From Doughboy to Devil-Dog
In the early 1900’s the United States was establishing itself as a global power. The U.S. had been involved in several conflicts around the world. Most notably in the Philippines, Nicaragua, Haiti, Guatamala, China, and Cuba. The US was securing our national interest. This was laid out in the Monroe Doctrine, in 1823. Yet the US was still unproven as a contemporary power. Especially when matched to their European counterparts. This would all change when the United States enter World War I to side with the Allied Powers on April, 1917. By then the Allied powers had been at war since 1914, and were in much need of reprieve. The reprieve would come in a vibrantly aggressive Devil Dog, who would take to the fields of battle. Marines would prove to be an integral part to the armistice agreement that ended WWI.
Devil Dog exploits during WWI
The Marine Corps committed two infantry brigades to fighting that were attached to the Army’s Second Division. Marines had a vast list of accomplishments in WWI. This included exceptional valor in Belleau Woods, Siossons, and Blanc Mount. US Marines were publicly hailed by friends and enemies alike as nothing short of heroic. The term “Devil Dog” was coined by our enemy as a result of Marine tactics. The term Devil Dog, although initially derogatory, stuck. Soon Devil Dogs were used in recruiting posters to get young men to enlist. We had even adopted the Pit Bull as our official mascot, to represent our relentless nature as Devil Dogs, the first to fight.
Many of the Marines involved in WWI, most notably Dan Daly, had previously deployed in the many theaters across the globe. The leadership that molded this generation of Marines were known as the “Old Breed”. Their knowledge in expeditionary warfare was invaluable when contending with veteran enemy forces that have been fighting for years prior. This was not true with many American forces in the Second Division that suffered heavy casualties while they refined their style of warfare.
After months of intense fighting the 4th Marine Brigade was allowed much needed rest just south of Landres-et-St. George, as Allied forces were poised to take their part in the mass “Meuse-Argonne” offensive, which had begun earlier on September 26th. Early on the morning of November 1st, the 4th Brigade, following a massive artillery barrage, commenced their advance. The night of the Marine Corps Birthday on November 10th 1918, the Marines had no time for celebrating or commemorations. The crossing of the Meuse River into the very heartland of Germany had begun. The next morning several machine gun teams were posted across the river, in German territory marking one of the furthest advances in World War I, and the day that hostilities ceased during the Armistice Agreement on November 11th, 1918.
The name “Devil-Dog” stuck
Our sheer tenacity in battle gave us the name Devil Dog. It wasn’t from self-proclaimed glory. Yet borne out of our enemies frustration from fighting us. Belleau Wood, Blanc Mount, and Soissions struck fear into the hearts of our enemy. Pushing in utter disregard, without time to stop and lick our wounds!
The Marines that fought the bloody and visceral battles of trench warfare helped to build our legacy and honor the great warriors before them. 2,457 Marines had gave their lives during WWI. This is not something, as Marines, we can forget. This is our legacy, this is who we are, ruthless warfighters, Devil Dogs! This is a title that is earned for life and carried on by the aggressiveness of Marines in combat.
The Armistice of World War I was officially recognized years later, as Veterans Day. It is a surreal feeling to consider myself a part of the organization that were home to some of our nation’s greatest heroes. Yet it was their sacrifices that perpetuated the valor that we see on the battlefield today. Looking back at the Marine Dough-boys of World War I, that fought and bled on the killing fields of Europe, we have very large boots to fill to carry on the name “Devil Dog”