I would like to add a little something from my book, which I found covered those Marines severing as part of the Army in WWI. I hope this will be an interesting read for all.
Understanding the Marines’ Role in World War I
There has long been an unsupported, deep rooted belief that all Marines and Sailors serving as part of the American Expeditionary Forces were entitled to Army awards as well as Naval awards. The largest misunderstanding came about because many books already published have failed to outline the differences between these two groups:
Those naval personnel (including Marines) who had served on detached assignment with the Army.
And those naval personnel (including Marines) who were strictly under naval command and were never attached to the Army.
I hope the facts I present in this section will add the clarity of truth, and will aid collectors in their pursuits.
In 1917, President Wilson and Congress declared war on Germany. At the time and to this day, the United States Marine Corps is an organization that, while officially part of the Navy, is altogether a distinct entity from the Navy. The leadership of the Marine Corps wanted to expand, and to prove that the Marine Corps were more than just a small landing force. They felt they could fulfill a vital role in this war and that the war provided them with an opportunity to expand and to increase the number of men under their command.
When the United States entered the war, Marine commanders believed their golden opportunity had arrived. President Wilson appointed General John J. Pershing as General of the Armies, the highest possible rank in the United States Army. At first, General Pershing resisted the Marines being part of his American Expeditionary Force, calling them
"Soldiers of the sea," and pointing out that this was a land war.
However after continuing pressure, General Pershing finally relented but there was one stipulation. Pershing insisted that all land troops sent to Europe were to be solely under his command, and serve as part of his Army. General Pershing's terms were met when
President Wilson signed an executive order to this effect, which was presented to Congress for their approval. This also required the complete support of the Army's Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker, the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, and the U.S. Marine Corps Commandant, Major General George Barnett. With this executive action, and the ensuing approvals, the marine and naval personnel were detached from the naval services and were then attached to the Army as part of the American Expeditionary Forces headed to France. More detailed information can be found on the separation of marine and naval personnel who then served in the Army as part of the AEF in the following statements:
Naval Lessons of the Great War, by Tracy Barrett Kittredge, Doubleday, Page & Company, 1921: a review of the Senate naval investigation of the criticisms by Admiral Sims of the policies and methods of Josephus Daniels Secretary of the Navy.
The Admiral Knights' awards board will consider the cases of only such members of the Marine Corps as were not detached for service with the Army. (Section VI, paragraph 1, section 2, p. 46-47.)
In the charges against Secretary of the Navy Daniels, for violating eight of his own guidelines, number seven of these charges on page 57 is:
In awarding medals to Marines Corps personnel, Secretary Daniels disregarded his own instructions that medals should be awarded only to those marines not serving with the Army. He rejected practically all recommendations from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Board of Awards, and awarded the Navy medals to marines who had already received awards from the Army, thus giving them duplicate awards. His duplication of the awards included: 4 Medals of Honor, 12 Distinguished Service medals and 309 Navy Crosses, or 325 awards out of the grand total of 1620 on his list. (Emphasis added.)
The United States Marine Corps in the World War, by Major Edwin N. McClellan, USMC, Officer in Charge, Historical Division, Headquarters. McClellan documents a Letter of Transmission from November 26, 1919 he sent regarding the purpose of his book as per Marine Corps Orders No. 53 (Series 1919)., "There is transmitted herewith for your formal approval a concise history of the United States Marine Corps in the World War, including certain statistics, with the recommendation that it be published to the naval service."
On August 8, 1919, the Marine's Fourth Brigade was transferred back to the naval service. (Chapter XXIII, p. 79)
Acting Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, on August 12, 1919, sent the following special orders in a letter to the Honorable Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy:In the process of demobilization, the Marine Brigade, which by the President's order became a part of the American Expeditionary Forces and was thus a part of the forces under the control of the War Department and under the command of Gen. Pershing, has now been returned to this country, detached from the Army, and restored to the control of the Navy Department. (p. 81)
In another letter signed by the acting Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, dated August 13, 1919, to the Honorable Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War, Washington, DC, he acknowledged the fact that: "The heroism of the Marines and the Regulars in the famous Second Division and their sacrifices has endeared them to all Americans, and it is with very pardonable pride that we welcome them back to the Navy." (p. 82)Relevant information is found in another publication, Awarding of Medals in the Naval Service, Hearing before a Subcommittee on Naval Affairs, United States Senate, Sixty Sixth Congress, Second Session, on S. Res. 285, a Resolution Authorizing the Subcommittee on Naval Affairs, Under Resolution Numbered 62, Agreed to June 6, 1919, to Employ Such Counsel and Clerical Assistants as it May Deem Necessary. George Barnett, Major General Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps, was called to give testimony which can be found starting on page 389, with his opening remarks. On page 392, he included in his testimony, a letter from the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, dated May 29, 1917, on the subject of the organization of the Fifth Regiment of Marines. In the letter, Daniels wrote to the Major:
1. In accordance with the directions issued by the President, you are directed to organize a force of marines to be known as the Fifth Regiment of Marines for service with the Army as a part of the first expedition to proceed to France in the near future. This force will consist of such officers and enlisted men as may be required for such an organization, following instructions to be issued by the War Department.
