In the first week after the Armistice: with the 2d Division, AEF, on the march to the Rhine: field orders, intelligence reports, interrogations of French prisoners of war

 

 

 11 November 1918: The Armistice was signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, ending the European War. At the time of the signing of the armistice with Germany, the Marine Corps had an active duty strength of 2,474 officers and 70,489 enlisted men.

On the Western Front, official notification of the Armistice reached the Fourth Brigade from the Fifth Army Corps at 0835, and orders were at once sent forward to cease hostilities at 1100. Generally, at that hour over the front, the pressure of sustained warfare came to an abrupt end. On the Marine Brigade front there was only one exception and that was a patrol of the Fifth which had pushed ahead to Moulins, so far out that the order announcing the Armistice did not reach it. An hour or so after noon, while improving their positions, they came upon a group of celebrating German soldiers from whom they learned that fighting had ceased and that the terms of an armistice were in effect. Soon this report was confirmed by receipt of the official notification from battalion headaquarters. THE FIGHT WAS OVER!

 The most noticeable local effect of the Armistice was the attention given to personal comfort. Officers and men alike, colonels, medical personnel, haplains, and machine-gunners~ all rose from their wet holes in the earth. They built fires to warm and dry their chilled, water-soaked and debilitated bodies. They spread fire-dried materials on the ground upon which they dropped to sleep.

 An intense program of cleaning, bathing, feeding, sleeping, resting, delousing, and re-outfitting of the men was instituted. The animals and rolling stock were restored.

~~ Lt. George R. Strott, USN, The Medical Department
of the United States Navy with the Army
and Marine Corps in World War I

 

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12 November 1918: On the Western Front, orders were received by the Marine Brigade to organize the line established when the Armistice became official. The 5th Marine Regiment was across the Meuse, and the 6th in the wood just west of Mouzon. Both regiments were holding the front line.

  ~~ Lt. George R. Strott, USN, The Medical Department
of the United States Navy with the Army
and Marine Corps in World War I

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4th BRIGADE MARINES, AMERICAN E.F
FIELD ORDERS #40
12 November 1918

Headquarters, 4th Brigade,
Marines, American E.F.
12th November ‘18

SECRET

FIELD ORDERS
NO. 40

I. Field Orders #63, 2nd Division, 12th November ‘18 (copy attached hereto) forwarded for compliance:

1. (a) An armistice with Germany has been signed and all hostilities ceased at 11:00 hours, 11th November ‘18.

(b) The allied armies are being held in readiness for a further advance.

2. (a) The 2nd Division will organize a position of resistance on its present front and be ready to renew the advance.

(b) DIVISION LIMITS:

Right (south) Limit: LETANNE, (inclusive) to the left flank of the 89th Division on its front line.

Left (north) Limit: le BASACE ~ MOUZON (both inclusive).

Front Line: The line attained at 11:00 hours, 11th November, ‘18 withing our Divisional limit.

3. (a) The present line attained will be organized in depth. Troops will be disposed so as to obtain maximum rest and comfort consistent with necessary arrangements for security and with preparations for a further advance.

(b) The 4th Brigade will hold the front line. It will relieve any part of the 3rd Brigade now in the front line. Details of relief to be arranged between Brigade Commanders. This line will not be passed by any American troops until further orders. Communication with the enemy is forbidden. The cessation of hostilities is an armistice only and not peace, and there must bew no relaxation of vigilance. Liaison agents will be exchanged with adjoining units.

( c) DIVISIONAL RESERVE: The 3rd Brigade when relieved by the 4th Brigade will occupy a position in support in Beaumont and Yoncq and their vicinity and be prepared for further advancing. The 4th M.G. Bn. will be part of the Division reserve and remains in place.

ARTILLERY: The 2nd F.A. Brigade will be prepared to take defensive or offensive action in support of the Infantry.

4. ADMINISTRATION: By A.C. of S. G-1.

5. Division P.C. ~ No change. Brigade P.C.s ~ No change.

II. The 4th Brigade Marines will be disposed with both Regiments in line, 5th on right and 6th on left.

DIVIDING LINE:

Between Regiments: Left flank of the organized line of the 5th Marines resting on the MEUSE river. Southwest along the west bank of that river to point 308-311.6, westward across the railway track and along bottom of the ravine to VILLEMONTRY-BEAUMONT road, thencve southwest along that road to the west edge of SARTELLE FME thence to end of dirt road on Height 302 and along that road to the west edge of la THINAUDINE FME.

