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October 1st-10th, 1918.
OPERATIONS REPORT
4TH BRIGADE, MARINES.
Covering period 1st-10th October '18.

 
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MAPS: Sheets TAHURE - ATTIGNY - JUNIVILLE - ST. MARIE-a-PY 1/20,000.
Map #1 attached.

After the drive on THIAUCOURT, in the ST. MIHIEL salient (12-18 September) the 4th Brigade withdrew to the BOIS DES MINORVILLE, Brigade P. C. at MANONVILLE. The personnel was in very bad condition due to the strain of battle and the continual living in the woods in mud and rain. At this time several hundred men were evacuated for sickness due directly to this exposure. However, on 20th September '18, in accordance with Field Orders No. 31, 2nd Division, 20th September '18, the Brigade moved by marching to an area south of TOUL where the personnel was given an opportunity to "clean up" and "sleep warm" for a few days. The Brigade remained in this area until 25th September '18 when in accordance with Field Orders #32, 2nd Division, 24th September '18, it moved by rail to an area south of CHALONS with the Brigade P. C. at SARRY.

The Brigade (as part of the 2nd Division) remained in the CHALONS area in reserve of the Group of Armies of the center until 28th September '18 when in accordance with Field Orders #33, 2nd Division, 28th September '18, it moved by bus and marching to the SOUAIN-SUIPPES area, with Brigade P.C. at SUIPPES.

The 4th Brigade, forming the leading Brigade of the 2nd Division was disposed to the northward of SUIPPES so as to be able to reach the front line, then near SOMME-PY, in a single night's march.

On 1st October '18 in accordance with Field Orders #34, 2nd Division, 1st Oct. '18, the Brigade marched to the line on the night of 1st-2nd October and relieved elements of the 61st D. I. (French) in its positions near SOMME-PY. The 5th Regiment relieved the 219th and 265th Infantry Regiments, and the 6th Regiment the 264th Infantry Regiment, all of the 61st D.I. French. In addition the 6th Regiment took over a battalion sector of the 21st D. I. (French) on the left of the 61st D. I.

The Brigade was disposed with both regiments in line, 5th on right and 6th on left, each regiment in column of battalions. A machine gun company was attached to each infantry battalion. The order of battalions from front to rear was as follows:-

5th Regiment
1st Battalion - Regimental M. G. Co. (Hamilton)
2nd " 23rd M. G. Co. (Messersmith)
3rd " 77th M. G. Co. (Larsen)
6th Regiment
2nd Battalion - 81st M. G. Co. (Williams)
1st " Regimental M. G. Co. (Barker)
3rd " 15th M. G. Co. (Shuler)

The Brigade P.C. was located in the trenches at Point 268.2-274.6 two and one half kilometers south of SOMME-PY.

The relief was effected before daylight without incident. Steps were taken immediately to rectify positions and perfect combat liaison with organizations on right and left. This was not particularly easy as the line occupied ran through a system of Boche trenches (Third and last line) not completely "cleaned up". The trenches "Pacha", "Elbe",and "Essen" were very strong and portions of them were still held by the enemy.

Although the Brigade and Regimental Commanders took over P. C‘s. then used by the French, telephone communication was practically impossible during the relief - in fact the Brigade Commander was able to communicate by telephone with his Regimental Commanders only at rare intervals up to 10:30 A.M., 2nd October. Communication was rendered all the more difficult on account of having occupied a position in an elaborate enemy trench system - this caused many runners to go astray, especially those of the 2nd Division. However, the liaison personnel of the Brigade organizations reported generally on time with the location of their own P.C's. well fixed in their minds.

It is suggested that hereafter when a similar operation is carried out that, (a) American operators be placed at switch boards with the French. (b) Division runners be ordered to report to Brigade Headquarters prior to beginning the operation and accompany them to position - then report to Division P.C. (Field Orders #34, 2nd Division, fot the relief were delivered at Brigade Headquarters at 4:40 A.M., 2nd October - after the relief was effected).

Liaison with flank Brigades, 170 I. D. on right and 21st I. D. on left was established by liaison officers (in company With French Liaison Officer, 61st I.D.) in the early morning 2nd October.

The command passed at 8:00 A.M.

The Brigade Commander had received verbal notification during the night that an attack was to be made on morning 2nd October. The attack to be made by the 4th Brigade with the 3rd Brigade in support; a battalion of the latter to be attached to the former as a combat liaison force to maintain liaison with the 21st I.D. on left. This battalion actually began movement to position. However, word was received later in the morning that the attack was postponed for 24 hours.