It was signed Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, and Newton D. Baker, Secretary of the Army.
The Chairman of the subcommittee asked General Barnett whether he ever gave any recommendations to Admiral Knight's Board for naval awards. (p. 394)
General Barnett replied:
Yes, certain of the Medical Corps of the Navy, officers and men, certain Chaplains and certain of the Dental Corps. I did that for the simple reason that, from time immemorial, Marines have had the Navy Medical Corps serving with them, and Navy Chaplains, and Dental Corps, and they were not detached for service with the Army, and therefore at all times belonged to the Navy. Therefore I recommended suitable awards for them, in accordance with what I thought proper. (These were recommendations made by Barnett for non-combatants who, for example, may have been entitled to a Commendation Silver Star.)
The exchange continued, as follows on pages 394-395:
The Chairman: Did you get any instructions from the department not to recommend those men who served on the other side?
General Barnett: I did not.
The Chairman: Such instructions were given (to) the board, and I did not know and I do not know whether they were given (to) you or not.
General Barnett: No sir; I have never seen the precept of the board, so I do know what their instructions were. Outside of that, the only ones who went across the water who were recommended by me were those that I have mentioned as having served in the northern bombing group. That was essentially a naval function. They were never part of the Army. They were never detached from the Marine Corps and the Navy, and they served and did remarkable service over there, and in almost every case they were awarded according to the report of the Secretary of the Navy; that is of the northern bombing group. Of the one that I recommended originally there were, I think, only two or three whose names appeared in the published report of the Secretary. As I say, I never saw the report of the Knight Board and do not know what officers or men were recommended by that board. (…) Many cases have come before me since that time where enlisted men particularly, or their friends, have claimed that they should have been rewarded by the Army. I have always handled those cases in one way. I have simply taken the statements of those people as I got them and forwarded them to the Adjutant General of the Army for proper forwarding to such Army organization as might be the proper one to take up the case in the War Department.
The Chairman: And yet you say you did recommend certain men who fought on the other side (France)?
General Barnett: Only in the Northern Bombing Group (First Marine Aviation Force), who served absolutely with the Navy.
The Chairman: Because they had no connection with the Army?
General Barnett: They had no connection with the Army. They were a naval bombing group who were trying to bomb the Germans out of (…) Zeebrugge, Ostend, Dunkirk, and those places on the northern coast of Belgium.
Senator Truman Newberry: Under whose orders did they serve on the other side (France and Belgium)?
General Barnett: Their immediate commanding officer was Captain David Hanrahan (U.S. Navy). He was in charge of the Northern Bombing Group, headquartered at Antingues, France.
Senator Newberry: To whom did he report?
General Barnett: I do not know whether he was under Admiral Sims or Admiral Benson. I have never seen the orders; but their immediate commanding officer was Captain Hanrahan.
The Chairman: Have you considered that your officers who served with the American Expeditionary Forces on the other side, who were awarded medals by the Army, were not entitled to medals from the Marine Corps?
General Barnett: That was my interpretation and I did not recommend any of them for that reason, because they had been awarded what the Army counted proper awards for what they had done in the war.
Admiral Austin Melvin Knight, who was the head of the Navy Awards Board, was also called to testify. On pages 457-464, reading from one of three reports submitted by the board, he stated: "2. The board will consider the cases of only such members of the Marine Corps as were not detached for service in the Army." (…)
Chairman: Was it your understanding that you were to have nothing to do with the awards to members of the Marine Corps who had served with the American Expeditionary Forces?
Admiral Knight: We were distinctly forbidden in our precept to touch them.
The Chairman: Your understanding was they had received their award in the Army, they were not to receive an award in the Navy?
Admiral Knight: My understanding was that we had nothing to do with them, whether they had received awards in the Army or not. They were part of the Army. We were not awarding medals to be Army.
This investigative session of Congress answers many questions about the process and agents involved in the award process for all types of medals. The testimony rendered presents a much clearer picture of events that took place over during this time frame. The Battle clasps which naval personnel on attached duty with the Army could have earned on an individual basis were: Aisne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne and the Defensive Sector.
To summarize, General Barnett's testimony clearly indicates he was aware that there were two groups of naval personnel, those who were entitled to Navy awards only and those were entitled to Army awards. Clearly, the Fourth Brigade of United States Marines and naval personnel who were on detached service with the Army were lawfully entitled to all awards for their service with Army between April 1917 through April 1919. The only responsibility of the Navy was to disburse these Army earned awards once these naval personnel were reattached to Navy through records forwarded from the Army.
Not included in the grouping above were other Navy and Marine officers and enlisted men of the Navy Medical Corps, mainly in Medical support such as Hospital ship and who were not attached to the Army who General Barnett spoke of in his testimony. Their citations noted that they were stationed far from the front, in aid stations and hospitals. Barnett recognized this fact in his testimony.
