One Doughboy’s bitter reminiscence of the Armistice on the Western Front, November 11, 1918

Detail from F.C. Yohn’s painting, “Last Night of the War”, depicting the 5th Marines crossing the Meuse on the night of November 10-11, 1918.

Detail from F.C. Yohn’s painting, “Last Night of the War”, depicting the 5th Marines crossing the Meuse on the night of November 10-11, 1918.

This reminiscence of the Armistice as experienced by soldiers and marines of the 2d Division AEF is excerpted from the book Trifling with War, by Ray DeWitt Herring (Boston: Meador Publishing Company, 1934).  Herring was a member of the 5th Machine Gun Company, 3rd Brigade, 2d Division, AEF.

BJ Omanson

~ ~ ~ ~

“When it became assured the war was to end, the dread uncertainty of the last few hours held anew the terrors of the unknown. To be bumped off on the last day, what devilish luck! And yet such was the fate of many of our own boys, pawns in the hands of ambitious military chiefs.

Note the order:

  1. On the night of November 10th (actually the early morning of Nov 11th), “heroic deeds were done by heroic men. In the face of a heavy artillery and withering machine gun fire, the 2nd Engineers threw two foot bridges across the Meuse, and the first and second battalions of the 5th Marines crossed resolutely and unflinchingly to the east bank and carried out their mission.
  2. In the last battle of the war, as in all others in which this Division has participated, it enforced its will on the enemy.

‘It enforced its will on the enemy’.   It is a heart-shaking question whether this one time gallant boys, hardly daring to breathe the hope of a promised armistice, wanted to force their will on the enemy. Perhaps that will had fashioned another concept in which “enemy” was now a meaningless abstraction, ‘war’ an ugly, fitful dream. Perhaps their will was only to live and let live.

It may have been a military necessity for one American Division to gain the right bank of the Meuse, and it may have been splendid strategy for another to race out of bounds into historic Sedan before 11.00 A.M. November 11, 1918 to stage a fitting finale to the melodrama that showed arrogant democracy the hero in the closing role; but it was not necessary to kill those boys at 4.00 A.M. on the day which was bringing life anew before the blessed sun should have reached his zenith. So it appears, and so our Major said, who cried bitterly over the uncalled-for slaughter. His consolation was that the death of the boys, who had been twice crucified, could not be laid upon him who would not have had it so.

The morning of that day passed by with leaden feet the living who almost forgot the sin of death done at daybreak. Intermittent shelling was noted with feelings that must e pardoned if there was shame in them. When about 11 o’clock the last hostile shell in this sector crashed harmlessly near the brook bordering foret de Dieulet, then we knew enchained humanity had broken the latest shackles fastened on the race by its nemesis, war.

. . . . .   ‘A peace that passeth understanding’  came within partial comprehension in the evening of that soldiers’ day of promise. A great heaviness was borne away. New men, strangely moved with new visions unbelievably true, gathered in wondering groups. There was no hilarity, no singing of paeans of victory. Too rapid had been the change from the threshold of death on this broken battlefield now promising life to the fortunate buddies of the unrequited slain. An aloofness was upon all, and a silence as of the great unaccustomed shadows thrown by the first campfires known to this generation of soldiers. The pageantry of the storied camping ground was lacking. The camaraderie about the beacons flaring fitfully along the horizon was of the fellowship of the disconsolate and lonely. Nothing could be so empty as victory. Many days must pass before life could be cherished. Never again could it be embraced with rapture. For the mark of the beast trails thru dreams of Christians who prevailed mightily over their brethren.

On the next day with the help of Sergeant Long, a roster of our original company was drawn up. Killed, wounded, missing, shell-shocked, sick, accounted for many missing names. Minor changes in the company itself took on dramatic significance to we who knew the men intimately and realized the relentless shuffling of their fortunes and hopes. This roll calling was not the glorious recital official records would make of numbers slain and percentage of valor registered by volume of casualties.

How does the damned human idiot figure another man’s death as his glory? — or a regiment decimated as his coronet? Our record showed us how truly unfortunate so many in one small company had been. When we multiplied the misery centered in our own group by thousands of like units in a dozen armies, we began to realize the world of woe encompassed in that tragic quadrennium beginning in 1914.”

—Ray DeWitt Herring

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Published in: on November 10, 2014 at 11:22 am  Leave a Comment  

A Small Circle of Chums~~ some Marines of 15th Company, 6th Machine Gun Battalion at Belleau Wood: how each of them came to be there, and what followed after . . .

Frank Dunham's caption for this photo reads: "The crack Machine Gun Section of the world, after 28 days in Belleau Woods". Individual Marines remain unidentified.

Frank Dunham’s caption for this photo reads: “The crack Machine Gun Section of the world, after 28 days in Belleau Woods”. Individual Marines remain unidentified.

