Ribbon Creek Incident, 8 April 1956: A List of Links and Materials

The importance of the investment that the US Navy made in Beaufort County at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century is a key point in volume 3, Bridging the Sea Islands’s Past and Present, by Lawrence Rowland and Stephen Wise, University of South Carolina Press, 2015. In the words of Larry Rowland, “The military saved Beaufort County” and set up the area for explosive growth during the mid-20th century.

The Marine Corps Recruit Depot began training recruits on Parris Island in 1915. By the mid-twentieth century the military became the main economic engine and largest employer in Beaufort County.  When a forced march led to the death of six Marine Recruits on Parris Island on the night of April 8, 1956, Beaufort mourned. A Beaufort Gazette editorial proclaimed the Ribbon Creek Incident “Our Tragedy” because “For it to have happened to Parris Island is the same as if it had happened to Beaufort – so closely interwoven are the lives and fortunes of the military and civilian populations of this section.” (Beaufort Gazette, 12 April 1956, p. 2)

IMG_2400[1]
Extract of BDC Map 354: Parris Island, SC Quadrangle 15′  (1956)
The names of the drowned recruits were: Thomas Curtis Hardeman (Kippee, GA); Donald Francis O’Shea (Brooklyn, NY); Charles Francis Reilly (Ira, NY); Jerry Lamonte Thomas (Columbia, SC); Leroy Thompson (Summerton, SC); and Norman Alfred Wood (Long Island, NY).

Decorated World War II and Korean War veteran Drill Sergeant Matthew C. McKeon was put on trial in July 1956 and ultimately convicted of simple negligence and drinking on duty. Upon review, Secretary of the Navy Charles S. Thomas voided the bad conduct discharge and fine provisions of the court-martial. He reduced the period of confinement to three months but let stand McKeon’s court ordered reduction in rank to Private. In all, McKeon would spend only 12 days in the brig. McKeon would retire out of the Marine Corps on a medical disability in 1959. John Stevens eulogized  him on November 15, 2003: “His life thereafter was in many ways an effort to seek redemption for the act that he could never undo. At his court-martial he testified that had he been asked to walk to the gallows he would have done so. A devout man, he prayed every day of his life thereafter for the souls of his lost recruits and for forgiveness.”

This list of selective materials and links was compiled by Grace Morris Cordial, MLS, SL, CA, Beaufort District Collection Manager. The Beaufort District Collection is the special local history collection and archives unit of the Beaufort County Library (SC). Created: 1 June 2017

Online Sources:

31mNCJFIeTL100 Years of Making Marines at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina written, designed, and produced by Parris Island Combat Camera ; foreword by Terry V. Williams, Commanding General, MCRD, Eastern Recruiting Region, Combat Camera, 2014. http://www.mcrdpi.marines.mil/Portals/76/Docs/CentennialCelebrationBook/MCRDPI-history-book-0.pdf is a PDF version of the book; The part relevant to the Ribbon Creek Incident is in section 6: http://www.mcrdpi.marines.mil/Portals/76/Docs/CentennialCelebrationBook/MCRDPI-history-book-6.pdf

“Randolph McCall Pate, General, United States Marine Corps,” http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/pate.htm Accessed 1 June 2017

“Wallace Martin Greene, Jr., General, United States Marine Corps,” http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/wmgreene.htm Accessed 1 June 2017

“Ribbon Creek incident” Wikipedia, last edited on 12 March 2017 at 08:14, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribbon_Creek_incident  Accessed 1 June 2017.

“Court Martial at Paris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident” (book review) by Ward A. Shanahan in the Journal of Political and Military Sociology Accessed online at http://findarticles.com website on 1 June 2017.

Note: Other articles are accessible on the Find Articles website http://findarticles.com. I suggest searching on terms “Ribbon Creek Incident Parris Island” or “Parris Island 1956.” Access to some articles may require fees.

