Cover image for Devil dogs : fighting marines of World War I
Devil dogs : fighting marines of World War I
Clark, George B., 1926- (George Bransfield)
Publication Information:
Novato, CA : Presidio Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxxii, 463 pages : illustrations, maps ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D570.348 .C43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Relates the contributions of the Marine Corps in France during World War I, covering their recruitment and training and their epic battles.

Author Notes

George B. Clark is a former Marine & respected military historian. He lives in Pike, New Hampshire, where he is the proprietor of The Brass Hat, an antiquarian bookstore specializing in military & Marine Corps history. His published works include the critically acclaimed "Devil Dogs: Fighting Marines of World War I".

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Writing in a chatty, sometimes anecdotal style, Clark gives us the most detailed popular history available of the U.S. Marines in World War I. With a maximum strength of 75,000, the corps sent only two brigades to France. Only the Fourth Marine Brigade saw combat, and in France the "Devil Dogs," as the Germans nicknamed them, were a long way from their parent organization, the navy, and close to the army, which did not like marines. Clark includes a thorough account of the marines' most famous action, in the battle of Belleau Wood, as well as of the other six major battles in which they fought, including the bloody and botched, not to mention largely unknown, assault on Blanc Mont. Although rather free with his opinions, Clark has mined every available source and discovered new ones to back himself up. The final product is a collective portrait of men who, though initially unfamiliar with the Western Front and often poorly led by senior officers, prevailed with sheer courage and determination. --Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

Clark, a former Marine and a historian of the Corps, does an excellent job of showing how the identity of the U.S. Marine Corps was forged in the experiences of the American Expeditionary Force in 1917- 1918. Combining published records with private sources, Clark tells the full story of the Corps in the Great War, from the training camps to the front lines, occupation and demobilization. Clark demonstrates that the Marines were no better prepared than their Army counterparts for the trenches of France. Most enlisted men were green wartime recruits, and few officers had experience commanding formations as large as those used in the Great War. The consequences were predictable: time after time, Marine units lost contact with one another and with their supporting artillery, and colonels and majors were remote from the battles their men were fighting. Clark is a stern critic of these command failures. His judgments indeed may be excessively harsh: no WWI army solved the problems of liaison and control. But at the company and platoon levels, Clark tells of how the Marines redeemed their superiors' shortcomings, overcoming uncut wire and damaged machine guns with raw courage buttressed only toward the end of the war by tactical sophistication. The front-line Marines' lot was not unique. What was unique was the way these experiences have become central to the Corps identity. Clark's text establishes beyond question the WWI origins of the synergistic emphasis on small-unit leadership, sharp-end initiative and esprit de corps that, for good and ill, characterizes and defines the U.S. Marine Corps. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Clark's book belies its rather lurid title and the author's often informal style. It is a highly detailed, well-researched study of the Marines in France during WW I, where they made up the cutting edge of the AEF's Second Division. The average reader may not be fascinated with the detailed accounts of changes in command and the minutiae of organization, but the larger theme of what happened when two distinct services fought together is of great interest--and sometimes of ironic humor. In effect, the use of Marines in France was forced on the army, which immediately attempted to stamp out the distinguishing marks of the Corps from uniforms to collar insignia. The author has done an excellent job of finding and using family materials, including accounts of participants and many of the old photographs that he reproduces. There are still lessons to be learned from that war, and the patient reader can profit from this study. Strongly recommended for college and university libraries. Upper-division undergraduates and above. R. D. Ward; emeritus, Georgia Southern University



Chapter One 1: Genesis The Marines' best propaganda has usually been the naked event. --Marc Parrott, Hazard: Marines on Mission Major General George Barnett, the commandant of the Marine Corps, knew a good war when he saw it. After the declaration of war in April 1917, and using his most persuasive manner, he soon convinced Josephus Daniels, the secretary of the navy, to support his efforts to get his Marines into the war. As Barnett later stated in his unpublished memoir, When I saw that we were soon to enter the war, I went to the Secretary of the Navy and told him that in all the wars we had had, marines had served with the army, and that as far as I was concerned, I felt that it would be very largely fighting on land. I invited his attention to the fact that the law gave the president in time of war the authority to by executive order, transfer the whole or any part of the Marine Corps to the Army; and that in all previous wars, he had availed himself of that privilege. I told the Secretary that I considered it absolutely essential that such an executive order be procured, and that unless marines were to serve with the Army we of course could not secure good recruits, and that it would kill the Marine Corps . [Emphasis added.]     Ever mindful of appearances, Barnett added that the Marine slogan "First to Fight" would make the Corps look ridiculous if the Marines didn't get over to France with the first American troops sent. The secretary of war, Newton D. Baker, accepted their offer with alacrity. He didn't know it at the time, but the designated commander-in-chief of the AEF, Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, was, to say the least, unwilling to accept any Marines for duty in France. The manner and method of overcoming that reluctance is a story in itself, which won't concern us here. Through the good offices of both secretaries, Daniels and Baker, the Marines were not left behind. What some would consider "good fortune" for the Marines provides us with our story.     On 16 May 1917 Newton D. Baker officially requested of the president a regiment of Marines, organized as infantry, to accompany the expedition being sent to France to "show the flag." Eleven days later President Woodrow Wilson responded by directing an order to be issued to that effect: that a regiment of Marines was to be sent for duty with the first elements of the AEF going to France. This was all that was necessary.     A large group of Marines, recently returned from Haiti, Santo Domingo, Cuba, and off many ships of the fleet, plus some Marine reserves, were formed into the 5th Regiment of Marines. It was formally organized and established at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 7 June 1917, with Col. Charles A. Doyen, USMC, in command. Major Harry R. Lay, USMC, another "old hand," was his adjutant. Doyen's designated second-in-command was Lt. Col. Logan Feland, who would be temporarily detached for duty with General Pershing's AEF staff in France. The regiment included three battalions of infantry, a headquarters company (1st Lt. Alphonse De Carre), and a machine-gun company, and would be heavily composed of "old-timers," at least insofar as the designated officers and noncoms were concerned. All three battalion commanders selected were long-serving regulars with adequate experience--at least for guerrilla warfare in the tropics.     