Dunham_Frank_WW1_0018b


Cpl Frank Dunham

A modest cache of letters, photos and medals originally belonging to Cpl. Frank Dunham, USMC (1917-19) offers an evocative glimpse into the wartime experiences of several members of 15th Company, 6th Machine Gun Battalion, during the summer of 1918 at Belleau Wood near the River Marne.

There is not enough here for a cohesive narrative, but only isolated clues, such as might emerge from an archaeological dig– or, as in this case, from a soldier’s trunk.

The full story of Frank Dunham and his friends in 15th Company is lost to time.  But his handful of photos & medals, and a couple of letters, open small windows on a place called Belleau Wood and, together with what is preserved in the official histories, at least a small part of that story can be pieced together.

For the Marines of 15th Company, as for much of the 4th Brigade, the decisive date was June 6, 1918, when the Marine Corps suffered more casualties in one day than during their entire history up to that time.

At 3:45 a.m. on the 6th, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines under Major Julius Turrill (of which only two companies were available, the 49th under Capt. George Hamilton, and the 67th under 1stLt Orlando Crowther) attacked from Hill 142 north to the Lucy-Torcy road.  Ten machine guns from 15th Company, including Dunham and his friends, supported the attack with direct overhead fire on German assembly points and reserve positions.  As a result of this firing, they drew fire upon themselves.  While their objectives were attained, both companies had suffered such heavy casualties among officers and men that by mid-morning Capt Hamilton had to step in and merge the remnants of both companies into a single company under his command.

Dunham, Croix de Guerre

Dunham’s Croix de Guerre

Meanwhile, the machine gunners of 15th Company suffered several casualties during the attack, though no fatalities.  Cpl Frank Dunham was awarded the Silver Star Certificate and Croix de Guerre for his actions on this date.  His citation reads: “He displayed coolness and leadership  in conducting his guns throughout the day, under heavy artillery and machine gun fire.”

Also decorated for courage under fire in this attack was one of Dunham’s friends, Pvt. Russell D. Smith, who received the Silver Star Certificate.  His citation reads: “He maintained the fire of his machine gun throughout the day while subjected to enemy fire which was so intense that parts of his gun were destroyed.”  Pvt Smith would later be awarded another Silver Star and two Croix de Guerres for his actions at Soissons.

Among Dunham‘s possessions is a photograph of Smith and himself standing in the wheat field where the attack of the 6th had taken place.  The photograph is undated, but it was so soon after the battle that bodies of dead Marines are still lying unburied on the ground.

Dunham & Smith, with unidentified dead Marines. Taken sometime shortly after June 6.

Dunham & Smith, with unidentified dead Marines. Taken sometime shortly after June 6.

Also taken at this time is another photograph showing Dunham standng by himself, with unidentified dead Marines.

click to enlarge

Dunham standing near dead Marines at Belleau Wood

And this photo of another chum, Irving Bigelow . . .

Irving Bigelow sitting near dead Marine, Belleau Wood

Irving Bigelow sitting near dead Marine, Belleau Wood

But the story and Frank Dunham, Russell Smith and Irving Bigelow, as well as their other chums, Harvey Hagan, Nicholas Meyer, Edward Duda, Emanuel Smolik and Victor Bleasdale— all members of 15th Company, 6th Machine Gun Battalion, and all present at Belleau Wood– for all of them the story of their military service began earlier.  For most, it began with the declaration of war by the United States in April, 1917.  But for two of them, Frank Dunham and Victor Bleasdale, the story began two years earlier, in 1915, and involved an earlier conflict, an insurrection in Haiti— while for Irving Bigelow it began earlier yet, in 1914, in yet another conflict —  in Mexico, at Vera Cruz.

Irving Bigelow

Vera Cruz, Apr-Nov 1914

Irving Bigelow enlisted in Lansing, Michigan in January 1914 and was stationed at Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, in Norfolk, Virginia for the next three and a half months.

On April 22nd, Pvt Bigelow joined 20th Company in LtCol A.W. Caitlin’s 3rd Regiment and participated in the landing at Vera Cruz, taking part in the house-to-house fighting that took place in that city later the same day.

On the 29th, Bigelow joined 15th Company of  LtCol Wendell Neville’s 2nd Regiment and remained in Vera Cruz for the duration of the American occupation, until late November of that year.

Pvt Victor Bleasdale, in Haiti

Pvt Victor Bleasdale, in Haiti

Haiti, Aug 1915 — Dec 1916

Next among the future friends to enlist was Frank Dunham, who joined up in Akron, Ohio on October 19, 1914.  He trained as a member of Company F, Recruit Depot, Marine Barracks, in the Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia until mid-January when he was transferred to 15th Company, 2nd Regiment, 1st Brigade which by this time had returned from Vera Cruz and was stationed at the Navy Yard on League Island, Philadelphia. 

