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Report of Operations, Second Battalion, June 2-16, 1918.


Headquarters, 2nd Battalion,
5th Regiment, Marine Corps,
American E.F., June 18th, 1918.
 
From: Commanding Officer.
To: Commanding Officer, 5th Regiment.
Subject: A report of operations of this Battalion from June 2nd to June 16th inclusive.
 

June 2nd. Established a line from Hill 142 to N.E. corner of BOIS de VEUILLY as a support for the French who were in our front.

June 3rd. French started withdrawing through our right.

June 4th. Two German attacks on the right in front and to the right of LES MARES FARM, which was repulsed. The same time the French withdrew on our left. For a while it was rather embarassing for the new line established. Two companies of the 1st Battalion strengthened line on the left. French withdrew from our front. We then held the first line.

June 5th. Slight enemy activity along the whole line and relieved by the 116th French Infantry.

June 6th. Arrived in the woods N.E. of V0IE DU CHATEL with three companies. 51st Company detached reported to 1st Battalion, from there proceeded to North and East ends of the woods N.E. of LUCY. Heavily shelled.

June 7th. 2:00 a.m. proceeded to comply with Brigade Order #83 along LUCY-TORCY road. From reconnaissance patrol found out the Germans held all the ground East of the road and they attacked about 3:30 a.m. They were driven back and I got in connection with the 3rd Battalion, which were holding the high ground on the West of the road. Their positions were lightly held and the enemy were making attempts to get through this point and am convinced that if we had not been there at this critical moment that the line would have been broken. I strengthened the positions of the 3rd Battalion, later on that day received orders to relieve them. That night enemy shelling our whole line. Artillery and Machine Gun fire.

June 8th. Heavy shelling during day and night. Line felt out by the enemy during night by machine gun fire, some gas.

June 9th. Heavy shelling during the day and night. Our line felt out at night by machine gun fire.

June 10th. Heavy shelling during the day and night. Our line felt out at night by machine gun fire. Received Field Order #4 with barrage schedule about 10:00 p.m. for the attack against the BOIS de BELLEAU.

June 11th. Attack started as ordered and found quite a few machine gun nests inside of the barrage which gave a great deal of trouble. The whole line received flanking machine gun fire from both sides, but strongest on the right, which had been reported clear, the men naturally drifted toward it and by 1:00 a.m. all opposition had ceased. That afternoon captured positions were consolidated and I was under the impression that all of my objectives had been obtained. The enemy started to filter in on our left which caused some trouble and I borrowed a company from Major Hughes and started to clear them out when I received Regimental Order #134, transmitting instructions from the Brigade Commander, to refuse my left flank, and that the Artillery would attend to it. That night things very quiet. Two companies Engineers reported for consolidating work, and about 150 replacement men.

June 12th. Enemy in position on my left and gave some trouble, and received permission to drive them out and after an Artillery preparation we attacked on their left flank at 5:00 p.m. and were successful, but too much ground had to be occupied and they filtered in again and we received the heaviest bombardment that I have heard in France that night.

June 13th. Was convinced that we did not hold entire north and eastern edge of woods and that the enemy still had re-occupied some strong positions, but did not have sufficient men to drive them out, and received Brigade Field Order #5 in which the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, were to relieve me. Major Holcomb arrived that afternoon and he agreed to give me a fresh company to attack the north and western edge of the woods at 4:00 a.m. June 14th, whole area heavily shelled.

June 14th. 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, were badly gassed and instead of arriving night 13-14 with about 800 men only 325 effectives arrived, so the attack could not be delivered, and I did not consider that they were sufficient to relieve me and remained in position. I had received orders to stay in the sector with Major Holcomb until the enemy were cleared out but Major Holcomb brought me word that I could be relieved, but did not consider it safe to do so. Lt Colonel Feland arrived and assumed command of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines and 1st and 2nd Battalions, 6th Marines. Lines re-established and the whole position put in a much safer condition.

June 15th. Conditions remained the same and received Brigade Field Order #6 in which the 7th U. S. Infantry were to relieve us. Shelling brisk.

June 16th. Relieved by 7th U. S. Infantry in the early morning and proceeded to MERY.

