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The Soldiers Who Go To Sea






If the army or the navy ever gaze on Heaven's scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded by United States marines.


So sing the soldiers who go to sea, commonly called the marines. The
Germans after the battles of Belleau Wood and Bouresches called them
devil hounds, and the French named them the green devils.

An English rhymester wrote to his home paper,

You must not call them Sammies,
You should not call them Yanks.
And if you call them 'doughboys'
Loud laughter splits their flanks.
You will not call them Buddies,
And when on Kultur's track,
You need not call them forward,
You cannot call them back.


They know too that whenever trouble arises in any part of the world,
they are the first to be sent to protect American interests. It is
said that many of them believe the chief reason why the United States
has a navy is for the purpose of carrying the marines to the points
where they are needed. They are aware of the fact that marines may be
landed and such landing not be considered an act of war. Therefore
they look upon their service as much more important than that of the
soldier.

The marine has been everywhere man has gone by land or sea or air, as
one of their poets wrote:

From the hills of Montezuma
To the gates of old Peking
He has heard the shrapnel bursting,
He has heard the Mauser's ping.
He has known Alaskan waters
And the coral roads of Guam,
He has bowed to templed idols
And to sultans made salaam.


I am more than a sailor, for although I belong to the navy I fight on
the land. I am more than a soldier, for I do all that the soldier does
and at the same time I belong to the navy and go to sea. Thus the
marine proves to himself that he is it, as the soldiers and sailors
would say.

The marines get aviation, searchlight, wireless telegraph, heliograph,
and other drill. They plant mines, put up telegraph and telephone
lines in the field, tear down or build up bridges, sling from a ship
and set up or land guns as big as 5-inch for their advance base work.

It is a belief with marines that the corps can do anything. Right in
New York City is a marine printing plant with a battery of linotypes
and a row of presses. They set their own type, write their own stuff
(even to the poetry), draw their own sketches, do their own
photography, their own color work--everything. Every man in that plant
is a marine, enlisted or commissioned. Every one has seen service
somewhere outside his country.

Such a feeling of superiority, however, would soon be laughed down if
it were not based upon something more than talk. The marines know this
and try in every way to show that they excel the other branches. They
are extremely careful of their dress, and their personal appearance,
and of their conduct whether on duty or off. They try to sustain the
reputation of their branch in every little way as well as in every
great one.

As an illustration of this, they are not satisfied with a commonplace
mascot. Soldiers and sailors, and marines too, must have a mascot. A
cat, a dog, a goat, a parrot, a monkey, a pig, a lion cub, or a bear
are among the commonest and most popular of mascots. Therefore the
marines would usually disdain any one of these. If any of them should
happen to be accepted as a mascot, there would be some wonderful story
to explain why it was the most remarkable monkey, goat, or lion cub
that ever lived.

A large and hideous snake, a young kangaroo, or an anteater are mascots
more to the liking of the marines. They must have something like
themselves, exclusive and distinguished. The anteater that one body of
marines adopted when they were landed at Vera Cruz proved a very
interesting and original mascot, and also that anteaters were not
always exactly as they are described in school textbooks, for this
anteater disdained to eat ants and greedily devoured anything from the
food of the marines that they would give him, or that he could
steal--bread, meat, pie, doughnuts, or eggs.

A writer telling about this anteater mascot says he was taught several
tricks, one of which was to put out with his forepaws every lighted
cigarette dropped near him and then to tear it into little pieces.
Heywood Broun, the writer, goes on to say, The marine who dropped a
hundred franc note by mistake just in front of Jimmy says that teaching
tricks to anteaters is all foolishness.

And how do they sustain the reputation of their branch in the great
things? Here is where soldier, sailor, or marine must prove his
superiority, for excelling here means greater service to his country.
It would be difficult indeed to give the palm to any branch of the
service. They have all endured hardship and met wounds and death with
equal gallantry, each striving to outdo the other in devotion and
sacrifice.

Secretary Daniels has told the inspiring heroic story of the fighting
of the eight thousand marines who in June, 1918, were thrown into the
open gap between the advancing Germans and Paris.

