The 5th Marine Regiment Devil Dogs in World War I
A History and Roster
Michael A. Eggleston
McFarland, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2016, 248 pages
Book Review published on: August 16, 2019
Michael Eggleston, author of The Tenth Minnesota Volunteers 1862-1865 and Dak To and the Border Battles of Vietnam 1967-1968, merges extensive research of primary and secondary sources in providing a compelling, panoramic portrait of the 5th Marine Regiment during World War I.
Eggleston opens in providing an overview of events that led up to World War I and America’s involvement in it. The 5th Marine Regiment was the largest organization in the Marine Corps prior to World War I. A significant portion of the Marine Corps prior to World War I were on duty outside the continental United States or serving aboard naval warships. The majority of these marines returned stateside when the United States declared war to fill the expansion of the Marine Corps. The author describes how the Marine Corps expanded with the organization of the Fourth Brigade of Marines that included the 5th and 6th Regiments along with the 6th Machine Gun Battalion. The Fourth Marine Brigade would serve in the U.S. Army’s Second Division and wear a modified Second Division shoulder patch. During World War I, Marine Corps Maj. Gens. Charles A. Doyen and John A. Lejeune would command the Second Infantry Division making it the only time when an Army division was commanded by a Marine Corps officer.
The 5th Marine Regiment Devil Dogs in World War I includes a biographical dictionary that provides a summary of the lives of participants mentioned in the book. Readers will recognize many legendary marines such as two-time Medal of Honor recipients Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler and Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Daly as well as future commandants of the Marine Corps Lt. Clifton Cates, Maj. Gen. John Archer Lejeune, Col. Wendell Cushing Neville, and Lt. Lemuel Shepard.
One of the more interesting chapters is chapter 3, “The Pandemic,” in which Eggleston’s claim that the 1918 influenza pandemic started at Fort Riley, Kansas, is debatable. However, what is not debatable is its devastation. It is believed that an estimated 10 percent to 20 percent of those infected died globally. In the United States, 675,000 died, dropping the life expectancy in 1918 by twelve years. Eggleston states that the German army was hit harder due to the effects of the British naval blockade of Germany. By June 1918, nearly five hundred thousand German soldiers were sick with the flu, hampering the ability of the German army to mount an offensive or defend its terrain.
Eggleston’s writing style gives readers a feeling of being there as he describes the Marine Corps’ iconic Battles of Belleau Wood, Soissons, Saint Mihiel, and Blanc Mont and the crossing of the Meuse River. Attacking marines, on several occasions, found themselves alone as French army forces either failed in crossing the line of departure or were extremely slowed. The marines’ marksmanship surprised attacking German soldiers who were not used to being engaged hundreds of yards by accurate rifle fire. Eggleston is remiss in not including Cates’s report to higher headquarters during the Battle of Soissons. Cates in his report stated, “I have only two men out of my company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try and get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold.” Cates’s quote has become a source of inspiration and reflects the Marine Corps’ tradition of tenacious warriors.
Eggleston includes a regiment roster for the 5th Marines that includes rank, position, and if the marine had been wounded or killed in action. The roster lists over eight thousand marines, navy personnel, and the occasional soldier who served in the regiment. Nearly seven hundred were killed or died of wounds and disease, while over seven hundred were wounded.
Excellent use of maps and illustrations provides the reader context for the major engagements the 5th Marine Regiment participated in. While the author is commendable in describing major engagements in sufficient detail, there is little in regards to unit records or after action reports for readers desiring more depth and analysis of a particular engagement. Readers will also be disappointed if expecting any information on how the Marine Corps recruited and trained recruits for war. Despite these issues, The 5th Marine Regiment Devil Dogs in World War I is recommended for anyone interested in the study of Marine Corps history or World War I in Western Europe.
Book Review written by: Jesse McIntyre III, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas