The Brigade P. C. moved to Point 267.8-275.7 at 5:00 P.M., 5th October.
At 5:40 P.M. the leading Battalion (2nd) was held up by strong machine gun nests and heavy wire about two kilometers southeast of ST. ETIENNE. The entire 6th Regiment was being shot up from the front and both flanks. The enemy was advancing and filling up trenches near the nests and bringing in machine guns. Artillery fire was requested and the Marines dug in. Counter attacks were broken up or beaten off.
During the night 5th-6th the C.O. 6th Regiment perfected plans for the reduction of the nests. The attack was made at 6:30 A.M., 6th October, by the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment (in conjunction with the 23rd Infantry on right) preceeded by one hours artillery preparation, the infantry advance being preceded to original objective by a rolling barrage. The attack was a success and the objective was reached at 9:30 A.M.
The position attained (high ground southeast of ST. ETIENNE) was found to be a very strong one and was immediately consolidated and the forces organized for a strong defense. Just as the position was occupied a threatened counter attack of the Boche was broken up by a special barrage which was laid within eight minutes after receipt of request.
The 23rd Infantry also attained its objective and the French on the left flank had advanced to ST. ETIENNE and beyond. Good combat liaison was immediately established on both flanks; on the left, to the south of ST. ETIENNE.
It was persistently reported on 5th-6th October by the French that their forces occupied the town of ST. ETIENNE but on the morning of the 6th our troops observed both French and Boche troops in the town and it was well known that the Boche occupied the cemetery to the northeast of town as a machine gun nest. To ascertain the true situation in the town the Commanding General, 2nd Division, ordered a patrol to reconnoiter. This patrol advanced from the left front at 11:20 A.M., and was severely fired into from the cemetery (or west end of town) while crossing the open ground to the southeast. The patrol was held up and remained in place during daylight.
The fighting in and, around the town and cemetery continued throughout the day, both sides taking turns in filtering in and retiring in the face of intense artillery barrages and counter attacks.
At 4:00 P.M., 6th October the Commanding General, 2nd Division, issued orders (Field Orders #39) for the relief of the front line, 6th Regiment, by the 142nd Regiment, 71st Infantry Brigade on the night 6th-7th October - to be completed by 3:00 A.M. 7th October. The orders provided for the 4th Brigade leaving one battalion in front line until further orders and machine gun, stokes mortar and one pounder troops in position for 24 hours and withdrawing the remainder of the Brigade to covered positions in rear of MONT BLANC. The command of the Brigade sector was to pass to the Commanding General, 71st Brigade, upon completion of the relief.
The relief was effected in accordance with orders and without unusual incident. The 5th Regiment withdrew to the trenches of MONT BLANC RIDGE. The 6th Regiment remained in place. It is not known when the command passed. Information as to this point was requested from 2nd Division but no reply was received.
During the day of 7th October the fighting between the French and Boche still continued in and around ST. ETIENNE. During the afternoon several hundreds of Boche were seen filtering into the town and a counter attack against the French right flank was feared. It was almost necessary that we advance or at least dispatch a force to occupy trenches near the town to prevent the Boche filtering through south of it. This ground had been covered by fire during the day and patrols at night.
At 11:00 P.M., 7th October, orders were issued by Commanding General, 2nd Division (Field Orders #39 - the 2nd of that number) for an attack by the 71st infantry Brigade on the morning of 8th October. The orders provided for a left flank guard of one battalion from the 4th Brigade to maintain combat liaison between the 142nd Regiment and the 7th Division, French, during the attack. The 1st Battalion, 6th Regiment, was assigned for this purpose.
At zero hour, 5:15 A.M., the attack was launched, the Infantry advance preceded by a rolling barrage and supported by tanks.
The 142nd Infantry advanced on an average of one half kilometer when the advance was stopped by Boche machine gun fire along the wooded ravine running to the northeast of ST. ETIENNE. The 142nd held to this position until about 4:00 P.M. when elements badly disorganized, recoiled on the position occupied by the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment, which had remained in place at the "jump off".
At zero hour the liaison battalion (1st Battalion, 6th Regiment;) advanced and occupied ST. ETIENNE connecting up with the French 7th Division. Very little resistance was encountered until debouching from the north of town two companies were badly "shot up" by machine gun fire from the northeast. The remnants of these companies were ultimately retired to trenches near the position occupied by the 1st Battalion, 6th Regiment. The remainder of the Battalion occupied the town of ST. ETIENNE and trenches just to southward and established combat liaison with the French 7th Division via the ST. ETIENNE-CAUROY ROAD. Repeated attempts of the Boche to mass to the northeast of ST. ETIENNE were broken up by machine gun fire and special barrages.
