My Experience at USMC Boot Camp, Parris Island: 1971

F.E. Walters, Jr. in his 1971 Boot Camp graduation photoThis is a photo of me from Parris Island Boot Camp—September 1971. I joined the Marine Corps to avoid being drafted in the Army because I was in the last Vietnam War draft pick of the year in 1971 and my number was four, in April of 1971. I joined while still in high school at Father Judge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that same year in May of 1971. I signed a Marine Corps contract of two years active duty and four years inactive reserve duty, and was going to Boot Camp after high school graduation in what was called the “Buddy System.”

I was not in great shape when I entered Parris Island Boot Camp on July 6th, 1971. I weighed about 200 pounds and I was not athletic at all. I went through every battalion, 1st, 2nd, and finally 3rd Battalion, while at Parris Island, being transferred constantly, all through my training at Parris Island that lasted eleven weeks. This always met, going through different platoons in those battalions and different Drill Instructors at every battalion I was transferred in. I had to stay an extra week on the rifle training field also, because I couldn’t shoot straight. I was tutored by an expert Shooting Instructor that week and passed as a Marksman. I also had to stay in the “Fat Body Platoon” for an extra week to lose more weight and gain more strength and to qualify to graduate as a Marine.

During my stay in the “Fat Body Platoon,” we exercised from the early dawn to late at night with little rest. We exercised through the pouring rain and thunder and the fields of prepared mud and the hot sand flea-infested, Parris Island, South Carolina sun. I had celery sticks and skim milk for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I carried around a makeshift steel bugle stick with a coffee can at both ends filled with cement, to strengthen my body. And every night I had to stand guard for one hour over the rejected recruits, who were housed in another building before being kicked out of the Marine Corps Boot Camp for not meeting the high standards of Boot Camp Training to graduate. They had to sleep at attention every night and we were ordered to wake them up if they tried to sleep any other way.

This extra training I went through made me realize how much more I wanted to be a U.S. Marine, and that I was going to fight to the end to graduate. When I was training to climb ropes I constantly failed, so toward the end of Boot Camp I had to do a thousand push-ups in order to graduate. Both hands were full of rope burns, but I did those thousand push-ups while I was in Platoon 365 and made the D.I. proud enough to enter me in a push-up competition with the other battalions at Parris Island. I only came in third that day, but I did complete those push-ups in the allotted time that was given during the competition.

I was a real fighter throughout Boot Camp and would never give up, always being faithful to myself and other recruits and my Drill Instructors and praying throughout my training that somehow God would allow me to graduate a United States Marine. I went to Catholic Mass every Sunday during my eleven weeks of Boot Camp at Paris Island and received Holy Communion at every Mass from the Catholic Chaplain. I came to graduate by the “Grace of God,” weighing 165 pounds lean, mean and green, in the third week of September of 1971 as a United States Marine and I will never forget the pride and joy of that graduation day, “OhhhhRaHHHH!!!”

“Semper Fidelis,” F.E.Walters, Jr.

Frederick Edward Walters, Jr. is a Vietnam-Era Veteran who lives in Philadelphia, PA. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1971 – 1977.

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31 Comments to “My Experience at USMC Boot Camp, Parris Island: 1971”

  1. thomas o'brien says:

    i went in the sAme time time too

  2. Bruce Gauldin says:

    I enlisted in the Marines in Feb of 1971. I was in platoon 222 and graduated in April. I was lucky enough to be platoon guide of a great bunch of recruits.

    • I arrived at PI in February, 1971 as well. Plt. 223 that eventually disbanded and I graduated from Plt 220 in April. Went on as an 0351 gunner on a 106 Recoiless Rifle.

  3. I should mention that I was at Paris Island. I went on to become an AE with H&MS 26 New River Air Station.

  4. Dennis Wayne says:

    A Hollywood Marine Our famous Platoon 102 we loved sand pits

  5. James F. Widener says:

    Lot’s of newbies here. I went through boot camp at Parris Island in Jan. and Feb 1954

  6. charles knepshield says:

    Marines 3/5 in Afghanistan have been hit hard. Send holiday cheer/packages to:
    1st Sgt. Jorge Melendez
    3/5 Marines Kilo Co.
    Unit 40390
    FPO AP 96427-0390
    Thanks & Semper Fi

  7. charles knepshield says:

    CORRECTION: My earlier posting should read “Lima Co.” rather than Kilo. Sorry about that mistake.

  8. Charlie Park says:

    I was in F company PLT 2010,, Parris Island. Arrived at P.I. 1-29-1981..graduated, 4-24-1981,then ITS B-co,may-june 1981, at pendleton,0331-M-60 machinegunner,then H&S 3/5 STA-PLT,,july 81,,to july 83…I-co 3/5 WPNS-PLT july 83-march 19, 1984,,,okinawa-camp hansen,cubi point-upper MAU..Phillipines, 29 Palms,Bridgeport Ca.,Coranado Ca..San-Clemente Island, Semper Fi–Marines..

  9. Edward Cobb says:

    Fred, YOU are an awsome friend and I had more friends like you and Facebook has brought me to know some VERY AWSOME friends. TY, Fred for being there when I needed a FRIEND.
    UR truely a blessing, ED

  10. Edward Cobb says:

    I wish I had more friends like you

  11. thomas o'brien says:

    platon 151 /1971

  12. James Graham says:

    I always had the highest respect for the Marine Corps but that respect turned into admiration 78-80. After retiring from the AF I worked as a Radar Tech Rep with the Marine MACS units on the east coast. Went on all deployments and loved every minute of it.