Major Julius Spear Turrill, a Vermonter who'd been a Marine since 1899, was assigned to command of the 1st Battalion? It was then comprised of two companies of troops from Norfolk, the 66th (Capt. George K. Shuler) and 67th (Capt. Edmund H. Morse), both formed from battleships guards. Another company, the 15th (Capt. Andrew B. Drum), arrived at the Navy Yard from Pensacola, Florida. And finally, the 49th (1st Lt. George W. Hamilton) was composed heavily of Marines recently transferred ashore from the USS New Hampshire , plus some of the new boot camp graduates.     On 1 June 1917, two more battalions were organized in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. The 2d Battalion, commanded by Maj. Frederick May Wise, had companies numbering the 43d (Capt. Joseph D. Murray), 51st (Capt. Lloyd W. Williams), 55th (Capt. Henry M. Butler), and the 23d Machine Gun Company (Capt. George H. Osterhout Jr.). In the meantime, Maj. Charles Tylden Westcott was busy developing the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines. The companies were the 8th (Capt. Holland M. Smith), 16th (Capt. Edward W. Sturdevant), 45th (Capt. Benjamin S. Berry), and 47th (Capt. Frederick A. Barker) and were created from Marines recently returned from the islands. Turrill and 1/5 moved by train from Quantico to Philadelphia on 9 June, but both 2/5 and 3/5 had already left Philadelphia for New York that same day.     On 12 June, Turrill and 1/5 boarded the USS DeKalb (formerly the German ship Prinz Eitel ) and sailed for New York Harbor, where they and the ship remained until 14 June. Both 2/5 and 3/5, plus the regimental band, boarded a ship that was to become as famous as any ship in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps, the USS Henderson . Meanwhile Doyen, Lay, regimental headquarters, and the supply companies boarded the USS Hancock . On 14 June, accompanied by the ships carrying the four regiments of the 1st U.S. Infantry Division, the 5th Marines were on their way to France. Many of these American men were regulars and were used to boarding ships and sailing off for ports of call expecting a fight. Therefore we have very little written material from them to describe that voyage. But most likely it was the same as those of the troops that would follow, and we do know that it usually wasn't terribly exciting. Seasickness was a common malady, but otherwise the trip was boring and uncomfortable. The successful transport of millions of men over a sea dominated by German submarines is one of the major triumphs of the American part in the war. I believe this was the first time in history that such great numbers of soldiers, from one nation, were transported such an immense distance to another nation by sea to fight in a foreign country. Especially since they weren't even ready for combat as yet and required extensive training before being so committed.     The first group of Marines on the DeKalb arrived at Saint-Nazaire, France, on 26 June 1917. The Henderson arrived the next day, followed by the Hancock on 2 July, reuniting the regiment on foreign soil. Actually, this was the first time since their formation that the regiment was together as a complete unit. But that wouldn't last very long. Pershing and his staff had been making plans for the use of the Marines.     When George Barnett became commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps in February 1914, there were about 10,000 officers and men in the Marine Corps. That number had stayed fairly steady ever since a major personnel increase following the Spanish-American War. The navy had undergone a massive reshuffling and had gained increased responsibility for the protection of all out new possessions. Therefore, an enlargement of the navy's Advanced Base Force was also required. As it became quite evident, during the years that the Europeans were blowing themselves to pieces, that the United States might become involved, a rather feeble effort was made to increase the nation's defense forces. It was called "Preparedness," and it wasn't very successful. In fact it was woeful.     Therefore, by an act of Congress, on 29 August 1916, the authorized strength of the Corps went up to 597 officers and nearly 15,000 enlisted men, a fifty percent plus increase. Never before had the Corps been so large. On 26 March 1917, President Wilson, by Executive Order, increased the numbers to 693 officers and 17,400 enlisted. Less than two months later, as a result of the declaration "that a state of war exists between the United States and the Imperial German Government," an additional increase upped the Corps to 1,197 officers, 126 warrant officers, and 30,000 enlisted men. This last boost more than tripled the population of the Corps in three years. Heady days ahead. More promotions; more colonels and more generals too. And even a few more privates.     Those increases caused an always-starved-for-manpower Marine Corps great elation but a less-than-prepared Marine Corps some consternation. Where would it find trained officers? Somehow, the Corps always manages to succeed. They issued a call and hundreds of qualified (and some not so qualified) men quickly answered it. Many of the earliest came from seven colleges, including, but not limited to, Princeton, the University of Minnesota, Texas A & M, and Yale. Some of those who came forward were reservists; others entered the Corps through the National Naval Volunteers, one such being 2d Lt. John W. Thomason Jr. Another was William A. Worton, a charter member of the Marine Detachment, Massachusetts Naval Militia. A third, Walter A. Powers, commanded the 1st Marine Company of the MNV but later was destined for much less acclaim than the other two men.     The war's outbreak made it essential that competent men be obtained for the Marine officer corps as soon as possible. Some few came from the Naval Academy, a number of U.S. Marine Corps warrant officers were commissioned, others were graduates of military academies, civilians with prior military training, and last but not least, meritorious Marine noncommissioned officers. Corps recruiting stations were swiftly inundated with splendid men of all kinds. Many officer candidates were selected as second lieutenants in the Marine Corps Reserve and were immediately sent to Marine posts for training. Others, those who were destined for an examination to be held on 10 July 1917, were enrolled as privates in the Reserve and sent to the Recruit Depot at Paris Island, South Carolina. Their commitment was limited by the proviso that if the exam results were successful they would be commissioned as regular second lieutenants. Failing that, the men could opt to stay in the Corps as enlisted men or be discharged. Few took the latter course of action.     Men were jamming the various military/naval recruiting stations, and the Marine recruiting offices were no exception. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, the Corps standards were maintained so high that it has been estimated that upwards of eighty percent of the applicants were rejected for various reasons. Some of the recruiters' tales of those who applied and were accepted, or even of others who were rejected, really indicates that overall American manhood was of a patriotic nature. At least that was true in 1917. In December 1941 and early 1942, volunteers would show that those patriots' sons were of the same blood.     