The third friend to enlist was Victor Bleasdale  from Janesville, Wisconsin, who joined up in Milwaukee on May 10th, 1915.  He trained in Company D at the Recruit Depot, Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, in Norfolk until mid-July, when he travelled by train to Wintrop, Massachusetts, where he underwent marksmanship training on the Army rifle course.

At the end of July, Bleasdale was transferred to 15th Company in Philadelphia, just in time to join the company on board the USS Connecticut, which steamed out to sea on July 31st— carrying 344 Marines (five companies) of the 2nd Regiment, under Colonel E.K. Cole— and bound for Haiti, where a bloody revolution was underway.

At this point, on board ship, the three future friends, Bigelow, Dunham & Bleasdale, were all together for the first time in the same company, though at what point they became acquainted and struck up friendships is unknown.

Marines boarding the USS Connecticut at Navy Yard, Philadelphia, 31 July 1915, destination Haiti.

Marines boarding the USS Connecticut at Navy Yard, Philadelphia, 31 July 1915, destination Haiti.

The Connecticut steamed into harbor at Port au Prince on August 4, after a record run from Philadelphia. The capitol was in chaos. Two Presidents had been murdered within thirty-six hours— one of them dismembered with body parts displayed on poles; hundreds executed, many by machete; two foreign legations violated, and the government non-existant. Mobs stormed through the streets.

On August 15, Colonel L.W.T. Waller arrived on board the armored cruiser Tennessee with eight companies from the 1st Regiment of Marines and estabished the 1st Brigade (just over 2000 men) on shore, with the long-term purpose of pacifying the country and permitting the reconstitution of the Haitian government.   The native insurgents, known as cacos, controlled much of the island, and driving them out of their strongholds became the main objective of the Marines.

The first job was to drive the cacos out of the capital of Port au Prince, and this was accomplished in the first few days by Col Waller’s 2nd Regiment, followed by the clearing of nearby town of Gonaives.

The next main trouble spot was in the north around Cap-Haitian.  Colonel Cole’s 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment, including 15th Company. was stationed in Cap-Haitian.  The cacos, controlling the countryside, set up a blockade around the town, blocking all movement in or out, cutting off all supplies to the surrounded Marines.  On September 20th, a Marine patrol, attempting to cut through the blockade, was ambushed.   Cole called in a landing force from the USS Connecticut to hold the town, while he and most of his regiment went to the rescue of the surrounded patrol.  In the ensuing conflict, forty cacos were killed at the expense of 10 Marines wounded.  It is unknown if  Bigelow, Bleasdale or Dunham took part in this fight, as no mention of it is found in their roster records.

The following week Cole attacked a caco stronghold at Quartier Morin, taking it on the 27th.   At this point Waller turned his full attention to taking possession of the northern region of the island.  He set up a three-town triangle of garrisons at Ouanaminthe, on the Dominican border, Grand Riviere du Nord, and Fort Liberte, leaving a company in each town.  15th Company was responsible for Fort Liberte. 

15th Company, 2nd Regiment --  3 pm Guard Relief, Fort Liberte, Haiti, 1916.

15th Company, 2nd Regiment — 3 pm Guard Relief, Fort Liberte, Haiti, 1916.

The next objective in Waller‘s plan was the caco stronghold at Fort CapoisWaller sent Major Smedley Butler and Captain “Deacon” Upshur and forty enlisted Marines, including the legendary Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly (both Butler & Daly would end their military careers with two Medals of Honor apiece).  Also present on this six-day, 120-mile expedition was Pvt Irving Bigelow.  For an assault force, the Marines were lightly armed, their heaviest weapon being a single machine gun.

Unfortunately for the patrol, their guide was in cahoots with the cacos and led the Marines into an ambush.  That night (Oct 24-25), as the Marines were attempting to cross a mountain river of whitewater, the forty-odd Marines were surrounded and attacked by some 400 cacos from Fort Capois and Fort Dipitie.  The cacos kept them pinned down and under fire throughout the night.  The Marines did not even have the benefit of their one machine gun, as the horse carrying it had been killed by gunfire while crossing the river.  In the dark, while still under attack, GSgt Daly stole back to the river, hoisted the machine gun on his back and made his way back to camp (an action which earned him his second Medal of Honor).

At daylight, knowing the cacos would attack and overwhelm them by sheer numbers, Butler audaciously attacked the cacos, in three directions!  The cacos were so dumbfounded and caught off guard that they panicked and ran.  Captain Upshur and 1st Lt Ostermann (who was wounded), with just 13 Marines (one of whom was Bigelow) pursued the cacos back to Fort Dipitie, then stormed the fort and burned it to the ground (an action for which both officers received Medals of Honor).  Bigelow, as one of the thirteen, would later receive a Letter of Commendation, signed by the Secretary of the Navy, for his participation in this attack.

