MCRD San Diego History

The history of Marine Corps Recruiting Depot San Diego dates back to 1846. It's one of the two bases in the country where Marines are made.

The early Years: 1846-1911

29 July 1846
29 July 1846

"...and the Marine Guard under Lieutenant Maddox left the …(U.S. Cyane) to take possession of the town of San Diego and hoist the American Flag….”  A combined force of some 150 Marines, sailors, soldiers and volunteers swarmed ashore, trooped to San Diego’s plaza, and raised the U.S. flag.  Without firing a shot, they captured the town.

31 October 1846
31 October 1846

Captain Archibald Gillespie, USMC, landed a party of 40 Marines from the U.S.S. CONGRESS to make contact with General Phil Kearny, USA, in the northeast section of San Diego County.  First they successfully relieved the garrison in the city under siege from the Californian revolting against American rule.

6 December 1846
6 December 1846

Combined forces of soldiers, sailors and Marines, under General Stephen W. Kearny, participated in the Battle of San Pasqual, located near the community of Ballena, between Escondido and Ramona.

1847-1910
1847-1910

Records indicated that Marines took part in all shore activity of the Navy in San Diego during and immediately following the Mexican War.  However, until 1911, there is no record of any Marines having shore duty in San Diego, except when Marine Stationed aboard warships anchored in the harbor participated in parades in connection with various celebrations.

20 March 1911
20 March 1911

A small force of Marines under the command of Colonel Charles A. Doyen established Camp Thomas on North Island to exhibit a show of force, under the guise of military exercises, to Mexico.  Camp Thomas was disbanded in June 1911.

20 March 1911
20 March 1911

A small force of Marines under the command of Colonel Charles A. Doyen established Camp Thomas on North Island to exhibit a show of force, under the guise of military exercises, to Mexico.  Camp Thomas was disbanded in June 1911.

1914-1919

7 & 10 July 1914
7 & 10 July 1914

Marines of the 4th Regiment, under the command of Joseph H. Pendleton, and aboard the U.S.S. SOUTH DAKOTA, JUPITER, AND WEST VIRGINIA landed on North Island.  They constructed Camp Howard, the germ from which San Diego’s Marine Corps Recruit Depot grew.

11 December 1914
11 December 1914

The 2nd Battalion and 25th Company of the 4th Regiment moved to a section of Balboa Park known as the Palisades to establish and maintain a model camp and a Marine Corps Display for the Panama-California Exposition.  Regimental Headquarters was set up in the Science of Man Building.

19 December 1914
19 December 1914

Marine Barracks, San Diego, was activated when Marines were ordered to exposition duty at the Panama-California Exposition.

5 January 1916
5 January 1916

H.R. Bill 7629 authorized the purchase of 232 acres of tidelands, known as “Dutch Flats” as a site for a permanent Marine Corps Base.

15 March 1919
15 March 1919

Ground breaking for the first phase of construction began. The head of Naval Affairs, Congressman Lemuel P. Padgett, had the honor of turning the first shovel of dirt. He passed the shovel to Congressman William Kettner.  The initial phase included the six arcade barracks, and administration building and officers’ quarters.

1920-1929

November 1920
November 1920

Marine Rifle Range Detachment at Marine Rifle Range, La Jolla, California, was activated.

1 December 1921
1 December 1921

The first Separate Battalion, 5th Marine Brigade was assigned to open and operate the “Marine Advanced Expeditionary Base, San Diego.” Corporal of the Guard, Thomas H. Crosby ran up the flag, “without fanfare.” The first Marines to be stationed aboard the base consisted of one gunnery sergeant and 12 corporals. Initially, the base was known as “Headquarters, 5th Marine Brigade.”

2 August 1923
2 August 1923

The Recruit Training Station for the West Coast, under the command of Major E.P. Moses, relocated from Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Mare Island, to San Diego on the USS Sirius, AD-15.  Arriving with the Training Station were Sea School and Field Musics School.

1926
1926

The base became home to the Western Mail Guards, a special group of Marines assigned to provide security for the U.S. mail.

1927
1927

The base became a staging ground for the expeditionary service in China and Nicaragua.  Between February and April, 261 officers and 4,074 enlisted men assembled at the base for transport to duty in Tientsin and Shanghai, China.

1930-1939

10 December 1931
10 December 1931

Command of the three operating aircraft squadrons that comprised West Coast Expeditionary Force, was transferred to the Commanding General, Marine Corps Base, San Diego.  The squadrons, Fighting Squadron Ten-M, Observation Squadron Eight-M and Utility Squadron Seven-M remained at Naval Air Station, North Island.  In addition there were Headquarters Detachment and Service Company Two-M.  The organization was analogous to an infantry battalion, varying in strength from 200 to 300 men and about twenty officers.