One young man was rejected in two recruiting offices, one in New York State and the other in Pennsylvania. The reason: because of an accident he was missing his trigger finger. Undaunted, he walked from Binghamton, New York, to Washington, D.C., and as he put it on the large sign he was carrying, To Join the U.S. Marines, It is worth it. Upon arrival in Washington somehow he managed to inveigle a meeting with the commandant, George Barnett. Barnett evidently was impressed and authorized the Binghamton recruiting office to haul him in. He was duly sworn in and became a Marine. Another man got as far as removing his clothes for his preinduction physical. He didn't get any farther. His cork leg seemed to intrude upon his desire to become a Marine. Regardless of the exceptions, the recruiters worked overtime, literally and figuratively, to bring in qualified men. Many were accepted but many more weren't. The standards of the Corps were maintained throughout the war.     Because the men who were joining as enlisted Marines were of such a high caliber, it was soon decided that they would be the future source for commissioning. In short order the direct appointment of civilians as officer candidates ceased. When the going got rough, during the fighting in France, the Corps fell back on their old faithful source for officers: the better Marine enlisted men, of whom there was always a large supply. Another source found in France were those surplus U.S. Army junior officers who were a boon to the Corps in the early months of the war. Little has been written about them, possibly because they were hybrids in a hybrid organization. But they more than did their duty and deserve better of history.     Much later, after the middle of September 1918, with continuing huge losses in France of all ranks, nearly 1,500 other men were hired on as officer candidates. They were from selected colleges and universities; Harvard, Cornell, the University of Washington, and the University of Minnesota were several, as was the Virginia Military Institute, but the largest number, 190, came from the University of Wisconsin.     Officers appointed from civilian life were sent to Paris Island, San Diego, or Mare Island. A few of the earliest appointments went to the U.S. Marine rifle range at Winthrop, Maryland. In each of those places, especially at Winthrop, the new officers would receive a modicum of training. Essentially, all would be transferred to the new Marine base at Quantico, when it was eventually completed. At Winthrop they mainly engaged in rifle practice. James McBrayer Sellers, a recent graduate of the University of Chicago and a newly arrived second lieutenant, described his first days in the Corps. First to Philadelphia for gear and then his adventures at Winthrop and later at Quantico ... We stayed at Philadelphia ... getting as much as we could of our supplies & left for Washington.... Again at Washington we continued our search for uniforms ... without much chance of getting it for some time. We ... arrived at Indian Head, a temporary bivouac camp at Winthrop ... just upstream from Washington .... The camp was nothing but a rifle range surrounded by a few shacks and ... tents. Most of the fellows had been there for a few days and had the good quarters cabbaged.     Sellers went on to describe his joy at being on a rifle range with almost nothing else to do until the base camp at Quantico was completed. In his memoir he tells of every day being holiday routine: "baseball games, swimming, and boat riding every day. In fact we were enjoying life intensely." He was among the first directly appointed officers to be transferred there. Lieutenant Colonel George C. Reid, another old war-horse, was the base commander at Winthrop. Sellers makes us aware that "real" Marine officers were so scarce that hundreds of enlisted Marines were under the command of other enlisted Marines. He also described what had happened to a bunch of new recruits. I was helping coach [shooting] some new recruits ... that were in a company which had been recruited in Minnesota.... About 70 were from the university.... They had been sent to Mare Island in April, 1917 ... then two weeks before arriving at Winthrop they had been to Quantico.... I found out that we wouldn't have such a picnic when we got there. They had been drilled six or seven hours a day, until many of them were fainting.... The doctors had to call a halt on the work.     An athlete himself, Sellers was greatly pleased to learn that many of the new officers were "widely known athletes." He continued by giving one of the most detailed accounts of qualifying on the rifle range that I have ever seen. In painstaking detail, Sellers explained every single step taken to qualify. There is no question but that shooting was his favorite vocation and was what Sellers wanted to do with his life.     Meanwhile, everyone was anxiously awaiting the opening of the new base at Quantico. Some of those officers who were transferred there from Winthrop were selected to help with the "bull work" such as digging up bushes or other growth between the new buildings, leveling the streets, and other such effort that would help to get the camp ready for occupancy as soon as possible. Finally the buildings were ready. Everyone was anxious that the base open and training begin. In Sellers's eyes the appearance of Quantico takes on a whole new perspective. Looks like pictures of mining towns which I have seen. There is one small street which constitutes the original town. This street leads right up from the pier.... There are rows and rows of unpainted wooden shacks.... The small streets between are all cut up with rain wash, and we stumble over what is left of a former small forest, roots and stumps, and sewer excavations. There are always a pack of dogs and cats around Marine camps, and they always seem to be contented. Downtown there are little restaurants where we can get an egg sandwich for 50 cents. And there is also a dance hall where they charge 20 cents for a dance with one of the painted ladies brought to town for the purpose. Between nearly every two tents, there are dummies for bayonet practice, and at all hours of the day enlisted men can be seen slaughtering these dummy Germans.     Even though the base was still only temporary, the first class of 345 officers was accepted in July 1917. Survivors of that group graduated in October 1917. These men would join all the others and lead the 4th Brigade in its first fights; at Verdun, Belleau Wood, and Soissons. Their training schedule was as follows: reveille 0545, physical drill 0600, breakfast 0630, drill 0730-0930, inspection of quarters 1145, dinner 1200, drill 1300-1430, 1500-1600, supper 1800, study 1900-2100, taps 2200. Physical drill before breakfast consisted mainly of running a half mile through the company streets. The streets were still partly uncleared and that made sort of an obstacle course of the whole experience. Some of the young officers weren't in the best shape physically. A few dropped out, but inevitably those who remained settled down and eventually every one was able to do what had to be done.     The revised Marine Corps policy of utilizing only enlisted Marines for future officers was taken up in earnest. Orders were issued to commanding officers of every Marine installation to forward a list of those designated for the training camp. Each commanding officer was to convene a board of three officers to examine the qualifications of the men at each post and to send a report to Marine headquarters rating the selection. At headquarters another board convened to examine the recommendations. It was decided that 600 officer trainees could be comfortably housed and trained at any given time. With that in mind the headquarters board selected that number for the first official camp, which was established in April 1918.     