After their long and sleepless night, Butler led the patrol back to Grande Riviere du Nord.  Almost immediately Captain Chandler Campbell organized a column and set out to attack Fort Capois.  This time the Marine column was far larger, composed of two companies of sailors from the Connecticut and five companies of Marines, including 15th CompanyBigelow, Bleasdale and Dunham were all present on this expedition.  Le Trou was captured on Nov 2, and Fort Capois on Nov 5.  Forts Selon and Berthol were captured on the  7th and 8th.

"Hunting bandits near Fort Liberte, Haiti, 1916".  Photograph by Victor Bleasdale.

“Hunting bandits near Fort Liberte, Haiti, 1916”. Photo by V. Bleasdale.

According to their muster roll records, Bigelow, Bleasdale and Dunham only participated in Butler‘s expedition through the 15th, but this is probably in error since the expedition lasted at least through the 18th, culminating in the major assault of Fort Riviere on that date.  As none of the three Marines was wounded, or was reported sick, or AWOL, it seems unlikely that any of them would have been removed from the expedition while it was in progress.

15th Company was one of several units assigned to the initial assault on the fort on the night of the 17th-18th.  The company, accompanied by Major Butler, attacked the south side of the fortification, and penetrated the fort through an opening so constricted that only one man could go through at a time.  The first two Marines to enter were Sgt Ross Iams and Private Sam Gross, both of whom were awared Medals of Honor.  A few more squads from the company squeezed through right after them, and were immediately attacked from within by the cacos.  The hand-to-hand fighting which ensued was extremely brutal— involving firearms, bayonets, machetes, clubs and rocks.  By the time it was over, all the cacos were killed (about fifty in all), while all the Marines were left standing.  Major Smedley Butler earned his second Medal of Honor on this day.

15th Company, as part of the 2nd Regiment of Marines, remained in Haiti through the rest of 1916.

Irving Bigelow served on detached duty with the Haitian Gendarmerie at La Valliere throughout June and July, then returned to Port au Prince in August where, till the end of the year, he drove an “auto truck” for the regiment.  Sometime in September, 1915, Pvt Bigelow was promoted to corporal.  On Dec 27, Cpl Bigelow was promoted to sergeant.

Through most of his time in Haiti, when he was not participating in expeditions against the cacos, Victor Bleasdale served as payroll and muster roll clerk for the company.  On June 25th, 1916, Pvt Bleasdale was promoted to corporal.

From September 1 to 26, 1916, Frank Dunham participated in a mounted expedition from Port au Prince, Haiti, over mountainous jungle, to Azua, in the Dominican Republic.  Through much of November and December he was hospitalized in Port au Prince with an unspecified ailment.

Stateside, Jan-Apr 1917

Sometime in January, 1917, the 2nd Regiment, including 15th Company, returned to the United States and took up their station in Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Philadelphia.  Bigelow and Bleasdale returned with the company.  Dunham‘s movements are less clear, as his roster record for January is missing.  Probably he remained in hospital in Port au Prince for a time after the regiment had returned to the States.  By February, 1917, all three Marines were at Marine Barracks, Philadelphia Navy Yard on League Island.

Sometime in late February, 1917, 15th Company was transferred to the Marine Aviation Section, US Navy Aeronautic Station in Pensacola, Florida, and all three friends were included in the move.  It was at this time that another future member of the Dunham “circle of chums” joined the Company:  Russell Smith, who had enlisted the previous November.

War is Declared, April 2

While Bigelow, Bleasdale and Dunham were still at Pensacola with 15th Companythe United States declared war on Germany on April 2nd.   In mid-May, the Secretary of War made a formal request to President Wilson that a regiment of Marines be included in the first contingent of troops being sent to France.  Wilson issued an order to that effect on the 27th.  Accordingly, Marine units with expeditionary experience in Haiti, Santo Domingo and Cuba, including 15th Company, as well as a number of shipboard detachments, were formally organized into the 5th Marine Regiment, commanded by Col Charles Doyen, and composed of three battalions.  15th Company was called up from Pensacola to Quantico and assigned to 1st Battalion under Major Julius Turrill.

It was at about this time that the rest of the Marines in Dunham’s “circle of chums” joined the company.  Harvey Hagan, Nicholas Meyer and Emanuel Smolik enlisted just days after the declaration of war, underwent basic training together at Paris* Island as members of the same “Company H”  and joined 15th Company at Quantico on June 1st.  Edward Duda also joined on this date from Paris Island, where he had trained in “Company I”.

