Synthése faite par Bradley Omanson, merci pour son aide




In connection with the planned employment of the Second Division in a large scale counteroffensive (Foch, Directive No 2-- E.M. No 64, 3 April 1918) to be launched north of Paris, near Amiens, on 15 June 1918, the Fourth Brigade, after full relief at the Verdun positions on 13 and 14 May, started to move toward the new area located in the department of the Oise.

Proceeding from the Verdun area by camion, boxcar, and on foot, the various elements of the brigade, moving west, assembled in small towns a few kilometers east of Vitry le Francois. During the few days between 13 and 18 May when the brigade stopped in this area, a general police of personnel and equipment was carried out and a light training schedule was put into effect.


15 May (morning): Entrained for Marne district. Found springtime countryside and fields, peaceful people and homes. Headquarters went to Pontheon; battalions, to surrounding towns. Twenty-four hours' rest and policing of command. Usual routine established, with litter drills, instruction in first aid, and the application of splints. Special attention given to gas mask drill. Hikes taken wearing masks greater part of time. Remained in this town 3 days.Orders again broke training and rest.

18 May: Regimental Headquarters moved to Boury (Seine et Oise).Regiment entrained at Vitry le Francois at night.

19 May (morning): Detrained at Isle Adam, north of Paris, from which point hiked to town assigned to the battalion...

(End of Log entries)

Medical personnel conducted daily sanitary inspections of the town's (Pontheon) billets, latrines, corrals, water chlorinating, and messing arrangements. Morning and evening sick call routine was established at the regimental and each of the battalion aid stations. The few patients who required hospital care were evacuated by divisional ambulances which made daily tours throughout the brigade area.

An effort was made by the staffs of the regimental and machine gun battalion surgeons to catch up on delayed reports and straghten a growing snarl in naval medical records.

The second stage of the division's movement to the Chaumont-en-Vexin zone, in the rear of Montidier, started on 19 May when the brigade elements marched to Vitry-le-Francois and entrained in boxcars.

The following day detrainment was effected in the vicinity of Parmion l'Isle Adam, and the completion of the movment to billets in adjacent towns was carried our by marching.



15 May (morning)-- continued-- ...Period of intensive training in open warfare begun--an angle still to be learned. Hospital corpsmen have attained high degree of efficiency in first aid. With help of trained litter bearers, they are learning knack of giving aid in open. Regiment accompanied on all maneuvers by medical units. Valuable information gained in establishment of aid stations and collection of wounded at central stations for evacuation to rear by ambulances. Routine sanitary inspections held daily and hospital corpsmen instructed in a new field nomenclature (Army) to apply to field tags.

Mild wave of influenza, causing slight depletion of ranks for a few days. No fatalities. Most recovering in 3 or 4 days.

(End of Log entries)

For the next ten days (May 20-30) the brigade remained in place and devoted the time to intensive drills in combat operations and terrain exercises. Reconnoitering and quartering parties proceeded to the Cantigny area preparatory to moving up of the division to relieve the First Division, A.E.F., then engaged in the preliminaries of the planned offense.

The spring season had arrived and the weather was favorable. The men were well billeted, meals were regular, and the inhabitants were cordial. While practicing at mimic warfare over a peaceful countryside, after having received indoctrination in actual warfare at Verdun, the men gained self-confidence. They were light-hearted and cheerful. The columns

whistled and sang while on the march, and catchy songs were originated.

It was here that the famous Marine Corps song "Hinky-Dinky, Parley-Vous," first heard at Blevaincourt, Vosges, came into its own, and new verses were added to it every day. Decoration Day (1918) marked the end of a pleasant fortnight for the Marine brigade.


"There will be no drills or field exercises on Decoration Day, May 30th. The provisions of paragraph 440, Army Regulations, will be carried out in all organizations as far as practicable. At noon each regiment and separate organization will be assembled under arms at a convenient place near their respective headquarters, and the band will play 'Departed Days' If the bands have not this music, they will play some other appropriate airs."


Before the proposed counteroffensive of the Allies (in which the Second Division was to take a part) could get started, the Germans launched a strong attack on the Chemin des Dames, between Soissons and Rheims. On 29 May their attack was extended and their advance in the center continued to the Marne River which was reached on 30 May 1918.This brought the German lines as close as 40 miles to Paris.

The situation was one of alarm to the Allies. Available reserves to stem the tide had diminished to nine divisions (Petain to Foch, Letter [E.M. No 334] 1 June 1918). The Germans on the Marne were flushed with their successes. Any further German gains could lead to serious results. A new fresh force was urgently needed; thus, the Second Division was abruptly ordered to recall all parties and units that were already proceeding on the original mission, which was to relieve the First Division. The Second Division was loaded into trucks and proceeded with all haste to the Chateau-Thierry area in order to provide support to the French who were being driven back.


The armies of the Crown Prince were driving furiously between Soissons and Rheims. This thrust for Paris had driven a dangerous salient into the Allies' line. The military situation was critical. In an effort to stem this tide the Second Division was selected to be placed at the southward-moving apex of the salient.

There was not enough time for the issuance of formal orders from division headquarters to the units of the Fourth Brigade; therefore, instructions to move into the new Marne breech were sent by telephone and courier. Such brief orders began arriving during the evening of 30 May.

The brigade acted with precision and alertness; thus it was possible for the units to get on busses and get started in the new direction between 0300 and 1000 on 31 May.

The long line of trucks carrying the infantry of the Second Division rushed with all possible speed through the suburbs of Paris toward Meaux and the advancing line of the Germans.

With the driving forward of the brigade in French camions, 31 May marked not only a day of harrowing experience for everybody in the division but the turning point in the transformation of officers and men from members of a military organization into hard and seasoned soldiers of one of the finest fighting organizations the world had seen. The day (the seventeenth after having left the trench sector at Verdun) was the beginning of a new phase for the doughboys, marines and naval medical personnel of the Second Division.

Across a country of never-to-be-forgotten sights, on empty stomachs, after a long night in ranks under full packs, the ride ended 36 hours later with the division forming a line astride the Paris-Metz Highway between Vaux, Bouresches, and a wooded hillock, the Bois de Belleau.

The Marne River and its low plain to the south was only a few kilometers in the rear. Paris was to the west, less than 2 hours by automobile. French troops were falling back upon our forming lines--intermingling in depths at various places--and the conquering Germans were pressing toward us ahead, from the north and east.


31 May: For reasons unknown the camions did not arrive until 0300. Little sleep was had last night. We were rushed with all possible speed--truck after truck, an endless serpentine chain over roads via the suburbs of Paris in the direction of the advancing lines of Germans toward the Marne. The motor chain wormed and halted for 16 hours over hill and plain to Meaux, where a forced march was begun to the Chateau-Thierry sector.

The day is hot and dry. The end-to-end camions are crowded with tired, dirty, and perspiring men as they plough through the thick fog of choking dust and hot oil and exhaust fumes. The afternoon sun is obscured by the pall of heat and dust; it diffuses a weird red over sky and country. Atmosphere is tense with sense of danger, violence, and


Tired French "Annamese" drivers fall asleep at the wheel. Serious accidents averted on congested roads only by sudden yelling of men in the trucks. Near Meaux first of an almost endless stream of refugees encountered, trudging along helplessly, driving before them a cow or a goat or leading a hay cart piled high with household goods and bewildered and tired children and old women. Aisne-Marne Canal, where it passes the locks which drop it under the Paris-Metz Highway at Meaux, choked with barges filled with small children from up-country schools and convents.

An occasional nun among them handles jammed tillers while trying to guide fright-stunned children in a forced exodus. Their homes had been in the path of the advancing foe. Marines see at close hand the immediate end results of war.

Just after dark, a short distance east of Meaux, the tired, hungry, and dirty battalion left the busses. There had been no sleep the previous night. The men dropped in their tracks throughout a wheat field along the side of the road. Meaux was raided by enemy planes and several bombs fell dangerously close to the sleeping men. Only a few were awakened by the loud explosions. There were no casualties, only exhaustion. French troops create disorder by falling back. Our men want to fight.




BELLEAU WOOD, 1 June - 5 July 1918, Pt 1

Summary of Medico-Military Operations

On 1 June an order of the French Army in the emergency directed the concentration of the Second Division around Montreuil aux Lions. The Ninth Infantry and the Sixth Marines were the first troops to occupy a portion of the line. This line was generally north and south through Le Thiolet, on the Chateau-Thierry-Paris road. The French held the line in rear of Bussieres-Torcy Hill 133, south of Bouresches Hill 138. The Second Division was in support. The French had orders to drop back through the American lines.


1 June (0330) Started toward Montrieul au Lyons--all men eager.Hiked until 1300, moving 55 minutes and resting 5, covering 26 kilometers. Little rations--excessive heat. Detachments of French Chausseurs met along the road, tired and worn. Poured their red wine (pinard) and gave it to the grateful marines as they passed. Altogether the command went along in good condition. The few who fell out caught up with the main body as it reached the heights east of this town. Rations issued with 2 days' reserve. Each man kept his issue intact.

After a rest of about 3 hours the regiment moved to Pyramid Farm where regimental headquarters were established. The Second Battalion moved into a first line position northeast of the town of Marigny to support the French. The First Battalion moved over to the right to act as an advanced guard for the Twenty-third Infantry. They remained in line for 24 hours when they moved to a ravine northeast of Marigny.

In the face of the onrushing foe Marigny had been deserted hurriedly by its civil population who left almost all their possessions behind. In many homes, food for the evening meal was left cooking on the stoves. Stray stock and rabbits found wandering around the fields and in

barns and hutches improved scanty rations of the men. Troops enjoyed the strange luxury of sleeping on big red comforters and soft pillows in deserted farm homes. It was not long, however, before Marigny became a target for enemy artillery. Destruction from shellfire widespread. Aid station moved to ravine outside of town.

Treating wounded French, continually coming in; also a few Marines struck by enemy shell fragments. Medical supplies were brought up by ambulances to the regimental aid station in ravine, distrubuted to the battalions. Eleven casualties this date--the first severe casualties from high explosive shells. From this time on regimental and battalion aid stations were under heavy bombardment.

Some gas shells found their way toward us--phosgene and mustard--not in sufficient quantity to cause casualties. Three French ambulance units assigned to regiment. Working temporarily in conjunction with division ambulances, evacuating from front to regimental station and then to field hospitals, 3 kilos in our immediate rear, Bezu.

French exhausted. Come back through our lines wearing the expressions of men who had done their best but had found the enemy overwhelming. Tired to death. Need rest. Discouraged by increasing hordes of enemy. Enemy now can be plainly seen from heights back of our lines, advancing through the ripening wheat.

In this area warfare of movement has started. Aid stations set up near roads, paths, streets, and gullies, commonly used by traffic (foot, animal, and motorized) moving to and from a changing frontline position.

We use undamaged rooms and basements of houses, barns, builldings, and culverts beneath roads for some protection from observation and rifle and machine-gun bullets and for quick change to a new location if an aid station caves in or is destroyed by bomb or shellfire.



IN FRANCE IN WORLD WAR I, pp 45-46, 51.

BELLEAU WOOD, 1 June - 5 July 1918, Pt 2

Summary of Medico-Military Operations (continued):

Early on 2 June the Twenty-Third Infantry, reinforced by the First Battalion, Fifth Marines, Fifth Machine Gun Battalion, and a company of Engineers, marched to fill the gap in the French line, from Bois de Veuilly Premont toward Gandelu.


3 June: All day the regiment has been under heavy shellfire of high explosives, shrapnel, and some gas. A number of casualties occurred in all battalions and many French were evacuated through our station.

4 June: Unit had its first casualty--a hospital corpsman struck in shoulder with a piece of high explosive: degree slight. All stations well located and evacuation of all wounded direct to ambulances; little carry necessary. Things beginning to run smoothly after excitement of first day under heavy shell fire and rifle fire. Wounded properly and promptly cared for; evacuation to field hospitals accomplished in less than 1 hour.

Summary of Medical-Military Operations (continued):

On 5 June the Second Division line extended from the southwest corner of Bois de la Marette, through Bois de la Marette, through Bois de Clairimbaults, Triangle, Lucy le Bocage, woods northwest of Lucy, and through a point on the Champillon-Bussieres road, 800 meters northwest of Lucy (all inclusive). Several Boche attacks had been successfully repulsed. The Germans hesitated before the fresh troops. They made good use of artillery and shelled the Americans vigorously.


5 June: Regimental aid station moved to town of la Voie du Chatel. Took over station vacated by Sixth Regiment. Preparations made for attack on large scale. Ambulance brought up dressings of all kinds, antitoxin, litters, blankets, shell-wound dressings, and various types of splints, chiefly Thomas.

The Greely units of morphine, supplied through the American Red Cross (later by the division meidical supply depot) were the only practicable means and often the only means of giving morphine at the front. These units, containing one-fourth grain of morphine sulfate in 1 cubic-centimenter of solution, were small collapsible tubes with attached needle and screw-top glass needle-guard which assured sterility under all conditions of handling. They were easily transported in pocket or pouch and permitted the adminstration of the drug anywhere on the field without delay or difficulty.




BELLEAU WOOD, 1 June - 5 July 1918, Pt 3

Summary of Medico-Military Operations (continued)

Early on the morning of 6 June the Second Division began a series of attacks on the German front, which were to continue for almost a month and would end with the capture of Belleau Wood and Vaux. The First Battalion, Fifth Marines, went over the top on Hill 142, north of Champillon, and drove into the German lines for more than a kilometer toward Torcy. At 1700 the attack began on the Bois de Belleau and Bouresches. The town of Bouresches was captured but the advance into the

Bois de Belleau was checked. Fighting continued throughout the night. The usual German counterattacks followed but were repulsed.


6 June: The battalion was ordered to make the attack. At 1900 the companies moved out of the ravine and proceeded to the town of Champillon where they went into line northeast of the town at 0345. The battalion immediately attacked, and, soon after, wounded started coming into the battalion station, on the outskirts of the town of Champillon. Champillon has been under continuous heavy bombardment. As soon as the station was established, liason between the regimental and First Battalion aid stations was made. Ambulances of the French sanitary unit came up bringing litters and supplies. Despite heavy shelling ambulances have been able to make the aid station. This simplifies evacuation of wounded.

Hospital corpsmen went "over" with their companies and perfomed their duties admirably.

Advance dressing stations established just behind first line where wounded were collected and ambulatory sent to the battalion station. Litter cases transported a distance of about 500 yards. At the battalion station examinations and sorting done. Evacuated from battalion go through regimental aid station where a check on each case is made.

Returning ambulances bring fresh supplies, litters and blankets, so at no time have we been short of these necessities. Sonme cases of diarrhea developing. Only a few evacuations because of sickness made. The Second Battalion station located in Lucy le Bocage. Their position enabled them to care for all casualties of their battalion in line. Lucy likewise was under heavy shellfire and gas. A direct hit made on this station set the building on fire, necessitating evacuation. A new station soon established in a cellar, and evacuations continued from this point. The Third Battalion, acting as brigade reserve, dug in in the nearby woods.

During this engagement regiment suffered heavily from shellfire and gas, but forced enemy to give ground. Enemy losses obviously heavier. Enemy wounded and prisoners came through all stations in greater numbers than our own. Everything practicable was done for them. The character of the wounds encountered here fall chiefly into the tearing, lacerating, crushing, and amputating types, accompanied by all degrees of fractures, hemorrhage, and destruction of soft tissue.

Injuries of the extremities were most common, followed by those of the abdomen and chest. Despite massive injury, shock has not been common. This is probably due to early treatment, given by company hospital corpsmen, and undelayed evacuation through the regiment to field


Great attempts have been made to control hemorrhage, immobilize fractures, secure adequate dressings on all wounds, give morphine, antitetanic serum, hot coffee, cover patients with blankets and promptly evacuate them from the area. Prisoners recently captured were temporarily employed as litter bearers, facilitating treatment and evacuation which  otherwise would have been delayed.

Arrangements were made by the battalion supply officers to get one cooked meal to the first line every night. This meal, with coffee, is brought up under heavy shellfire and rationed out to the men. In addition to this cooked meal, the men receive two iron rations, water details supply the lines with fresh water (chlorinated) as frequently as possible, under the most difficult circumstances. As a whole, the men are standing up under these conditions well

2-6 June: Repeated attacks by the enemy repulsed. Our men had seen little of active fighting until this time and had not realized the horrors of war. They have played with death during these first days of June. (Lt Strott later adds the following note: They could not have realized the seriousness of the situation. It was not until later that they understood that during these days the fate of Paris and the Allied cause depended on them and that a second Marne, although less bloody but as momentous as that of 1914, was being fought. It was the turning point of the war. From this time until the Armistice, the Germans never went ahead again).

All medical personnel have been superb in meeting and disposing of the unprecedented tasks with which they have been confronted. Without thought of rest, relief, or restoration, devote themselves wholly to their gruesome labor.

The Marine brigade has undergone its first real baptism of fire. The heroic acts that numerous hospital corpsmen have perfomed during furious assaults in the open and in the most advanced positions have thrilled the entire command, and, in no small way, contributed to the effort that has so far led to our military success.

A seriously wounded patient who came through this station told the story of a pharmacist's mate, second class, Frank C Welte, who died today.

Welte was attached to the Twentieth Company which was holding the first line lying between Le Bois de la Chateau and the town of Lucy le Bocage. His company, with the Forty-fifth and Forty-seventh, was ordered to attack the advancing German forces at 1500 today. The objective lay in a northerly direction, across a wheat field, and involved the southern section of the strongly fortified Bois de Belleau.

Bois de Belleau is an almost impenetrable tangled forest with rock formations admirably adapted for defense. The surrounding country is dotted with woods and fields of ripening wheat, with red patches of wild poppy. The terrain, which favored the enemy, is generally level except for a few wooded hills. These afforded commanding positions for the enemy to sweep the roads and open country with shell and machine-gun fire.

The attacking troops, moving across the open wheat field, were subjected to murderous flanking fire from machine guns, and many men went down.

Welte was swamped with many wounded while in this open field, about 130 yards short of the woods.

He had dressed four wounded marines, calmly writing their tags, and had started on the fifth man when he was struck in the back and right heel, while kneeling over his patient. Fragments of a bursting high-explosive shell painfully wounded him. He continued dressing his patient and filled in the diagnosis tag when his head was piecrced by a machine-gun bullet. He gave his book of diagnosis tags to his patient, asking him to "turn them over to the chief" when he arived at the battalion station. With the delivery of the tags to the patient, Welte died. To the moment of death he thus carried out the last and most important detail of his duty, with coolness, deliberation, and devotion. Hospital corpsmen have helped maintain the high morale of the troops. When a man's mind is weakened by physical and nervous exhaustion, frequently it is the hospital corpsman who talks it over and boosts the weary one up, so that he can take new hold and continue his unpleasant task. A platoon was charging a machine-gun nest in Belleau Wood. Several unsuccessful attempts to take it had been made, with heavy losses.

The handful of men left had drawn back prior to making another charge. The company hospital corpsman, with considerable blunt emphasis to add to the forcefulness of his demand, yelled out in the thick of the hand-to-hand fighting, "Get that gun you -------------! I'm here to take care of you!"

The gun was captured shortly afterward in a deadly grapple.

A gallant Marine officer, with only a handful of his original platoon, captured the town of Bouresches-- a key position of our front.

He cited the hospital corpsman attached to his force, and pointing out the effect the hospital corpsman's presence had on the morale of the men during the assault: "At a time when the losses threatened to prevent the success of the operation, the heroic conduct of this man steadied the lines and spurred the attacking platoons on through the barrage."

In an aid station located in a little stone farmhouse, about midnight, there were a number of wounded lying about on straw or propped up against the walls waiting their turn for dressing and evacuation. The Boche was laying down a barrage between the station and the woods while attempting a counterattack. The orchard in the rear of the building and the courtyard in front were being plowed up by the raining shells. The old structure was swaying, and those laboring unceasingly within over the wounded had a secret conviction that their work would be suddenly concluded at any moment. The medical officer and several hospital corpsmen were setting a compound fracture in a Thomas splint and dressing other multiple wounds. No word was spoken; the closer the shells fell to the building the faster the group toiled under candlelight.

When morning broke the barrage had lifted. The station was untouched. The night's grist of wounded had been cared for and sent back  to field hospitals, Subsequently, the regimental chief pharmacist's mate asked the medical officer if he had been aware of the proximity of the bursting shells during the night and the threatening death to those in the station. The medical offcer replied that he had been acutely conscious of all that had occurred, but more important, he had realized that each hospital corpsman, although he knew the nearness of death, never showed the slightest sign of fear. He had observed them carrying on without hesitation, comforting and quieting the nerve-worn wounded, and the sight had filled him with pride and confidence in their ability.



IN FRANCE IN WORLD WAR I, pp 46-49, 51.

Note: total casualties to the Marine Brigade on this date were 39 officers and 1059 men, leaving the Brigade in a dangerously weakened condition. Roughly a third of the total casualties the Brigade would suffer at Belleau Wood occured during this one day. These casualties exceeded the total number of casualties the Marine Corps had suffered in the whole of its history up to that time. The Marine Corps would not suffer a worse day until its assault on Tarawa during the next war.

On this same date, twenty-six years later, American blood would again be spilled in terrible amounts on French soil-- not on the Marne this time, but on the shores of Normandy.

BELLEAU WOOD, 1 June - 5 July 1918, Pt 4

Summary of Medico-Military Operations (continued)

On 7, 8, and 9 June attempts were made to capture the Bois de Belleau, without artillery preparation. Each time little progress was made.

Early on the morning of 10 June, after a thorough artillery preparation, the Fourth Marine Brigade attacked the enemy in the Bois de Belleau and gained its objective: east-and-west line through Hill 169.

The next day another attack was launched early and the troops attacked and captured all of woods except the northern corner.


8-12 June: The pressure of active fighting has been maintained day and night, both in painstaking operations against strong enemy positions in Belleau Wood and against frequent strong forays of the enemy against our own thinly held lines. Machine-gun and artillery fire has been constant and the air alive with the whine and zip of all calibers of shells and sizes of fragments.

During periods when action is intense cases of sickness disappear just as the high excitement of the men in battle pressure dissipates fatigue and hunger. An example of the  symptom-banishing effects of battle excitement was brought to my attention. A former well-known National

League baseball player is a marine sergeant in one of our assault companies. Before noon he passed by the station with eight German prisoners whom he had just taken. Their hands were still held above their heads and all their buttons were still intact. The sergeant was cheerful and appeared in top condition as he called to me that he wanted to tell me something on his way back from regimental headquarters (where he was proceeding to deliver his prisoners). By midafternoon he returned, looking as cheerful as he had appeared earlier, although he had walked several miles and had not eaten.

He apologized for bothering us while giving treatment to the wounded constantly arriving, but went on to say that he had a large mass in the perineum which interfered with his walking, and he thought we could tell him what it was. He said he had not had a stool for 9 days.