After extensive training in the manly arts--infantry drill regulations, bayonet training, use of hand grenades, administration, tactics, military law, and a host of other things--the first class of former enlisted men graduated in July 1918. The second officers training school of 570 men began on 20 August 1918, and 432 were graduated on 16 December 1918. Under the same policy, 164 enlisted Marines were directly commissioned while they were members of the 4th Brigade. Chiefly, these were men who had distinguished themselves in combat. The selection and turnaround were swift. It was most important that the rapidly diminishing officer ranks be quickly infused with qualified replacements. And it was a resounding success. Another 172 were given training at the army's candidate school in France, graduating and being enrolled as temporary second lieutenants, Marine Corps Reserve. There were others, some graduating as late as July 1919, but those few were assigned to inactive status as soon as possible afterward. The army candidate school in France provided another 48 men who were enrolled as second lieutenants (provisional) in class 4, Marine Corps Reserve. Those men, except for four, were discharged or placed on inactive duty upon return to the United States. In addition, there were another 1,500 students at various colleges and universities who underwent what later would be called ROTC. But none was ever assigned to any Marine activity.     One group of officers, those who generally were recent U.S. Army recruits, provided up to fifty platoon leaders for the 4th Brigade--that is, until after Soissons, when most of the survivors were transferred to the 23d Infantry. There were a few who remained with the 4th Brigade and a few who were returned to the 4th Brigade after Blanc Mont. Those who commanded a platoon or company of Marines were generally looked upon with great favor by enlisted Marines and officer comrades. Most performed at an extremely high level of competence. Those who transferred and left a record of their service spoke highly of their Marine comrades and their time spent with the 4th Brigade. Many were morose when they learned that they were leaving the many friendships they had developed since their arrival in France. After going through some of the bloodiest battles in the war with such men, it is difficult for comrades to part company. It was an unpleasant situation for everyone involved. And it was a loss to the brigade.     There was another group of Marines, those who were of field grade and for whom there were no opening slots in the brigade because they were so senior in rank. Many of those found appropriate homes in various U.S. Army units, some earning great distinction and awards. At the time the brigade was formed and activated, there seemed to be more field grade Marine officers in France than lieutenants. In addition, there were officers already in the brigade who were senior in grade for the few slots available, or received promotions that pushed them out. Finally, there were many latecomers who wanted so badly to serve in France that they somehow managed to cross the "big pond" without any slot to fill in the brigade. And they remained. The AEF found a place and use for most of them, but not always on the fighting line.     As stated previously, in the early months of the war good material had come into the recruitment places in droves. Later, effective from 8 August 1918 onward, when by Executive Order voluntary enlistments were stopped, those enlisted men coming into the Corps would henceforth be draftees. It was the same situation as was happening to the army and navy. Regardless of what instrument supplied the men, the draftees had to choose the Corps, and the Corps only accepted those who measured up to its standards." Consequently, the enlisted men continued to be Marines in desire as well as in fact. The last man inducted into the Marines for the war was sworn in on 13 December 1918.     Training for enlisted Marines continued at the various places already established; Paris Island (P.I.), Norfolk, Philadelphia, and Mare Island in California. Norfolk and Philadelphia were temporary, both only being utilized until P.I. and Mare Island were up and running at full blast. Training for all Marines was tough and thorough, just as today. The only difference was the reduction in the length of the training period. On 28 April 1917 the period went from twelve weeks to nine weeks. Then, at P.I. on 22 June 1918, it was further reduced to eight weeks. Replacements were badly needed in France. By 11 November 1018, P.I. had processed 46,202 men and another 12,000 men went through Marc Island. After "boot" training, some Marines would be sent to specialist schools at P.I., including a school to train noncommissioned officers, field musics, radio school, signal school, and, among other schools, cooks and bakers.     The coming to Paris Island was not the great delight anticipated by Pvt. Bryan Becken In a rather lengthy early letter to his mother, Becker, from Rochester, Michigan, explained what had happened to him during the first few hours at his new home. These were his exact words, with no changes: Well I have arrived at the much looked for and hard to get to place at last. Feel fine had my first ride on salt water after dark as it was 7.00 o'clock when the train got to Port Royal. Just got first instructions of how to make bunk for sleeping and how to leave it in the morning was told not to lose our pajamas towel and soap and also not to forget our first lesson or we would be--you know Cockey's private password sounded in the Y.M.C.A. Hut the fellows are playing the piona all popular music and singing [unknown]. Had chow which consisted of beans good hash coffee sliced onions and vinegar with prunes for dessert, not so bad. Another announcement here that the hours for chow were 7.00 A.M. 12.00 and 5.00 P.M. and if we are not there we would be out of luck. Bed time at ten eastern it is half past nine now. Got to find my bunk hide my cash and turn in got about $24.50 left it costs to travel eat and have a good time on the train. I got out pretty cheap. We get 30.00 per mo. and every once a mo. have another examination in a day or two when I get [unknown] that I get a uniform.... I will write then later when I get time. Goodbye Bryan.     Becker's style of writing leaves a lot to be desired, but you can get a feeling for what it was like to be completely in the dark, even when the lights were on. Later, in other letters, he explained that he and his buddies were quarantined for several weeks before being allowed to move "over the line" into the regular training quarters. In subsequent letters he described how he rose at 0545 and that they had "shower baths" in "good old fashioned salt water ... it makes your hair stiff as a board." Furthermore he believed that with their new uniforms "most of us are some nifty looking sights." Other recruits must have had some similar attitudes and thoughts about the routine.     