  13. SPENCER SIKDER says:

    PI 1st Bat, 9/76-12/76, 3072 @ Cherry Pt, 1/77-11/77, KBay 11/77 – 9/80

    VAMC since 2/83

    God Bless our service men and women currently serving throughout the world doing the work many of us have done before, please keep them in your daily devotions.

  14. Gerard (Jerry) Market says:

    Fred, I loved your story and admired your tenacity and spirit. I graduated North Catholic ’68 went to boot camp Platoon 2013 on buddy plan and graduated Oct. 30 1968. I’m trying to locate my Grad. book. So far unsuccessfully.
    I will share one story. Like you, I enlisted during my senior yr. much to the disappointment of my parents who wanted me to go directly to college because of the war etc. As the oldest son I did as my father did in WWII. Now forty-two yrs later we are the only vets in the family. He’s 85 and I eat dinner with him once a week. I became a teacher in 2000 after a career in business. Each Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans Day I’m acknowledged at my school Archbishop Prendergast in Drexel Hill because I’m the only veteran.
    Semper Fi

  15. John F. Behrend says:

    There are some great stories here to be read about Marine Corps Boot Camp fro Devils Island PI. I joined the Corps in 1967. But I went to the sandy beach of San Diego Boot Camp. I am proud that i served in the marines and Once a Marine for ever a Marine. Semper Fi

  16. Donna (Coleman) Dohme says:

    I went through Parris Island October – December 1973. I completed Supply School at Camp LeJuene and returned to PI. What an experience and one that I cherish. Semper Fi

  17. jason Shattuck says:

    http://www.facebook.com/marines have 764,728 people that like them, if your not one of them… your wrong!

  18. carmel white jr. platoon #151/1971 says:

    Do you have any photos of graduation or any information on the red book?

  19. carmel white jr. platoon #151/1971 says:

    Does any one have any pictures of platoon 151 in 1971.

  20. rOBERT PRINCE says:

    Bootcamp Jan.68-Apr.68, Plt. 128/The best overall/w/Ribbons.,Gysgt Harker Plt. Comm. Oceanside Cal. (5) Years a Marine.,(2) Horn. (2) times Vietnam/ wounded (3) Times, amde it out alive. I love my USA&USMC< SempierFi Marines.Houston,Tx,

  21. Michael A. DeGraw says:

    Looking for pics of platoon plt. 184 bootcamp 1971, STAFF SGT. BISHOP WAS SENIOR DRILL.

  22. George Samuel Johnson says:

    searching for anyone from 1st bat. company A platoon 164 Paris Island June- August 1971

  23. Ronald Helms says:

    I graduated Honor Graduate in 1968 at Harmony Church Fort Benning Ga., served 3 years and joined the USMC. I graduated Honor graduate at Parris Island platoon 2033 in 1975, looking for old service buddies.

  24. 1st. Bn,P.I.,1964-patton-149

  25. Mike Cain says:

    I went to Boot Camp at the same time and was in Platoon 369, SSgt. Brewer was Senior D.I. I remember those tough times and the desire to be a Marine,
    The Recruit on the Rack above me was also heavy and was pushed so hard i felt sorry for him, he would run and have blood run down his legs where they were rubbing together, He was pulled out of the Rack and beat on a lot for sleeping and not getting on line. all of a sudden something snapped in him and he started doing everything he could to be the best he could be, lost a huge amount of weight and Was High shooter at the Range , made PFC on Graduating.

    At 57 years old I think about those days alot and remember being 17 years old in a world that was as tough as anything I ever did in life afterwards.

    Semper Fi

  26. David Elmore says:

    I arrived at Paris Island Sept 1st 1970. I was in Platoon 2002, My senior Drill instructor was Gy David W Sommers, ( later to become Sgt Major of the Marine Corp ) He was very respected among the “boys” of our platoon. I also remember Gy Sgt Witmire. He was the philosophical one. Always telling stories after we hit the bunk at night that seemed to calm everyone down.

    We started with 90 boys and of the 90 original there were only 23 of the original left on graduation day.

    Paris Island for me was the best part of the Marine Corp. Oh yes it was tough those first couple of weeks. But once you figured out they were not going to really eat you it was pretty smooth sailing.

    I remember sitting on the firing line on Qualification day. It Oct, so dark you could see every star in the sky.

    We left Paris Island on the Marine Corp birthday with all the pomp and ceremony that day brought.

    I never had to go into battle or see any of my friends killed in battle but I will always remember my Marine Corp Days with great pride.

  27. Tom Considine says:

    I arrived at Parris Island on Sept 30th, 1971. Platoon 394. Staff Sgt. Rodello. What a tough guy. He was the senior DI. Made it through without getting set back. I remember feeling bad for the recruits that got set back, but figured that for every guy that got set back my chances were better for graduating on time, I think we started out with around 80 guys and finished with only about 45 originals.

  28. RR-Train in Brooklyn says:

    I graduated from Plt. 366, India Co., 3rd Battalion @ Parris Island in 1974. I’d like to hear from some of my platoon mates, and if anyone knows the whereabouts of SSGT. J. W. Guest, Mr. Walters is welcome to forward the info to me. Thanks, and Semper Fidelis!