Wounded men were lying around and coming in with all manner of injury when an examination was made with the patient lying on the ground. A hard round mass, approximately 5 inches in diameter was disclosed. It partly extruded from the fully extended sphincter ani. The exposed surface of the compaction was hard and resistant and the overloaded rectum protruded to fill the perineal space. With the aid of glycerine and manual manipulation a huge fecalith, fully as large as a man's head, was delivered. Remarkably, the delivery was made without tearing the sphincter. Following removal of the mass, strong recurrent peristalsis, accompanied by pain, groans and cries of the patient, forced out huge masses of soft feces. An hour later, with a small straddle dressing (adapted from a small shell-wound pad) applied over the remaining prolapsis, the sergeant went on his way to rejoin his company and perform acts which were later rewarded with a Distinguished Service Cross.

14 June: There was much gas thrown by the enemy during the night and early this morning. For about 4 hours a large area was gassed with what apparently was mustard gas with some phosgene added; experience, however, reduced to a low incidence the casualties in our battalion.

Approximately 600 were evacuated through the aid stations of the regiment but only about 250 were men of our own regiment. Most of the men were gassed while lying in close support of the front line in Belleau Wood or while in the small ravine that ran along back of the woods.

During these first 2 weeks (when we had the heaviest casualites of the 6 weeks' stay on this front) the care and evacuation of the wounded presented an enormous problem. The bandsmen who had been used as stretcher bearers suffered heavy casualties. Their work was closely allied to that of the Hospital Corps, and they were a part of the medical organization during combat. Owing to their heavy losses, orders had been issued rightly prohibiting their further use as stretcher bearers. Twelve men from the line of each company are being detailed to the medical organization for training and use as litter bearers. The men detailed were ordered to report to the regimental surgeons and were to be available for instruction periods. This gave each company hospital corpsman 12 men, or 48 to each battalion surgeon; 144 additional men to the regimental surgeon. Casualties occuring in their ranks were replaced from their respective companies. While their work was strictly that of bearers, they were given considerable instruction in first aid, so that they might meet the emergencies of the battlefield and be of greater assistance to company hospital corpsmen. These line litter bearers wore brassards of blue with "L.B." in white in contradistinction to the hospital corpsman's Geneva Cross brassard. These men did excellent work and were of inestimable value to the medical organization.

16 June: (morning): Regimental station forced to evacuate on account of heavy shelling, five direct hits having been scored by the enemy. In this action, to date, the battalion medical unit has suffered 10 casualties (75 percent).

17 June (all day): Two battalions relieved by the Seventh Infantry (Third Division).  Regimental aid station remained in place and worked in conjunction with the Seventh Medical Unit. Two battalions moved to towns of Lucy and Merry to clean up and get a few days' rest. While here, the American Red Cross distributed chocolate and jam to each man.



IN FRANCE IN WORLD WAR I, pp 48-9, 51-2.

BELLEAU WOOD, 1 June - 5 July 1918, Pt 5


23 June: Took up a reserve position for a few days--then back into the front line. Looking back upon the life we spent in the trenches at Verdun, though at the time it seemed fraught with great privation and hardship, it now seems like a luxurious rest area in comparison with the blood-stained battlefields of open warfare. How ignorant everybody was of this recently encountered form of fighting! How crude are the daily conditions of life and what reversions to savage, even animal levels!

5 July: Units of the Twenty-sixth Divison (Yankee) have begun taking over our positions and the Marine brigade has been withdrawn to a support line running roughly from Villers sur Marne on the right to Bezu on the left. (Strott's note: During its stay in the Bois de Belleau the brigade stopped the enemy's advance on its front, drove him back from 1 1/2 to 2 kilometers on a 4-kilometer front, captured approximately 1,500 prisoners and much material, killed and wounded many in his ranks and successfully repulsed 4 counterattacks which were applied with seriousness and energy).

Summary of Medico-Military Operations (continued)

On 23 June a battalion of Marines attacked the northwest tip of the Bois de Belleau. The attack was unsuccessful. Two days later our artillery concentrated its fire on the northern part of the woods and at 1700 the same battalion which had attacked 2 days before cleared the woods of Germans.

On 1 July, when the Ninth Infantry and Twenty-third Infantry attacked Vaux-Bois de la Roche, there was a 12-hour artillery preparation, which permitted the position to be taken without great loss. The brigade was up to full strength before going into battle at Bois de Belleau and had full equipment. The morale was high and all men were eager to get into battle. Their resistance to shock was good, and there were comparatively few men evacuated on account of war neurosis. A number of men were encountered who were in a highly nervous condition.

Some had lost the power of speech. Such symptoms appeared in the best men of the command. After a night's sleep at the regimental aid station, however, they were returned improved to their organizations with no immediate recurrences.

Under the changing conditions encountered on this front, and in the rear, the food varied greatly in quality and quantity. It was extremely difficult to get the rations that were available up to the men in line. Two-thirds of the food eaten was the French iron ration without the red wine. At times there was one small cooked meal a day which was at about 2300 because of the exposed position of the front line.

Generally the main food of the troops in line consisted of French canned Argentine beef, popularly called "monkey meat" (stringy, unchewable & usually rancid), and French hard tack. As a steady diet, even when mixed with onions or potatoes, this meat was unpalatable, but because of great hunger, it was eaten without complaint.

On one occasion, following a visit of Red Cross field representatives to the headquarters of the regiments, arrangements were made by organization surgeons to have chocolate bars sent into the brigade area from Red Cross headquarters in Paris for ultimate distribution to the men. Two truckloads of chocolate were received at a time when the ration problem was a serious matter, and, although the supply allowed only one bar per man, the effect produced on the morale of the troops was beneficial. Ration details carried the chocolate along with the available daily ration of food up to the men in line from the regimental posts command.

Because of the nature of conditions attending this action, welfare attempts by attached civil workers was restricted to assisting organization medical personnel and chaplains.

When the food supply cannot keep pace with rapidly moving troops, some foraging results. The possibility of collecting food by this means does not occur every time the normal military food supply fails, as troops may be operating in parts of the country wheich have been impverished, such as in old trench sectors or other areas over which great offensives have passed. Foraged food can be obtained only in places where the civilian population has just withdrawn, before, or in the wake of, an extensive military advance, having left farms and homes fully stocked.

The "galleys" of the companies, usually, were located undercover in the near rear area. From there, every evening, the prepared food in French "marmite" cans would be handled by men up to the companies in line.

Except for the losses that occurred en route, this system worked fairly well, although such cooked foods as beans, rice, and potatoes many times would be soured by the time they reached the men. In the area close to the front, it was often observed, that when large cans of meat from the reserve rations are opened, only about one man's share is eaten and the rest is left to spoil. Canned meats for the reserve ration should be separately put up with just enough in a can for one man's meal. Such a can should be flat, similar to an ordinary sardine can, so that it will fit well in the pack.



IN FRANCE IN WORLD WAR I, pp 49, 52-3.

BELLEAU WOOD, 1 June - 5 July 1918, Pt 6

Summary of Medico-Military Operations (continued)

It was during this action that the medical organization was developed better than on any front:

1. Here hospital corpsmen established an aid station at the post command of each company.

2. An advanced aid station was set up about 100 yards in the rear of the center of the front line of each battalion.

3. Battalion dressing stations were located about half a kilometer in the rear of the advanced stations.

4. Proportionate details of litter bearers were stationed at the various company post  commands.

5. "Hospital apprentice" and "first aid" were two calls most commonly heard on the front line. Hospital corpsmen endeavored to keep near the center of their company in order that they could be easily located by the wounded and give first aid to the greatest number by having to cover the least amount of ground. In answer to this call, hospital corpsmen immediately proceeded to the place of summons to give first aid. When possible they carried the wounded to a protected position. It was often necessary for hospital corpsmen to construct litters of sticks, blankets, and parts of uniforms.