The 5th and 6th Marines will on 13th November, ‘18 relieve troops of the 3rd Brigade now in line within their Regimentals sectors. Reconnaissance and billeting parties will be sent out to make the necessary arrangements for the relief as soon as possible. The relief will be effective at 12:00 Noon, 13th November, ‘18 and command will pass to the Commanding General, 4th Brigade, at that time.

DISPOSITION FOR DEFENSE:

The 5th Marines will be disposed two Battalions on east Bank of the MEUSE with one Battalion reserve in the region of LETANNE-SARTELLE FARM.

The 6th Marines will be disposed with at least one battalion in the region of VILLEMONTRY-LA-FROBOURG and two Battalions in farms and bivouac forward of the town YONCQ.

ARTILLERY:

The 5th Marines are to be supported by the 15th F.A. Regiment and the 6th Marines by the 12th F.A. Regiment.

MACHINE GUNS:

Machine Gun Companies will remain assigned to Infantry Battalions as at present.

3. P.C. 4th Brigade will remain in place.
By command of Brigadier General Neville:

EARL H. ELLIS Lieut. Col., USMC. Adjutant.

 

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CONFIDENTIAL
Not to be taken into front line trenches.

2nd DIVISION (REGULAR) AEF.
Second Section, G. S.
No. 120

SUMMARY OF INTELLIGENCE:

November 12, 1918 to November 13, 1918.
Noon to noon.

 

I. GENERAL IMPRESSION OF THE DAY:

Enemy withdrawing from our front probably in compliance with the terms of the Armistice.

II. ENEMY FRONT LINE:

Our front line no change. Enemy front line no change.

III. ENEMY ORDER OF BATTLE:

No identifications.

IV. ENEMY INFANTRY:

Withdrawing to the rear.

V. ENEMY ARTILLERY:

Withdrawing to the rear.

VI. ENEMY MOVEMENTS:

Visibility poor until about 10 h. 30. Numerous explosions of ammunition dumps all morning, out of sight but north and northeast of La SURTELLE Ferme. Camp fires at Bois de MOULINS. 10 to 10 h 30 there was a small fire at AUTREVILLE. 11 h. 30 2 American planes over our front line. 15 h. 30 1 wagon train about 1 kilometer long, in 2 sections, composed of a succession of groups of 1 wagon and 2 caissons in regular formation, entered AMBLIMONT.

VII. ENEMY WORKS:

Nothing to report.

VIII. ENEMY AERONAUTICS:

Nothing to report.

IX. MISCELLANEOUS:

Captured Material: 3 Wagon Parks on the VILLEMONTRY-Le FAUBOURG Road consisting of 250 vehicles classified as follows: ~~150 Ammunition linbers, serviceable. ~~90 Wagons, ration and water, serviceable. ~~10 Rolling kitchens, serviceable.

2 French soldiers, German prisoners of war, escapted into our lines at MOUZON morning of 12th November. ~~Robert Picard ~ 6th Co., 156th Regt.,m 39th Inf. Div. ~~Marcell Moulde ~ 9th Co., 99th Regt., 28th Inf. Div.

X. ACTIVITY OF OUR OWN TROOPS:

No activity, complying strictly with the Armistice Order.

R.S. KEYSER
Major, Marines
A. C. of S., G-2

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DIVISION INFORMATION BULLETIN
2nd DIVISION (REG.) Nov. 13, 1918.
Interrogation of Two French Prisoners of War

Taken prisoner the 25th April, 1918, at Mt. KEMMEL. They were taken through various camps in Belgium and later brought to MOUZON where there was a large concentration camp and where they worked as cultivators, etc. The 4th November they left MOUZON, were taken back into Belgium to ETHE. From there they escaped and made their way back to MOUZON and penetrated into our lines on the 12th Nov., in the morning, at MOUZON.

