Chronologies - WWI




6 April 1917 – U.S. declares war on Germany.
16 May 1917 – Secretary of War requests a regiment of Marines be made available for service with the American Expeditionary Force in France. The 5th Marines, then at Philadelphia, was selected.
27 May 1917 – President Woodrow Wilson directs the Commandant of the Marine Corps to order the 5th Marines to France.
14 June 1917 – The 5th Marines, commanded by Colonel Charles A. Doyen, sails from New York onboard the USS Henderson, the USS DeKalb and the USS Hancock.
27 June 1917 – Colonel Doyen and regimental headquarters arrives at St. Nazaire, France.
2 July 1917 – The 5th Marines arrives at St. Nazaire, France, and is attached to the U.S. Army’s 1st Division, American Expeditionary Force.
9 July 1917 – The 5th Marines begins guard and provost duty at St. Nazaire.
16 July 1917 – The 1st and 2d Battalions, 5th Marines, move to Gondrecourt and begin trench warfare training with the 30th, 70th and 151st Battalions of the French Alpine Chasseurs, known as the Blue Devils. The 3d Battalion remains at St. Nazaire.
August 1917 – Headquarters decides to form the 2d Division, American Expeditionary Force. It would consist of the 4th Marine Brigade and the 3d U.S. Army Brigade. Its regiments would be the 5th and 6th Marines and the Army’s 9th and 23d Infantry.
August 1917 – The 6th Marines begin forming at Quantico, Virginia, under the command of Colonel A.W. Catlin.
September 1917 – Elements of the 9th and 23d Infantry begin arriving in France and are assigned to a 2d Division assembly area around Bourmont.
24 September 1917 – The 5th Marines, less detachments still on guard duty, arrives at the division assembly area. Brigadier General Charles A. Doyen, USMC, activates the division and assumes command.
5 October 1917 – The 6th Marines begins arriving as the regiment’s 1st Battalion debarks at St. Nazaire. The regimental headquarters arrives on 1 November and the 3d and 2d Battalions arrive on 12 November 1917 and 5 February 1918, respectively. Initially, all units except the 2d Battalion, which went directly to the Brigade, pull guard duty at French ports.
December 1917 – All Marine units are reorganized. Rifle companies are enlarged, one company is added to each battalion and a machine gun battalion, the 6th Machine-Gun Battalion, is formed. Brigade strength reaches 9,444, the largest unit ever formed by Marines.
10 March 1918 – Brigade assembled. The Army Brigade is also ready. The organization of the division is complete and Major General Omar Bundy, USA, assumes command. The Division begins moving to the Toulon Sector southeast of Verdun where it would be assigned to the X Corps of the 2d French Army.
17 March 1918 – 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, relieves a French unit and occupies Center of Resistance Montgirmont. Later, other Marine and Army units move into frontline positions and, as the French withdraw troops to meet a German drive at Amiens, the 2d Division is left holding a front that had been held by more than two divisions.
6 April 1918 – 74th Company repulses a German raid at Tresavaux.
13 April 1918 – 74th Company suffers heavy casualties in a surprise gas attack.
20 April 1918 – 84th Company and a platoon of the 45th Company successfully repulse separate raids. Second Lieutenant Edward B. Hope, commander of the raided platoon, and several of his men win the French Croix de Guerre. They are the first of 1,633 Marines to win the French medal.
9 May 1918 – French units relieve the 2d Division and it moves to a new training area at Bar-leDuc. An ill Brigadier General Doyen returns to the United States and Brigadier General J.G. Harbord, USA, takes command of the Marine Brigade.
18 May 1918 – 2d Division moves to ready positions near Paris because Germans have made headway against the French at Amiens and against the British at Lys.
27 May 1918 – Germans launch a surprise attack at Chemin des Dames near Reims, roll back the French troops and drive unchecked to Chateau-Thierry on the Marne River east of Paris.
30 May 1918 – 2d Division begins moving up to check the Germans. The 9th Infantry and the 5th Marines, the lead elements, are initially spread across the entire rear of the retiring XXI French Corps. As the 6th Marines and the 23d Infantry arrive they are fed into position and the thinly-held line becomes 11 miles long. The orders are: “No retirement will be thought of on any pretext whatsoever.” By 4 June, most French units have withdrawn through the lines and the Marines and soldiers are holding the front. Their frontage has been shortened to 9,000 yards by fresh French units, which fell in on their flanks. While the French were retiring through the Marines’ lines, Captain Lloyd W. Williams, USMC, who was killed in the subsequent battle, snorted, “Retreat Hell, we just got there!” His famous comment was directed at a French officer who urged the Marines to retreat. When the Germans approached the Marines’ lines, Marine rifle fire began killing them at 800 yards. German officers, who did not teach their men to shoot at individual targets, first thought they had encountered a panicky unit. But as their casualties mounted, they became convinced they were facing a unit armed with nothing but machine guns. Their advance stalled and never regained its momentum. Their drive on Paris was stopped.
