Close Window

First Days as Boot - Chris Sarno Memoir

The boots fell into some semblance of formation for close order drill to get their gear and clothing, minus a weapon, the day after they arrived at Parris Island. The boots went to the island barber shop to be shaved of every strand of hair on their head. Sarno had arrived on the island with a neat, short haircut from his jock years on the playing fields in Boston. On Parris Island, even crew cuts were forbidden, however. He and his fellow recruits were issued World War II-style dungarees and boondockers (a boot that only went up to the ankle). "We were issued clothes and everything else that we needed for official issue," said Sarno, "including a thick paperback book about what a US Marine in or out of boot camp must remember. It helped me understand my new interest in life now—to be a US Marine. It was like a Bible for a Marine to always refer to, but it was the religion of the USMC. I loved it and it helped me tremendously. They call it something else now, but mine was called, ‘The Guide Book for Marines.’."

Each of the new recruits also received a small aluminum pail, toiletries, and a big, hard brush. The pail would become an important part of their life in boot camp, because with it they washed their clothes before hanging them on an open clothes line to dry, and they scrubbed a lot of other things too. Boots were required to keep the Quonset hut spit-shine clean, and there were field days three times a week. Those field days were equivalent to "spring cleaning" in civilian life, only the consequences of "missing a spot" were far more miserable on the boots if the drill instructor happened to find the spot. And if there was a missed spot, the DI would most surely find it. "We were not even thinking of a weapon at this time," Sarno remembered. "I had my hands full just to know close order drill with a formation. But, we did okay. Then they drilled us on the ten general orders."

The ten general orders learned in boot camp were used throughout the Marine Corps in all duty stations to insure attention to duty, respect, and uniformity. They were and are the rules that Marines of all ranks have lived by for decades. "We were ordered to memorize them that day, because the next day we would be questioned," recalled Sarno. "You had to have it exactly right. They questioned us by going through the ranks and randomly choosing one recruit after another to recite a particular order. They wanted the proper response. It was a cram session—cramming to learn them word for word, and it wasn’t fun. But if you missed so much as one word, they got all over you."


Close this window

© 2002-2016 Korean War Educator. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use of material is prohibited.

- Contact Webmaster with questions or comments related to web site layout.
- Contact Lynnita for Korean War questions or similar informational issues.
- Website address:

Hit Counter