The prisoners stated that on the 4th November they were part of a large body of prisoners who were conducted into Belgium in 3 marches, under a very lax guard. That the Germans were retreating in a more or less disorderly fashion behind their front lines, and that there seems to be a veritable debacle, which made it possible for them, as well as a good many others, to escape and hide with civilians, from whom they obtained civilian clothes and thus attired, penetrated our lines as above stated. The Germans in MOUZON saw them traverse the town, cross the foot bridge and made no effort to stop them. They had seen some German officers in MOUZON, some of whom appeared to be of high rank, having driven up to the town in automobiles. The Germans still have many pieces of artillery in place on the heights and crest of hills, some of which they appeared to be leaving and others they were taking back with them. The withdrawal of the Germans appeared to be through LUXEMBOURG. They were informed by German soldiers that there was a revolution going on in Germany and that the Germans wanted to establish a republic. That many of the German soldiers had thrown away their arms and had declared there would be no more war for them. The lack of order and military discipline struck them to a marked degree.
 

 
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CONFIDENTIAL
Not to be taken into front line trenches.

2nd DIVISION (REGULAR) AEF.
Second Section, G. S.
No. 121

SUMMARY OF INTELLIGENCE
November 13, 1918 to November 14, 1918.
Noon to noon.

 

I. GENERAL IMPRESSION OF THE DAY:

Enemy withdrawing from our front probably in compliance with the terms of the Armistice.

II. ENEMY FRONT LINE:

Enemy front line not well defined. Our front line no change.

III. ENEMY ORDER OF BATTLE:

No identifications.

IV. ENEMY INFANTRY:

Reports indicate that his infantry has withdrawn from our front. There still remains however, a large number of stragglers in the towns and farms, who seem to be disorganized and without arms. Attempts to fraternize with our front line troops continue.

V. ENEMY ARTILLERY:

Nothing to report.

VI. ENEMY MOVEMENTS:

Nothing to report other than the statement under par. IV.

VII. ENEMY WORKS:

Nothing to report.

VIII. ENEMY AERONAUTICS:

No activity.

IX. MISCELLANEOUS:

Prisoners of War: Previously reported (total): 1707. Captured since last report: 5. Total: 1712. 2 French soldiers, German Prisoners of War, entered our lines this morning (Nov. 14th) at MOUZON: Pvt. Gaston Debray ~ 1st M.G. Co., 313th Regt., 125th Div.Inf. Cpl. Charles Demaison ~ 17th Co., 289th Regt.,m 55th Div. Inf.

X. ACTIVITY OF OUR OWN TROOPS:

No activity, complying strictly with the Armistice Order.

R.S. KEYSER
Major, Marines
A. C. of S., G-2

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14 November 1918: On the Western Front, the 5th Regiment, Marines, 2nd Division AEF, was relieved by the 308th Infantry, 89th Division, and marched its 1st and 2nd Battalions to Pouilly, and its 3rd to Letanne. The 6th Regiment, Marines, moved its headquarters from Yoncq to Villemontry. All were prepared for the new mission ~ to head the victorious armies of the Allies on their march through Belgium and Luxembourg to the Rhine, and, until peace was secured, to become the Army of Occupation of the American bridgehead, at Coblenz in the heart of Germany.

~~ Lt. George R. Strott, USN, The Medical Department
of the United States Navy with the Army
and Marine Corps in World War I

 
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DIVISION INFORMATION BULLETIN
2nd DIVISION (REG.) Nov. 14, 1918.
Interrogation of Two French Prisoners of War

Captured 30th May, 1918, at CUTS near NOYON. They escaped from BERTRIX the 10th November, crossing our lines Nov. 14th, at MOUZON. The prisoners state that during the time of their captivity they have had very little to eat, never once had they received a letter or package from their friends; they were improperly housed and clothed. Since the German retreat the month 1st of November, there had been a marked lack of discipline among the Germans, which since the signing of the Armistice, had practically turned into anarchy. That the German soldiers were pillaging everything possible, including their own military stores; were not submissive to orders and in fact, they had witnessed the killing of 2 German officers by German soldiers at BERTRIX, one of the German officers being a major. They noticed however, that few officers were about, most of them apparently having left their commands.

