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WW1 USMC Forest Green breakthrough


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For many many years I have asked everyone about evidence of when the Marines in France went to OD. No one seems to have a good answer, and there is a lot of confusing evidence out there.

 

There are a number of mentions they went into Belleau in OD, which makes sense due tot he early date of the order for them to wear OD Army uniforms. But people that have dug in that area have turned up bits of forest green material - which is pretty good tangible evidence it was there. (USMC buttons, however, could have been re-sewn on the Army tunics).

 

There was a theory they were in mixed uniforms, but knowing the military mind that never really made sense.

 

So in going back to a number of WW1 memoirs I have not read in ages and ages I started up "God Have Mercy on Us All" by William Scanlon who was with 97th company.

 

He writes a very detailed book, to the point where I feel I could actually follow his path around the area. He has a few very specific mentions his company is in standard OD (which again confused me because of the FG finds).

 

And then he makes a very specific description of how his company was depleted after the first week or so of the fight, and the "1st Marine Provisional Replacement Battalion" arrives still in Forest Green.

 

So, my working theory now has to be that the Marines went into the woods in OD, and it was the replacements coming up that wore the green. Probably when they were pulled out afterward most would have been issued ODs for both uniformity and more practically as they probably had ripped, dirtied and gassed their original uniforms.

 

This would then also make sense as to why there are some anecdotes about some green being worn at Soissons- the replacements wore them coming up from the rear.

 

So, comments, yes, no, maybe?

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And then he makes a very specific description of how his company was depleted after the first week or so of the fight, and the "1st Marine Provisional Replacement Battalion" arrives still in Forest Green.

 

So, my working theory now has to be that the Marines went into the woods in OD, and it was the replacements coming up that wore the green. Probably when they were pulled out afterward most would have been issued ODs for both uniformity and more practically as they probably had ripped, dirtied and gassed their original uniforms.

 

This would then also make sense as to why there are some anecdotes about some green being worn at Soissons- the replacements wore them coming up from the rear.

 

That kind of eyewitness report is pretty hard to beat. Since you did not put the arrives still in Forest Green part in quotes, can you post the exact quote from the book?

 

If he used the exact phrase "still in Forest Green" then it clearly implies contrast to those Marines already on the scene and supports your theory for sure.


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This is a ever long lasting debate

FG or OD????

20 + years ago... I corresponded with Gil Sanow, still a member of our forum, he was the neighbour of a former BW Marines by the name of Jim Scarbrough

MR Scarbrourg remembered then that he had buried 2 young replacements named Cox and Correy, in the vicinity of Tigny ( July 18th Soisson offensive), Gil ,wrote me, after I has asqued the question that the 2 replacements were dressed in FG and not in OD( in July 1918)

 

Another clue quoted from the book " FIX BAYONET" by John Thomasson, page 44...( June 1918)

 

..... wonder who...took his identification tag with it, I see.

Replacement, by his uniform " for the 5th & 6th Regiments had long since worn out their FG Marine Uniforms...and were wearing khaki , while replacements came in new green clothing...

 

Just my one cent contribution

Teufelhund

WOODS NOW U.S MARINE CORPS ENTIRELY, our lines include now the entire Bois de Belleau. Signed, Major Shearer "Skipper" 5Th Marines, 3rd Bat - June 25th 1918

 

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I cant find one quote where he specifically states his company was wearing the standard OD wool uniformso they looked like verey other doughboy unit, but as requested....

 

 

From Page 72 “God Have Mercy on US All”, by William T. Scanlon, 1929.

 

Corporal of 97th Company, promoted to sgt at Belleau Woods. This incident takes place after they are pulled out of the lines after the first part of Belleau Woods.

 

 

We looked over towards the galley and there we saw a long line of men. They wore the forest green uniforms like those we had worn before they made us wear regular uniforms. And they had on overseas caps and carried full packs.

 

Murphy said, “Christ, they look like new Marines … let’s go over and see who they are.”

 

Our top kicker Kuhns, the captain, and lieutenants were together talking. Kuhns had a paper in his hand.

 

We got to chinning with the new men. They were Marines all right, fresh from the states. They had arrived at Brest only a few days before and had been rushed across France in box cars.

 

We asked, “What outfit?”

 

And they said, “The First Marine Replacement Battalion…” (end of chapter)

 

 

 

 

and yes, it is a very good book.