A look at the pictorial With the United States Marines at the Paris Island Training Station: A Pictorial Souvenir shows that recruits coming to P.I. arrived aboard a boat similar to a tug with exposed passenger space. After landing and being assembled in some military order they were marched from the dock to the quarantine camp, where they were housed in wooden buildings. Martin Gus Gulberg describes his first night at Paris Island on arrival: I thought they had landed us on an island for the insane; but later I was told it was the old quarantine camp. The recruits that had landed the day before certainly put us on the pan. They grabbed our suit cases and greeted us something like this: "This way for your silk pajamas; right over here for your ice cream checks; white sheets, this way." They had a lot of fun at our expense and we had to like it. It was the initiation that every Marine goes through on Paris Island. The following day the fun began, helping initiate the new gang. We were marched into the mess tent for our first Army chow. We were hungry, but not for this kind of grub. Our first meal consisted of gold fish, army style (salmon salad), apple sauce, bread, and muddy coffee.     Another newcomer, one who arrived in June 1917, was Warren R. Jackson of Huntsville, Texas, who described the reception he and his buddies received:     It was quite dark when we pulled up to some sort of dock at another part of the island.... On short notice, we were hurried into a line, for what purpose we did not know. When I got to the head of the line, a cheap knife, fork, spoon, tin cup, and tin plate were pitched at me, with an uncerimonious [sic] caution to "hold on to 'em, if you lose 'em in four years you're out of luck!" ... Where did he get that four year stuff? We enlisted for the duration of the war, we thought ."     Later on Jackson reiterates that he and the rest of his group were forced to sign enlistment papers that decreed that they were in the Marines for four years; however, the officer also told them it was just a formality and they would indeed be in only for the duration. They had already heard of what happened to other men who refused to sign, and deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, they signed. Incidentally, Jackson didn't like the meal. Not the first or the last. He complained about being served bread that was "moldy" and sausages that were "putrifying." However, "some days afterward a number of inspectors [appeared from Washington] and afterward the chow was slightly improved." Although he later says the food was really bad, so bad that several of his buddies became deathly ill. One, named Albert Ball, had a "violent attack of ptomaine.... Two other men were said to have died of ptomaine on the island. It was a wonder that more did not die."     After being finally accepted, sort of, the "boots" were provided with a sea bag filled with uniform clothing and necessary "782" gear. They were then marched to their new quarters, which were either tents or perhaps, if they were lucky, wooden buildings. Private Rendinell describes how their first experience in a mess hall went. Their "tough sergeant" said, All right, boys, those of you that want chow fall in line and make it snappy. I went along with the rest. The first fellow past out bread, the next slum. It looked as though it was made of beef stew, boiled potatoes, hash, dish rags, and a few old shoes mixed together, as close as I could figure. I stepped up to the next guy, he spilt coffee. Spilt is right. I held out my cup & he poured hot coffee all over my hand & it certainly was hot. To make a long story short I did not have any supper, that dam fool burnt my hand & I dropped everything. I was sore. What I told him was plenty.     Soon afterward, the quarantine men were taken to the hospital and given one final, thorough examination and "a major came in with a bible & we took the oath. We were vaccinated, & a shot in the arm. It made me terribly sick." Culp's book illustrates the process, showing men posed getting their various inoculation shots. Not much different from 1944 or perhaps 1994 either. The major difference seems to be their landing from a seagoing tug rather than over the later causeway that was constructed sometime in the 1930s.     Jackson tells us that it is impossible for one who has not seen and experienced military discipline to understand what we were to experience. It was to be a new life and in a new world. It is no exaggeration to say that the potentates of old exacted no more severe discipline than was exacted of us. The men now over us were bent on making marines out of us or killing us.     After a few days or weeks in quarantine the new arrivals (not yet Marines) were issued their Springfield rifles and other gear and then moved to a new location, about a quarter of a mile distant. It was there they were to meet their drill instructors. In Jackson's case they were "our future sovereigns, two corporals and a black haired, dark skinned man with a deep scar on his cheek, who was to be our sergeant. His small, piercing black eyes caused us to be concerned."     The new men were put through a rigorous training period beginning at once. What would normally have been a several month "experience" was reduced to a few weeks. One of the very first things a new boot learns is his general orders, and nearly as soon he is assigned to guard duty to learn what that is all about. Usually, at that time, they were two hours on guard. No telling how many off hours, but presumably that was initially the total experience.     Next came drill. Five hours every morning of every day for ten days straight. Naturally, as every former Marine remembers, that was only a small part of the exercise. DIs (they weren't called that in 1917) would continually find fault with at least one person in the platoon. That person might catch it just once, or he might be the regular, constant sap. Everyone hoped not to be that sap. Cursing was, as later, the usual response from one of the DIs when a boot blundered; or even when he hadn't. Marines would frequently assess the "qualities" of their DI compared with the others at P.I. I remember that our DI was tougher than all the others. For some reason other former Marines have the same claim about their DIs no matter when they went through boot camp or where.     The usual punishment was to have the recalcitrant run until his tongue hung out. Then he was given another couple of rounds just for kicks. Punishment was handed out to individuals and collectively to everyone in the group, when one sap was the criminal. That villain would always dread the thought of what would happen to him if he were caught alone by his comrades. Oftentimes the cursing by the DI would resume, and when he tired of the sport the duty would be turned over to one of his assistants.     All Marine recruits of that period seem to have remembered mostly the many oyster shells lying about the island. Their recollections emphasized the picking up and removal of huge amounts of them, carrying them for upward of a mile in buckets, to pave the roadways. Brannen and others tell of the ferocious drill instructors, who, as in a later war, were barely a rung below God. He relates how Sergeant Boynton cursed a blue streak while breaking his swagger stick into several pieces, because his platoon was fouling up. He added that the treatment made him feel "that he was no earthly good to his nation...."     Of course, a main part of their training was the time spent on the rifle range. One recruit, Pvt. Sheldon R. Gearhart, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, earned a Marksman medal for his efforts ... We're on the rifle range now and are having life a little easier because it is quite cool here.... We get up every morning (Sunday included, for we shoot on Sunday too) at 4:30 A.M., have roll-call at 4:45, chow at 5, and at 5:30 we shove off for the range. It's about one and a half miles and we get there about 6 o'clock. We stay until 9 A.M., then come back to the barracks. At 11 we have chow, go back to the range at 12, and stay until 4, making a seven hour day.... These Springfield rifles kick just like a mule. When they go off they push you back about a foot, right straight along the ground. You shoot from three positions: prone, kneeling, and sitting. We shoot from 200, 300, 400, 500, and 600 yards. From the latter distance, those bull's-eyes look like pinheads.     