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17 November 1918: The 2nd Division, AEF, assigned to the new Third Corps of the new Third Army (American Army of Occupation), was scheduled to start their march at 0500, from their positions along the Meuse River. From the remaining short strip of France, the plan was to pass through a corner of southeastern Belgium into and across the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg to the German frontier at the Sauer River. From there the route was to and across the Rhine into a large semicircular area on the east bank to be known as the American Bridgehead, in the center of the Allied line (headquarters, Coblenz) between the British in the north (headquarters, Cologne) and the French in the south (headquarters, Mainze). The distance from the starting point on the Meuse to the German frontier on the Sauer was approximately 60 miles. The plan was to reach the frontier in 6 marching days; one day was allowed for rest. This memorable march to the Rhine started on schedule at 0500 17 November 1918 from Pouilly on the Meuse. At the start, the 5th Marines and Company C of the 2nd Engineers formed the advance guard and preceded the main body by two kilometers. Flank guards maintained contact with the Fourth French Army on the left and the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division on the right. On completion of the first day’s march, which ended just short of the Belgium frontier, outposts were established along the line Deux Villers-Moiry-Montmady.

~~ Lt. George R. Strott, USN, The Medical Department
of the United States Navy with the Army
and Marine Corps in World War I

 
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18 November 1918: In Belgium, the Second Division, Army of Occupation, resumed its march at 0500, crossing the Belgium frontier early in the morning, and passing on through Belle Fontaine to an outpost line, Jam-Etalle-Ste Leger. The weather was cool and the sky mildly overcast, which meant good marching conditions. When the Belgium border was crossed, the regimental bands moved out of their long silence and, heading the regiments, played as the men entered the first country to be freed. Spirits were high and the troops were given a rousing welcome by the inhabitants who lined both sides of the road. The people had hastily constructed triumphal arches at the entrance of towns, speedily sewed homemade American flags with variable numbers of stripes and stars, and there was friendship and welcome on all sides. Some girls were struggling with sand and brush to erase a painted black cross from the entrance to their homes. Neighbors had placed the mark to signify a girl’s friendliness with German officers during the period of enemy occupation.

~~ Lt. George R. Strott, USN, The Medical Department
of the United States Navy with the Army
and Marine Corps in World War I

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CONFIDENTIAL
Not to be taken into front line trenches.

2nd DIVISION (REGULAR) AEF.
Second Section, G. S.
No. 123

SUMMARY OF INTELLIGENCE
November 18, 1918 to November 19, 1918.
10 h. to 10 h.

 

I. GENERAL IMPRESSION OF THE DAY:

This division advanced without unusual incident to the line JAINOIGEUS – ST. MARIE – ETHE – SIGNEULX and met with joyous demonstrations from the inhabitants.

II. ENEMY ORDER OF BATTLE:

……Definite information concerning the enemy’s units retiring on our front can not be obtained. About one regiment composed of Westphalian and Prussians billeted in VIRTON the night of 15th-16th November and marched on the morning of the 16th in the direction of ARTON. Their discipline was very bad owing to the few officers with them and their lack of organization. Many either destroyed or otherwise disposed of their equipment.

III. ENEMY MOVEMENTS:

An American repatriated Prisoner stated that on the 17th the last of the enemy to leave ARLON was some artillery units. He saw no infantry.

IV. MORALE OF ENEMY TROOPS:

From all reports the conclusion is reached that the enemy is retreating in a disorganized condition, the men refuse to salute their officers, and in some cases, officers are assaulted by their own men. Inhabitants report that some officers removed their insignia of rank immediately after the retirement began.

V. PHYSICAL CONDITION OF THE ENEMY TROOPS:

Nothing to report.

VI. CONDUCT OF ENEMY TROOPS:

There is no evidence of misconduct by the enemy’s troops towards the civilian population.

VII. OBSERVATION OF THE ARMISTICE:

There is no evidence that the enemy is violating any clauses of the armistice.

VIII. MISCELLANEOUS ENEMY DATA:

East of Belle FONTAINE there is an ammunition dump containing about 1000 eight inch shells.

R.S. KEYSER
Major, Marines
A. C. of S., G-2

 

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SOURCES:

Strott, Lt. George G., USN.   The Medical Department of the United States Navy with the Army and Marine Corps in France in World War I: Its Functions and Employment.  Washington D.C., Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, U.S. Navy Department, 1947.

U.S. Army, Records of the Second Division (Regular). 9 volumes. Washington: The Army War College, 1927. 

 

BJ Omanson