First to Fight: The U.S. Marines in World War I

FIRST TO FIGHT                                             OSCAR E. GILBERT

The Marines went to war as part of the American Expeditionary Force, bitterly resented by the Army and General Pershing. The Army tried to use them solely as labor troops and replacements, but the German spring offensive of 1918 forced the issue. The French begged Pershing to commit his partially trained men, and two untested American divisions, supported by British and French units, were thrown into the path of five German divisions. Three horrific weeks later, the Marines held the entirety of Belleau Wood. The Marines then fought in the almost forgotten Blanc Mont Ridge Offensive in October, as well as in every well-known AEF action until the end of the war.

This book will look at all the operations of the Marine Corps in World War I, cover the activities of both ground and air units, and consider the units that supported the Marine Brigade. It will examine how, during the war years, the Marine Corps changed from a small organization of naval security detachments to an elite land combat force.


I found this book to be filled with a lot of history about what the title said. The Marines First to fight in World War One. It begins with how the training was different than with the Army. Then moves onto how once they got over to France General Pershing not wanting the Marines in the first place split up the units. Moved men and officers into Army units and to other fields that they were not trained in. It was not until the Marines first action as a unit that they were recognized by the French, British, and Army units around. Not only for their willingness to leave the trenches but more importantly was their accurate shooting with rifles and more importantly machine guns. This also proved deadly to the Germans. The author goes into the battles and shows maps and has good descriptions of either men’s letters or journals. He also provides a chapter to women who joined the Corps during this time that I had never heard about before. Also the air Corps as well. He does mention Army units when discussing the battles, but remember this is a book about the Marines. There are many books over the few years about the Army units and it was good to see one about the Marines. What have noticed in reading about World War one in the few years is that General Pershing gets a lot of credit where I don’t think he dissevers as much. Being a Grandson of a WW1 veteran who actually was in France with the Army I found this to be a very good book with a lot of information. Worth the read. I received this book from I gave it 5 stars. Follow us at 

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