherneck, the nickname stemmed from the leather collar used between 1785 and 1875 to help keep the Marines head erect. Today it is symbolized by the high collar on the dress blue uniform.
• The Hymn is the oldest official song of all armed services. The words date back to 19th century but its origin and author remain unknown. The music comes from the 1859 opera Genevieve de Brebart.
• The Semper Fidelis emblems built from scrap metal by Wheeler Hembert, a metal worker at the new bridge to Parris Island construction during WWII. They were mounted and stayed on the front gate from 1943 to 2001.
• The Mascot – English bulldogs became popular as Marines mascots after BGen. Smedley Butler enlisted “Jiggs” at Quantico in Virginia in 1922. Marine Barracks in D.C. now name all their bulldogs “Chesty” in honor of the most decorated Marine, Lewis “Chesty” Puller. Many Marine units have their own bulldog.
“Mess with the Best, Die Like the Rest!”
Have a memorable and happy family vacation in Beaufort, South Carolina!
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