6. Litter bearers carried the wounded back to the advanced dressing stations or to the battalion dressing stations. To help litter bearers locate wounded who had been dressed by hospital corpsmen during an advance, the wounded mens' guns would be stuck in the ground (with a bayonet) beside them.

A hospital corpsman's equipment was the same as a Marine's except for the arms. Their pouches (or belts) were equipped with bandages, shell-wound dressings (large and small), tourniquets, Greely units of morphine, and iodine swabs. Bandage scissors were carried in the tops of puttees. There were from 20 to 24 dressings available but whenever possible the first-aid packet on the wounded man's belt was used. Wounded men always call for water. If available it was provided from the canteens of the hospital corpsman, except in cases of wounds of chest or abdomen.

7. For venous and capillary hemorrhage, wounds were packed with gauze and a secure bandage applied. When necesary to use a tourniquet on an extremity, it was not placed at the point of compression but as close to the wound as possible. This was done as a shock preventive measure and to preserve as much of the limb as possible from gangrenous changes.

When hospital corpsmen went over the top they were kept busy applying first aid and keeping up with their companies. Often it was impossible for them to care for men from other companies if they were to care for their own, nor were they always able to see that their wounded were picked up by the litter bearers.

8. Hysterical patients were left alone. This was the best treatment, and by so doing the valuable services of litter bearers were saved. 9. Evacuations were made from forward points to the advanced dressing stations where various types of splints were applied. The wounded continued to the battalion dressing stations for completion of record, tetanus antitoxin and sorting (seriously and slightly wounded and gassed). The evacuations from this point were by ambulance, through the regimental station to the field hospitals. In all, the average time for evacuation from front to field hospitals was about 2 hours. The majority of wounds were caused by high explosive fragments. The proportion of rifle and machine gun injuries was relatively small. It was a noticeable fact that in the cases awaiting evacuation those who were removed to a sheltered place were less likely to develp shock than those left in the open. Shock was less noticeable in the moderately severe cases at the battalion stations than a few hours later, after a trip in ambulances to the field hospitals.




BELLEAU WOOD, 1 June - 5 July 1918, Pt 7

Summary of Medico-Military Operations (continued) Intestinal infection while on this front caused considerable concern. It was due mainly to the way the men had to live. At the time the outbreak developed, they had been confined for days in individual fox holes with little opportunity to move. All water was chlorinated. Castor oil and magnesium sulphate along with paregoric were administered with little effect.

This outbreak of infection continued for about 2 months and was not relieved until a complete rest and regular hot meals were available. In the worst cases the patients were evacuated to the rear where a few days' rest in the hospital was sufficient to effect a cure.

There was no opportunity to bathe and change clothing until 15 and 16 June; consequently vermin and skin infection appeared among the men. On these dates a considerable number of the exhausted brigade units were temporarily relieved by the Seventh Infantry and marched to the rear to the banks of the Marne. During the 6 days that followed, the whole time was spent in resting, washing, clothing and changing uniforms, and bathing in the river.

This was a reprieve for the surviving officers and men. During the first days of June when Paris was threatened as she had not been since the fall of 1914, the thin lines formed by these men had withstood the furious lashing of the advancing German host; then they themselves pushed forward to hurl the enemy back.

The regimental commander, when reporting the details of the battle said: "Shorthanded and overworked, the naval doctors, hospital corpsmen and bandsmen (temporary stretcher bearers) were always on hand, day or night, to give cheerful and efficient service in treating the wounded and dying and in getting them off to the hospitals.

The dressing stations at Champillon, Lucy le Bocage and la Voie du Chatel were continually under bombardment, but still these medical men remained bravely at their posts without thought of their personal safety. The station at Lucy was shattered by a direct hit which killed and wounded several hospital corpsmen and started a blaze, but those remaining, amidst a hail of high explosives and gas shells, calmly put on their gas masks, rescued the invaluable medical supplies from the burning house, and soon had another first-aid station functioning across the street.

Beside these men in the different stations there were hospital corpsmen with each company who fearlessly went over the top with their comrades and gave them immediate and skillful treatment when they fell. There were many heroes who wore the insignia of the Navy Hospital Corps at the Bois de Belleau."



Simultaneously with the relief of the Second Division on the Belleau  Wood-Vaux front during the first week of July 1918, heavy troop movements were observed on the German side of the lines, indicating a large scale offensive against our position from Chateau-Thierry east. In order to meet this possible emergency the division was diverted from the planned move to the vicinity of Meaux and directed to take position on the second defense line running from Charly sur Marne through Montreauil aux Lions.

The Marine brigade was first to get into place on this new army line, and had fully accomplished the movement by 7 July. The new position formed a front roughly running from Villers sureMarne to Bezu le Guery on the right of the Third Brigade. Directions required troops to be near their positions so that they could be fully manned within 3 hours in case of alarm. In the meantime this permitted considerable relaxation for the men in contrast with the rigorous program encountered on the previous front.

In this new location the brigade had opportunity to rest, refit, and clean up, although it had not been relieved from assignment to a front line corps. Aside from some shelling from heavy guns each day, which did little damage, the area was quiet.

Trenches and emplacements were dug; machine-gun positions chosen, and, in case the Germans whould break through, everything was made ready.

No incident or event of medical importance occurred while the brigade was in this area. Along with the Marines, the medical department gave attention to personal equipment, and unit supplies were overhauled and replenished. Clerical work was reattempted by the regimental surgeons on the complex problem of naval medical reports and returns.

The mandate to prepare the routine reports required by the Army had to take precedence; likewise the Marine Corps muster and pay rolls had to be handled. In addition, local and intradivisional correspondence, reports, recommendations, and requisitions loaded the three or four field typewriter units in the regiments. In the midst of a large nomadic organization undergoing constant turn-over of personnel, moving from one serious action to another, the task of accomplishing the huge peacetime paper-work requirements of the Navy Medical Department was physically and rationally impossible.

On the morning of 15 July 1918 the Germans forced a crossing of the Marne a few kilometers to the east of the brigade position. This enemy progress was left isolated because of his failure to make complimentary progress in his attack east of Rheims; consequently all local offensive operations of the enemy ceased.

Preparations already planned were then set in motion for an allied counter-offensive in which the Second Division was to be prominent in action. This attack was to be pressed against the line from Soissons to Rheims and was to reduce the Chateau-Thierry salient.

After a night of shelling by long-range guns the Fourth Brigade moved out of its defensive positions in the Army line on the afternoon of 16 July, and marched to various assembly points on the Paris-Chateau-Thierry Road, west of Montreuil aux Lions. By nightfall the Infantry and dismounted units had contacted and been loaded into French trucks. They were rolling once again over the roads to a new area.

Mounted and motor units, after having assembled at Ussy sur Marne, moved overland to Betz.




AISNE-MARNE OFFENSIVE, 16-20 July 1918, Pt 1

The concentration of the mixed Allied force in the new area did not develop without considerable confusion. Following embussment of the troops on the evening of 16 July the men thought that they were going back to some quiet area for rest.

The Marine-filled trucks of the Fourth Brigade moved toward the north and were on their way to join the Twentieth Corps of the Tenth French Army which was quickly assembling in the northwest corner of the Soissons-Chateau-Thierry-Rheims salient. This newest task of the Army was

to deliver a crushing attack, in an easterly direction which would cut off the whole salient at its base and result in the destruction or capture of the large enemy force contained within it. The success of the operation would free the center of France of a serious threat while inflicting heavy damage on the enemy and prove that the tide of war had turned in our favor.

Contained within the Twentieth French Corps was the First American Division beside our own Second, the French troops of mixed categories, including colorful elements from Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Madagascar, and the Somali Coast.


