Wednesday, February 22, 2012

World War I

When a state of war was declared to exist on April 6, 1917, the United States Marine Corps was composed of 462 commissioned officers, 49 warrant officers, and 13,214 enlisted men on active duty, a total of 13,725 and, while the corps was expanded to an actual strength, including reserves, of 75,101 officers and enlisted men, its high standard was never lowered. When these figures are compared with the approximate strength of 3,100 at the end of the Civil War, and of 4,800 at the end of the Spanish War, the growth of the Marine Corps is illustrated.

Despite the fact that on the outbreak of war, 187 officers and 4,546 enlisted men were on duty beyond the continental limits of the United States, and 49 officers, and 2,187 enlisted men were serving on board the cruising vessels of the Navy, only five weeks later, on June 14,1917, the Fifth Regiment of Marines, consisting of 70 officers and 2,689 enlisted men,
approximately one-sixth of the enlisted strength of the Marine Corps, competently organized and ready for active service, sailed on the HENDERSON, DE KALB, and HANCOCK from the United States, forming one-fifth of the first expedition of American troops for service in France.

This regiment was soon joined by the Sixth Regiment and the Sixth Machine Gun Battalion of Marines, and the Fourth Brigade of Marines was organized, and as one of the two Infantry brigades of the Second Division of Regulars engaged in actual battle in no less than eight distinct operations in France, of which four were major operations.

The French Army recognized the splendid work of the Fifth and Sixth Regiments of Marines by citing them no less than three times in Army orders for achievements in the Chateau-Thierry sector, in the Aisne-Marne (Soissons) offensive, and in the Meuse-Argonne (Champagne). The Sixth Machine Gun Battalion was similarly cited for its work in the Chateau-Thierry sector and
Aisne-Marne (Soissons) offensive. The Fourth Brigade received a similar citation for its work in the Chateau-Thierry sector. Since two French Army citations are sufficient to make an organization eligible for the award of the French fourragere, the high standard of the Marine units is evident.

Information was received in January, 1920, that the War Department had accepted the award of the French fourragere in the colors of the ribbon of the Croix de Guerre for several Army organizations and the three units of the Fourth Brigade.

Within one year after the outbreak of war the Marine Corps placed about as many enlisted men in France as there were in the Marine Corps when war was declared.

During the month of June, 1918, when the battle deaths around Hill 142, Bouresches, Belleau Wood, and Vaux, of Americans attached to the Second Division amounted to 1,811 (of which at least 1,062 were Marines) and the nonfatal casualties to 7,252 more (of which 3,615 were Marines), the legislative strength of the Marine Corps was but 1,323 officers and 30,000 enlisted men; the actual strength on June 30, 1918, including reserves, was 1,424 officers and 57,298 enlisted men, and of this total about 300 officers and 14,000 enlisted men were in France. These latter figures include those
Marines who suffered casualties in the battles of June, 1918.

Approximately 30,000 Marines were sent overseas to join the American Expeditionary Forces, and 1,600 for naval duty ashore. During the war a great manydditional Marine detachments were detailed to guard the radio stations, naval magazines, ammunition depots, warehouses, cable stations and for other naval activities, and the detachments already
established were largely augmented. No call was made for additional Marines for naval purposes that was not fully met, and this is of especial interest as the Marine Corps is essentially a part of the Naval Establishment, and its first duty is to fill all naval needs and requirements. It was believed to be essential that the Marine Corps should do its full part in this war, and for that reason it was absolutely necessary that the Marines should join the Army on the western front, taking care, however, that this should not at any time interfere in the slightest degree with the filling of all naval requirements.

The Marine Corps, while maintaining the Fourth Brigade of Marines, a total of 258 officers and 8,211 enlisted men, that fought in eight battle operations suffering approximately 12,000 casualties, placed and maintained the Fifth Brigade of Marines of the same strength in France; supplied the commanding general of the Second Division, and many officers on his staff;
furnished a considerable number of officers to command Army units of the Second and other divisions, and for staff and detached duty throughout the American Expeditionary Forces; participated in the naval aviation activities in France and in the Azores; and during the period of the war succeeded in performing in a highly satisfactory manner the naval duties required of it, including the maintenance of two brigades of prewar strength standing by to protect the Mexican oil fields, and as an advanced base force in Philadelphia; one in Cuba; one in Santo Domingo, and one in Haiti; administered and officered the Haitian Gendarmerie and Guardia Nacional Dominicana; as well as providing efficient Marine detachments for numerous naval vessels, and maintaining garrisons at the numerous navy yards and naval stations in the
United States; and in the Virgin Islands; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Pearl Harbor, Hawaiian Islands; Guam; Cavito and Olongapo, P. I.; Managua, Nicaragua; Peking, China; San Juan, P. R.; London, England; Cardiff, Wales; Paris,
France; and the Azores; and supplied many officers and enlisted men for special and detached duty at home and abroad.


The act of Congress of August 29, 1916, increased the authorized strength of the Marine Corps from 344 officers and 9,921 enlisted men to 597 officers and 14,981 enlisted men, and the President was authorized in an emergency to
further increase the corps to 693 officers and 17,400 enlisted men, which he did by Executive order on March 26, 1917.

On April 6, 1917, Congress declared "that a state of war exists between the United States and the Imperial German Government" and one and one-half months later, on May 22, 1917, temporarily increased the authorized strength to 1,197 commissioned officers, 126 warrant officers, and 30,000 enlisted men.

Finally, the act of July 1, 1918, temporarily increased the Marine Corps to 3,017 commissioned officers, 324 warrant officers, and 75,500 enlisted men, which is the maximum strength ever authorized for the Marine Corps. Of this number 17,400 were permanent and 57,650 temporary. In addition to the above, the act of August 29, 1916, which established the Marine Corps Reserve, permits the enrollment of reserves without limit as to number, and on April 6, 1917, there were enrolled, subject to call to active duty, three Reserve commissioned officers, 24 National Naval Volunteer officers, 36 Reserve enlisted men, and 928 enlisted National Naval Volunteers. There were also available for recall to active duty 65 regular retired commissioned officers, one regular retired warrant officer, and 210 regular retired enlisted men.