Although they were without proper artillery support and too small in
numbers for the task, General Pershing in those dark days offered their
services to Marshal Foch, saying, If you have no other troops to use
and the gap must be closed and the Germans stopped, they will do it.
And they did! But out of the eight thousand, four thousand were
missing, wounded, or killed. Read Secretary Daniels' story of this
fight, called the battle of Belleau Wood, and be proud that you are an
American.


This efficient fighting, building, and landing force of the navy has
won imperishable glory in the fulfillment of its latest duties upon the
battlefields of France, where the marines, fighting for the time under
General Pershing as a part of the victorious American army, have
written a story of valor and sacrifice that will live in the brightest
annals of the war. With heroism that nothing could daunt, the Marine
Corps played a vital role in stemming the German rush on Paris, and in
later days aided in the beginning of the great offensive, the freeing
of Rheims, and participated in the hard fighting in Champagne, which
had as its object the throwing back of the Prussian armies in the
vicinity of Cambrai and St. Quentin.

With only 8000 men engaged in the fiercest battles, the Marine Corps
casualties numbered 69 officers and 1531 enlisted men dead and 78
officers and 2435 enlisted men wounded seriously enough to be
officially reported by cablegram, to which number should be added not a
few whose wounds did not incapacitate them for further fighting.
However, with a casualty list that numbers nearly half the original
8000 men who entered battle, the official reports account for only 57
United States marines who have been captured by the enemy. This
includes those who were wounded far in advance of their lines and who
fell into the hands of Germans while unable to resist.

Memorial Day shall henceforth have a greater, deeper significance for
America, for it was on that day, May 30, 1918, that our country really
received its first call to battle--the battle in which American troops
had the honor of stopping the German drive on Paris, throwing back the
Prussian hordes in attack after attack, and beginning the retreat which
lasted until Imperial Germany was beaten to its knees and its
emissaries appealing for an armistice under the flag of truce. And to
the United States marines, fighting side by side with equally brave and
equally courageous men in the American army, to that faithful sea and
land force of the navy, fell the honor of taking over the lines where
the blow of the Prussian would strike the hardest, the line that was
nearest Paris, and where, should a breach occur, all would be lost.

The world knows today that the United States marines held that line;
that they blocked the advance that was rolling on toward Paris at a
rate of six or seven miles a day; that they met the attack in American
fashion and with American heroism; that marines and soldiers of the
American army threw back the crack guard divisions of Germany, broke
their advance, and then, attacking, drove them back in the beginning of
a retreat that was not to end until the cease firing signal sounded
for the end of the world's greatest war.

It was on the evening of May 30, after a day dedicated to the memory of
their comrades who had fallen in the training days and in the Verdun
sector, that the 5th and 6th Regiments and the 6th Machine Gun
Battalion, United States marines, each received the following orders:--

Advance information official received that this regiment will move at
10 P.M. 30 May by bus to new area. All trains shall be loaded at once
and arrangements hastened. Wagons, when loaded, will move to Serans to
form train.


All through the night there was fevered activity among the marines.
Then, the next morning, the long trains of camions, busses, and trucks,
each carrying its full complement of United States marines, went
forward on a road which at one place wound within less than ten miles
of Paris, toward Meaux and the fighting line.

Through the town of Meaux went the long line of camions and to the
village of Montriel-aux-Lions, less than four miles from the rapidly
advancing German line. On this trip the camions containing the
Americans were the only traffic traveling in the direction of the
Germans; everything else was going the other way--refugees, old men and
women, small children, riding on every conceivable conveyance, many
trudging along the side of the road driving a cow or calf before them,
all of them covered with the white dust which the camion caravan was
whirling up as it rolled along; along that road only one organization
was advancing, the United States marines.

At last, their destination reached early on the morning of June 2, they
disembarked, stiff and tired after a journey of more than seventy-two
miles, but as they formed their lines and marched onward in the
direction of the line they were to hold they were determined and
cheerful. That evening the first field message from the Fourth Brigade
to Major General Omar Bundy, commanding the 2d Division, went forward:--

Second Battalion, 6th Marines, in line from Le Thiolet through
Clarembauts Woods to Triangle to Lucy. Instructed to hold line. First
Battalion, 6th marines, going into line from Lucy through Hill 142.
Third Battalion in support at La Voie du Chatel, which is also the post
command of the 6th Marines. Sixth Machine Gun Battalion distributed at
line.


