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 Article: Gunner Nice of the "Devil-Dogs"

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captain had established himself,Nice reported, "I've organized the company sector with 20 men, captain. They're all we got left - you and I make 22. Lord I'm tired, but what I can't see is why we didn't get ours too."

That was where Nice was reported killed and word to that effect was sent back to the States. But later came the correction that he was but slightly wounded. It was hell to have been in the Blanc Mont offensive and Maj. Gen. John A. Lejeune, commanding the Marine Corps, wrote to the officers and men of the Second division: "To be able to say, when this war is finished, 'I belonged to the Second division I fought with it at the battle of Blanc Mont ridge,' will be the highest honor that can come to any man."

After a short time to rest and reequip, the division was ordered to join the First American army and then into the Argonne forest it went and over the top in the great offensive of Nov. 1, the victorious Second taking its objective in one day whereas three days had been allowed. The Second had the post of honor, leading the advance. It drove thru the enemy's fortified lines to a depth of over nine kilometers, seized the heights of Bayonville and destroyed the German divisions on its front.

On Nov. 3 it hurled itself forward to Fosse and captured the heights of Vaux. Those were days and nights of terrific endeavor. At night it pressed forward thru the forest of Belval by a single road and occupied the ridge near Beaumont. And all America followed the advance of its great armies with bated breath. On the night of the 4th it again attacked and advanced its lines to the Meuse. And finally, on the night of the 10th it forced its way across the river and occupied a commanding position on the eastern bank.

But that forcing of the river will ever remain an exploit of outstanding endeavor even in a war that teemed with [missing text] human exploits. An order of the Second division, dated [missing text] 1918, describes the historic crossing on the night before [missing text] became operative. It reads:

[missing text] the night of Nov. 10 heroic deeds were done by [missing text] In the face of a heavy artillery and withering machine gun fire, the Second engineers threw two foot bridges across the Meuse and the first and second battalions of the Fifth Marines crossed resolutely and unflinchingly to the east bank and carried out their mission.

In the last battle of the war, as in all others in which this division has participated, it enforced its will on the enemy.

Nice's platoon, the first of the 49th, was the first to cross and the nights of those who survived the plunge into the inferno for many weeks afterward were often made horrible, as half asleep, half awake, the terror of it returned. Volunteers were called for the first passage and just before dawn it was made.

"We were ordered to take the heights upon the other side," said Nice, "and we did. But our casualities were 68 percent in doing it. At that, I don't see how any of us got across. I think every man who crossed was given a citation by both the American and French armies."

On Nov. 17, 1918, the Second commenced its march to the Rhine, passing thru Belgium and Luxembourg. The German frontier was reached Nov. 25, crossed Dec. 1 and the Rhine was crossed Dec. 13. Thereafter the Leathernecks led an uneventful existence until they were ordered home, sailing March 3, 1919 and arriving in Hoboken March 11. Nice was discharged at Quantico Aug 23, 1919. And as the brave lads who had composed the great shock division dispersed into civil life they were praised in highest terms by General Pershing in a general order. The concluding paragraph read: "Officers and soldiers of the Second division, your achievements and sacrifices have earned for you and your fallen comrades the praise and gratitude of our nation."

The Marines were the only organization in the Second division to be nicknamed by the Germans, to whom the Americans came to be known as the "Devil Dogs." The Germans honored their foes with only three such nicknames. The Scots were dubbed "Ladies of Hell" and the French Alpine chasseurs were knowsn as "Blue Devils."

"You can bet your bottom dollar that we were glad to get back to 'God's country' again," said Nice. "There was only one unfortunate incident to mar the return voyage. No, there was no submarine attack this time, but I lost a neat little sum of money in a poker game. There was over $900 in the pot and I was dealing. I dealt one card to Lieut. W.M. Gore of Oklahoma and it was the jack of hearts, just the one he needed to complete a straight diamond flush. Boy that was a sad blow. Here's the very jack I dealt him, with his name written on it. I'm keeping it as a souvenir. It hurt me as much as any of the wounds I got on the other side."

Once more a civilian after many years in the Marine corps, Nice was faced with the problem of adjusting his life to new conditions. He made his home in Atlantic City at first, coming to Manasquan about 12 years ago, having married Miss Florence Sloat, daughter of David Sloat, an old railroad man of that town, Dec. 31, 1920. They have one child, William, jr., aged 12.

"Yes, a bank job's pretty tame after years in the Marine corps, " Nice admits. "But you get used to things like that, just as you get used to grubbing around in the trenches. Praise has been heaped aplenty upon the old Second division but I'd like to put in a good word for one man that hasn't gotten his full share, according to my way of thinking. That's Col. Hiram I. Bears, 'Hiking Hiram' he's called. I lay the success of the Second to the training it received from him."

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 Article: Gunner Nice of the "Devil-Dogs"

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  October 26, 2011
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