Almost all sources that discuss the contribution of the U.S. Marine Corps to the victory in World War I focus on the service of the Marine Brigade attached to the Army's 2nd Division. This is not without good reason — the 2nd Division might have seen more action that any other unit in France — but it is not the whole story.The 5th Marine Brigade, organized at Quantico in September of 1918 and consisting of the 11th and 13th Regiments and the 5th Machine Gun Battalion, also served in France but did not engage in combat. The 13th Regiment arrived at Brest, France, on 25 September 1918; all units of the 11th Regiment were in France by 25 October, and the 5th Machine Gun Battalion arrived at Brest on 9 November.
|Marine Honor Guard – AEF General Headquarters, Chaumont|
Upon arrival in France, the 5th Marine Brigade was assigned to the Service of Supply, which was in need of dependable troops for guard duty. The 13th Regiment soon found itself scattered, and doing guard duty along with the western coast of France, while the 11th Regiment was stationed in the general area of Tours. There it performed similar duties, such as guarding the aviation training center at Issoudun, and furnishing some companies for military police duty. The brigade machine gun battalion was stationed at Camp Pontanezan, Brest. That base was commanded by double Medal of Honor recipient, General Smedley Butler. The units of the 5th Marine Brigade continued to perform these general duties until July 1919, when they assembled at Brest and returned to the United States early in August.
Although the battle record of the 4th Marine Brigade, as part of the 2nd Division, overshadowed all other activities of Marine Corps personnel in Europe during World War I, officers and men of the Marine Corps participated in the conflict in other ways. Marine detachments served on all battleships and cruisers operating in the European theater. In addition, from early August 1918 to the date of demobilization, the commanding general of the 2nd Division and several officers on his staff were Marines. At various times Marine officers were attached to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 26th, 32nd, 35th, 90th, and 92nd Divisions and in some cases engaged in operations with them.
|Marine Aviators of the Northern Bombing Group|
In addition, more than 40,000 Marines served during 1917—1919 without going to France. After their 1914 landing at Veracruz, Marines remained on duty protecting the U.S. border with Mexico and aboard 62 warships. The peak strength of the Corps worldwide was 75,000. By 1920 the total Marines on duty had been reduced to 17,000.
Source: Marine Corps History Division, Marine Corps University; U.S. Marine Museum, Quantico