Meanwhile the 5th Regiment was moving into line, machine guns were
advancing, and the artillery taking its position. That night the men
and officers of the marines slept in the open, many of them in a field
that was green with unharvested wheat, awaiting the time when they
should be summoned to battle. The next day at 5 o'clock, the afternoon
of June 2, began the battle of Chateau-Thierry, with the Americans
holding the line against the most vicious wedge of the German advance.

The advance of the Germans was across a wheat field, driving at Hill
165 and advancing in smooth columns. The United States marines,
trained to keen observation upon the rifle range, nearly every one of
them wearing a marksman's medal or better, that of the sharpshooter or
expert rifleman, did not wait for those gray-clad hordes to advance
nearer.

Calmly they set their sights and aimed with the same precision that
they had shown upon the rifle ranges at Paris Island, Mare Island, and
Quantico. Incessantly their rifles cracked, and with their fire came
the support of the artillery. The machine-gun fire, incessant also,
began to make its inroads upon the advancing forces. Closer and closer
the shrapnel burst to its targets. Caught in a seething wave of
machine-gun fire, of scattering shrapnel, of accurate rifle fire, the
Germans found themselves in a position in which further advance could
only mean absolute suicide. The lines hesitated. They stopped. They
broke for cover, while the marines raked the woods and ravines in which
they had taken refuge with machine gun and rifle to prevent them making
another attempt to advance by infiltrating through.

Above, a French airplane was checking up on the artillery fire.
Surprised by the fact that men should deliberately set their sights,
adjust their range, and then fire deliberately at an advancing foe,
each man picking his target, instead of firing merely in the direction
of the enemy, the aviator signaled below Bravo! In the rear that
word was echoed again and again. The German drive on Paris had been
stopped.

For the next few days the fighting took on the character of pushing
forth outposts and determining the strength of the enemy. Now, the
fighting had changed. The Germans, mystified that they should have run
against a stone wall of defense just when they believed that their
advance would be easiest, had halted, amazed; then prepared to defend
the positions they had won with all the stubbornness possible. In the
black recesses of Belleau Wood the Germans had established nest after
nest of machine guns. There in the jungle of matted underbrush, of
vines, of heavy foliage, they had placed themselves in positions they
believed impregnable. And this meant that unless they could be routed,
unless they could be thrown back, the breaking of the attack of June 2
would mean nothing. There would come another drive and another. The
battle of Chateau-Thierry was therefore not won and could not be won
until Belleau Wood had been cleared of the enemy.

It was June 6 that the attack of the American troops began against that
wood and its adjacent surroundings, with the wood itself and the towns
of Torcy and Bouresches forming the objectives. At 5 o'clock the
attack came, and there began the tremendous sacrifices which the Marine
Corps gladly suffered that the German fighters might be thrown back.

The marines fought strictly according to American methods--a rush, a
halt, a rush again, in four-wave formation, the rear waves taking over
the work of those who had fallen before them, passing over the bodies
of their dead comrades and plunging ahead, until they, too, should be
torn to bits. But behind those waves were more waves and the attack
went on.

Men fell like flies; the expression is that of an officer writing
from the field. Companies that had entered the battle 250 strong
dwindled to fifty and sixty, with a sergeant in command; but the attack
did not falter. At 9:45 o'clock that night Bouresches was taken by
Lieutenant James F. Robertson and twenty odd men of his platoon; these
soon were joined by two reenforcing platoons. Then came the enemy
counter-attacks, but the marines held.

In Belleau Wood the fighting had been literally from trees to tree,
stronghold to stronghold; and it was a fight which must last for weeks
before its accomplishment in victory. Belleau Wood was a jungle, its
every rocky formation forming a German machine-gun nest, almost
impossible to reach by artillery or grenade fire. There was only one
way to wipe out these nests--by the bayonet. And by this method they
were wiped out, for United States marines, bare chested, shouted their
battle cry of E-e-e-e-e y-a-a-h-h-h-yip! charged straight into the
murderous fire from those guns, and won!