16 July: Battalion commander's conference at noon. Details outlined of immediate move to new area. Experience now shows itself in the smooth manner that our medical organization functions under all conditions encountered so far. The regimental surgeon and battalion commanders are present at the regimental commander's conference with his staff. Details of an attack or movement are carefully covered and maps of the involved area are issued. Applying to the same operation, but including the details peculiar to the operational roles of battalions, battalion commanders' conferences follow.

These are attended by the respective battalion staffs, including the battalion surgeon and the company commanders. All personnel in key positions are thus familiarized with the details of a divisional operation. Through subsequent consultation of company commanders with subordinates, all categories are informed and the entire organization is acquanted with the operational plan.

Regimental surgeons confer with divisional medical trains on operational plan. Possessing the medical annex, they follow through with battalion surgeons, who, in turn, follow through with their respective company hospital corpsmen; thus all categories have knowledge of the over-all plan and move and function as a unit with a minimum of confusion and misunderstanding.

During short recesses out of action, personnel and medical equipment are brought up to allowance, or to a level permitted by what is available. Men are clean and fresh, pouches are full, and replacements are assigned, instructed, and partly indoctrinated. Analysis of previous activities is made, weak spots are strengthened, and everyone is brought up to standard.

Company hospital corpsmen live and move with their companies in billets, on the march, when entrained or embussed, and during the attack, their company location in the battalion is always known to the regimental and specific battalion surgeon. In the companies their position is always known to the specific company and platoon commanders; thus the services of every hospital corpsman is readily available in amy emergency under all condtions. Battalion surgeons and their staffs, in like manner, accompany their respective battalion commanders and the regimental surgeon and his medical staff accompanies the regimental commander.

Medical supply, personnel replacement and unit and division medical liaisons are maintained by the regimental surgeon; battalion surgeons follow through with this system between the regimental surgeon and their respective battalions and company medical personnel. The only problems not yet satisfactorily settled are those of litter bearers and Navy records and clerical procedures. Hospital Corps and band losses, and heavy casualties among officers and men, have impressed everybody with the importance of conserving hospital corpsmen for dressing purposes, and of finding a supply of litter-bearer personnel from sources other than the band.

Trained Hospital Corps personnel and bandsmen are not readily replaceable, and the number that is allowed, not counting their own heavy losses, is inadequate to handle the treatment, recording, and evacuation of the enormous number of casualties which occur in a single battle. In the commitment zone, during action, the humanitarian instincts of everybody are aroused, and in carrying wounded from the company fronts to the battalion aid stations help is derived from runners, water and ammunition details, walking wounded, enemy prisoners, and stragglers who are traversing the depth of the front. For best results this "carry" situation should be controlled. Nothing appears to serve efficiency and economy of personnel better than having a detail of men from the line of each company who can be trained in the duties of litter bearing.

Straggling could be controlled; replacement and adequacy of rescue personnel would present no problem. At all times such men would know what wounded they are to handle, the position of their organization, the terrain, and the operation.

Many local problems that arise in connection with duties uniforms, equipment, status, promotion, transfer, reports and returns, pay accounts, disciplinary action--details inherent in a service combining Navy and Marine Corps forces operating with the Army--have to be "worried along with" in an irritating and unsatisfactory state.

1700: Battalion cleared of few minor cases; light meal served, billets and area inspected and march toward new front started.

1900: Embussed west of Montreauil aux Lions, and, as a part of the long truck train formed by the division, rode into the night.





After having ridden all night, at noon of the next day (17 July), our troops debussed in the vicinity of Brassoir. From this point the brigade was marched about 20 kilometers to attack positions deep in the Foret Villers Cotterets. The massing of this Tenth French Army force of a million men took place under cover of the forest, screened from enemy observation. Despite the difficulties of the movement, it was quickly executed and the attack developed to the complete surprise of the enemy.

After debussment, the march up to the Soissons attack positions on the afternoon and night of 17 July was harrowing. The men of the Second Division were exhausted at the outset. There had been no sleep nor food since the day before; the season was hot, and the day and night were broken with alternating periods of hot sunlight and the sudden darkness of violent rain, wind, thunder and electric storms.

When night came the woods were black. The pouring rain made the mud bed of the single narrow road used as a main feeder highway, boggy and slippery.

The concentration of Allied infantry, cavalry, artillery, tanks, motor cars, trucks, motorcycles, and wagons squezzed through this blackened and bemired path.

The long single file of the Second Division, plowing through the troop-and-equipment-blocked road was constantly broken by foreign elements cutting through the line. The night was so dark that when the mixed marches broke through our single file it was only through the intelligent effort of the men and good fortune that the line rejoined to move forward. Each man held onto the coattail of the man in front so as not to be lost and trampled in the mud. With determination the Marine brigade pushed on toward the unannounced jump-off line ahead.


17 July (0900): Arrived at western edge of the Forest of Villers Cotterets near Taillefontaine; marched about 8 kilometers into the woods and halted until nightfall when the march was resumed toward the "jump-off," deep in the Forest of Retz.

This march, starting at the debussing point, was made under the most trying conditions. The last meal had been served the evening before, and the day was hot. There had been no opportunity to sleep or wash. Uniforms had not been taken off for more than 24 hours. The men were tired. A narrow dirt road running into the dense wood formed a focusing artery for thousands of troops not only of different organizations but of different nationalities as well. Soon our battalion was strung out in the single file formed by the Infantry of the whole division. In a similar manner, other Allied organizations in parallel files jammed the road. During daylight proper contact and relationships could be maintained, although the lines were jostled and swerved considerably when staff motor transportations, tanks and artillery forced their way up and down or cut into the lines from small crossing roads or from positions in the woods alongside.

By mid-afternoon the canteens, filled the night before, had been drained, and acute thirst was bothering the men. Some men who had found and eaten a few canned sardines were in trhe utmost distress. There was no hope that either water or food would be available. Some men chewed on grass and some moistened their lips with mud. At about 2200 a brisk thunder and lightning storm soaked the men and the road. The rain relieved the thirst of many but made leg movement difficult. The men who could not keep going attempted to work their way toward the side of the road through darkness and an indescribably mixed mass of milling humanity. If a call for aid were answered a medical worker would lose his organization when he stepped out of the file. He would find himself in the nearby files of French, Senegalese, and Algerians. [Lt Strott fails to mention a further factor adding to the general hellishness of the night: numbers of large limbs knocked down by the storm injured and killed a number of Marines during the night].



IN FRANCE IN WORLD WAR I, pp 58-9, 63.


The assault point was reached at 0600 of 18 July 1918, in the midst of a deafening fire bursting from many-calibered muzzles of surrounding artillery. Deploying for battle out of this disorganization, without rest or opportunity to explore what was out in front, the troops were immediately pressed into action.

The battle position assigned to the Second Division was along and just inside of the eastern border of the wood. Ahead lay the enemy in the outer fringe of the wood. His position had been strengthened with trenches, dugouts and interlacing barbed wire. Beyond this was an open plateau 5 or 6 miles wide, cut by ravines and dotted with quarries, farms, and villages, which were considered strong defensive positions.

The extreme east end of the division's objective was a north-south line running from Berzy le Sec through Villemontoire to Tigny where it was bounded by the Soissons-Chateau-Thierry road. The area was patched with wheat fields in which the grain stood about waist high.

The supply train did not enter the woods with the troops when they debussed the day before the attack started; thus baggage, rations and supplies were left many miles in the rear after the jump-off. Roads were restricted to the use of infantry, artillery, and ammunition trucks. Ambulance and alimentation services were thus excluded.

The attack of the division started with the Fifth Marines and the Ninth and Twenty-third Regiments in line, supported by machine gun, artillery, aviation and tank components. The Sixth Marines were held in divisional reserve.

French and French African troops, on the right and left flanks, moved ahead with the division. Our assaulting line moved through the wooded defenses of the enemy and out into the open farm country ahead. As the attack orders of the French command had been vague, proper preparation of organizations and reconnaissance could not be carried out before the attack started. This let to difficulties.