“Ribbon Creek Marines Returning 50 Years Later,” by Lori Yount, Beaufort Gazette 6 April 2006 http://www.leatherneck.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-28267.htm Accessed 1 June 2017

“Matthew McKeon Court-Martial: 1956 Was the Drill Sergeant Drunk?” by Carol Willcox Melton, http://law.jrank.org/pages/3078/Matthew-McKeon-Court-Martial-1956-Was-Drill-Sergeant-Drunk Accessed 1 June 2017

“Court-Martial at Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident” by John C. Stevens, [editorial reviews] http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/product-description/1557508143/ref=dp_proddesc_0/002-6644231-9700802?%5Fencoding=UTF8&n=283155 Accessed 1 June 2017

“Court-Martial at Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident” by Paul Welling. [Book review published in the Army Lawyer] The Free Library 01 December 2011. 01 October 2015 http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Court-Martial at Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident.-a0285089181 Accessed 1 June 2017

“Remembering Staff Sergeant Matt McKeon, Platoon 71 Drill Instructor, on the Occasion of his Death” by John C. Stevens III 15 November 2003, Milspeak Creative Writing Seminar 10, http://www.milspeak.org/milspeak/stevens1-101909.html Accessed 1 June 2017

Check out these Materials from a SCLENDS Library:

100 Years of Making Marines at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina written, designed, and produced by Parris Island Combat Camera ; foreword by Terry V. Williams, Commanding General, MCRD, Eastern Recruiting Region, Combat Camera, 2014.

Court-martial at Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident by John C. Stevens III, University of South Carolina Press, 2007.

Court-martial at Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident by John C. Stevens III, Naval Institute Press, 1999.

Note:  John Stevens III spent the summer of 1957 as a Parris Island recruit and experienced firsthand the aftermath of the Ribbon Creek drownings and the McKeon court-martial. After his stint in the USMC, he graduated from Brown University and Suffolk University Law School and practiced law for more than 25 years. The author is a retired Massachusetts trial court judge. He uses his legal background to explain the court-martial and the effects of the Ribbon Creek Incident on the US Marine Corps.

The U.S. Marine Corps in Crisis: Ribbon Creek and Recruit Training by Keith Fleming, Jr., University of South Carolina Press, 1990.

Come to the Beaufort District Collection Research Room to View these Materials:

SC 359.96 FLE The U.S. Marine Corps in Crisis: Ribbon Creek and Recruit Training by Keith Fleming, Jr., University of South Carolina Press, 1990.

Note: Dr. Fleming is a Marine Corps historian. In this book, he examines the institutional response of the Marine Corps to the Incident which led to changes in recruit training practices reform and a heightened awareness of political tensions between Congress and the Military as well as growing tension between the press and the military.

SC 359.96 MCK Ribbon Creek by [Brig. Gen., Retired] William Baggarley McKean, Dial Press, 1958.

Note: This is the General’s memoir about the event and its aftermath based on his personal experience and observation while stationed on Parris Island.

51F9M46AFYL._AC_US218_SC 359.96 STE 1999 Court-martial at Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident by John C. Stevens III, Naval Institute Press, 1999.

SC 359.9657 ONE 2015 Parris Island : 100 Years of Making Marines : October 15, 2015 : A film written, directed and produced by Mike Kirk [DVD], Parris Island Historical and Museum Society, 2015.

SC 359.9657 ALV Parris Island: “The Cradle of the Corps” : A History of the United States Marine Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, 1562 – 2015 by Eugene Alvarez with Leo Daugherty, XLibris, revised edition, 2016.

SC 359.9657 COS 2016 Counsel for the Accused Marine Corps Drill Sergeant by Marie Costello-Inserra, CreateSpace, [2016].

Note: Costello-Inserra is the daughter of attorney Thomas Costello, the brother-in-law of Sgt. McKeon who assisted chief counsel, Emile Zola Berman. Using her father’s diary from 1956, records relating to the Ribbon Creek incident she discovered in her father’s home, and documents secured through Freedom of Information Act applications, to make her case that this “is the true story of professionalism in aggressive advocacy, the triumph of evidence over anecdote, and the preservation of the accused’s rights.”

“Ribbon Creek Incident”  vertical file contains printed copies of these clippings and internet articles:

“Marine Court of Inquiry Now Conducting Daily Secret Hearings on Sunday’s Death March,” Beaufort Gazette, 12 April 1956, pp. 1, 4.

“Burger Declines to State Opinion on Sgt. McKeon,” Beaufort Gazette, 12 April 1956, p. 1.

“Former Underwater Expert Recovers Sixth Body Tuesday,” Beaufort Gazette, 12 April 1956, p. 1.

“Drownings Attract Large Number Newsmen,” Beaufort Gazette, 12 April 1956, p. 4.

“Memorial Rites This Morning for Six Marines Drowned Sunday,” Beaufort Gazette, 12 April 1956, p. 1.

“Burger Requests Local Residents Disregard Rumors,” Beaufort Gazette, 12 April 1956, p. 1.