1932
1932

The following organizations were maintained at the base: Base Headquarters Company, Base Service Company, Fifth Company Engineers, Sixth Battery of Artillery, Recruit Depot, Sea School and the First and Second Casual Companies.

21 December 1934
21 December 1934

The Marine Corps leased 19,298 acres of a 32,000-acre section of land in the Kearney Mesa area from the City of San Diego to use primarily for artillery, anti-aircraft, and machine gun practice for various unites assigned to the base.  The area was collectively referred to as Camp Holcomb.  On 14 June 1940, Camp Holcomb was formally redesignated Camp Elliot.

1935
1935

The Fleet Marine Forces were relocated to Marine Corps Base, San Diego.

1939-1945
1939-1945

New barracks, 27 warehouses, mess facilities, a new exchange, a new psychiatric facility, new dental and medical facilities, a new administration building, an auditorium, a new swimming pool, an amphibian shed and ramps for beach landing training were constructed during this period.  Four hundred 16-man huts were erected to accommodate thousand of new recruits.  The huts had a wood frames, enclosed by paraffin-impregnated composition board.  Communications, motor transport, clerical, military police, first sergeants’ and drill instructor schools were added.

1940-949

April 1942
April 1942

Marine Rifle Range, La Jolla, was redesignated Rifle Range Detachment, Camp Calvin B. Matthews.

29 June 1942
29 June 1942

Platoon 382, the first platoon of Navajo Code Talkers, graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp.

1943
1943

Women Reserves were assigned to the base.

October 1943
October 1943

Nine Marines from a Marine Corps training camp at Pine Valley were killed fighting a fire in Hauser Canyon in the Cleveland National Forest.

21 April 1948
21 April 1948

Soochow, mascot of the 4th Marines in China and mascot of the Recruit Depot, passed away.  Soochow was captured at Corregidor and spent nearly three years in various prisoner of war camps.  After his liberation in February 1945 he was taken to Marine Corps Base, San Diego, where he lived the remainder of his life.

1950-1959

1950-1953
1950-1953

The Recruit Training Command grew from three to eight battalions to handle the troop requirements for the Korean War.  More than 700 Quonset huts wee erected to handle the influx of recruits.

15 April 1957
15 April 1957

Field hats became a uniform item for all drill instructors assigned to San Diego’s recruit depot. Approximately 350 were initially issued

1960-1969

30 April 1962
30 April 1962

Pvt Michael Wisnoski was the last Marine to fire the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) at Camp Matthews.

6 June 1963
6 June 1963

President John F. Kennedy made a Presidential Visit.  His itinerary included a visit to the Receiving Barracks, recruit billets in the Quonset Huts, and various training areas.  He observed close order drill, inspected a platoon of Marines graduating from Sea School and addressed military personnel at Hall Field.

6 June 1963
6 June 1963

A photograph taken of President John F. Kennedy standing on the yellow foot prints is the first image we have of the famous foot prints.

22 August 1964
22 August 1964

The firing ranges were moved from Camp Matthews to Stuart Mesa, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton.  Camp Matthews closed in October.

1965-1979
1965-1979

The Vietnam War caused the next period of major expansion.  A 100-tent cantonment was erected to handle the overflow of recruits.  Five new recruit barracks, Buildings 554, 555, 584, and 585, a new dining hall, new bowling alley, a new Regional Dental and Medical Clinic were constructed on the depot.

21 September 1965
21 September 1965

The Recruit Marksmanship Training Facility at Stuart Mesa, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton was formally dedicated as the Edson Range Area.

1970-1979

1 February 1971
1 February 1971

The Communications-Electronic School Battalion was officially detached from Recruit Depot San and relocated to Marine Corps Base, Twentynine Palms, completing a move that began in 1967.  Sub Unit Two, Communications-Electronic School Battalion, was officially activated as a tenant organization, reporting directly to the Commanding General.  This command consisted of Bravo Company, the Operational Communications School, and Delta Company, The Electronics Fundamentals School.  The sub unit was to relocate to Twentynine Palms as soon as adequate facilities were made available there.  This occurred in September 1975.  On 24 September 1975, Sub-Unit Two was officially deactivated.

1 July 1971
1 July 1971

Recruit Training went into a nine-week training schedule in order to put more emphasis on the “finishing phase of recruit training.