Crossing the Pond

The Marines of 15th Company left Quantico on June 12, traveling by train to their old homebase at the Navy Yard on League Island, Philadelphia, and immediately boarded the USS DeKalb (formerly the German ship Prinz Eitel, seized at the outbreak of war), joining the rest of the Col Julius Turrill’s 1st Battalion.

Marines boarding the USS Dekalb, June 12, 1917, Navy Yard, Philadelphia

Marines boarding the USS Dekalb, June 12, 1917, Navy Yard, Philadelphia

Together with the USS Hancock (which held Headquarters & Supply Companies), the Dekalb weighed anchor and steamed out to sea on the same day, to a sustained cacaphony of every bell and whistle on the waterfront.  Their journey up the Jersey coast was slowed by a heavy fog in Delaware Bay, but soon enough they made it into New York Harbor and anchored within sight of the Statue of Liberty.   The two ships were  joined by a third, the USS Henderson, which carried the 2nd and 3rd Battalions and the regimental band.  On the 14th, together with other ships carrying the remainder of the 1st Division, they set sail for France.

A pair of encounters with German U-boats notwithstanding, the Dekalb arrived in St Nazaire harbor, on the coast of France in good order on June 26.  The 1st Battalion disembarked with little fanfare on the same day and marched five miles to the western outskirts of the city, to a British campground known as Base Camp #1.  This was to be their home for the next couple of weeks.    They set up tents, and within a few hours were nicely settled in, making coffee and frying bacon over open fires.  For the next couple of weeks, the Marines primarily busied themselves with marches and close order drills, sometimes marching back to the docks to spend a day unloading ships.

Prvates Harvey Hagan, Nicholas Meyer and Edward Duda at Base Camp #1, St. Nazaire, in early July 1917.

Prvates Harvey Hagan, Nicholas Meyer and Edward Duda at Base Camp #1, St. Nazaire, in early July 1917.

 To be continued . . .

~~~~~

* “Parris Island” was not spelled with two “r”s until after the war.

Original photographs in this article courtesy of Paul Higgins.  All other photos are in the Public Domain.

Last updated in the early hours of 11 Feb 2013.   Additions, questions & corrections by readers are welcome.

BJ Omanson

In the first week after the Armistice: with the 2d Division, AEF, on the march to the Rhine: field orders, intelligence reports, interrogations of French prisoners of war

 

 

 11 November 1918: The Armistice was signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, ending the European War. At the time of the signing of the armistice with Germany, the Marine Corps had an active duty strength of 2,474 officers and 70,489 enlisted men.

On the Western Front, official notification of the Armistice reached the Fourth Brigade from the Fifth Army Corps at 0835, and orders were at once sent forward to cease hostilities at 1100. Generally, at that hour over the front, the pressure of sustained warfare came to an abrupt end. On the Marine Brigade front there was only one exception and that was a patrol of the Fifth which had pushed ahead to Moulins, so far out that the order announcing the Armistice did not reach it. An hour or so after noon, while improving their positions, they came upon a group of celebrating German soldiers from whom they learned that fighting had ceased and that the terms of an armistice were in effect. Soon this report was confirmed by receipt of the official notification from battalion headaquarters. THE FIGHT WAS OVER!

 The most noticeable local effect of the Armistice was the attention given to personal comfort. Officers and men alike, colonels, medical personnel, haplains, and machine-gunners~ all rose from their wet holes in the earth. They built fires to warm and dry their chilled, water-soaked and debilitated bodies. They spread fire-dried materials on the ground upon which they dropped to sleep.

 An intense program of cleaning, bathing, feeding, sleeping, resting, delousing, and re-outfitting of the men was instituted. The animals and rolling stock were restored.

~~ Lt. George R. Strott, USN, The Medical Department
of the United States Navy with the Army
and Marine Corps in World War I

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

12 November 1918: On the Western Front, orders were received by the Marine Brigade to organize the line established when the Armistice became official. The 5th Marine Regiment was across the Meuse, and the 6th in the wood just west of Mouzon. Both regiments were holding the front line.

  ~~ Lt. George R. Strott, USN, The Medical Department
of the United States Navy with the Army
and Marine Corps in World War I

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

4th BRIGADE MARINES, AMERICAN E.F
FIELD ORDERS #40
12 November 1918

Headquarters, 4th Brigade,
Marines, American E.F.
12th November ‘18

SECRET

FIELD ORDERS
NO. 40

I. Field Orders #63, 2nd Division, 12th November ‘18 (copy attached hereto) forwarded for compliance:

1. (a) An armistice with Germany has been signed and all hostilities ceased at 11:00 hours, 11th November ‘18.

(b) The allied armies are being held in readiness for a further advance.

2. (a) The 2nd Division will organize a position of resistance on its present front and be ready to renew the advance.

(b) DIVISION LIMITS:

Right (south) Limit: LETANNE, (inclusive) to the left flank of the 89th Division on its front line.

Left (north) Limit: le BASACE ~ MOUZON (both inclusive).

Front Line: The line attained at 11:00 hours, 11th November, ‘18 withing our Divisional limit.

3. (a) The present line attained will be organized in depth. Troops will be disposed so as to obtain maximum rest and comfort consistent with necessary arrangements for security and with preparations for a further advance.

(b) The 4th Brigade will hold the front line. It will relieve any part of the 3rd Brigade now in the front line. Details of relief to be arranged between Brigade Commanders. This line will not be passed by any American troops until further orders. Communication with the enemy is forbidden. The cessation of hostilities is an armistice only and not peace, and there must bew no relaxation of vigilance. Liaison agents will be exchanged with adjoining units.

( c) DIVISIONAL RESERVE: The 3rd Brigade when relieved by the 4th Brigade will occupy a position in support in Beaumont and Yoncq and their vicinity and be prepared for further advancing. The 4th M.G. Bn. will be part of the Division reserve and remains in place.

ARTILLERY: The 2nd F.A. Brigade will be prepared to take defensive or offensive action in support of the Infantry.

4. ADMINISTRATION: By A.C. of S. G-1.

5. Division P.C. ~ No change. Brigade P.C.s ~ No change.

II. The 4th Brigade Marines will be disposed with both Regiments in line, 5th on right and 6th on left.

DIVIDING LINE:

Between Regiments: Left flank of the organized line of the 5th Marines resting on the MEUSE river. Southwest along the west bank of that river to point 308-311.6, westward across the railway track and along bottom of the ravine to VILLEMONTRY-BEAUMONT road, thencve southwest along that road to the west edge of SARTELLE FME thence to end of dirt road on Height 302 and along that road to the west edge of la THINAUDINE FME.

The 5th and 6th Marines will on 13th November, ‘18 relieve troops of the 3rd Brigade now in line within their Regimentals sectors. Reconnaissance and billeting parties will be sent out to make the necessary arrangements for the relief as soon as possible. The relief will be effective at 12:00 Noon, 13th November, ‘18 and command will pass to the Commanding General, 4th Brigade, at that time.

DISPOSITION FOR DEFENSE:

The 5th Marines will be disposed two Battalions on east Bank of the MEUSE with one Battalion reserve in the region of LETANNE-SARTELLE FARM.

The 6th Marines will be disposed with at least one battalion in the region of VILLEMONTRY-LA-FROBOURG and two Battalions in farms and bivouac forward of the town YONCQ.

ARTILLERY:

The 5th Marines are to be supported by the 15th F.A. Regiment and the 6th Marines by the 12th F.A. Regiment.

MACHINE GUNS:

Machine Gun Companies will remain assigned to Infantry Battalions as at present.

3. P.C. 4th Brigade will remain in place.
By command of Brigadier General Neville:

EARL H. ELLIS Lieut. Col., USMC. Adjutant.

 