6 June 1918 – 4th Marine Brigade begins reducing the positions of two German divisions in the Bois de Belleau (Belleau Wood) directly to the front of the defense line they had been holding. This 20-day action was one of the most intense of the war. The brigade suffered 55 percent casualties. It established American troops, which had not been trusted by their European allies, as the best troops of the war. It also added legends to the Corps. It was at Belleau Wood, for example, that the legendary Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly reputedly leaped from a trench bellowing to his platoon: “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?”
26 June 1918 – American Expeditionary Force headquarters receives this message: “(Belleau) Woods now U.S. Marine Corps’ entirely.”
30 June 1918 – 6th French Army issues an order officially re-designating the Bois de Belleau as the Bois de la Brigade de Marine, and the entire brigade is cited by the French Army.
4 July 1918 – The 26th American Division relieves the 2d Division.
17 July 1918 – 2d Division moves into position to participate in a XX French Corps attack on the German’s Marne salient. Their attack is along the Soissons-Chateau-Thierry highway. Brigadier General Harbord, USA, has taken command of the division and the 4th Marine Brigade is being commanded by Colonel Harry Lee, USMC.
18 July 1918 – 2d Division, along with the 1st American Division and the 1st Moroccan Division, attack along the Soissons-Chateau-Thierry Highway. In a bitter two-day battle, they break the German grip on the Marne salient and force the Germans to begin the retreat, which lasts until the end of the war. Again, Marines are in the forefront of the fighting. Their casualties are again high and more legends are pounded out. As the attack commences, a Marine officer is told he will not have enough machine gun support because machine gun units have been unable to make their way forward over clogged roads. “Very well,” he says, “We will use the Boche (German) machine guns.”
19 July 1918 – 4th Marine Brigade and the rest of the 2d Division is withdrawn from the fighting. It reassembles near Paris and moves to Nancy where American divisions are being assembled and organized into an American army.
26 July 1918 – Brigadier General John A. Lejeune, USMC, takes command of the 4th Marine Brigade.
29 July 1918 – Brigadier General Lejeune is promoted to major general and assumes command of the 2d Division. Newly promoted Brigadier General W.C. Neville, USMC, who commanded the 5th Marines at Belleau Wood, takes command of the 4th Marine Brigade.
4 August 1918 – 2d Division takes over a quiet defensive sector at Pont-a-Mousson. The Marines spend their time training replacements and have only one action, an 8 August brush with a German party that apparently wandered into their lines.
12 August 1918 – 2d Division is ordered out of the defensive sector and is replaced by the 82nd American Division. It assembles for the San Mihiel Offensive at Colombey-les-Belles.
12 September 1918 – 2d Division attacks in the San Mihiel sector as part of I Corps of the new American army. The force inflicts heavy casualties on the enemy and drives them out of the sector in a three-day fight.
15 September 1918 – 78th American Division relieves the 2d Division.
26 September 1918 – 2d Division and the incomplete 36th American Division are attached to the 4th French Army for an attack on Blanc Mont west of the Argonne Forest. Germans are expected to resist bitterly because Argonne Forest and Blanc Mont screen their railroads. Loss of the area will imperil their entire army. Major General Lejeune learns that the French commander intends to break up the American units and use them as shock troops to lead the way for the French troops. He successfully resists this plan.
3 October 1918 – 4th Marine Brigade leads the Blanc Mont attack. Together with the rest of the division, it secures the enemy positions in a week of fierce fighting. For this action, both the 5th and 6th Marine regiments are cited by the French army for the third time and thus earn the right to wear the fourragere as part of their uniforms.
21 October 1918 – 4th Marine Brigade responds to a French command and moves to Leffincourt to relieve a French division. American headquarters gets this order countermanded and orders the entire 2d Division back under American control.
25 October 1918 – 2d Division reports for duty with the American First Army.
1 November 1918 – 2d Division attacks German positions in the Argonne Forest as part of the V Corps of the American First Army. As the war ends, Marines have broken through the German lines and are pursuing the fleeing enemy.
11 November 1918 – Armistice.
July 1919 – After serving in the occupation army, 4th Marine Brigade returns to the United States. It parades with the rest of the 2d Division in New York and is reviewed by President Woodrow Wilson in Washington, D.C. It then moves to Quantico, Virginia, where it is disbanded.
Reference Branch
USMC History Division

Marine Corps University