Out of the number that charged, in more than one instance, only one
would reach the stronghold. There, with his bayonet as his only
weapon, he would either kill or capture the defenders of the nest, and
then swinging the gun about in its position, turn it against the
remaining German positions in the forest. Such was the character of
the fighting in Belleau Wood, fighting which continued until July 6,
when after a short relief the invincible Americans finally were taken
back to the rest billet for recuperation.

In all the history of the Marine Corps there is no such battle as that
one in Belleau Wood. Fighting day and night without relief, without
sleep, often without water, and for days without hot rations, the
marines met and defeated the best divisions that Germany could throw
into the line.

The heroism and doggedness of that battle are unparalleled. Time after
time officers seeing their lines cut to pieces, seeing their men so dog
tired that they even fell asleep under shell fire, hearing their
wounded calling for the water that they were unable to supply, seeing
men fight on after they had been wounded and until they dropped
unconscious; time after time officers seeing these things, believing
that the very limit of human endurance had been reached, would send
back messages to their post command that their men were exhausted. But
in answer to this would come the word that the lines must hold, and, if
possible, those lines must attack. And the lines obeyed. Without
water, without food, without rest, they went forward--and forward every
time to victory. Companies had been so torn and lacerated by losses
that they were hardly platoons, but they held their lines and advanced
them. In more than one case companies lost every officer, leaving a
sergeant and sometimes a corporal to command, and the advance continued.

After thirteen days in this inferno of fire a captured German officer
told with his dying breath of a fresh division of Germans that was
about to be thrown into the battle to attempt to wrest from the marines
that part of the wood they had gained. The marines, who for days had
been fighting only on their sheer nerve, who had been worn out from
nights of sleeplessness, from lack of rations, from terrific shell and
machine-gun fire, straightened their lines and prepared for the attack.
It came--as the dying German officer had predicted.

At 2 o'clock on the morning of June 13 it was launched by the Germans
along the whole front. Without regard for men, the enemy hurled his
forces against Bouresches and the Bois de Belleau, and sought to win
back what had been taken from Germany by the Americans. The orders
were that these positions must be taken at all costs; that the utmost
losses in men must be endured that the Bois de Belleau and Bouresches
might fall again into German hands. But the depleted lines of the
marines held; the men who had fought on their nerve alone for days once
more showed the mettle of which they were made. With their backs to
the trees and bowlders of the Bois de Belleau, with their sole shelter
the scattered ruins of Bouresches, the thinning lines of the marines
repelled the attack and crashed back the new division which had sought
to wrest the position from them.

And so it went. Day after day, night after night, while time after
time messages like the following traveled to the post command:--

Losses heavy. Difficult to get runners through. Some have never
returned. Morale excellent, but troops about all in. Men exhausted.


Exhausted, but holding on. And they continued to hold on in spite of
every difficulty. Advancing their lines slowly day by day, the marines
finally prepared their positions to such an extent that the last rush
for the possession of the wood could be made. Then, on June 24,
following a tremendous barrage, the struggle began.

The barrage literally tore the woods to pieces, but even its immensity
could not wipe out all the nests that remained, the emplacements that
were behind almost every clump of bushes, every jagged, rough group of
bowlders. But those that remained were wiped out by the American
method of the rush and the bayonet, and in the days that followed
every foot of Belleau Wood was cleared of the enemy and held by the
frayed lines of the Americans.

It was, therefore, with the feeling of work well done that the depleted
lines of the marines were relieved in July, that they might be filled
with replacements and made ready for the grand offensive in the
vicinity of Soissons, July 18. And in recognition of their sacrifice
and bravery this praise was forthcoming from the French:--

Army Headquarters, June 30, 1918.

In view of the brilliant conduct of the Fourth Brigade of the Second
United States Division, which in a spirited fight took Bouresches and
the important strong point of Bois de Belleau, stubbornly defended by a
large enemy force, the General commanding the Sixth Army orders that
henceforth, in all official papers, the Bois de Belleau shall be named
Bois de la Brigade de Marine.