There was overlapping, difference in direction of attack, and absence or misplacement of units in line during different phases of the attack. Despite these confusing if unavoidable tactical deficiencies, and despite having to pass through areas covered with intense machine-gun or artillery fire which inflicted heavy casualties, the attack progressed according to plan.

Verte Feuille and Maison Neuve farms were passed. Chaudun, Vauxcastille, and the large town of Vierzy with their deep connecting ravines were taken. By nightfall on 18 July the troops had progressed 10 kilometers and were in the wheat field facing the Soissons-Chateau-Thierry highway a mile to the east.


18 July: At about 0435 the attack line was reached and the earth trembled with the shock caused by our artillery barrage which opened at that time. Under this fire, which was directly over our heads, the battalion dressing station was opened in a shallow trench alongside the road and within 50 yards of the enemy's first line.

Company hospital corpsmen remained in file with their units and swung into action with them when the departure line was reached. There was no medical equipment available except that which was in the pouches of the individual medical personnel.

Battalion wagons and ambulances, apparently, were not allowed to come up with the troops and the problem of evacuation and medical supply was serious from the start. All battalions went into the attack below strength, some companies having only two platoons.

The jump-off was located about 3 kilometers from the eastern limits of the forest. The first phase objective, located a short distance beyond the edge of the woods, was reached at about 0630. Our casualties until then were few and mostly of a slight degree because of our having caught the enemy off guard.

Soon, though, our stations were overflowing with wounded from all organizations, including the enemy. Ambulances could not come up because of the jam of traffic in the roads. Troops, supplies, and ammunition trains occupied the entire road space, and at this time the artillery started forward, adding to the congestion.

An entire Hun medical unit was taken with a good supply of dressings--a welcome event, as our supplies were running low. Our station advanced and took over this German position which was located at Beaurepaire Ferme. The surrounding buildings afforded good shelter for wounded who were pouring in and congesting the station.

Returning ammunition trucks were loaded with slightly wounded and sent to field hospitals in the rear. In the absence of other means of transportation, enemy walking-wounded were used to carry our seriously wounded. Many medical personnel of the Sixth Regiment (then in division reserve) assisted us greatly by dressing wounded in the field and marking their positions with rifles or by carrying them into our station.

18 July (afternoon): Ambulances of one of our divisional companies came up and cleared the station of all wounded. Their arrival was timely as our supply of dressings was exhuasted. We moved ahead rapidly, several kilometers through open country and ravines. Another aid station was set up at 1600 in the town of Vierzy which was under continuous heavy shellfire.



Early on the morning of 19 July the troops in line were unfit for any further effort. Losses had been heavy; the attack battalions could not assemble sufficient strength to form a normal company; the men who remained were scattered; the remnants of many companies were commanded by sergeants; rations had not come up, and the men needed sleep.

Army operation orders provided for continuation of the attack on the morning of 19 July. The Sixth Marines moved up from their reserve position and relieved the other infantry elements of the division which had carried the assault from the previous morning.

Advancing across flat fields of wheat, on a line previously held by three regiments, the Sixth Marines pushed forward to the Chateau-Thierry-Soissons highway which was the divisional objective.

Intense artillery and machine-gun fire, from ahead and from the flanks, inflicted heavy casualties in the exposed and extended ranks of this regiment. By late afternoon all objectives nevertheless had been reached.

At this time further advance was not possible without fresh troops, but, as there were none to send in, the line rested.

It was evident that no further offensive action could be expected from the weakened and exhausted troops. Corps orders were issued for relief by French forces to be effected during the night and early morning of 19 and 20 July.

Notable during this action was the spectacular concentration and use of air power by the opposing forces. The air at all levels was filled with aircraft of all categories. The air was filled with antiaircraft bursts, and flaming observation balloons becoming black clouds of smoke were frequently seen falling to the ground. Intermittantly low-flying enemy planes swooped over our lines, dropping bombs and strafing the troops with machine-gun fire. As a defense against these attacks, when possible, sections of companies would mass and effectively fire upon attacking planes with concentrated rifles and machine guns.

As a result of this joint Allied offensive action, a general withdrawal from the Marne salient was immediately begun by the enemy. During the first 26 hours, and by the end of the second day, the Second Division had taken 3,000 prisoners, 66 field guns, and a great deal of other war material was captured or destroyed. The power and dash displayed by the division helped turn the tide of war in favor of the Allies.


19 July: Remained in front line until 0700. Relieved by Sixth Regiment. Total battalion casualties in the attack were 21 killed and 186 wounded, mostly of a slight degree. The men are dog-tired, dirty, hungry, and thirsty. Last meal 16 July. The Sixth Regiment took over the entire division front, relieving the Fifth, Ninth, and Twenty-third Regiments.

Starting their offensive operations from along the eastern limits of the town of Vierzy, they moved across ripe wheat fields toward the Soissons-Chateau-Thierry highway and the town of Tigny, to the east.

During this offensive southeast of Soissons, 19 July 1918, a tall lean boy from the Middle West established a company dressing station in a shell hole in the wheat field in front of Tigny. The site taken was unsatisfactory but there was no choice.

By crawling out on his belly, from this unprotected station, he gathered in and dressed the wounded. It was impossible to move them to the battalion or regimental aid stations before nightfall. His repeated trips through the wheat field, from one wounded to another, encouraged those who were attacking the achine-gun-infested town to keep up their spirits, because they kenw that there would be immediate care for them if they fell. Although his day had been full of danger and demanded every physical exertion, he directed rescue bearers all through the night to the most advanced positions where he knew wounded would be found.



IN FRANCE IN WORLD WAR I, pp 61, 63-4.

The morning of July 19, the second day of the battle and third day without food, we formed our lines in a road through a cut or ravine and came out for a charge across a sugar beet field. The tanks were leading, with our lines right behind them. In trying to stop the charge, the Germans turned loose everything they had. It seemed to rain shells. One hit between me and the man on my left, Red Williams. It knocked a hole in the ground, half covered me with dirt, and left my hands and face powder-burned, but the shapmel had missed. Red was not quite so lucky and received his death wound. I left him writhing and groaning on the ground to continue the attack.

The last glance I had of Lt. Overton, he was walking backward and trying to shout something back to us. He carried his cane in the left hand and a .45 in the right. The din and roar was so terrific that I didn't have any idea what he was saying, but interepreted it from his expression to be some words of encouragement. He was soon down, killed. The gunnery sergeant was killed.

Just ahead of me, a few men grouped and started down a ditch. My training told me to keep out of groups, for a shell could kill several at one time. I leaped some barbed wire to the right of them as a shell hit, making a clean sweep. One of the men near me was shot through the shoulder; another had a finger shot off his hand. I opened our first-aid package and applied the gauze to the wound. They both left for the rear, hoping to make the hospital. By this time, all of the tanks had been crippled or stopped and all the men around me shot down. I was now nearing the woods across the field in front of our attack zone. Realizing this, I began to look for a stopping place and found it in an old sunken road less than a foot deep. A volley from a machine gun missed me by inches, and, falling where I stood in the road, I drew fire which barely cleared my body for the rest of the day.

In thirty or forty minutes, our regiment had been almost annihilated. The field which had been recently crossed was strewn with dead and dying. Their cries for water and help got weaker as the hot July day wore on.

There I was, under the enemy guns and almost in his lines by myself. I will never know how I went through that curtain of shells untouched. I was black from the powder of the exploding shells. Most of my trousers was left in the barbed-wire entanglements. At first I expected a counterattack and was prepared to come to my feet and sell myself as dearly as possible. The slaughter of my comrades had left a bad taste.

The attack never came, but enemy planes flew low over the battlefield during the day and, as the pilot leaned his head over the side looking through his glasses, I lay feigning death. The hot sun made my thirst almost unbearable. A slug of shrapnel hit my foot, but the hobnails saved me from a serious wound.

