The Soldiers Who Go To Sea

: Winning A Cause World War Stories

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,

ou 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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.