Day by day summary of 2nd Division movements from the
Meuse to the Rhine, 11 Nov to 13 Dec 1918
Lt. George R. Strott, USN, extracted from his history
The Medical Department of the United States Navy with the
Army and Marine Corps in World War I3>
11 November 1918: The
Armistice was signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of
the eleventh month, ending the European War. At the time of the
signing of the armistice with Germany, the Marine Corps had an
active duty strength of 2,474 officers and 70,489 enlisted men.
On the Western Front, official notification of the Armistice
reached the Fourth Brigade from the Fifth Army Corps at 0835, and
orders were at once sent forward to cease hostilities at 1100.
Generally, at that hour over the front, the pressure of sustained
warfare came to an abrupt end. On the Marine Brigade front there
was only one exception and that was a patrol of the Fifth which
had pushed ahead to Moulins, so far out that the order announcing
the Armistice did not reach it. An hour or so after noon, while
improving their positions, they came upon a group of celebrating
German soldiers from whom they learned that fighting had ceased
and that the terms of an armistice were in effect. Soon this
report was confirmed by receipt of the official notification
from battalion headaquarters. THE FIGHT WAS OVER!
The most noticeable local effect of the Armistice was
the attention given to personal comfort. Officers and men alike,
colonels, medical personnel, haplains, and machine-gunners~ all
rose from their wet holes in the earth. They built fires to warm
and dry their chilled, water-soaked and debilitated bodies. They
spread fire-dried materials on the ground upon which they dropped
An intense program of cleaning, bathing, feeding,
sleeping, resting, delousing, and re-outfitting of the
men was instituted. The animals and rolling stock were restored.
12 November 1918: On the Western Front, orders were
received by the Marine Brigade to organize the line established
when the Armistice became official. The 5th Marine Regiment was
across the Meuse, and the 6th in the wood just west of Mouzon.
Both regiments were holding the front line.
14 November 1918: On the Western Front, the 5th Regiment,
Marines, 2nd Division AEF, was relieved by the 308th Infantry,
89th Division, and marched its 1st and 2nd Battalions to Pouilly,
and its 3rd to Letanne. The 6th Regiment, Marines, moved its
headquarters from Yoncq to Villemontry.
All were prepared for the new mission ~ to head the
victorious armies of the Allies on their march through Belgium
and Luxembourg to the Rhine, and, until peace was secured, to
become the Army of Occupation of the American bridgehead, at
Coblenz in the heart of Germany.
17 November 1918: The 2nd Division, AEF, assigned to the
new Third Corps of the new Third Army (American Army of
Occupation), was scheduled to start their march at 0500, from their
positions along the Meuse River. From the remaining short strip
of France, the plan was to pass through a corner of southeastern
Belgium into and across the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg to the
German frontier at the Sauer River. From there the route was to
and across the Rhine into a large semicircular area on the east
bank to be known as the American Bridgehead, in the center of the
Allied line (headquarters, Coblenz) between the British in the
north (headquarters, Cologne) and the French in the south
The distance from the starting point on the Meuse to the
German frontier on the Sauer was approximately 60 miles. The plan
was to reach the frontier in 6 marching days; one day was allowed
for rest. This memorable march to the Rhine started on schedule
at 0500 17 November 1918 from Pouilly on the Meuse.
At the start, the 5th Marines and Company C of the 2nd
Engineers formed the advance guard and preceded the main
body by two kilometers. Flank guards maintained contact
with the Fourth French Army on the left and the 3rd Brigade,
2nd Division on the right. On completion of the first day’s
march, which ended just short of the Belgium frontier, outposts
were established along the line Deux Villers-Moiry-Montmady.
16 November 1918: In Belgium, the Second Division, Army of
Occupation, resumed its march at 0500, crossing the Belgium
frontier early in the morning, and passing on through Belle
Fontaine to an outpost line, Jam-Etalle-Ste Leger.
The weather was cool and the sky mildly overcast, which
meant good marching conditions. When the Belgium border was
crossed, the regimental bands moved out of their long silence
and, heading the regiments, played as the men entered the first
country to be freed. Spirits were high and the troops were given
a rousing welcome by the inhabitants who lined both sides of the
The people had hastily constructed triumphal arches at the
entrance of towns, speedily sewed homemade American flags with
variable numbers of stripes and stars, and there was friendship
and welcome on all sides. Some girls were struggling with sand
and brush to erase a painted black cross from the entrance to
their homes. Neighbors had placed the mark to signify a girl’s
friendliness with German officers during the period of enemy
19 November 1918 (19-20 Nov): In Belgium, at 0800 after
a full night of rest and a light breakfast, and equipped with a
full canteen of water and a load which averaged 40 pounds per
man, the Marine Brigade, in column, and forming the flank and
advance guards of the 2nd Division, set out to march at about
2.5 miles per hour for an average of 7 hours per day, covering
an average of 24 kilometers. Route step with a wide interval
between ranks was maintained in the country. This was broken
by marching at attention with the band when passing through
towns and cities. The march was maintained for 50 minutes
with a 10-minute halt before the march was resumed. One hour
was allowed for the noon meal and the filling of canteens from
company water carts which accompanied the rolling kitchens.
