January 3 to
March 15, 1918
Part of the Bourmont Training Area in 1918|
showing the 6th MGB billeting area.
At 6 a.m. the 1st Machine Gun Battalion arrived at Damblain in the foothills of
the Vosges Mountains, and detrained. Upon detraining, all Lewis
machine guns, including tripods & carts, were turned into the Brigade
Quatermaster and stored in Damblain. Headquarters Detachment and 77th
Company then marched to nearby Germainvilliers and were billeted, while
the 81st Company marched to Chaumont-la-Ville, where they were billeted.
Hotchkiss machine guns were issued to the two companies to take the place of the Lewis
guns turned in; 24 gun
and ammunition carts also issued.
Orders issued forbidding fires in billets except between hours of 2:30 & 8:30 p.m.
1st Machine Gun Battalion officially assigned to 4th Brigade.
Detailed orders issued to remedy "great carelessness
(by men of the 2nd Division) in the cutting &
gathering of firewood ... injurious to the conservation of the
forests and their future growth...".
Wrapped puttees to be issued in future in place of canvas leggins.
Ammunition to be issued to all men to fill belts, and full belts
to be worn on guard, at drill and inspections.
All animals put on half rations until further notice.
In accordance with Memorandum from Headquarters, Fourth Brigade, pursuant to instructions contained in
General Orders No.4, Headquarters, Second Division, dated January 15th, 1918,
the designation of the battalion changed to the Sixth Machine Gun Battalion.
This order designated the 15th and 23rd Machine Gun Companies of the 5th Regiment, Marines,
which were stationed at Gondrecourt, as part of the Sixth Machine Gun Battalion, from January 15th, 1918,
being detached from that Regiment.
"Until further orders received, Corps device will not be affixed to helmets.
Officers will not wear winterfield cap as previously advised, until further notice".
All enlistments extended; no discharges to be given.
In response to complaints by French authorities regarding unauthorized hunting by troops
of the 2nd Division, orders issued prohibiting hunting in specifically designated woods in
the Bourmont Training Area.
"Passes permitting departure of enlisted men from the area
occupied by this division will not be granted." Local stationmasters
requested to refuse boarding of trains to any enlisted man unless
proper authority shown."
In response to accidental burning of several barracks in the
training area, HQ Second Division issues orders specifying inspection
of stoves & stovepipes, & the prohibition of fires in unoccupied
Serial numbers assigned to enlisted men of 2nd Div., and aluminum discs &
stamping outfits distributed among the units for the making of dog tags.
~~Companies instructed to withhold emergency rations from
distribution to men.
~~ Quartermasters instructed "to collect all beef tallow not absolutely necessary for
use of troops, to be shipped by the Regimental Quartermaster to the Salvage Depot in empty
vinegar, oil, or similar containers.... tallow to be used to make dubbin for the
preservation of shoes..."
~~ Battalion commanders instructed, on completion of live grenade practice, to collect
all unexploded grenades, place them in a hole, and explode them.
HQ Second Division issued orders regarding distribution of rations & forage. Rations &
forage to be issued at the railhead in Bourmont, beginning Feb 25. Distributing point for
field trains of the 6th MGB to be at Damblain (11:20 a.m.), except for 81st Company
(assigned to the 6th Marines), for which the distributing point would be at Blevaincourt
Organizations to submit ration returns daily at their refilling points to Supply
Train Truckmaster who will deliver them on return to Bourmont to the Supply Officer Second
Division. The issue for the following day to be based on these daily ration returns.
French law went into effect forbidding the sale of meats, bread, cheese, butter,
chocolate and confitures of all kinds to all except French civilians.
Rubber boots to be held by each Company as trench stores, & issued by Company
Commander only for special use where work in mud and water is necessary. They are not to
be worn within the limits of towns.
Second Division issues ordered specifying measures to be taken by mess officers for
procurement of fresh foods in light of French law of Feb 24.
A General Description of Life in the Bourmont Training Area
In Jan 1918 the Sixth Regiment, the 6th Machine Gun Battalion, and
the remainder of the Fifth Regiment, employed until then on
construction and police missions elsewhere in France and England,
joined the Second Division in the Vosges, occupying the towns of
Blevaincourt, Robecourt, Germainvillers, Championeulles, and Chaumont
The billet villages of this new area were typically French.
Almost every house had its steaming stack of manure piled high to the
right or left of the front door. Surface drainage from these stacks
moved thickly in shallow ditches, on both sides of the unpaved streets,
to a creek running through the center of each village. Human excrement
was disposed of in a soakage pits of the privy type except when homes
bordered the town creek. Then the privy houses straddled the creek,
and sported the "a.m.c." factor: running water. This was soapy water
that flowed underneath and came from the public roadside laundry
farther upstream. These factors gave the odor of home to the
sheepherder but provided many basic hygienic and sanitary problems for
the brigade medical department to solve in making the respective towns
habitable for troops.
Native social activity centered around the potable water
source where, not only human drinking water was obtained, but all
animal life was watered from a trough built to catch the overflow from
the human tank. This animal trough in turn emptied into the washing
tank where the village laundry was pounded out by women of various
"Morning Washup" by Offical AEF artist Capt Wallace Morgan:
a typical morning scene in French villages throughout the Vosges
where American soldiers were billeted.
A few weeks after making this sketch, Capt. Morgan
would be sketching Marines at Belleau Wood.
~ Smithsonian Institution ~
Drinking water was obtained from small creeks. In its
conservation for human and animal purposes, frequently odd engineering
skill was seen in spreading the supply through a series of tanks and
spillways, all concentrated in a surprisingly small space. To protect
the washer-woman from the sun and weather, the washing pools of these
water systems are sometimes covered with a crude circular and domed
Billets for troops, usually in haylofts, were totally
inadequate. To take care of this need, "Adrian" barracks were
constructed in sufficient number to accommodate the men comfortably.
Ice, snow, sleep, and thaw prevailed during most of the stay in this
area. While here, everybody in the brigade "turned-to" in the serious
business of training and shaking-down preparatory to entering the lines.
... Gas mask drills were carried out with the French mask and the
British respirator. The drills involved exposure to chlorine in
chambers and marching, running, carrying, and transmitting verbal
orders with the masks in place...
During this period, the plan of training centered around
building and occupying trench systems, trench raids, grenade and
bayonet attacks, Chau Chau and Hotchkiss gun drills, laying field
communications, airplane signals, Very lights, 37 mm firing, day and
night marches, bivouacs and practice billeting, with full field
equipment, and the use of animals and motorized equipment. This
training thoroughly adapted and prepared the Marine Brigade for active
Strenuous activities were carried out to prepare the troops
for occupation of a trench sector. This started first with small
detachments and later involved regimental and brigade units. A great
deal of the training was along lines essential for participation in a
highly specialized form of warfare. Although the tactics and drills
practiced were especially of the types for carrying on position or
trench warfare, the possibility that the character of warfare might at
any time be changed to one of movement or open warfare, made it
necessary for the training to include drills for both methods.
Regimental, brigade, and divisional maneuvers were conducted in the
open country under all kinds of weather, characterized by " the rain,
the cold, and the mud; the mud, the cold, and the rain." Practice
trenches were occupied by successive battalions for 24-hour periods.
The weather during this particular stage of training duplicated that
which is said to have existed at Valley Forge.
Lt. George G. Strott, Hospital Corps, USN (Ret), The Medical
Department of the United States Navy with the Army and Marine Corps
in France in World War I, Its Functions and Employment,
U.S. Navy Department, Washington D.C., June 1947.