Another group of approximately 1,600 Marine and Navy officers and enlisted men were sent overseas for naval shore duty. They served in communications, ports, harbors, warehouses, service of supply, radio stations, naval magazines, ammunition depots, cable stations and other naval concerns, and assisted in off-loading U.S. ships at the docks in France. Unlike the Marines and Sailors attached to the Army's 2nd Division, they also remained under the Navy's command. This group came to be considered the "forgotten" shore servicemen who performed the necessary and thankless, day-to-day duties required to keep the war machine going in France.
This group was awarded the Victory Medal with the Navy Duty clasp, Overseas. Unsatisfied with this very non-descript clasp, they insisted for years that they too, should be awarded the Army Service clasp, France including the Maltese cross. They had served in France like their counterparts who had served with the Army. In late September of 1940, under heavy pressure from these and other veterans' groups, the Secretary of the Navy addressed the question of approval for the wearing of the Army's Service clasp, France for this group, and on October 5, 1940, it was finally authorized.
In the book, The United States Marine Corps in the World War, by Major Edwin N. McClellan, USMC, Officer in Charge, Historical Division, Headquarters, U. S. Marine Corps, Washington, DC (originally printed in 1920 and then reprinted in 1968), the author points out still another group of Marines who served with the AEF in France and Belgium and who were entitled to Battle or Service clasps as well:
Replacement marines were drawn from the 5th Brigade Headquarters, 11th and 13th Regiments and the 5th Brigade Machine Gun Battalion and sent forward to the 2nd Division's, Fourth Brigade. They would have been entitled, depending on individual case, to the France Service clasp with Maltese cross as well as some battle clasps.
A few Marine officers and enlisted men were attached and engaged in the Army's Air Service, Signal Corps operations McClellan listed only 6 pilots while other writers have placed the number at 20 Marine pilots. These pilots were sent to France as Observer Pilots and as such, participated in operations with American, French, and British forces. I believe some of these observer pilots have been confused as the pilots of the 1st Marine Aviation Force of the Day Wing. The distinction of these two groups is important since these observer pilots were all under the command of the Army, and would have been entitled to at least some combination of the following battle clasps: Champagne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, Ypres-Lys and Defensive Sector. But not the Navy Duty Aviation clasp, as they were not part of the Navy command. For example, General Orders No. 15, W.D., 1919, Lowe, William O., Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, 90th Aero Squadron, 3d Observation Group, Army Air Service (Attached) Date of Action: October 7, 1918 Citation:
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to William O. Lowe, Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism in action east of Cunel, Verdun Sector, France, October 7, 1918 while attached as an Observer with the 90th Aero Squadron, 3d Observation Group, U.S. Army Air Service. Second Lieutenant William Lowe, while staking the advance lines of the 80th Division, was suddenly attacked by a formation of eight enemy machines (Fokker type), which dived out of a cloud bank. Although greatly outnumbered, Lieutenant Lowe succeeded in shooting down one out of control and disabling a second so that it was forced to land. Later, on the same mission, he was again attacked by a patrol of five enemy scout machines, and in a running fight he drove these off and successfully completed his mission.
Further research offers two Marine officers and ten enlisted men who were sent to the Army Balloon School and afterwards, they were sent to France on detached duty from the Marines. This is an example of yet another separate group which was not attached to the 2nd division yet was under the command of the Army. Major Edwin N. McClellan reported on this group's service in Aircraft Journal, Volume 6, 1920, p.7. As a result, they too would have been entitled to certain Army clasps.
For reference, I present the following: approximately 30,000 Marines attached to the Army, and sent overseas as a part of the American Expeditionary Forces. The Fourth Brigade of United States Marines was composed of the following:
The Fifth Regiment
1st Battalion: 17th (A) Company, 49th ( Company, 66th © Company, 67th (D) Company
2nd Battalion: 18th (E) Company, 43rd (F) Company, 51st (G) Company, 55th (H) Company
3rd Battalion: 16th (I) Company, 20th (K) Company, 45th (L) Company, 47th (M) Company
8th Machine Gun Company, Supply Company and Headquarters Company.
The Sixth Regiment
1st Battalion: 74th (A) Company, 75th ( Company, 76th © Company, 95th (D) Company
2nd Battalion: 78th (E) Company, 79th (F) Company, 80th (G) Company, 96th (H) Company
3rd Battalion: 82nd (I) Company, 83rd (K) Company, 84th (L) Company, 97th (M Company
73rd Machine Gun Company, Supply Company and Headquarters Company.
The Sixth Machine Gun Battalion
15th (A) Company, 23rd ( Company, 77th © Company, 81st (D) Company.
Not included in the above reference, though mentioned earlier, were sixty officers and five hundred enlisted men of the Medical Corps, twelve officers of the Dental Corps, and eleven Chaplains, who were all in the Navy, but who served with the Marines Fourth Brigade in the American Expeditionary Forces.
 Major General Barnett, Commandant U.S. Marine Corps, adds in his testimony that he has identical letters for the Sixth Regiment and for the Sixth Machine-Gun Battalion and then he makes reference to the Roosevelt's letter, officially attaching the Marines back to the Navy.