We were continually fighting for two weeks and during that time the men did not have even a hot cup of coffee and lived entirely on cold food, and at times water was scarce, and from June 11th were without packs. I have never seen such a spirit as existed in the men in regard to every task that was given them and their losses seem to inspire fresh courage, and at all times were eager for the attack, and such a record may have been equalled during this war, but never surpassed. We had lost rather heavily before the attack on the BOIS de BELLEAU and only had about 700 effectives that morning and attacked on a front and depth of a kilometer. The following points were observed:

(a) That the maps used were incorrect and orders were not received in sufficient time to make a ground reconnaissance.
(b) That in wood fighting it is very difficult to determine that you are in the right position and especially so when the underbrush was very heavy.
(c) The enemy gives no trouble at all after you are at bayonet range, and is only too willing to surrender.
(d) That it is much cheaper in life to have German's surrender instead of killing all in sight and that German-speaking men were used very successfully this way.
(e) That Germans were very helpless when there were no officers or noncommissioned officers around and machine gun crews were much braver than the infantry.
(f) That it is a safe method to bayonet all men on the ground as some are not wounded.
(g) That machine guns were exceedingly well camouflaged and look out especially for brush heaps and wood piles also in trees, and that they generally develop one gun at a time and after that is taken a flanking one will open up.
(h) All men should have a working knowledge of German machine guns which are very simple and when captured can be used as there is always plenty of ammunition around.
(i) The majority of Germans captured and well treated were more than willing to tell everything they know and in fact to assist you, as the ones I saw were dead tired of the war.
(k) When prisoners are taken, the machine guns in their vicinity should be brought out by them, unless you are absolutely certain you are going to consolidate that certain spot. If this cannot be done a pistol bullet in the breech and water cooler casing will put them out of action and they cannot be then used again. In wood fighting it is very easy for men to conceal themselves and after you have run over them to come back again, so a gun should never be left intact.
(l) Automatic and rifle fire from the hip was the only kind that could be used in thick cover and it was found very effective.
(m) In open warfare and when the lines are under 1000 yards sniping was very successful as they had no idea we could kill at that range.
(n) In thick cover and when machine gun nests were run into if prisoners were available one in front of a man secured many machine guns as they would not shoot on their own men
(o) All attacks must have good mopping up parties as the German who is willing to surrender at the time of the attack is a different man several hours afterwards when in hands of an officer. All Germans captured were very much suriprised that we did not immediately kill them as they were told that was our practice.
(p) The six or seven officers taken were very easily handled.
(q) Intelligence section should have experts near P.C. so that all information from prisoners oan be used at once. A novice gets very little out of a prisoner and during an attack the small staff of a Battalion Commander are absolutely necessary for other things under our present organization. It is most important that this data be gotten first hand.
(r) That staff officers be on hand immediately after an attack to see that all orders have been carried out and that they make a daily inspection of the lines, as a great many officers are casualties and you don't get correct reports from the inexperienced ones left and a clear mind of that kind from one who knows exactly what the higher command desires would be invaluable and I personnally can say that towards the end of our stay in the sector from excessive work that I was not at my best in giving clear reports, and I was over my positions at least once a day.
(s) Rifle and hand grenades were found very useful against machine gun nests also a Stokes Mortar when the nest is located.
(t) The enemy used very effectively 37 and 47 mm guns and 77's point blank against our consolidated positions.
(u) Machine gun nests and troops cannot be driven out of woods by artillery when they desire to remain and it takes the personal contact of the bayonet to do it.
(v) The enemy have a very irritating substance in their high explosives which a mask won't stop. It is not dangerous but makes you get out of a small dugout, as the gas causes a sore throat, sneezing and eye irritation.
(w) It is not desirable to have replacements take place in the lines as the men never have a chance to get oriented and it has a bad effect on them as they don't know even their leaders and it is most essential that team work must exist to be successful.

In ending this report I wish it to be clearly understood that I am giving what information I consider might be of value and most of it comes from personal observations as most of my officers were casualties and I have not the benefit of their views. All of my losses were caused by rifle or shell fire as we had no gas with the exception of 12 cases, and I left COURCELLES with 965 effective men and 26 officers in the companies and lost 615 men and 19 officers. I am convinced that at times we were all over the BOIS de BELLEAU but from lack of men the stopping infiltration was impossible. All prisoners and machine guns taken on June 11th and 12th were entirely due to the efforts of this Battalion and we occupied part of the sector assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. Heavy casualties among my best officers was one cause of not obtaining the whole woods as the youngsters left in command did not size up the military value of ground promptly. I understand over 450 prisoners including 5 officers were taken and I personally know that over 500 machine guns were taken or destroyed; also 2 each large and small mortars. I can also state with pride that we may have overrun ground, but not one inch of it that was ever taken up, was given up after consolidation.

F. M. Wise
Lt.-Colonel, M. C.
Records Of The Second Division (Regular) Volume 7; Operation Reports — War Diaries — Patrol Reports
Second Division Historical Section, The Army War College, Washington, D. C.
 
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