Gearhart continued, describing the entire experience, which included rapid fire. "You shoot ten shots in one minute.... The [rifle] sound like a cannon.... All rapid fire is done ... at a silhouette of a man's head and shoulders, the bottom of which is 36 inches." Every Marine well remembers his time on the range. Warren Jackson remembered that he barely fired "marksman," which according to him was a score of between 202 and 238. Sharpshooter was 238 to 250, while the creme de la creme, the expert, fired higher than 250. Considering what other experiences the boot was going through, his training at the rifle range, when he wasn't on the firing line, was the only time he was allowed to relax. Marines in the making also served time in the "butts." Butts were where the men were employed when not shooting. There they moved the targets down for marking and back up again for more shooting. They were located underneath the targets, down low with a shield of built-up ground between them and the men firing. While there, a worker could have the feel and experience of the sound of bullets coming toward him, but in relative safety. After the Marine fired, the workers would run the target down and paste it with patches of paper, if there were any hits. They would then run the target back up with a flag showing the success or failure of the shooter. A waving red flag, known as "Maggie's drawers," would signify that the shooter had missed the target entirely. Oh! how each Marine dreaded that. The jeers from up and down the firing line and from the butts would cause many a man the heebie-jeebies, and most likely affected his further shooting, at least on a temporary basis. "When I was right, no one remembered. When I was wrong, nobody forgot."     Hemrick described what it was like to use the "wholly inadequate toilet facilities." As a substitute "head" the recruits had a six-foot plank with "flimsy hand railings that led out some hundred or more feet over the Atlantic Ocean." The planks were on stilts twenty feet in the air over the ocean and "at high tide, the wind and spray just didn't add one thing to one's comfort." He further explains that the trip out over that turbulent water three times or more a day "was a nerve-wracking experience."     At some point during their training, certainly after the rifle-range period, some men were selected for seagoing duty. The largest and best appearing were selected and it was considered quite an honor to be so chosen; these probably had some additional schooling for the special requirements of shipboard service. Many, but not all, served with the U.S. Navy in European waters. Others carried out their duties all over the world, wherever U.S. Navy ships plied their trade.     Many recruits would reflect back upon their time "in hell" but were glad that the experience they went through made them more able to face the horrors in France. Several future generals of Marines would reflect upon their time on that island and one, Melvin L. Kruelwitch, said the whole island was filthy and dirty and the beds were lousy. He believed that even the horrors of the French Foreign Legion couldn't compare to the training suffered at P.I. Perhaps his own lifestyle prior to joining the Marines was classier than the general run of recruit. One young Marine wrote home to his mother and told it best. "The first day I was at camp, I was afraid I was going to die. The next two weeks my sole fear was that I wasn't going to die. After that I knew I'd never die because I became so hard that nothing could kill me."     Later, upon graduation, the enlisted men would be transferred from their boot camp and assembled at Quantico for further training with their new officers, those "veteran Marines" who had just graduated from "basic training" themselves. The blind leading the blind, so to speak. Jackson noted that when he and his fellow graduates finally left "Paris Island" they found sleeping cars waiting for them at Port Royal. When the train stopped a few hours along the line they were even served lunch in their coaches. After a trip of approximately twenty-four hours they arrived at Quantico. There the men were assigned to 250-man companies, with the numeric designation they would retain throughout their service in France.     The U.S. Marine units that were slated to serve in France with the AEF had been accepted into the U.S. Army and were required to learn and follow army regulations. There were new drills, formations, and various manual exercises, so it was difficult for men who had just learned the Marine style to change again. Since most were young men, they soon adapted.     In addition to his staff, the commanding officer of a training company would have two French and four Canadian officers as advisors. The basic formation, as always, was the platoon. It became the principal training unit. The specialty schools provided the training officers and enlisted staff. There were, within the Overseas Depot, various schools for machine guns, tactics, first sergeants, company clerks, armorers, and cooks. Much of their training at Quantico was based upon what foreign officers designed for them in anticipation of what the Americans would meet when they got to Europe.     Trench fighting, with all its myriad annexes, such as bayonet fighting, hand-grenade throwing, unit exercises, patrolling, and so on, was to get the Marines ready to meet the Boche, as the French had derisively named the Germans. Though ultimately the Marines would have little experience in trenches while in France, not many of them knew that at the time. Regardless of where they fought, as the Germans would later attest, their natural exuberance and desire to fight made them outstanding and tough opponents. Although it sometimes got them into severe trouble when they did, they would fight "American style." All in all, most of them believed that anything was better than what the Europeans were doing. When they did get to the killing fields and the disastrous open warfare, some of them, those who lived, preferred the protection of a hole in the ground after all. Machine guns, and especially artillery, could do that to a man. So did being in waves of aligned men moving in slow motion across wheat fields or open ground.     When four platoons had been assembled, and trained, they were then formed into a company. A company headquarters with administrative personnel was then assigned to each company to complete the unit. Consolidation of four companies brought together a battalion with its headquarters staff. Each unit was being trained in its formation by the Depot: that is, platoon, company, and battalion. When training was completed, over they went. And that was never soon enough.     But meanwhile, there was some diversion for the men. Some went into the village of Quantico, as did the officers. Some were elated to be "free" and to be able to go someplace without supervision. They even went into the "small, dirty resturants at Quantico and order[ed] what a fellow wanted without a threatening sergeant standing over [his shoulder], making one feel that his liberty, if not his very life, was at stake." Some men, those who had blouses, were able to get liberty in order to go to Washington, D.C. Blouses had been issued at Paris Island but most had been ruined when they were worn on the rifle range. So those Marines who still owned one could command fabulous fees for the loan of it to a desperate Marine, for that was what he now was, a MARINE.     