~~~~~

CONFIDENTIAL
Not to be taken into front line trenches.

2nd DIVISION (REGULAR) AEF.
Second Section, G. S.
No. 120

SUMMARY OF INTELLIGENCE:

November 12, 1918 to November 13, 1918.
Noon to noon.

 

I. GENERAL IMPRESSION OF THE DAY:

Enemy withdrawing from our front probably in compliance with the terms of the Armistice.

II. ENEMY FRONT LINE:

Our front line no change. Enemy front line no change.

III. ENEMY ORDER OF BATTLE:

No identifications.

IV. ENEMY INFANTRY:

Withdrawing to the rear.

V. ENEMY ARTILLERY:

Withdrawing to the rear.

VI. ENEMY MOVEMENTS:

Visibility poor until about 10 h. 30. Numerous explosions of ammunition dumps all morning, out of sight but north and northeast of La SURTELLE Ferme. Camp fires at Bois de MOULINS. 10 to 10 h 30 there was a small fire at AUTREVILLE. 11 h. 30 2 American planes over our front line. 15 h. 30 1 wagon train about 1 kilometer long, in 2 sections, composed of a succession of groups of 1 wagon and 2 caissons in regular formation, entered AMBLIMONT.

VII. ENEMY WORKS:

Nothing to report.

VIII. ENEMY AERONAUTICS:

Nothing to report.

IX. MISCELLANEOUS:

Captured Material: 3 Wagon Parks on the VILLEMONTRY-Le FAUBOURG Road consisting of 250 vehicles classified as follows: ~~150 Ammunition linbers, serviceable. ~~90 Wagons, ration and water, serviceable. ~~10 Rolling kitchens, serviceable.

2 French soldiers, German prisoners of war, escapted into our lines at MOUZON morning of 12th November. ~~Robert Picard ~ 6th Co., 156th Regt.,m 39th Inf. Div. ~~Marcell Moulde ~ 9th Co., 99th Regt., 28th Inf. Div.