As noted above, the Boche trench system had not been entirely "cleaned up". Besides sections of the "Pacha", "Elbe" and "Essen" trenches in our own lines there remained the "Hook" of the "Essen" trench about 300 yards to-our left flank. The "Hook" was a very strong machine gun nest with an extensive all around field of fire which up to this time had successfully resisted all efforts of the French to take it. The line on the left of our sector was therefore retired about one kilometer. On our right the line was well advanced - about two kilometers.

It was deemed necessary that for a clean "jump off" the entire system in our sector should be occupied and that the "Essen Hook" be taken. Orders were issued for these operations to take place before zero hour on 3rd October '18. The 5th Regiment found the trenches to their front evacuated and occupied them without incident. The 6th Regiment found their problem a little more difficult, (being flanked on the left by the "Essen Hook" but by evening, supported by artillery and machine gun fire, had gone "over the top" and occupied the forward trenches with a loss of only 15 casualties. 'The Frnech [sic] on our left, supported by fire from the 6th Regiment, attacked the "Essen Hook" again but without results. Special artillery fire had to be provided to neutralize it during the coming attack.

During the afternoon of 2nd October verbal orders were received to the effect that the attack was to take place the next morning. The plan provided for a converging attack by the two Brigades of the 2nd Division, in concert with a general attack by the French 4th Army. The objective of the 2nd Division was line:- Road from MEDEAH FARM(exclusive) through Point 73.11 to BLANC MONT (inclusive). The 4th Brigade was to attack within the sector of the 6th Regiment - in column of Regiments, the 6th in front line and the 5th in support. Both regiments were to form in column of battalions with a machine gun company attached to each battalion. In forming for the attack the 5th was to move by the flank and follow in rear of the 6th when it had gained its distance. The infantry attack was to be preceeded by five minutes artillery preparation and be supported by a rolling barrage, rate of advance 100 meters in 4 minutes. Two companies of light tanks were assigned to the 4th Brigade which were disposed:- one company (12) with the leading battalion and one company (12) with the support battalion of the 6th Regiment. The rear battalion of the 5th was especially charged with cooperating with the French to reduce "Essen Hook" and protecting the left flank during the advance.

Zero hour was set at 5:50 A.M. 3rd October and during the night 2nd-3rd troops were placed in position for the event and reconnaissances made of the immediate front. All preparations for the attack were made on verbal orders. Written orders from the 2nd Division did not arrive at Brigade Headquarters until 4:40 A.M. 3rd October, and the C.O. of the leading Battalion of the 6th Regiment received his copy at exactly zero hour (and read it after he had obtained his objective).

Promptly at zero hour the Brigade advanced in the following Battle Order:-

6th Regiment:
2nd Battalion - 81st M.G. Co. (Williams)
1st Battalion - Regt. M.G. Co. (Barker)
3rd Battalion - 15th M.G. Co. (Shuler)
5th Regiment:-
2nd Battalion - 23rd M.G. Co. (Messersmith)
3rd Battalion - 77th M.G. Co. (Larsen)
1st Battalion - Regt.M.G. Co. (Hamilton)

The principal resistance encountered was from machine gun nests. Machine gun fire was encountered from the front, the right flank where the middle ground between the two Brigades was not completely covered, and especially from the left flank where the French advance was delayed by "Essen Hook". The left flank of each battalion was successively retarded by the heavy fire from the left flank. The C.O. of the rear battalion of the 5th Regiment immediately detached a force to operate against the right flank of "Essen Hook" with one pounders and proceeded to "clean up" as far as possible the machine gun nests in advance of it on the left flank. Although the French made every effort and the Marine one pounders did excellent work it was not until 3:00 P.M. that "Essen Hook" was under control and then many more hours elapsed before it was finally "cleaned up".

Generally during the advance our losses were light - the men doing excellent work with their rifles in sniping machine gun crews. Several hundred prisoners were captured. They stated that their losses had been heavy due to our rifle and artillery fire (Our own infantry testified to the excellence of the rolling barrage and accuracy of special fire).

All battalions of the 6th Regiment met machine gun resistance in SOMME-PY woods. The support battalion (1st) pressed forward on the leading battalion (2) which was held up, and, advanced on its right to the objective. The reserve battalion (3rd) was assigned the task of cleaning up.

The objective was reached at 8:30 A.M. and the work of consolidating the position and the establishing the line of outposts to the front was begun. The advance of the French on the left being still delayed, the 5th Regiment made dispositions to protect the left flank and support the advance of the French. A special flank barrage was arranged for in case of counter attack.

During the afternoon orders were received (Field Orders #36, 2nd Division) to continue the advance to the northwest and establish a position of resistance on the general line: Road fork about one kilometer southwest of SCAY FARM - Point on BLANC MONT-ST. ETIENNE Road, about one kilometer south of ST. ETIENNE. An outpost line was to be pushed forward to a distance of about one kilometer and the town of ST. ETIENNE reconnoitered. The Brigade Commander ordered the 5th Regiment to pass through the 6th Regiment and continue the advance in concert with the 3rd Brigade on the right and the French who were coming up on the left.