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Hi,

I did the same analysis as Teufelhund, having read the same books. :rolleyes:

Replacements wore FG uniforms as "vets" wore OD since months before BW.

Logical, as "boots" arrived directly from MC training camps and had no reason to be equipped Army style when arriving in France.

However, I found hundreds of MC buttons in this area, not only from tunic, but also overcoat, and trousers fly (marked Marine Corps).

So we can establish the use of many MC different kinds of uniform, in fact complete outfits.

I have always thought Army and Marine uniforms were largely mixed at BW.

About Army buttons found, no secret, a large part of 2nd USID was Army (2nd Eng and Arty Regts were in the area with the Marines), and the battlefield has been also occupied by 7th Inf (3rd USID) and 26th USID.

For me, no problem, both OD and FG could be seen in june 1918 at BW.

Foxy

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Another testimony quoted from

"World War I Trough my Sights" By Horatio Rogers ( Presidio Press 1976 )

He was in the 26th Div which relieved the 4 Brigade in the BW Sector.

 

On July 8th he was in a wood in the sector of Paris Farm, on the crosroad from which one road ran north to Torcy & Belleau, near Montreuil aux Lions, on the Paris Metz Road

" There was all kinds of junk in these woods. I found a Marine Corps overcoat that just fitted me , and I wore it on cool nights until it got lost"[/i]

 

Teufelhund

WOODS NOW U.S MARINE CORPS ENTIRELY, our lines include now the entire Bois de Belleau. Signed, Major Shearer "Skipper" 5Th Marines, 3rd Bat - June 25th 1918

 

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A great conundrum of WW I USMC participation ATTACHED to the U.S. Army 2nd Division Regulars in France. Answering the question of WHEN the Marines started wearing U.S. Army uniforms has always puzzled those who know that they did. My brain says I read something that had a definitive date, somewhere, sometime but I have been unable to find it.

 

Marines had arrived in France starting in December 1917 so as would be expected they needed replenishment of their uniforms and equipment. I believe that it was General Pershing who decided that the Marines would wear Army uniforms because A.) It was too difficult to maintain a separate supply system for the Marines and besides, B.) The USMC Forest Green was too similar to the German Feld-grau (Field grey) and could result in friendly-fire casualties.

 

However, the Marines continued to maintain their personal individuality by exchanging their USMC buttons for U.S. Army buttons on their tunics/overcoats and of course, wearing their Eagle, Globe and Anchor insignia on their overseas caps. I recall seeing a picture of a Marine wearing USMC overcoat buttons on the collar of his Army tunic prior to the issuance of USMC collar disks. Photos of Marines in Germany after the war show them still in Army wool khaki with USMC buttons and the appropriate IndianHead patch with USMC collar disks. Interestingly I obtained just recently a USMC photo album and insignia lot which has two pair of collar disks, consisting of an Army "US" and a USMC right disk. Out of the woodwork so one has to assume that he wore them this way? This raises yet another question - when DID the Marines get back into USMC Forest Green? Before they left Germany or upon arrival back in the States just prior to demobilization? The USMC WWI green uniforms which we are all so fond of may just be the "coming home suits"!

 

They also wore USMC chevrons on their Army uniforms. This is a good place to post a great letter from a Marine combat veteran of the 96th Company, 6th Marines to a collector friend back in the 1970's. Creat0013.JPGCreat0014.JPGIn it he mentions never having had a unit patch and sends his single USMC Sgt's chevron, as worn, which was cut from his uniform in a hospital in Paris on Oct. 3rd, 1918 (Blanc Mont).

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Semper Fi....Bobgee

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"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." (Message sent by 1st Lt. Clifton B. Cates. USMC, 96th Co., Soissons, 19 July 1918 - later 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps 1948-1952)

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Not on topic, but Sgt. Avery also sent a Liberty Pass dtd Sept 26, 1918 and signed by 2/Lt Clifton B. Cates.

Enjoy....Semper Fi....Bobgee

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"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." (Message sent by 1st Lt. Clifton B. Cates. USMC, 96th Co., Soissons, 19 July 1918 - later 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps 1948-1952)

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CORRECTION - the 5th Marines arrived in France in July, 1917 not in December as I previously stated. Mea Culpa!

