Commodore William Bainbridge commanded the United States frigate Constitution when it sank the British frigate HMS Java during the war of 1812. In 1942 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt personally honored Bainbridge by naming the newest recruit training center after him.First opened October 1, 1942 for the training of Navy recruits it continued in that status until June 30, 1947 when it was inactivated as a recruit training center. However the Recruit Training Center was reactivated February 1, 1951 as the Korean Conflict began to heat up into a major war. In October 1951 a WAVE (Women Accepted for Voluntary Enlistment) Recruit Training facility was established. All male recruit training on the site ceased in 1959. The Recruit Training Facility was once again deactivated as a recruit training center in 1976, and ultimately ceded to the State of Maryland in 1986.
September 8, 1955 I entered the gate of Bainbridge, part of a busload of recruits from upstate New York State having been sworn in the previous day in Syracuse. Soon I became one of 56 recruits to be assigned to Company 447, 16th Battalion, 1st Regiment. Our Company Commander was a first class petty officer named Hunter. Fifty of us were only a day or two in the Navy, while an additional six were attendees of the Recruit Preparatory Training (RPT) facility. Lacking formal education they couldn’t understand Navy training so upon entry they were given enough basic education to get along.
As this was nearly sixty years ago, this old sailor may have forgotten a bit, but as I recall we all stood in lines as we were given a good physical examination, issued Navy clothing and necessary hygienic items, and haircuts, before marching back to our barracks #147 for a session of stenciling all our newly issued clothes and such. I yet have my issued copy (with stenciled interior) of The Bluejackets Manual.
Touching on that haircut experience, I noted that the six sailors from RPT had longer hair due to their several week’s earlier entrance to boot camp. I reasoned that I had fairly short hair to start with, that it might not be noticed there was a seventh sailor with longer hair so I didn’t get in the haircut line. I was right, and no one noticed for about a week, but then someone did. I always thought it was one of the RPT guys that didn’t want competition in that department. At any rate, our Company Commander drew me aside and had me escorted for a haircut. Of course, this set me back a week or so behind everyone else, but I really didn’t care, I had only wanted to see if I could get away with it or not.