But not all Marines trained at P.I. went to Quantico. Some who had been assigned to the 35th Company and later the 13th Regiment were sent to Fort Crockett near Galveston, Texas, to insure that oil from Mexico would continue to be shipped to the United States. In a letter home Bryan Becker let his mother know that we may get ship duty or be sent to guard oil ... but I don't think it will be France because we are not considered first-class men and that is all that are allowed to go to France in the M.C . [Emphasis added.]     But not all men of the 13th were destined to go with that regiment. Some of the enlisted men were transferred from the 13th "into an independent casuality battlion," as Becker tells us. He being one of them.     On 19 May 1918 a unit entitled the Overseas Depot was established to bring some training and organization out of the forming of Marine units going overseas. Each replacement battalion would have a number assigned. The following is a listing of the units of Marines formed by the Overseas Depot in 1918. The 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th, and 11th Separate Battalions; 2d and 3d Machine Gun Battalions; 5th Brigade Machine Gun Battalion; 2d and 3d Separate Machine Gun Battalions; 11th and 13th Regiments, all of which totaled approximately 16,000 officers and men. When the situation was really rough, two additional separate battalions, the 7th and 8th, were organized and sent to France directly from Paris Island. A lesser-known facility, the Marine Corps school of machine-gun instruction at the Lewis gun factory in Utica, New York, graduated sixty-nine officers and 2,084 enlisted Marines. Their guns had been that esteemed Lewis, but those were removed and in replacement the AEF received the French Hotchkiss machine guns as well as the Chauchat to try to stop the Boche. From May 1917 to 11 November 1918, approximately 1,000 officers and 40,000 enlisted Marines passed through Quantico.     Marines have always been stationed all over the earth, and World War I was no exception. There was one Marine each in Madrid and Samoa. Other places in which Marines were located included 608 in the Virgin Islands, which the United States had recently purchased from Denmark. The transfer took place on 31 March 1917, just a week before war was declared against Germany. Naturally there was a full company at the American embassy in Peking, and aviators and support crews were stationed in the Azores to spot and sink submarines. There were nearly 600 Marines in the Philippines, 2,400 in Cuba, 2,000 in Santo Domingo, plus many smaller groups at Guam, Haiti, and Puerto Rico. Three Marines were located at The Hague in the Netherlands, plus many more in Nicaragua, that eternal trouble spot for Marines. Of the 73,000 officers and men who comprised the Corps on 11 November 1918, only 24,555 were in France with the American Expeditionary Forces. Mustn't forget the soldiers of the sea, the over 2,200 officers and men aboard various vessels of the U.S. Navy who went wherever the navy went. Many of those were on board the U.S. Navy ships that were part of the British Grand Fleet in European waters. It was their war too. And so it was with the First Marine Aviation Force, which in the fall of 1918 was sent to support British air in northern France.     The nearly 25,000 officers and men who served in the two Marine infantry brigades lived an entirely different experience than all the others. The 4th Brigade of Marines that would make history in 1918 was composed of the 5th and 6th Regiments of Marines and the 6th Machine Gun Battalion. As stated previously, the 5th Regiment was the first Marine unit assembled for duty with the American Expeditionary Force. Its first commander was Col. Charles Doyen, and beginning on 27 June 1917, the regiment was assigned to the 1st Division (Regular), remaining with that unit until the middle of September 1917. On 23 October 1917, Doyen, recently promoted to brigadier general, was placed in command of the newly formed 4th Marine Brigade. Three days later Brigadier General Doyen assumed command of the fledgling 2d Division (Regular), as its first commanding officer. He remained so until the arrival of Maj. Gen. Omar Bundy, USA, on 8 November 1917. Doyen even went so far as to appoint a staff. Lieutenant Colonel Logan Feland, USMC, became his and the division's first chief of staff. With Bundy's arrival, Doyen then returned to his 4th Brigade. So did Feland.     Doyen's replacement in command of the 5th Regiment had been Maj. Frederick M. Wise, who assumed temporary command until Lt. Col. Hiram I. Bearss arrived and succeeded him, on 1 November 1917. Bearss remained in command until New Year's Day, when be, too, was relieved by the newly arrived Col. Wendell C. Neville. Neville would retain command until he in turn was promoted to brigadier general and then assumed command of the 4th Brigade. Brigadier General John A. Lejeune got in there for three days late in July 1918, possibly the shortest term anyone had commanded a brigade. Neville returned to the brigade when Lejeune went to division.     At the time the 4th Marine Brigade was conceptualized, the only Marines in France to fill part of the role were the 5th Marine Regiment. On 26 October 1917 that regiment was officially transferred to the newly formed Second Division (Regulars), being the founding regiment. Until 8 August 1919, the 4th Marine Brigade was a part of the 2d Division. The other units in the division were the 3d Brigade of Infantry, the 2d Field Artillery Brigade, 2d Engineers, and an assortment of service troops. The two infantry brigades each included two infantry regiments and one machine-gun battalion. The artillery brigade had three regiments: two of field artillery and one of heavier guns.     Replacement and resupply was a major problem for the Marines, and much thought had been given to the problems and solutions. With the army units within the division it would certainly follow the usual pattern already developed. But the Marines would cause unusual problems for SOS. More important was how to replace the expected casualties of the 5th Regiment. To give Pershing and his staff their due, they had all given serious thought to what problems would lie ahead if Marines were incorporated into the AEF. Naturally, Barnett and his staff minimized inherent problems they wished to ignore. But, as usual, even if dropped into a pile of manure a Marine would always come up with a gold brick he'd found lying about. The problems were worked out and eventually everyone seemed satisfied with the results.     Lieutenant Colonel Hiram I. Bearss, known throughout the Corps as "Hiking Hiram," was the first commander of the Base Detachment. This organization was formed in June 1917 at Quantico and shipped to France on the Henderson in August to provide replacements for the 5th Marines. It was built around one machine-gun company, later numbered the 8th, and the 12th, 17th, 18th, and 30th Infantry Companies. Three of the companies, the 8th, 17th, and 18th, were soon redeployed into the 5th Marines. The other two became part of an aggressive AEF that required guard units at Pershing's headquarters. These two companies provided the needed guards.     Meanwhile, President Wilson directed, through Secretary of the Navy Daniels, that the major general commandant organize another regiment of Marines for duty with the AEF. In July and August 1917 the 6th Regiment of Marines was assembled at Quantico, under the command of another long-serving Marine, Col. Albertus W. Catlin. Catlin had been, for some months, commanding the base at Quantico. When he assumed command of the forming regiment, he was relieved at Quanrico by Brig. Gen. John A. Lejeune. If Lejeune had had his way, he would have had the regiment instead, but brigadier generals didn't command regiments. Lieutenant Colonel (Lighthorse) Harry Lee was appointed Catlin's second-in-command and Maj. Frank C. Evans, a recently returned veteran of the old Marine Corps, became his regimental adjutant. Major John A. "Johnny the Hard" Hughes commanded the 1st Battalion, Major Thomas "Tommy" Holcomb the 2d, and Major Berton W. "Bert" Sibley the 3d.     