Semper Fi.....Bobgee :blush:

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"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." (Message sent by 1st Lt. Clifton B. Cates. USMC, 96th Co., Soissons, 19 July 1918 - later 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps 1948-1952)

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Also, I believe the 5th Brigade, 11th & 13th Regiments etc., which never entered combat, wore their Forest Green uniforms during their duties in France after arriving in about Sept. 1918. Correct me if I'm wrong, please.

Semper Fi....Bobgee

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"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." (Message sent by 1st Lt. Clifton B. Cates. USMC, 96th Co., Soissons, 19 July 1918 - later 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps 1948-1952)

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Also, I believe the 5th Brigade, 11th & 13th Regiments etc., which never entered combat, wore their Forest Green uniforms during their duties in France after arriving in about Sept. 1918. Correct me if I'm wrong, please.

Semper Fi....Bobgee

 

Absolutely, you are right

They arrived in September, and were in charge of Camp Pontanezen; Base section 5;as well as guarding the communication lines from BS 5 to the front lines

Many were assigned to Gievres, Is sur Tille and other small citien on the supply line

T

WOODS NOW U.S MARINE CORPS ENTIRELY, our lines include now the entire Bois de Belleau. Signed, Major Shearer "Skipper" 5Th Marines, 3rd Bat - June 25th 1918

 

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I think that the thrust of this thread is on the mark. OD being considered the "norm" in the AEF, with Marine replacements filtering in to mix up the uniforms a bit.

 

Also...."unit patches" may refer to the British-style battle flashes that these units wore.

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Always interested in the 166th Infantry, 42nd Division, A.E.F.

Quality WW1 studio portraits and real photo postcards of Distinguished Service Cross recipients; showing steel helmets; or other interesting content.

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  • 11 months later...

Ahoy!

 

Excellent topic here. In reading "A Texas Marine in France" by Jackson he mentions also that in January of 1918 that Pershing ordered that all Marines shall received Army Drab uniforms for the same reasons previously mentioned. However, do you all here beleive that this also applies to the Officers? Especially those company grade officers who would find themselves in the trenches? Would they too be wearing Army uniforms, except with the addition of the collar insignia that photos show officers wearing?

 

SF

 

Transport out

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Interesting discussion folks!

 

Last summer I bought a large group of letters written by an enlistedman serving with Co. 78, 6th Marine Regt, 2nd Division. On 21 FEB 1919 in reference to a photo that he sent home, he wrote "That thing on my shoulder in the picture is an Indian Head and shows M.P.'s and others that I belong to the second division. It is a yellow diamond with a white star and a red & black Indian inside of that."

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" We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. "

View my website honoring the men and women of Indiana: http://indianavets.wix.com/indiana-at-war and follow my updates on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/IndianaModernAgeofWar/
Interested in US uniforms? Join the Association of American Military Uniform Collectors! http://aamuc.org/or find us on Facebook! facebook.com/AAMUC.ORG

 

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There is photographic evidence out there that would suggest that there was both forest green and Olive drab. One pic that comes to mind is of a machine gun position manned by members of the 77th MG Co. which would have been somewhere I believe near Bois de Clerembauts (do not have my references in front of me) and it clearly shows several Marines and French soldiers manning an M1914 Hotchkiss with lateral limit stakes in the ground etc. The 1st Sgt. in the foreground is likely 1st Sgt. John McNulty and everyone of the Marines there are wearing Forest green. My 2 cents says that they had both. Someone early commented that having a mixture is not condusive to a military mentality but we need to think about the logistics of the AEF. They were an infant force less than a year old and the largely ill-prepared U.S. military did what they needed to get the job done. We go from 13,000 marines in April of 1917 to nearly 75,000 in Nov. 1918, it is likely that marines were given whatever the hell was available. Look at the logistics problems of 1943 in getting the M1942 camo pattern uniforms out. According to my grandfather who was with L Co. 3/6 at Tarawa, some guys had not camo trousers and only tops some had both some only had trousers, and that was 20 plus years afterwards. Just my 2 cents but I am willing to bet there were both. There are even photos of Marines in May 1918 wearing OD. The Grays research center has extensive photos that will likely answer or at least clarify this question but I do not think it is definative one way or another. For whatever it is or is not worth that is my take.

-Semper Fi, Kevin Seldon

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Always looking for quality WWI and WWII USMC items. Particularly 4th Marine Brigade related items, medals, uniforms helmets ephemera, Also WWII USMC items including uniforms, medals, etc. to combat veterans especially Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima. Let me know what you have. Semper Fi


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