1 October 1973
1 October 1973

The first issue of M-16A1 rifles to recruits began.  Recruits arrived at Edson Range on 3 November to commence marksmanship training with the M-16A1 Service Rifle.  On 9 November, Pvt Ben E. Carey, Platoon 2095, fired the last shot from a M-14 rifle at the 500 Meter Line.  By 31 December, the M-16A1 rifle had completely replaced the M-14 as the basic weapon for recruits.

15 October 1973
15 October 1973

Headquarters Company, Recruit Training Regiment, was redesignated Support Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment.

November 1973
November 1973

A bayonet Assault Course was implemented into the Close Combat Course of Instruction.  The course consisted of four lanes of ten simulated opponents apiece, which recruits negotiated by correctly demonstrating the techniques of close combat.

1975
1975

“Old Smokey”, the base incinerator and a depot landmark, was torn down.

18 May 1976
18 May 1976

Each battalion in RTR increased to four companies when Companies D, H and M were activated.

1977
1977

DI School moved from Bldg 138 to Bldg 4 and Recruiters School moved from Bldg 317 to Bldg 27 as their former locations were torn down.

1977
1977

The Recruit Depot purchased three 40-mm saluting guns and Facilities Maintenance installed them at the northern edge of the parade field. Only two guns were to be used to fire; the third is loaded and used in case of misfires.

24 February 1977
24 February 1977

The Woman Marine Company held its final formation before being dissolved. The personnel were absorbed into other units.

1980-1989

1980-1989
1980-1989

Seventeen new buildings were constructed.  These included Gate House 5, a provost marshal’s office and fire hall, an armory, bachelor enlisted quarters, a mess hall, a recruit processing center, and a recruit training facility.

1 August 1985
1 August 1985

Recruits were first issued M16A2 rifles.

10 November 1987
10 November 1987

The MCRD Command Museum officially opened its doors in Building 26.

8 December 1987
8 December 1987

Sea School was deactivated mainly because duties once performed aboard ships by Marines had been assumed by sailors.

1990-2000

1990-2002
1990-2002

Several new buildings were constructed, including a reviewing stand, a childcare center, a water-survival training tank and a field house.

16 July 1992
16 July 1992

The Depot’s fifty-foot wooden rappel tower was replaced by a new one of the same size with a steel frame cement construction.  The new tower has “fast-rope” capability, a new staircase style ladder, and a larger platform.

1993
1993

Headquarters Twelfth Marine Corps Recruiting District relocated to Building 8, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.

1993
1993

Coast Guard Pacific Area Law Enforcement Team (PACLET) moved into building 142 at the southwest corner of the depot.  PACLET was created to help the Coast Guard handle various law enforcement scenarios, particularly narcotic enforcement.  Maritime Safety and Security Team 91109 (MSST), established in 2005 to protect local maritime interests is also based aboard the Depot.

September – October 1994
September – October 1994

A new depot club structure went into effect.  It included a combined club bat the bowling alley, the Comfort Zone, and a combined SNCO and Officers Club, the Bay View.  The Devil Dog Inn closed in November.

April 1995:
April 1995:

The Marine Corps Absentee Collection Unit relocated to MCRD from Treasure Island.  It occupied an office in Building 12.

1996
1996

Gate 5 opened and a new Slide for Life was constructed in the Depot’s Physical Training Area.

1996
1996

Several major changes in recruit training went into effect.  Recruit Training was extended and extra week.  “Mess and Maintenance Week” became known as “Team Week.” A 54-hour long “crucible” consisting of eight major events, accomplished while undergoing sleep and food deprivation was added.  Upon successfully completing the Crucible, recruits receive a cap emblem and are Marines from that time forward.  The first crucible was completed on 14 December.

September 1996
September 1996

Female Marine drill instructors were authorized to wear the campaign hat. At the time, only one female DI was assigned to San Diego’s recruit depot.

1997
1997

Eighteen Quonset Huts were demolished to make way for the new Swim Tank.

1998
1998

Instructors at the Depot Swim Tank began providing a two-week work-up course to prepare Marines for the Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival School, held at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado.  This school is one of the most physically demanding in the Marine Corps.

1998
1998

A new Consolidated Personnel Administrative Center opened in Building 622, Martini Hall.  The center handles personnel assignments, order writing functions, personnel reports and records keeping, and discharge and separations processing for both permanent personnel and recruits.

April 1999
April 1999

The Jack in the Box restaurant was demolished and construction began on a new food court.

16 July 1999
16 July 1999

The new Swim Tank, Parke Hall, was dedicated.  It was named after Capt. Edward Parke, USMC, Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment aboard the U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS.

11 September 1999
11 September 1999

The Drill Instructor’s Monument, honoring the “Known Marines” was dedicated.