20 November 1918: In Belgium, the march of the Second
Division across France and Belgium since the Armistice had by
this time produced a striking effect on the files of the ranks
who had participated in the heavy fighting of previous months.
From the upper Meuse, from a battlefield and from scenes of
great devastation, the files moved through peaceful farmland,
with pretty villages and towns, and a joyful populace and pretty
Marching to the east on the morning of 21 November, with the
6th Marines leading, the Marine Brigade withdrew from the city of
Arlon, Belgium, and soon crossed the frontier into the Grand Duchy
of Luxemburg, where the scenery became increasingly beautiful and
the population enthusiastic. Heavy packs and the need to guide
animals and motors over narrow and frequently steep mountain
trails failed to fatigue the high-spirited men.
23 November 1918: With only overnight stops since having
left Arlon, Belgium, on the morning of 21 November, the Marine
Brigade reached the edge of the German frontier at the Sauer
River on 23 November.
In accordance with the Armistice terms, the German frontier
could not be crossed until 1 December 1918; therefore, the
Brigade settled in billets along the Sauer River and prepared
itself for the first phase of the march, its role in the actual
occupation of enemy territory. With outpost lines and strong
patrols established along the west bank of the Sauer and
echelon arrangement set up for instantaneous action,
organizations settled down in good billets for rest, cleaning,
reorientation, and an undisturbed Thanksgiving celebration.
Regular drills were resumed and regimental colors were
decorated with the Croix de Guerre. Personal awards to the men
were presented with proper ceremony.
Rest and refitting were the pricipal orders of the day. New
uniforms, shoes, and underclothing were issued, and, once more,
every man was deloused. No sickness of importance occurred, march
foot injuries recovered, and the men were again fit and ready for
25 Nov 1918: The Second Division, AEF, including the 4th
Brigade of Marines, reached the German frontier
1 December 1918: The Marine Brigade front in Germany
across the Sauer River opened into a mountainous tract known as
the Eifel country. In this watershed numerous streams arose,
flowed through deep fissures in the hills and went off as
tributaries of the Moselle which ran parallel, just to the
south, to the Second Division line of march to the Rhine.
At 0700 on 1 December 1918, with the 5th Marines leading as
the advance and flank guards of column 2, Second Division, the
Marine Brigade passed over the Sauer River into Germany. Troops
marched with colors, standards, and guidons uncased.
Over frozen roads the march penetrated about 45 miles into
Germany, although some organizations, to reach their billet
positions, were required to pass over right angle roads and
winding mountain trails, and, therefore, marched several
More men fell out on this hike more than on any other. Most of
these men were new replacements who had joined the brigade in
and near Arlons, Belgium. The length of the hike, moreover, was
At this time the final Allied front started to take shape.
The French until this point had been on the left flank of the
Marine Brigade (the left of the American Army). Here they moved
across to the south and focused on Mainze. The American Army,
proceeding ahead along the north of the Moselle, moved toward
Coblenz, and the British, bearing on Cologne, moved in toward the
Marine Brigade left.
With the 5th and 6th Marines alternating as advance and
flank guard of column 2, on the left of the Second Division, the
march continued without interruption to the Rhine River.
9 December 1918: During the afternoon, the Marine Brigade,
on the extreme left of the American Army of Occupation, arrived
on the west bank of the Rhine River. About 40 miles down the river
to the north was the city of Cologne, the headquarters of the
British Army. About an equal distance to the south, up the river,
was the city of Coblenz, where the Moselle makes its confluence
with the Rhine. Here was the headquarters of the American Army.
Further to the south, up the Rhine, was Mainz, the headquarters
of the French Army, which, with the newly repatriated Provisions
of Alsace and Lorraine, flanked the west bank of the Rhine to the
Swiss border. North of the British, the Belgian Army controlled
the Rhine to the frontier of the Netherlands, completing the jaw
of the vice in the west.
13 December 1918: With the 5th Marines leading, the
Marine Brigade crossed the Rhine at Remagen and occupied its
sector in the north of the American Bridgehead on the east bank.
The brigade sector of the Second Division front was occupied by
the 5th Marines on the right and the 6th Marines on the left.
The 6th Marines was the American liaison regiment with the
British, across the neutral zone, to the north.
Military lines and controls were immediately set up. The
brigade settled down to its task of occupation, in comfortable
billets, estates, chateaux and castles, in a medievally
picturesque setting, backed by the Rhine flowing northward.