Parachute Tower Road, a historic but almost forgotten relic from early World War II Camp Lejeune (then, Marine Barracks, New River) now lies truncated and dead-ended on the perimeter of the massive new regimental complex at Wallace Creek. Once the ingress to the isolated and wooded Parachute Training Area off Holcomb Blvd, it led, beginning in 1942, to a collection of buildings and structures that owed their existence to one of several brief flirtations the Marine Corps had with special purpose forces at the onset of WW II. Based on the supposed lessons learned from the employment of these forces by European powers, the Corps organized parachute, raider, barrage balloon and glider units, all of which with eventual historical ties to Camp Lejeune. The impetus for creating Parachute battalions resulted in the creation of two Parachute Training Centers, one at Camp Gillespie on the west coast and the other here, between whom four parachute battalions were raised.
The employment of parachute units by the Marine Corps, however, proved impractical and unsupportable, and all were deactivated by 1944, with the majority of the Corps’ almost 3000 paratroopers being reassigned as cadre to the newly formed 5th Marine Division. The (initially three) 250-foot jump towers in the PTA, which epitomized parachute training, dominated Camp Lejeune’s skyline and were the Base’s most conspicuous landmark. Following the termination of training during WW II, the towers remained solely as rusting monuments to an obsolete mission, but enjoyed a brief resurrection for air delivery training during the Korean War before falling to the welder’s torch at the end of the decade. One building likewise remains from that era, PT-4, which housed the operating machinery and was straddled by the “captive” jump tower.
Now serving as the MARSOC Recruiting Office, it sits alongside Parachute Tower Rd as a dim reminder to another fleeting chapter of Camp Lejeune’s proud history-a history that will be remembered and reverently recounted by the Carolina Museum of the Marine.Posted on: August 21st, 2019