DIVISION GENERAL DEGOUTTE,
Commanding Sixth Army.


On July 18 the marines were again called into action in the vicinity of
Soissons, near Tigny and Vierzy. In the face of a murderous fire from
concentrated machine guns, which contested every foot of their advance,
the United States marines moved forward until the severity of their
casualties necessitated that they dig in and hold the positions they
had gained. Here, again, their valor called forth official praise.

Then came the battle for the St. Mihiel salient. On the night of Sept.
11 the 2d Division took over a line running from Remenauville to Limey,
and on the night of Sept. 14 and the morning of Sept. 15 attacked, with
two days' objectives ahead of them. Overcoming the enemy resistance,
they romped through to the Rupt de Mad, a small river, crossed it on
stone bridges, occupied Thiacourt, the first day's objective, scaled
the heights just beyond it, pushed on to a line running from the
Zammes-Joulney Ridges to the Binvaux Forest, and there rested, with the
second day's objectives occupied by 2:50 o'clock of the first day. The
casualties of the division were about 1000, of which 134 were killed.
Of these, about half were marines. The captures in which the marines
participated were 80 German officers, 3200 men, ninety-odd cannon, and
vast stores.

But even further honors were to befall the fighting, landing, and
building force, of which the navy is justly proud. In the early part
of October it became necessary for the Allies to capture the bald,
jagged ridge twenty miles due east of Rheims, known as Blanc Mont
Ridge. Here the armies of Germany and the Allies had clashed more than
once, and attempt after attempt had been made to wrest it from German
hands. It was a keystone of the German defense, the fall of which
would have a far-reaching effect upon the enemy armies. To the glory
of the United States marines, let it be said, that they were again a
part of that splendid 2d Division which swept forward in the attack
which freed Blanc Mont Ridge from German hands, pushed its way down the
slopes, and occupied the level ground just beyond, thus assuring a
victory, the full import of which can best be judged by the order of
General Lejeune, following the battle:--

France, Oct. 11, 1918.

Officers and Men of the 2d Division:--

It is beyond my power of expression to describe fitly my admiration for
your heroism. You attacked magnificently and you seized Blanc Mont
Ridge, the keystone of the arch constituting the enemy's main position.
You advanced beyond the ridge, breaking the enemy's lines, and you held
the ground gained with a tenacity which is unsurpassed in the annals of
war.

As a direct result of your victory, the German armies east and west of
Rheims are in full retreat, and by drawing on yourselves several German
divisions from other parts of the front you greatly assisted the
victorious advance of the Allied armies between Cambrai and St. Quentin.

Your heroism and the heroism of our comrades who died on the
battlefield will live in history forever, and will be emulated by the
young men of our country for generations to come.

To be able to say when this war is finished, I belonged to the 2d
Division; I fought with it at the battle of Blanc Mont Ridge, will be
the highest honor that can come to any man.

JOHN A. LEJEUNE,
Major General, United States Marine Corps, Commanding.


Thus it is that the United States marines have fulfilled the glorious
traditions of their corps in this their latest duty as the soldiers
who go to sea. Their sharpshooting--and in one regiment 93 per cent
of the men wear the medal of a marksman, a sharpshooter, or an expert
rifleman--has amazed soldiers of European armies, accustomed merely to
shooting in the general direction of the enemy. Under the fiercest
fire they have calmly adjusted their sights, aimed for their man, and
killed him, and in bayonet attacks their advance on machine-gun nests
has been irresistible.

In the official citation lists more than one American marine is
credited with taking an enemy machine gun single handed, bayoneting its
crew and then turning the gun against the foe. In one battle alone,
that of Belleau Wood, the citation lists bear the names of fully 500
United States marines who so distinguished themselves in battle as to
call forth the official commendation of their superior officers.

More than faithful in every emergency, accepting hardships with
admirable morale, proud of the honor of taking their place as shock
troops for the American legions, they have fulfilled every glorious
tradition of their corps, and they have given to the world a list of
heroes whose names will go down to all history.





Next: When The Tide Turned

Previous: The United States Marines



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