The 5th passed through and continued the advance at 7:30 P.M. 3rd October and immediately met with strong machine gun resistance north of MONT BLANC - both front and flanks. They pushed forward about 1-1/2 kilometers, however, and held on although subjected to heavy artillery and machine gun fire and two enemy counter attacks during the night. Two companies of the 1st Battalion 6th Regiment, were ordered forward to support them and cover their left flank.

The 5th was in a very exposed position and liaison was extremely difficult but they finally connected up with the 3rd Brigade on the right and with the 6th Regiment to the rear. The front line of the 3rd Brigade retired once but later resumed its position on the right. Owing to enemy pressure on its right flank it had been flung back upon the 4th Brigade sector.

At 6:00 A.M. 4th October orders were issued by the 2nd Division (Field Orders #37) for a further advance in the direction of MACHAULT-CAUROY where a position of resistance was to be established and held. This attack, however, was not carried out until the next day - the French had not advanced on the left and the enemy resistance on that flank was too great to disregard. It had to be "cleaned up" to some extent before the advance could be continued. The nest (or nests) causing the most damage were those close up to the west of MONT BLANC. These were well reconnoitered during the afternoon and evening of the 4th October by the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment, and an attack was made in the evening after artillery preparation. This attack was not carried to a conclusion as it developed that the position was very strong and special preparations would be required if undue loss in man power was to be avoided.

Accordingly further plans were made. Harassing fire was laid down on the position during the night and at 6:15 A.M. 5th October, after an hours artillery preparation the 3rd Battalion 6th Regiment attacked (in concert with volunteers from the 17th Regiment (French) supporting the left rear of the 2nd Division) and captured it without loss. The garrison, 4 officers and 209 men were taken prisoners and a great deal of material, including 75 light and heavy machine guns. The capture of this nest reduced to a great extent the fire to which the 5th Regiment was subject and eased the advance of the French on the left flank.

On 5th October the French Divisions (fresh) on the flanks were ordered to advance to the line of the 2nd Division. Thereupon the 2nd Division ordered (Field Orders #38) the advance continued in the direction of MACHAULT-CAUROY. The Brigade Commander ordered the 6th Regiment (reorganized) to advance through the 5th and continue the advance - the 5th Regiment to reorganize when the 6th had passed through and follow in support.

The 6th Regiment advanced and passed the 5th Regiment positions in battle order as follows:-

2nd Battalion 81st M.G.Co. (Williams)
3rd Battalion 15th M.G.Co. (Shuler
1st Battalion Regt.M.G.Co. (Barker)

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.

5th REGIMENT KILLED WOUNDED SICK MISSING  
Officers 9 50 3 0  
Men 114 797 80 151  
           
6th REGIMENT          
Officers 4 28 5 0  
Men 144 705 22 58  
           
6th MACH. G. BN.          
Officers 0 6 1 0  
Men 30 101 16 8  
          GRAND
4TH BRIGADE.         TOTAL
officers 13 84 9 0 106
Men 288 1603 118 217 2226
 

The following enemy material was captured during the operations, principally during the first days advance and in the reduction of the enemy machine gun nest at MONT BLANC:-

8 wagons (4 wheel) 2 2 wheel carts
1 2 wheel water cart 3 horses
5 Austrian 88's 12000 rounds 88 ammunition
132 Maxim guns.(light and heavy)  
240000 Machine gun ammunition 25 small carts for machine guns
3 42 MM Guns (one pounder guns)  
4 42 MM trucks for one pounders  
2000 hand grenades 2000 rounds rifle. ammunition
3 trench mortars 3 bicycles
1 ambulance 10 camp kitchens
50 Very pistols (flare) 500 flares
1200 picks 1200 shovels
500 bales of wire 1000 yards of narrow gage track
4 carloads of timber 4-3 4-6  
4 telephone switch boards 30 rolls of telephone wire
1 dynamo 1 gas engine
1 range finder 18 field telephones
1 rolling kitchen 6 anti tank guns and ammunition
1 motorcycle  
8 signal lamps  
great supplies of electrical apparatus.  
 

There are a number of other points in connection with the operations which are well worth noting but they cannot be intelligently discussed until the operations reports from lesser organizations are received and digested. The foregoing account of operations is prepared entirely from Brigade Headquarters data. A supplementary report will be forwarded at a later date.

 
W. C. NEVILLE,
Brigadier General, USMC.
(Sgd) E. H. E.
 
Records Of The Second Division (Regular) Volume 6; Operation Reports — War Diaries — Journal of Operations
Second Division Historical Section, The Army War College, Washington, D. C.
 
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