Late in the evening, while I was wondering if I could get away after dark and contact any of my forces which were left, I saw an American uniform crawl across the road some hundred yards away. Laboriously crawling to where he disappeared, I found my old friend Lt. Cates of the 96th Company holding a trench with about twelve or fifteen men. He asked where the rest of the 80th Company was, and I told him that I didn't know, but thought most of them were hit. A dead German soldier was lying across the barbed wire in front of the trench. He was shot as he slowed up to cross. One of the men sneaked out and found a piece of black rye bread in his pack. I had a spoonful or two of sugar in my condiment can and with the sugar to sprinkle on the bread we got a bite around.

After midnight a force of Algerian troops came to relieve us, and gathering as many of our wounded as we could carry, we started back.

Three of us were carrying Cooper of my company in a blanket. I was at the feet with the other two going ahead with the other end. Cooper was shot through the leg, arm, and head. We lost our hold on the blanket several times, letting him slip to the ground. Each time he greeted us with a groan. Finally we got back to a well, and I'm sure that I drank near a gallon of water within twenty minutes time. We went back a mile or two behind the lines and lay down.

The surviving marines who left the battle line were a terrible looking bunch of people. They looked more like animals. They had almost a week's growth of beard and were dirty and ragged. Their eyes were sunk back in their heads. There had been very little sleep or rest for four days and no food. Late in the evening of July 20, we survivors got a meal of slum gullion.

One of our group related that while he was near an Algerian, he smelled a very offensive odor and upon investigation found him carrying a pouch with human ears in it. Some of the ears were pretty old. It was their custom to take the ears from the enemy they killed.

There were so many wounded in the attack that the ambulance service broke down. Many were piled in trucks and jolted back over shell-torn roads, causing wounds which had become quite sore several hours after their infliction to start bleeding again. Gangrene caused other deaths when an early evacuation would have saved lives.

The stretcher bearers all wore a Red Cross band around one arm to distinguish them from combatants, so they could go out in the open without being shot at. They never carried any arms. However, that branch of service suffered heavy casualties and had to keep giving first aid to the wounded and being subject to shell fire after the fighters dug in.

The battalion of four companies was put together, but that did not make one good-sized company. We lay down to rest near a battery of our artillery while food was being gotten ready. Soon sleep was interrupted by the boom of the battery sending a few shells over to Heinie. I was awakened suddenly by a fellow near me becoming a raving maniac. The strain had been too much and something had slipped in his head. Cases like this were called shell shock. We tried to reassure him that he was among frineds away from the front, but he evidently thought he was in the middle of a terrible battle and surrounded by enemies. I dropped back down to sleep while he was being carried away.

An observation balloon was near the place where we were. A German plane dived and shot it down. The machine-gun bullets set fire to the balloon, but the observer came out in a parachute, landing in a tree.

The boys were more despondent than I ever saw them after this last battle, and no wonder. As far as I know, I was the only survivor of Overton's platoon of about fifty men. There were eight able to walk away from the front, out of 212 on the company roster at this time. However, there were some fifteen or twenty men who claimed they got lost off during the night and were not in the terrible slaughter in the sugar beet field.

By this time I had accumulated a good crop of cooties. I had been wearing the same clothes, day and night, for some months, wallowing in the dirt, and occupying the same place occupied by French colonial Negroes and other lousy troops. This body louse laid eggs in the seams of your clothes and multiplied pretty rapidly.

After moving away from the front we came to a delouser. This was a boler with a fire under it, in which your clothes were placed and steamed until the cooties were killed. While that was going on, we took a bath and put back on the same clothes. In a few weeks conditions would be just as bad again, necessitating another delousing. While you were in motion, you did not notice the cooties, but when you stopped, and especially when your body was wet with perspiration, their crawling around was most irritating. A tired and sleepy man would drop off to sleep in spite of them, though.

Gradually replacements were added, and the companies began to approach strength again. Some slightly wounded men had recovered and returned. Captain Coffenberg was among them, taking command of the company again.

Within three or four weeks we had worked back to the front at Pont-a-Mousson. This was an inactive front, and since the strain and losses were not bad, we stayed for about two weeks.


by Carl Andrew Brannen, edited by Rolfe L Hillman, Jr and Peter F Owen

(College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1996), pp 31-36.



20 July (morning): The regimental station of the Sixth occupied one of the deep ancient caves located in Vierzy which provided protection for approximately 2,000 who could not be moved and were collected there during the past 24-hour period.

From this point to the nearest ambulance pool (ambulances were not permitted to enter this front) the distance was about 15 kilometers. Because of French military orders prohibiting the use of roads by ambulances, this station was forced to carry on its work without dressings, water, food, litters, morphine, or any other form of medical supplies. Hundreds of walking-wounded and many others ordinarily considered litter cases were passed by this station because of this condition. Every effort to have the order rescinded failed, and as great as was the humanitarian appeal, it had to give way to military contingency.

The small force of naval medical personnel operated this dark-hole station with courage, initiative, and energy; they commandeered unloaded ammunition trucks of the divisional artillery train and brought them up to carry the surviving wounded from the cave back to the vicinity of the ammunition railhead. Packed closely to conserve precious space on the hard floors of heavy trucks, load after load of critically injured men left the mouth of this cave. There were no litters to carry them and they had only improvised dressings. Passing through poisonous gas and over shell-torn roads undergoing terrific bombardment, these trucks, with their groaning and screaming cargoes bouncing around, rushed to clear the area and reach possible safety many kilometers away. Suffering was extreme and many died en route.

Medical liaison by the French, who had the responsibility of evacuating and treating the wounded from organizations on this front, could not be established. Because of this failure by the French Army surgeon, the returning ammunition truck drivers had no medical directions to follow and were required to unload their piteous cargoes on the bare ground of the open field where the supply ammunition dump was located. Here, under the blazing sun, plagued by insects and the wind and the rain of the night, the victims of the battle either died or endured shock, infection, and the extremes of misery for many hours before those who remained alive could be rescued.

Few spots in history, in degree of suffering, wasted life, and helplessness of medical personnel to give aid, equal that which occurred in connection with this cave during the night and morning of 19-20 July 1918.

The battalion moved to its reserve position in the Forest of Retz, 3 miles to the rear. The new position, for reasons of concealment from active enemy aerial observation, was located just inside the edge of the woods. Forty-eight hours previously this same area had been the enemy front line and had received a devastating artillery bombardment. It was a march of ghosts to the new reserve position. We had been hungry, dirty, and thirsty from the start, and in need of rest.

Now we were exhausted and discouraged by the knowledge that medical aid had been sacrificed to military need. The wounded had to suffer and endure or die. On weary legs and with tired brains, we took inventory of personnel and attempted to assemble a military organization out of the wreckage.

A great wind had swooped over the shattered woods. Falling branches lashed exhausted forms clinging to sleep in their beds of mud. Some were killed; others, seriously injured. Sharp lightning and rain broke over the area at about 2200. Trees were uprooted. The men were soaked.

The shelled dark woods were drenched beneath a sky slashed by lightning. Men rose from frantic sleep and ran desperately but to no purpose through the torn disorder. And then the Boche joined the fury. They shelled the whirling position.

The bursts of the shells could not be distinguished from the bang of the thunder. There were new deaths and casualties and fear. Hysterical humor might be heard. Officers and men scattered themselves over a wide area. Many sought the open field beyond the wood, away from whipping branches and shell fragments. Some groveled in the beaten grass or in rain-filled shell holes or fox holes or a shell crater which the day before had been used as a field latrine by Senegalese troops.

Overcome by sleep, a few were comforted. Daybreak awakened them with blasts from French long-range 6-inch rifles. These had moved into positions before daylight.