- To the Limits of Endurance: A Battalion of Marines in the Great War
This is the story of the Second Battalion, Sixth Regiment of the Marine Brigade, Second Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces [AEF]. It begins with the recruitment of officers and men and their assembly and training at Parris Island and Quantico, where they became part of a support regiment for the First Marines who sailed with John J. Pershing in May and early June, 1917. It covers their experience in France from debarkation to the Armistice, November 11, 1918 and includes an Epilogue of considerable interest to students of the American experience in the Great War.
The Second Battalion was an elite group. Its young officers were recruited from the best colleges and universities in the country as well as from the non-commissioned ranks of the corps. Its other ranks came from well qualified volunteers. It received more training both at home and in France than the vast majority of other AEF units. The Second Battalion entered battle at Triangle Farm June 1,1918. It fought at Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Mihiel, Blanc Mount and the Meuse-Argonne. It learned its battle lessons on the job. Casualties were heavy-roughly 180 per cent- and replacements were less prepared for combat than members of the original battalion. At the end of the war, as quiet descended on the western front, the battalion was less enthusiastic, but better prepared to endure the travails of contemporary combat.
This is one of the most useful "soldier's eye" stories published during the last few years. Although the general reader will gain from it, the more one knows the better it becomes. Built on interviews, archival deposits, memoirs, printed documents and appropriate secondary sources, it catches in the words of the actual participants the grim realities of rain, mud, bad food, lost friends, and a formidable adversary characteristic of Great War literature. It also has the positive impact of a Leavenworth Staff Study with proper maps, sections of critical leadership analysis, and the always useful "lessons learned" included in the narrative. Lt. Col. Owen's book is a serious addition to the study of the American military experience in the Great War.