At 4:40 P.M., 8th October, the Commanding General, 2nd Division, ordered a battalion of the 2nd Engineers to reinforce the left flank liaison battalion and occupy the trenches north of ST. ETIENNE. These operations were in process when at 5:05 P.M., the Boche laid down a terrific east and west barrage through the town. Advanced posts were drawn in and believing a counter attack imminent, a counter barrage was laid down.
The French 7th Division was heavily counter-attacked on its right front at this time. Later in the afternoon the operations in view for the Liaison Battalion were carried out, but not without some hard fighting.
During the evening of 8 October efforts were made to form combat liaison with the 142nd Regiment, but with little success. That regiment was badly disorganized and scattered. Conditions were the same in the 3rd Brigade sector where the 141st Regiment of the 71st Brigade had attacked. However, there was good combat liaison between the 3rd Brigade and 4th Brigade and the 7th French Division on the left: the situation was not critical.
During the night and next day, 9th October, efforts to locate and reorganize the 71st Brigade were continued. It was found that elements had advanced at certain points and had captured prisoners and machine guns but had later been forced back practically to the parallel of departure on 8th October.
Order and system was gradually being restored when at 4:00 P.M., 9th October, the Commanding General, 2nd Division, issued orders (Field Orders #41) for the relief of the 2nd Division by the 36th Division (to whidh the 71st Brigade belonged). The orders provided for the relief of the Infantry Brigades on night 9-10th October - the Artillery, Engineer troops and Machine Gun troops in front line and support to remain in place for 24 hours, or pending the arrival of those elements of the 36th Division. The 5th Regiment was to be relieved by the 144th Regiment, 72nd Brigade and when that was completed the command of the 4th Brigade sector was to pass to the Commanding General, 72nd Brigade and the entire 4th Brigade (less M.G. troops mentioned above) was to be withdrawn to the north of NAVARIN FARM by daylight 10 October and thence to the SUIPPES-NANTIVET-SOMME
SUIPPES area in Army Reserve.
The relief and movement to the new area was carried out as ordered without unusual incident, considering that the 72nd Brigade was composed of green troops. The command passed to the Commanding General, 72nd Brigade at 2:30 A.M., 10 October and P.C. 4th Brigade opened in SUIPPES at same time.
The 4th Brigade was in bad shape when relieved due to several reasons.
In the first place, the men were not in good physical condition when they went into the line as their nervous endurance had been lowered by the hard living conditions to which they had been subjected during the month of September. In the second place the entire Brigade was subjected to almost continual intense artillery and machine gun fire (much of it from flank and rear) from the day of attack until the day of relief - 7 days. Finally there was more or less disorganization in all units caused by the large number of casualties among the officers and non-commissioned officers and the fact that no opportunity was given to reorganize after the various operations were carried out.
In order to completely understand certain incidents that occurred, especially as to disorganization of commands and losses reported, one must realize the following:
The Boche defense was that best calculated to delay our advance not only by destroying but by disorganizing and dispersing our forces. With his system of well hidden machine gun nests (with strong local defense) covering all routes of approach he was well prepared to take advantage (with surprise) of every patch of unclaimed ground, mistakes in our troop formations, etc.
The tactics generally used by our troops in the advance was a light line of scouts to develop enemy forces followed by mobile combat groups prepared to act quickly in the direction required. In the case of very strong machine gun nests the position was accurately developed with light forces, artillery preparation was laid down and a formal attack carried out.
In order to efficiently combat the Boche tactics of infiltration and defense generally, ground once gained had to be occupied until the general line was well advanced and combat liaison perfected. Ground when first gained was nearly always subjected to artillery and machine gun fire from both front and flanks and inter-liaison between groups was practically impossible at times.
It will thus be seen that the tactics (dispersion of forces and holding of ground as gained) forced upon our troops, together with the general situation (exposed flanks and rear) forced by orders of higher command, made the command of units extremely difficuly [sic] and efficient reorganization (without heavy loss) practically impossible - that is, without withdrawing the organization from action entirely. This was not done.
In this type of warfare reports of losses sustained and stragglers from a command cannot be given with any accuracy and are of no value. The information that is necessary and which is of great value is the number of effectives that each unit commander has actually under control at any given time. This information was furnished in many cases during the recent operations and a general effort was made to reorganize detached individuals and groups (whatever command they belonged to) into efficient combat units for use on the spot. Many men reported as missing were thus found to be fighting with other units.
The operations Of the Brigade on the whole were very satisfactory and effectually broke up the main Boche resistance in the MONT BLANC area. It is known that the Boche suffered severely in killed and wounded and about 2000 prisoners were captured by the 2nd Division. The 4th Brigade contributed its full share.
Following is a table showing the losses sustained by the Brigade during the operations.