“Our Tragedy,” by Howard P. Cooper [editorial] Beaufort Gazette, 12 April 1956, p. 2.

“Fact and Fancy,” by Howard P. Cooper [editorial] Beaufort Gazette, 19 April 1956, p. 2.

“Marine Court of Inquiry Grinds on in Investigation of Boot Camp Multiple Deaths,” Beaufort Gazette 19 April 1956, p. 1.

“Court Inquiry Findings Now in Washington,” Beaufort Gazette, 26 April 1956, Section 2, p. 5.

“Court Martial for McKeon; Major Overhaul of Recruit Training Procedure Promised,” Beaufort Gazette 3 May 1956, pp. 1, 4

“’The Responsibility Which is Mine’” by Howard P. Cooper [editorial] Beaufort Gazette, 3 May 1956, p. 2.

“No Common Sense,” reprinted editorial from the San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX), Beaufort Gazette, 3 May 1956, Section 1, p. 2.

“New Depot Commander for Parris Island to Arrive Saturday,” Beaufort Gazette 10 May 1956, p. 1

“Trial of St. McKeon at Parris Island Begins Next Monday,” Beaufort Gazette, 12 July 1956, p. 1.

“Court Views Ribbon Creek Drowning Scene,” Beaufort Gazette, 19 July 1956, p. 1

“McKeon Defense Counsel Assumes Offensive with Press Conference,” Beaufort Gazette, 19 July 1956, p. 4.

“Press Coverage of McKeon Trial on Scale Unprecedented in Area,” Beaufort Gazette, 19 July 1956, p. 2.

“Has the Issue Been Lost?” by Howard P. Cooper, [editorial] Beaufort Gazette, 19 July 1956, p. 2.

“McKeon’s Sta*** Before Court Yesterday; Trial Enters Ninth Day,” Beaufort Gazette, 26 July 1956, Section 1, pp. 1, 8.

“Daily Summaries in McKeon Court Martial,” Beaufort Gazette, August 2, 1956, Section 1, p. 8.

“The McKeons’ Baby, A Daughter, Arrived Friday,” Beaufort Gazette, 6 September 1956, Section 1, p. 1.

“Court-Martial at Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident by John C. Stevens, [editorial reviews] http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/product-description/1557508143/ref=dp_proddesc_0/002-6644231-9700802?%5Fencoding=UTF8&n=283155 Accessed 1 June 2017

“Court-Martial at Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident” by Paul Welling. [Book review published in the Army Lawyer] The Free Library 01 December 2011. 01 October 2015 http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Court-Martial at Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident.-a0285089181 Accessed 1 June 2017

“Remembering Staff Sergeant Matt McKeon, Platoon 71 Drill Instructor, on the Occasion of his Death” by John C. Stevens III 15 November 2003, Milspeak Creative Writing Seminar 10, http://www.milspeak.org/milspeak/stevens1-101909.html Accessed 1 June 2017.

“Ribbon Creek Incident” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribbon_Creek_Incident Accessed 28 January 2008. Link inactive 1 June 2017.

“Ribbon Creek incident” Wikipedia, last edited on 12 March 2017 at 08:14, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribbon_Creek_incident  Accessed 1 June 2017.

“Court Martial at Paris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident” (book review) by Ward A. Shanahan in the Journal of Political and Military Sociology Accessed online at http://findarticles.com website Accessed 1 June 2017.

“Matthew C. McKeon, the man court-martialed for the Ribbon Creek drowning, died” by George Curtis, 30 November 2003, Accessed online at the http://www.popasmoke.com website 28 January 2008. Link broken 1 June 2017.

“Ribbon Creek Marines Returning 50 Years Later,” by Lori Yount, Beaufort Gazette 6 April 2006 http://www.leatherneck.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-28267.htm Accessed 1 June 2017.

“Matthew McKeon Court-Martial: 1956 Was the Drill Sergeant Drunk?” by Carol Willcox Melton, http://law.jrank.org/pages/3078/Matthew-McKeon-Court-Martial-1956-Was-Drill-Sergeant-Drunk Accessed 1 June 2017.

“General Randolph McCall Pate” in Joint Force Quarterly, no. 18 (Spring 1998), p. 134. http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/jfq_pubs/sp98occ.pdf Accessed 28 January 2008. Link broken 1 June 2017.

Note: Current hours and branch locations are posted on the Beaufort County Library’s (SC) website.

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