I hit Parris Island 2 Jan. ’57 also a 17-year-old. We arrived just prior to the fallout from the investigation of the 4 Marine recruits that died from drowning in Nov. ’56.
My 53-year recollection of the incident was that a Staff Sergeant McKean after a night of drinking, rousted his platoon out like at 1 a.m. They had to have been at the rifle range which made the recruits deep into training (8-9) weeks, to be at the range. We were told that S/ Sgt. McKean marched them behind Baker Range into the swamp which we were told was about 4-feet deep — dark night, murkey cold swamp water up to your chest, visions of snakes and other creatures lurking in the water. And, I’m sure, S/Sgt. screaming at them. Four recruits in a group panicked, got cut off from the main body of recruits and ended up drowning.
The news media was informed S/Sgt. was busted to private, three months in the brig and forfeiture of 3 month’s pay.
We were Platoon #5 and had a senior DI and 3 junior DIs. One of our junior DIs was a sadistic SOB and our life was short of h&ll, until all four DIs were relieved of duty and we got 4 new ones. Life was a little better.
There were all kinds of Brass and politicians all over the Island putting on a good show over the drowning incident. Part of the fallout was every morning we had to fallout in scivies and some Lt. would give us a “head and knuckle” inspection to see if we were being abused. Duh! He should have checked the calves of our legs for boot prints and our sides for kidney punches.
All aside, it was a great experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Incidentally, when we arrived at Camp Lejeune, (Camp Geiger) for our advanced combat and ITR training, scuttlebutt had it that S./Sgt. McKean was actually busted to buck sergeant and shipped up to Lejeune. The Marines take care of their own.
Ron Stone, Cpl. USMC