X. ACTIVITY OF OUR OWN TROOPS:

No activity, complying strictly with the Armistice Order.

R.S. KEYSER
Major, Marines
A. C. of S., G-2

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

DIVISION INFORMATION BULLETIN
2nd DIVISION (REG.) Nov. 13, 1918.
Interrogation of Two French Prisoners of War

Taken prisoner the 25th April, 1918, at Mt. KEMMEL. They were taken through various camps in Belgium and later brought to MOUZON where there was a large concentration camp and where they worked as cultivators, etc. The 4th November they left MOUZON, were taken back into Belgium to ETHE. From there they escaped and made their way back to MOUZON and penetrated into our lines on the 12th Nov., in the morning, at MOUZON.

The prisoners stated that on the 4th November they were part of a large body of prisoners who were conducted into Belgium in 3 marches, under a very lax guard. That the Germans were retreating in a more or less disorderly fashion behind their front lines, and that there seems to be a veritable debacle, which made it possible for them, as well as a good many others, to escape and hide with civilians, from whom they obtained civilian clothes and thus attired, penetrated our lines as above stated. The Germans in MOUZON saw them traverse the town, cross the foot bridge and made no effort to stop them. They had seen some German officers in MOUZON, some of whom appeared to be of high rank, having driven up to the town in automobiles. The Germans still have many pieces of artillery in place on the heights and crest of hills, some of which they appeared to be leaving and others they were taking back with them. The withdrawal of the Germans appeared to be through LUXEMBOURG. They were informed by German soldiers that there was a revolution going on in Germany and that the Germans wanted to establish a republic. That many of the German soldiers had thrown away their arms and had declared there would be no more war for them. The lack of order and military discipline struck them to a marked degree.
 

 
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CONFIDENTIAL
Not to be taken into front line trenches.

2nd DIVISION (REGULAR) AEF.
Second Section, G. S.
No. 121

SUMMARY OF INTELLIGENCE
November 13, 1918 to November 14, 1918.
Noon to noon.

 

I. GENERAL IMPRESSION OF THE DAY:

Enemy withdrawing from our front probably in compliance with the terms of the Armistice.

II. ENEMY FRONT LINE:

Enemy front line not well defined. Our front line no change.

III. ENEMY ORDER OF BATTLE:

No identifications.

IV. ENEMY INFANTRY:

Reports indicate that his infantry has withdrawn from our front. There still remains however, a large number of stragglers in the towns and farms, who seem to be disorganized and without arms. Attempts to fraternize with our front line troops continue.

V. ENEMY ARTILLERY:

Nothing to report.

VI. ENEMY MOVEMENTS:

Nothing to report other than the statement under par. IV.

VII. ENEMY WORKS:

Nothing to report.

VIII. ENEMY AERONAUTICS:

No activity.

IX. MISCELLANEOUS:

Prisoners of War: Previously reported (total): 1707. Captured since last report: 5. Total: 1712. 2 French soldiers, German Prisoners of War, entered our lines this morning (Nov. 14th) at MOUZON: Pvt. Gaston Debray ~ 1st M.G. Co., 313th Regt., 125th Div.Inf. Cpl. Charles Demaison ~ 17th Co., 289th Regt.,m 55th Div. Inf.

X. ACTIVITY OF OUR OWN TROOPS:

No activity, complying strictly with the Armistice Order.

R.S. KEYSER
Major, Marines
A. C. of S., G-2

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14 November 1918: On the Western Front, the 5th Regiment, Marines, 2nd Division AEF, was relieved by the 308th Infantry, 89th Division, and marched its 1st and 2nd Battalions to Pouilly, and its 3rd to Letanne. The 6th Regiment, Marines, moved its headquarters from Yoncq to Villemontry. All were prepared for the new mission ~ to head the victorious armies of the Allies on their march through Belgium and Luxembourg to the Rhine, and, until peace was secured, to become the Army of Occupation of the American bridgehead, at Coblenz in the heart of Germany.

~~ Lt. George R. Strott, USN, The Medical Department
of the United States Navy with the Army
and Marine Corps in World War I

 
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DIVISION INFORMATION BULLETIN
2nd DIVISION (REG.) Nov. 14, 1918.
Interrogation of Two French Prisoners of War

Captured 30th May, 1918, at CUTS near NOYON. They escaped from BERTRIX the 10th November, crossing our lines Nov. 14th, at MOUZON. The prisoners state that during the time of their captivity they have had very little to eat, never once had they received a letter or package from their friends; they were improperly housed and clothed. Since the German retreat the month 1st of November, there had been a marked lack of discipline among the Germans, which since the signing of the Armistice, had practically turned into anarchy. That the German soldiers were pillaging everything possible, including their own military stores; were not submissive to orders and in fact, they had witnessed the killing of 2 German officers by German soldiers at BERTRIX, one of the German officers being a major. They noticed however, that few officers were about, most of them apparently having left their commands.

