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The U.S. Marine Corps in Crisis
Ribbon Creek and Recruit Training

Keith Fleming

The history of a tragic event in USMC history and of how its impact led to reforms

In 1956 a Marine drill instructor led his recruit platoon on a punitive night march across Ribbon Creek, a tidal stream at the Parris Island, South Carolina, recruit depot. Six men drowned, and the resulting court-martial became a national media sensation putting the future of the Corps into question. Written by a senior historian at the Marine Corps Historical Center, The U.S. Marine Corps in Crisis explores the social, political, and historical context of this tragic moment in U.S. military history as a case study in how bureaucratic institutions undertake internal reform and offering a valuable vantage point on tensions in American society during the 1950s.


Keith Fleming holds a Ph.D. in American military history from Ohio State University. He is a retired U.S. Marine officer who commanded a rifle platoon in the U.S. intervention in the Domincan Republic in 1965 and the following year assumed command of a rifle company in the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam.

"This is much more than the story of one lone drill instructor's misguided attempt to 'instill discipline' into his platoon. Rather it is a look at the Marine Corps, at recruit training in particular, as an institution and at how changes in the institution allowed an incident like Ribbon Creek to happen."—Marine Corps Gazette

"Readers of Marine Corps historywill appreciate this view of a long-overlooked era. The author had access to the personal papers of the principal protagonists in the tragedy as well as the official records. The result is a carefully researched and well-written study worthy of a serious read both by Marines and by students of contemporary sea-service history."—Proceedings

"Fleming brings a knowledgeable eye and a discerning sense to Marine boot camp, an American institution that is much discussed but little studied or understood."—Infantry

"Fleming's study coolly dissects a major event in U.S. Marine Corps history [and] offers food for thought for military historians, defense policy analysts and shapers, and penologists as well as those concerned with group process, politics, and human conflict."—Journal of Southern History

"A valuable study of how a prestigious, even revered, organization can successfully react to a tragic incident that if mishandled could cause deep and lasting harm…. A commendable introduction to an event that helped shape a generation."—Bimonthly Review of Law Books

“The author has blended this military, political, and social history into one slim volume. It is recommended for readers interested in any one, or all, of the above.”—Military

“Fleming traces the development of Marine boot-camp training since its inception on Parris Island in 1915, explaining why physical abuse of recruits became excessive in the post-Korean War era and revealing the changes put into effect after Ribbon Creek.”—Publishers Weekly

“Fleming does an exceptionally even-handed job on the touchy subject of how an increasingly unskilled American youth can be turned into something resembling a military specimen. It is another paradoxical confrontation of ends and means, civil rights versus pragmatic necessity.”—West Coast Review of Books

 
 

 

book jacket for The U.S. Marine Corps  in Crisis


 

MILITARY HISTORY | SOUTH CAROLINA
(1990)
6 x 9
168 pages
7 illus.
ISBN 978-1-57003-884-6
paperback, $21.95s
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