Fallout in Scivvies

Fallout in Scivvies

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.

Semper Fi
Ron Stone, Cpl. USMC

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21 comments


  • Bernie Caldwell

    I Arrived at Parris Island July 1956 from a tour in Japan and Okinawa. I was put into the PX because my mos was 2531 and 0849 they needed a 2533. So I worked at the Triangle PX with recruits there and also we had a truck that we went to mess halls sold to the recruits. The platoon was still on Parris Island when I arrived, so shortly after that they left for their duty stations. SSgt McKeon was court martialed and went to Camp LeJune to be a chaplin assitant after his time in the brig which was not very long. The word was he made Cpl later that year. As we all know there are lots of different tales of what happened in his life. You all have good rest of your lives you Marine you. Semper Fi OH RAH Cpl Bernie Caldwell of Hartford Illinois


  • Ed Noll CPL, USMC

    My time at The University Of Parris Island began February 14th 1956 and assigned to Platoon 63 Third Battalion. T/Sgt. W.E. Muldrew SDI was out top, a real solid Marine who demanded every bit of disiplin and attention to his troops from those under him. We were on the rifle range with an opposing Platoon who were marched into the swamp on the night in question. I remember standing in rank outside our barracks while an inspection was being conducted of us and the barracks the day prior to the swamp march and we were informed that we failed the inspection do to sand being thrown about the floor from the fire buckets. Later we heard that it was ssgt. McKeon’s platoon that was responsible as they were supposedly undisciplined. It also was said that McKeon caught a bucket full of hell from our DI’s. The story we were told was that ssgt. McKeon while going through boot camp himself after enlisting in the Marine Corps, felt that the recruits were being trained too harshly and should be more humanely treated, so when he became a DI himself, he decided to implement that humain treatment towards his recruits and that, being the reason they were considered undisciplined and being the reason he took his platoon on that terrible deadly night march. The troops were told to stay in an orderly file but did not take well to his orders and got pannick when separating from rank. Anyway, this is the way we heard of the incident the next morning and during the following week, all kinds of hell broke out on base with all manner of politicians and military personal coming to Parris Island.


  • Benjamin Walker

    McKeon was acquitted on August 4, 1956, of charges of manslaughter and oppression of troops. He was found guilty of negligent homicide and drinking on duty.
    Born October 26, 1924
    Died November 11, 2003 (aged 79)
    West Boylston, Massachusetts
    The sentence was a $270 fine, nine months of confinement at hard labor, rank reduced to private and a bad conduct discharge. The Secretary of the Navy later reduced the sentence to three months in the brig, reduction to private with no discharge and no fine. McKeon was transferred to a Marine base in Cherry Point, North Carolina, and attempted to rebuild his shattered career. He was forced to take a job in the enlisted men’s kitchen to augment his meager pay. He eventually was discharged as a Corporal in 1959 due to medical problems. McKeon lived out his life in West Boylston, Massachusetts, and made his living as an inspector of standards for the states. In 1970, he told Newsweek that he was always haunted by the Ribbon Creek tragedy and the fact that the young men who drowned would have now had families of their own. He said he prayed every day for forgiveness and to keep the boys in God’s safekeeping. He was survived by his wife, five children and eight grandchildren.


  • Benjamin Walker

    All I can say is WOW to the way that you think, wow! I went to PI in July, 1957 and it was hell but G Sgt Robb made Marines out of us.


  • Angelo Manos Sgt

    That is one thing all of us Marines have in common…boot camp.I remember a Chosin Resevoir Marine posted on Sgt Grit that he would rather do the Chosin again than go thru Parris Island again.That said,I’d like to know why Gy/Sgt Joe Felix got 10 years @ Leavenworth for that muslim recruit commiting suicide.It is my view that the Gunny got a raw deal.Something should be done to get the Gunny out of jail.No one in my Platoon 307 ‘got it’ as bad as I did.I should of been recycled but the D.I.s must of loved me.My platoon did not rat out our D.I.s when an investigation was ensued.The Gunny has done enough time.His job was to push the limits to weed out non hackers.He did his job.Anybody doing anything to get him out of jail?


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