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17 November 1918: The 2nd Division, AEF, assigned to the new Third Corps of the new Third Army (American Army of Occupation), was scheduled to start their march at 0500, from their positions along the Meuse River. From the remaining short strip of France, the plan was to pass through a corner of southeastern Belgium into and across the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg to the German frontier at the Sauer River. From there the route was to and across the Rhine into a large semicircular area on the east bank to be known as the American Bridgehead, in the center of the Allied line (headquarters, Coblenz) between the British in the north (headquarters, Cologne) and the French in the south (headquarters, Mainze). The distance from the starting point on the Meuse to the German frontier on the Sauer was approximately 60 miles. The plan was to reach the frontier in 6 marching days; one day was allowed for rest. This memorable march to the Rhine started on schedule at 0500 17 November 1918 from Pouilly on the Meuse. At the start, the 5th Marines and Company C of the 2nd Engineers formed the advance guard and preceded the main body by two kilometers. Flank guards maintained contact with the Fourth French Army on the left and the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division on the right. On completion of the first day’s march, which ended just short of the Belgium frontier, outposts were established along the line Deux Villers-Moiry-Montmady.

~~ Lt. George R. Strott, USN, The Medical Department
of the United States Navy with the Army
and Marine Corps in World War I

 
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18 November 1918: In Belgium, the Second Division, Army of Occupation, resumed its march at 0500, crossing the Belgium frontier early in the morning, and passing on through Belle Fontaine to an outpost line, Jam-Etalle-Ste Leger. The weather was cool and the sky mildly overcast, which meant good marching conditions. When the Belgium border was crossed, the regimental bands moved out of their long silence and, heading the regiments, played as the men entered the first country to be freed. Spirits were high and the troops were given a rousing welcome by the inhabitants who lined both sides of the road. The people had hastily constructed triumphal arches at the entrance of towns, speedily sewed homemade American flags with variable numbers of stripes and stars, and there was friendship and welcome on all sides. Some girls were struggling with sand and brush to erase a painted black cross from the entrance to their homes. Neighbors had placed the mark to signify a girl’s friendliness with German officers during the period of enemy occupation.

~~ Lt. George R. Strott, USN, The Medical Department
of the United States Navy with the Army
and Marine Corps in World War I

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CONFIDENTIAL
Not to be taken into front line trenches.

2nd DIVISION (REGULAR) AEF.
Second Section, G. S.
No. 123

SUMMARY OF INTELLIGENCE
November 18, 1918 to November 19, 1918.
10 h. to 10 h.

 

I. GENERAL IMPRESSION OF THE DAY:

This division advanced without unusual incident to the line JAINOIGEUS – ST. MARIE – ETHE – SIGNEULX and met with joyous demonstrations from the inhabitants.

II. ENEMY ORDER OF BATTLE:

……Definite information concerning the enemy’s units retiring on our front can not be obtained. About one regiment composed of Westphalian and Prussians billeted in VIRTON the night of 15th-16th November and marched on the morning of the 16th in the direction of ARTON. Their discipline was very bad owing to the few officers with them and their lack of organization. Many either destroyed or otherwise disposed of their equipment.

III. ENEMY MOVEMENTS:

An American repatriated Prisoner stated that on the 17th the last of the enemy to leave ARLON was some artillery units. He saw no infantry.

IV. MORALE OF ENEMY TROOPS:

From all reports the conclusion is reached that the enemy is retreating in a disorganized condition, the men refuse to salute their officers, and in some cases, officers are assaulted by their own men. Inhabitants report that some officers removed their insignia of rank immediately after the retirement began.

V. PHYSICAL CONDITION OF THE ENEMY TROOPS:

Nothing to report.

VI. CONDUCT OF ENEMY TROOPS:

There is no evidence of misconduct by the enemy’s troops towards the civilian population.

VII. OBSERVATION OF THE ARMISTICE:

There is no evidence that the enemy is violating any clauses of the armistice.

VIII. MISCELLANEOUS ENEMY DATA:

East of Belle FONTAINE there is an ammunition dump containing about 1000 eight inch shells.

R.S. KEYSER
Major, Marines
A. C. of S., G-2

 

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SOURCES:

Strott, Lt. George G., USN.   The Medical Department of the United States Navy with the Army and Marine Corps in France in World War I: Its Functions and Employment.  Washington D.C., Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, U.S. Navy Department, 1947.

U.S. Army, Records of the Second Division (Regular). 9 volumes. Washington: The Army War College, 1927. 

 

BJ Omanson