The Fourth Marine Brigade in World War I
Battalion Histories Based on Official Documents
George B. Clark
McFarland, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2015, 296 pages
Book Review published on: April 7, 2017
George B. Clark is a prolific writer on Marine Corps history. His latest book The Fourth Marine Brigade in World War I details the historical accounts of the Fourth Marine Brigade based on official documents. As a former marine, he is able to add that unique degree of authenticity when he writes about the history of the Marine Corps.
The book recounts in detail the Fourth Marine Brigade’s history during World War I from 1917 to 1919. The Fourth Marine Brigade was composed of the Fifth and Sixth Marine Regiments, with each regiment having three battalions. Clark organizes the chapters in the book by battalions. The first chapter covers an overview of the Fourth Marine Brigade and the brigade’s operations during World War I. It provides the background for the reader to understand the role each battalion played in the brigade’s mission. The remaining chapters cover each of the battalions of the Fifth and Sixth Marine Regiments. Arranged chronologically, they start when the battalions arrived in France. The Fifth Marines' three battalions were the first to arrive, and they are discussed in chapters 2 through 4. Chapters 5 thru 7 are devoted to the Sixth Marines' three battalions, while the last chapter details the operations of the Machine Gun Battalion of the Sixth Regiment.
It is evident that Clark has done extensive research on the Fourth Marine Brigade. In fact, the book is almost exclusively a compilation of official reports. Clark states in the preface that the level of detail in the chapters is based upon the quality and quantity of official reports. Some of the battalions provided reports that are less detailed; however, Clark does a very good job of filling in the gaps. Anyone with military experience will recognize the format—the reports are dry and only provide the facts—and yet you can feel the emotions behind the words as the battles are reported. The exact words of the officers during battle provide the reader with the unique perspective of seeing the conflict through that battalion’s eye.
Clark chose to look at the battalions individually in each chapter, with the events of that battalion described in chronological order, vice describing the battle and how each battalion participated. Some of the skirmishes are described down to the minute, which at times is so detailed that one must refer back to chapter 1 to understand the entire brigade’s mission in order to understand how that battalion is supporting the mission. This unique style allows the reader to go in-depth on the events of each battalion; however, it does require the reader to start at the beginning of the war for every chapter and then trace that battalion's actions through each battle.
This book is highly recommended for any military professional who desires to increase his or her knowledge of tactics during World War I, and more importantly, the role of a marine battalion throughout this conflict. Clark’s thorough research is evident as you read the detailed accounts of all the battalions of the Fourth Marine Brigade.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Michael Jones, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired, Fort Belvoir, Virginia