Devils along the Rhine

A fairly salty looking Marine Sergent in dress blues, ca. 1917, via the USMC archives. Note his fedora at the ready and early pattern webbing.

The combat exploits of the U.S. Marine Corps in France in 1918 are legend. This can be attributed to the men of the 5th Marine Regiment who came over with the first round of American troops in June 1917, followed by the 6th Marines in February 1918. The two regiments, along with the 4th Marine Machine Gun Battalion, formed the 4th Marine Brigade, which fought with the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division. Proving a rock between the proverbial hard place in the Chateau-Thierry sector and Belleau Wood before helping to blunt the German St. Mihiel offensive in September before tackling Blanc Mont Ridge, capturing St. Etienne and ending the war on the banks of the Meuse River.

Then came their part in the Army of German Occupation, which saw the 4th Marine Brigade march into the Rhine on 13 December 1918, a duty they maintained until June 1919.

“Brigade headquarters were successively established at Margut, Bellefontaine, Anon, Usseldange, Berg, Eppeldorf, Neuerburgh, Waxweiler, Prum, Budesheim, Weisbaum, Antweiler, Neuenahr, Burgbrohl, Rheinbrohi, and Honningen.”

These photos come from the ersatz USMC Rhine River Patrol, likely during the early (winter) part of 1919 due to the presence of heavy greatcoats and other cold-weather gear. They were likely taken during the inspection by of SECNAV Josephus “Cup of Joe” Daniels, who reviewed the 2nd ID and its Marine units in Germany in April 1919 or perhaps by Pershing, who visited the group in March, as the crew are at attention and saluting.

Marine Rhine River Patrol ca 1919, George Barnett Collection, COLL1635, Marine Corps Archives. Note the bow-mounted water-cooled machine gun 

Of interest, the Polizei-marked patrol boat is not equipped with a USMC-standard Lewis gun, M1904 Maxim or M1917 Browning, but rather a German Spandau Maschinengewehr 08, or MG 08, to include its distinctive Schlittenlafette sled mount.

After all, there were probably a lot of them around as surplus in 1919…

Both the 4th Brigade and the follow-on 5th Marine Brigade (11th & 13th Marine Rgts, 5th MG btln) ended their European vacation in the summer and arrived back in the States in August 1919.

For more on the Marines in the Great War, the USMC Archives has a great 118-page historical reference on the subject, here. 

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