Marines needed to complete the regiment were those recent graduates of Paris Island who, upon arrival at Quantico in the latter part of August 1917, were formed into the 95th, 96th, and 97th Companies. Each of those companies was the fourth company assigned to each battalion; 1st, 2d, and 3d, in that sequence. The paucity of trained officers was still the biggest problem facing the 6th Marines. The latest group had just started their classes and the big question was should these young men, most with little, if any, experience in leadership, be given command of an equally young group of enlisted men. Fortunately, there were a number of noncommissioned officers in the latest class and they had sufficient knowledge of the routine to be immediately commissioned and transferred to the regiment. In addition, there were a few officer trainees who had had some college military training or who had been in the National Guard, who could also be assigned to the forming companies. Collectively, their major quality was their earnest desire to reach France as soon as possible--"before the war ended." It is probable that many young Americans who were eager for "glory" thought quite differently a few months later.     The transfer of the 6th Regiment to France was decidedly drawn out. On 16 September, the 1st Battalion, with John Hughes in command, left Quantico by train for League Island, Philadelphia. The battalion had a proper send-off by the post band even though the morning was rainy. In addition, they also got some rousing cheers (jeers?) from members of the regiment who were being left behind. Later that same evening the battalion boarded the USS Henderson and on the following morning they left for New York harbor where they remained for five days. On 23 September the transport left harbor at 2230 hours for France, their ultimate destination. On 5 October the convoy landed safely at St. Nazaire, with no unpleasant experiences from submarines.     Needless to say, the members of the other two battalions were unhappy at being left behind. Rumors of imminent departure were common. Everyone, including the officers, had it on authority that they would be leaving a week from now or perhaps just two days, or ...? One of the stories going around, according to Sellers, who was a member of the 2d Battalion, was that the battalion was being delayed because Holcomb's wife was about to have a baby, and he had enough "stuff" to stay stateside until after the event. Right or wrong, the 2d Battalion remained in the country until after Mrs. Holcomb did her duty. Shortly afterward they left, the last of the three to go.     The 3d Battalion, Sibley in command, was next to leave. He received his orders on 23 October, to leave on 24 October. The 3d didn't miss their train to League Island. They, too, were honored by the disappointed 2d Battalion, who lined both sides of the train and presented arms to their comrades. The post band played them on their way with a rousing rendition of the nation's anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner." It was in this transfer that the colonel of the regiment, Catlin, left with the 73d Machine Gun Company and his Headquarters Company. Upon arrival near Philadelphia, the battalion boarded the USS von Steuben at League Island, and on the morning of the 25th the ship set sail for New York. Five days later the von Steuben left for France, accompanied by several heavy warships of the U.S. Navy. That transfer went well until the night of 9 November, when the von Steuben and the Agamemnon collided in midocean, with the former suffering a large hole in its bow. For one full day the entire convoy scattered, not rejoining until the following day. Von Steuben managed to make modest repairs and then was able to maintain a speed of fifteen knots with the rest of the convoy. Later that day ten U.S. destroyers joined the convoy out at sea and the trip through the sub zone was made without further incident. At noon on 12 November the 3d Battalion landed safely in the harbor at Brest, France.     The luckless 2d Battalion remained at Quantico. Though the weather became colder, training persisted. At Christmas a generous proportion of furloughs was granted to officers and men. Finally, on 19 January 1918, it was their turn; 2/6 left Quantico for League Island, with Lt. Col. Harry Lee in command. The Henderson was waiting for them, and on the following day they set sail for New York. Four days later their convoy got under way. Fortunately, the trip was uneventful and 2/6 arrived at St. Nazaire on 5 February. The entire 6th Regiment was in France, as was the 5th and most of the 6th Machine Gun Battalion.     For the entire 4th Marine Brigade, this became a time of intense training during an exceedingly cold winter; the coldest in many years, according to the records. That winter was long remembered by many men in the AEF in France. It is a wonder that more men didn't get sick. There were a few without a bad cold, but very few. But most all the Marines kept up with the training no matter what their physical condition happened to be. Many of the doctors were amazed that so few men were hospitalized, considering the terrible conditions that prevailed. The entire AEF suffered the same tribulations. Back stateside the conditions weren't much better. It was the period in which the plague that came to be named the "Spanish flu" began.     By order of the major general commandant, the final Marine unit then destined for France, the 1st Machine Gun Battalion, was formally organized at Quantico on 17 August 1917. Initially, it had been given that numerical designation, which later was changed to the 6th Machine Gun Battalion. The designated unit had a headquarters detachment, the 77th and 81st Companies, with two additional companies added later. Captain Edward B. Cole was named as commanding officer of the battalion, with 2d Lt. Thomas J. Curtis his adjutant and 2d Lt. John P. Harvis as quartermaster. Temporarily, each company was equipped with sixteen Lewis guns and thirty-three machine-gun carts. The battalion remained at Quantico from 27 August until 7 December 1917, all the while engaged in training and weapons nomenclature for that wonderful Lewis gun. Other officers assigned to the battalion were Major L. W. T. Waller Jr., and a host of others including 1st Lieutenant Louis R. deRoode, 2d Lieutenants Clifford O. Henry and Jack S. Hart. Curtis, only recently commissioned, was promoted to temporary first lieutenant and immediately after, a temporary captain. On 8 December 1917 the battalion embarked aboard the DeKalb at Newport News. They were joined by the 12th and 20th Companies, and that unit became a provisional battalion. Their transport sailed to New York and anchored off Staten Island until the trip to France began on 14 December 1917. Exactly two weeks later they arrived at St. Nazaire after an uneventful trip. They thereupon joined their comrades of the 4th Brigade already arrived. Copyright (c) 1999 George B. Clark. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

1. Genesisp. 1
2 The Creation of the 4th Brigadep. 27
3 Verdunp. 42
4 Belleau Woodp. 62
5 Soissonsp. 222
6 Marbache Sectorp. 259
7 The Saint-Mihiel Offensivep. 268
8 Blanc Montp. 288
9 The Meuse River Campaignp. 343
10 The Occupation of Germanyp. 382
11 Other Marine Activities in Francep. 390
Conclusionp. 413
Appendicesp. 429
Selected Bibliographyp. 441
Indexp. 453